• A drive in a 14 car convoy through the whole night.
  • Staying in tents inside a reserve forest with the cry of hyenas as lullabies.
  • Trying to prepare chicken roast in pitch dark, and burning the whole lot while doing so.
  • Partying on a beach till midnight, only to realise that dinner is still not ready.

Yes! These are some of the umpteen number of crazy things which you do when in the company of like-minded people. Welcome to R.O.A.D.

All the things I described above are part of the latest event of ROAD – S4 (Sea, Sun, Sand and Survival). When the event was first scheduled in the Facebook page of ROAD, information about it was sketchy at best. But that was enough to get attention of petro-heads like me. The tempo was raised slowly by teaser photos and videos, and finally people like me enrolled. The date was set to the 19th of November, and the agenda was something like this:

  1. Meet up and Azad Hind Dhaba in the graveyard hours (2.30 AM to be precise)
  2. Team briefing and convoy numbering
  3. Roll on, until breakfast at first light of dawn at A1 Dhaba in the outskirts of Balasore.
  4. Drive down to the destination (somewhere in a virgin sea beach besides Balukhand Reserve Forest)
  5. Pitch tents, enjoy the sunset and party in the beach till tiredness takes over
  6. Stay overnight in tents inside the jungle, to be accompanied by hyenas and jackals
  7. Survive the night, have breakfast, and drive back home.

My preparations for the road trip started a couple of days before the event, with getting the car ready by adding new set of tyres, aligning the wheels, and topping up fuel etc. As the ETD neared, the excitement became unbearable. Despite leaving office early in the evening to catch some sleep, I could manage none, being too excited all the way.
Finally we departed home around 1.20AM, and reached Nivedita Toll Plaza where the Koushik Chakraborty, Sourav Sen and Souvik were waiting for me in their XUV500 and Wagon R respectively. We teamed up and together reached the rendezvous point at exactly 2.30AM. Most of the team had already reached there. We stickered our cars with the convoy numbering and had some piping hot tea while the convoy leader (Koushik Samanta) briefed us about the convoy rules, as well as pit stops etc. The final lineup looked impressive, comprising of hatches, sedans and big burly SUVs. However, none of them could match up to the standards set by the lone biker (Swayambhar) in his Honda Unicorn.

The lone biker in the pack of cars
The lone biker in the pack of cars
Speaking of lighting accessories - get inspired by Sushil Panigrahi's Thar
Speaking of lighting accessories – get inspired by Sushil Panigrahi’s Thar

As wheels started rolling, Redbulls and energy bars started taking effect, pushing engines and drivers alike to the limits. The first unexpected turn of event happened when my car hit a pothole and the sidewalls of the front right tyre burst. Help came immediately, as the cars behind me stopped and offer help. The change took less than 5 minutes. However, this also meant that I needed a brand new tyre urgently. The BBSR team of ROAD was contacted and they did the homework immediately. Once the convoy reached BBSR, I was escorted to a tyre shop and got the new tyres immediately. A big thanks to Anupam, Surya and Satya for going out of the way for helping me out!

The night drive - a different ballgame alltogether
The night drive – a different ballgame alltogether

We reached our first pit stop at A1 Dhaba well before the scheduled time, only to find the staff at the hotel were still happily snoring. After a long wait, we were able to get our breakfast of bread, vegetable curry and chena-pora (a traditional Oriya sweet) and started back in the road by 8AM. Finally we reached our destination around 12PM. SURVIVAL STAGE 1 – CHECK.

Breakfast stop at A1 Dhaba - Balasore
Breakfast stop at A1 Dhaba – Balasore

The most wonderful part of the drive was the sincerity with which everyone followed the guidelines set for the convoy. Everyone from the Lead (Koushik Samanta) to the Tail (Atish) showed utmost sincerity and responsibility all through the night.

Rangers Adventure Foundation - our basecamp
Rangers Adventure Foundation – our basecamp
The base camp office
The base camp office
Sample tent and hammock
Sample tent and hammock
Not only the people, even the vehicles camped in the jungle
Not only the people, even the vehicles camped in the jungle

Rangers Adventure Foundation (also known as Surfing Yogis) was our base camp. We parked our cars inside the Balukhand Reserve forest, took some rest, and had our lunch at the base camp. Post that, our guide Niko briefed us on survival skills needed to stay a whole night in a jungle (which was essentially 1 point – things might go wrong, but keep your shanti!!), and we started our trek.

