Leg 1 – Twilight Rann
The day begins with a mesmerizing sunrise over White Rann. Most of us rush out of the tents before daybreak. We saw a spectacular moonrise last night. All vehicles entering the White Rann region are stopped at a BSF post and are advised against going off the designated track. The salt beds being in a conservation zone are off-limits for vehicles.
The convoy checks-out of the camp to go through the first stage. The objective is to familiarize everyone with their locations for the evening so that all hops can be placed quickly during the race setup. Competitors flagged off from Ahemdabad are scheduled to enter SS1 – Twilight Rann at 0730hrs. All officials are in place about an hour early as usual. Our TC is close to a small village Udai. We are responsible for warning the villagers about the upcoming storm. A stage marshall is responsible for minimizing security breaches for competitors, spectators, as well as themselves.
All villagers soon pack off for the night behind the safety of fences made of thorny bushes to prevent wild animals from coming into their houses. Me and my navigator are out in the open with jackals and foxes who vociferously make their presence clear.
Once the stage is live rally cars periodically emerge from the labyrinthine bushes that lie before our checkpoint and head straight towards our beacon. I wonder how these misguided missiles manage not to hit us. In night stages most competitors tend to cut a beeline to the flashing lights of TC.
It’s been a long stage. As always many competitors were lost somewhere or the other in the stage and had to be hunted out. It’s 0300hrs by the time we were swept out. We reach Bhuj for a short nap, dinner is meaningless, and roll out at 0500hrs to setup the next stage – Great Rann.