In a world struggling under the shadows of a pandemic, road travel has, perhaps, become the safest way to travel to a new destination. After a year-long hiatus, a fortuitous invite allowed Ishan to rediscover the joy of road trips without the pressure of a looming deadline.
As an automotive journalist, I usually receive a lot of invites to drive cars, and most of them follow a similar pattern – arrive at the venue a day early, attend a glitzy dinner, get up at an ungodly hour the next morning to drive the car, shoot your video, do the social media updates, and somehow find the time to write online and print stories. A stressful, if fun, day in the life of an automotive journalist.
But, when I received an invitation from Honda Cars to attend their Drive to Discover X – the D2D program, as Honda calls it, is in its tenth edition, and it was my first time attending it – I knew that I was in for a pleasant surprise. You see, unlike a typical review drive where you have limited time to drive the car, the D2D program included a good four days of driving.
Now, there are advantages to having journalists drive your car over an extended period of time. Not only does it give them enhanced exposure to the product but also enough time to experience the advantages and shortcomings of the products on different kinds of roads and terrains. And the best part was that there was no pressure to wake up at an ungodly hour every day – you must have guessed by now, that I am not a morning person – it indeed was a welcome change that I was looking forward to.
Combing through traffic
This year’s route for the D2D mostly comprised stretches that I was completely unfamiliar with, except for the first day’s route – not only was I familiar with it but also quite fond of it. It was from Bengaluru to Chikmagalur, the home of coffee in India. My familiarity with the route allowed me to pull some strings to ensure that I had an automatic for the day. You see, driving an automatic is extremely useful when you have to spend nearly two hours trying to combat Bengaluru traffic.
But soon we were on a fast and flowing road that would lead us to Hassan and then to Chikmagalur. The first car that I got to drive on Day 1 was, of course, the new City. I’ve been a fan of its 1.5-litre petrol engine since the time I first drove the car last year.
On the highway, the City impressed me even more – it offered enough power to maintain three-digit speeds without breaking a sweat. Additionally, while I’ve never been a fan of CVTs, the City’s CVT gearbox is quite well-tuned and provides excellent drivability both in the city and on the highway.
Waking up in the clouds
We woke up the next morning in Chikmagalur to find ourselves surrounded by beautiful and pristine scenery – it truly was a sight to behold. Nestled at an altitude of 5,400 feet, Chikmagalur really offers you the experience of being in the lap of nature. We were staying in a resort located in a large coffee plantation, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
And the fact that there was no mobile phone reception at the resort only made the experience even better. Of course, after a relaxed beginning, it was time to start the day’s driving. Now, everyone in our car wanted to buy some Coffee from Chikmagalur, we decided to take a different route than the one taken by the rest of the D2D convoy. Instead of heading towards Mangalore to feast on some brilliant seafood, we decided to take a route through two wildlife sanctuaries, thereby completely avoiding the main highway.
The decision, as luck would have it, was fortuitous, for it led us to places that proved to be one of the highlights of our trip. Taking the quiet road, which was in pretty good condition, with literally no traffic, we traversed through massive coffee plantations and forests. It was a reminder that there are still good driving roads that are devoid of traffic and can be enjoyed on a long drive. The day’s drive ended in Kundapur, from where we were to head to Goa the next day.
The next day, the first section of road that we encountered was a stretch that most of us were quite familiar with. On the way from Kundapur, we first passed the famous Murdeshwar beach, which is a beautiful place, embellished further by the huge statue of Lord Shiva in front of the sea and an adjoining temple. Along the route also came Gokarna – a popular tourist destination. And finally, after driving through some well-made highways, we crossed over into South Goa and headed towards our final destination for the day – Benaulim. The idea was to reach early enough to catch a stunning sunset at the beach.
As we lounged at the beach on our last night, our conversation eventually turned towards how different the experience of a Drive to Discover journey is from any other test drive event that we normally attend. For me, the biggest difference is the sheer pleasure of not having the pressure of a deadline or an embargo pointed against my head like a gun. Also, during the D2D drive, I rediscovered the joy of road trips, especially those that allow you to enjoy both the car and the road. And at times, if you are lucky, you end up discovering some good roads to drive on and become aware of some hidden qualities of your vehicle.
Needless to say, with such a fantastic experience, I can’t wait to see where Honda D2D XI takes us next.