Having covered nearly 1,000km after plenty of driving, shuffling between my colleague Siddharth’s playlist and relishing the picturesque coastline of Karnataka and Goa, I’m back in Mumbai and less than an hour from home. Although settled quietly in Honda’s hugely capable WR-V, the rush hour traffic and the typically dug-up roads weren’t doing any favour and soon enough I found myself recollecting instances from the tenth edition of Honda’s Drive to Discover.
As a reminder, Honda India has their annual Drive to Discover road trip with the media folks, which for years has had us motoring enthusiasts let loose in some of their cars, in search for memorable and truly great locations. For the tenth edition that took off from Bangalore, the idea was pretty clear: fly to Bangalore and from thereon drive through the stately coffee land of Chikmagalur, the incredible western coastline of India, try out the local delicacies and finally, get to the country’s top getaway destination – Goa. Now, when it comes to kicking off a few days’ worth of driving, a sunny Monday afternoon isn’t the best of times. More so considering how heavy Bangalore traffic can get even during a pandemic. Fortunately, the flag off point was right next to the Bangalore airport which, as we know, is nowhere near the actual city. The fact that it’s on the outskirts helped us big time in avoiding the congested areas early into the route and making a quick getaway from the city.
Having bypassed the whole of Bangalore city, we headed onto the National Highway 75 – a very smooth and fast stretch of road that connects the city with adjacent smaller towns such as Hassan and Belur. For this leg, we had a petrol powered Honda Jazz to trundle us along. Running in the midst of a fleet of more powerful cars including the City and the diesel powered Amaze and WR-V, the little Jazz showed enough gusto to get past slow moving traffic and maintain triple-digit speeds all day long. Quick overtaking manoeuvres, however, did require a little planning as well as a few downshifts. All in all, day one was pretty much straightforward as we moved along in small convoys, stopping only to get a load of the local filter coffee. That said, in the evening we did visit Yagachi dam, an earthen gravity damn near Belur, as we neared our overnight stay. Though it’s a very small reservoir it makes for a beautiful stopover for anyone travelling between Bangalore and Chikmagalur. We happened to visit it on a clear, crisp evening and witnessed the sun going down over the horizon with the bright orange sky reflecting itself onto the still waters.
Day 2 of the Drive To Discover 10 began with an early photo-op in the cold and breezy hills of Chikmagalur. So while some of us jumped on this opportunity to take beauty shots of the Honda cars in the picturesque coffee estates and the Hirekolale lake, which is a popular tourist spot in Chikmagalur, rest of the folks decided to wait for everyone to return to the hotel and get on with the drive to Kundapura. While there are several truly great driving roads in this country with minimal traffic and a smooth flowing tarmac, the one leading towards Kundapura from Chikmagalur is full of gorgeous, lush hills and buttery smooth winding roads. We are talking about NH173 which is a recently approved stretch of road that runs across the Chikmagalur district and it is such a brilliant piece of tarmac. As we moved away from the hilly region we gradually saw the landscape change as we made our way to the lunch spot in Mangalore and then eventually to Kundapura to complete this leg of the journey. Speaking of which, for this leg we switched to the Amaze diesel and things were pretty much the same as they were in the Jazz in terms of comfort and ease of driving. However, the car packed in a lot more poke under the hood. Predictably, the 1.5-litre i-DTEC motor in the Amaze made a lot more noise than the petrol powered Jazz but what it lacked in refinement it more than made up for it with its phenomenal pulling power and highway performance. Also, the smooth-shifting 5-speed manual made for quick gear changes, allowing us to make quick progress. Naturally, miles and miles of smooth tarmac and small villages blurred by as we headed towards Mangalore where our lunch stop was in order. Now when you are in Mangalore, you will not be falling short of incredible non-vegetarian and sea food restaurants, however, it doesn’t mean that vegetarians will be disappointed. As a matter of fact, the vegetarian delicacies (read: veg crispy and paneer butter masala) that we were served at Gajalee sea food restaurant were beyond belief. Nonetheless, we couldn’t stop drooling over their sea food specialities including masala fish fry, ghee roast prawns and king fish fry.
For the final day of the Drive To Discover 10, it was time to switch back to another petrol-powered Honda. This time it was the supremely practical WR-V and as much as we loved the Amaze’s strong surge of power and torque, it’s the former that turned out to be more fun during this final leg which mostly ran in parallel to the incredible western coastline of India. The petrol-powered WR-V, in fact, ran just as well as others and followed the more powerful fleet of City and Amaze everywhere like a snappy little terrier. It, of course, ended up squeezing every ounce of horsepower out of its engine to blast past oversized trucks that are a common sight on the national highways. Moving ahead, we left most of our planned route behind and agreed to cut down a few roadside stops and stick to the tarmac instead. As for the route itself, this was perhaps the smoothest, least busy stretch of the entire road trip and that’s saying something because we had only encountered great roads until that point.
Driving alongside the utterly beautiful coastline and through the bustling city streets, we headed out to NH66 which heads North from Kundapura and takes you past half of Karnataka’s coastline and straight to Goa where our overnight halt was in order. By early afternoon, we reached Karwar to feast on some even more delicious local sea food and non-vegetarian delicacies, not at all worn-out and at our halfway point of the day. Following a sumptuous lunch, we left Karwar behind and headed for the KA-Goa border as the sun made its leisurely passage overhead. Now if anyone wants to visit South of Goa they should definitely take this route from Kumta to Agonda via Karwar because the entire route is filled with incredible lush green scenery and the roads are mostly empty and pothole-free. Speaking of beautiful surroundings and greenery, no matter how many times you visit Goa it always feels refreshingly good, especially for city dwellers like us. There’s a whole different level of serenity and calmness that you get to experience as you drive along the quiet, narrow by lanes of Margao or Ponda. The extremely refined 1.2-litre i-VTEC petrol motor in the WR-V ensured that we maintained the tranquillity as we trundled along the streets of South Goa on what was a lazy Thursday afternoon.
The concluding day of Drive To Discover 10 had us all packing our stuff and leaving for our respective hometowns. It also marked the end of my first road trip since the world went upside down last year, and what a trip this has been! We may not have had as much time as we would like to be at peace in Goa but there is no denying that, overall, Drive To Discover 10 has been yet another reminder of how road trips are so good for the soul. For many of us a cross-country drive may not be the most adventurous thing to do but it is certainly therapeutic and when you get to do it in something as comfortable and capable as the Honda Jazz, Amaze or the WR-V, it can be such a soothing experience.