The team listening intently to the briefing of the guide
The team listening intently to the briefing of the guide

It was a 45 minute trek through some dense foliage, with the sound of dead leaves as our only company. The camping spot was just besides the beach, and what a beach it was. Perfect white sand, decent waves, tree lines on the far side, and to top it all, not a single cottage, or hotel or even a lamp post as far as the eye can see. We all sat there enjoying the golden sunset over the Bay of Bengal.

The team treks on with the sleeping mattresses and tents in hand
The team treks on with the sleeping mattresses and tents in hand
That smile hides the hint of nervousness within
That smile hides the hint of nervousness within
Inside the Balukhand Reserve Forest
Inside the Balukhand Reserve Forest
A small water hole for wild animals
A small water hole for wild animals
The dense foliage
The dense foliage
Fall colours?
Fall colours?
Patterns of nature
Patterns of nature
The camping grounds
The camping grounds

While on the beach, the drone brought out by Chandan Roy was a source of attraction for most of us, as it went on from one end to another taking photos of the team, and sometimes of the sea shore and the beach.

Riddhi (the youngest SURVIVOR)looking at the drone with amazement
Riddhi (the youngest SURVIVOR)looking at the drone with amazement
A photo taken from the drone
A photo taken from the drone
A golden sunset over a virgin beach
A golden sunset over a virgin beach
The unnamed beach - our destination
The unnamed beach – our destination
The last light of the day
The last light of the day
Physically tired, mentally charged
Physically tired, mentally charged
The wonderfully preserved beach
The wonderfully preserved beach
Our tenting grounds were just beyond the tree lines
Our tenting grounds were just beyond the tree lines
Unspoilt beauty
Unspoilt beauty

Once darkness descended, firecrackers and Chinese Lanterns were brought out. It was indeed wonderful seeing the pitch darkness of the sea beach being occasionally light up by the crackers, and the dedication of the entire team to make the Chinese Lanterns fly.

The campfire site
The campfire site
Brilliant teamwork at play
Brilliant teamwork at play
Satya trying his hands at the Chinese Lantern
Satya trying his hands at the Chinese Lantern
Campfire on a deserted beach with like minded people and some Old Monk - the good life!
Campfire on a deserted beach with like minded people and some Old Monk – the good life!
Not sure what lit up the night more - the energy or the fireworks
Not sure what lit up the night more – the energy or the fireworks
Her majesty giving it a try
Her majesty giving it a try

In parallel, Niko brought in chicken for the bonfire. However, thanks to his inexperience, most of them almost got burnt. It was due to the immense caliber of our “Kaptan” Samaresh Das that some of them could be salvaged and made eatable.

Niko with his signature dish - "Smoked chicken with a hint of sand"
Niko with his signature dish – “Smoked chicken with a hint of sand”

A clear sky also meant we could try our hands in some night-sky-photography.

ROAD
ROAD
Light painting honouring the youngest ROADie
Light painting honoring the youngest ROADie
A million stars up in the sky
A million stars up in the sky

We partied till late into the night, under the starlit sky, and gazed in amazement as the moon started rising from behind the casuarina trees. Finally, after completing dinner, we hit the bed around 12AM, almost 36 hours since the last wink.

The sole LED light for the entire camping area
The sole LED light for the entire camping area
Our home for the night
Our home for the night
Heard many a cry of hyenas from the dark
Heard many a cry of hyenas from the dark

Around midnight that my wife was woken suddenly by the sound of some heavy breathing just outside the tent. At such an hour and such a place, it could only be one thing – wild animals, who had smelled the food leftovers. Without making any noise, she closed her eyes and tried falling asleep again. Ignorance is bliss.
Thankfully, in this case ignorance was a bliss, and we woke up the next morning unharmed. SURVIVAL STAGE 2 – CHECK.

Missed the sunrise, but enjoyed the sunshine nonetheless
Missed the sunrise, but enjoyed the sunshine nonetheless
Just another parting shot of the beach
Just another parting shot of the beach

Following day, we had planned to witness the sunrise over the Bay of Bengal. However, thanks to the exhaustion of the previous day, we woke up quite late. By the time we reached the beach, the sun was already up in the sky. But then came the next important challenge – to relieve ourselves and freshen up before the breakfast and journey back home.
If any of us had gone there with the expectation of a 5 star toilet, we were all grossly mistaken. The only way left for some of the bravehearts who did accept the challenge was to find a suitable stop inside the dense jungle and relieve ourselves.. SURVIVAL STAGE 3 – CHECK
Finally, around 9 AM, we left the camping grounds, and started our trek back to the base camp. Some delicious hot noodles and fresh fruits were waiting for us here. We devoured the breakfast and bid adieu to each other, before embarking on our journey home.
Till the next trip – Happy ROADing.

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