Culture, colour, chaos, coffee, spices, sea breeze and sunsets – you’ll get all that, and more, when driving up from the southernmost tip of the Indian mainland. And, of course, stunning sunrises too as you can see from this spread of the Maruti Suzuki Dzire at Kanyakumari…
Endlessness – that’s what it looks like as you stand at the southernmost point of the Indian mainland. This is one of the most fascinating sights you’ll ever witness in your life, as you stand and stare at the never-ending expanse of the Indian Ocean spreading out in front of you – as far as the eye can see, and much, much further than that.
And nothing beats this sight at sunrise, with the fiery hues of the brightest star in our solar system lighting up the sky and revealing the statue of the legendary Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar and the Vivekananda Rock memorial in all its glory. Having witnessed this epic setting a few years ago on one of our drives, we’ve been keen to revisit this special site ever since. On this ocassion, we’re driving the Maruti-Suzuki Dzire that you see here from Kanyakumari up the west coast to Kochi.
And we’re celebrating a bit of a milestone here – sales of 100,000 units in less than 6 months, which speaks volumes for this new model. What better way of truly putting it to the test than to hit the road – figuratively of course? The trajectory that the new Dzire is on means that we’re likely to see quite a few on our roads in the near future. And that’s a good thing, since this brand new model is quite the looker. With a very cohesive silhouette, the Dzire now looks like a proper sedan from the ground-up – which, of course, is how it was conceived this time around.
Getting back to the journey, it started at a bit of an ungodly hour on the 10th of November – with plans to catch the sunrise at Kanyakumari. As we left Kovalam in the dead of night, the first thing that struck us was just how capable the LED headlights of the new Dzire really are. The effectiveness of these headlights is brought home by the fact that we were travelling away from the main highways – we decided to stick to the coastal roads along the sea – so the roads were narrow, winding and passed through various villages and towns. It’s in these difficult conditions that you understand just how important a good pair of headlights really are.
As the sun slowly began to crack through the sky, we entered Kanyakumari. With most of the town still asleep, it raised our hopes of having the sunrise all to ourselves. But, alas, that was not to be. It seems that we weren’t the only ones on the quest to catch the first rays of the sun and revel in the fresh sea breeze. Not only was the beach packed to the brim with people, to add insult to injury, the cloudy conditions meant that the sun rose but didn’t peek out from behind its blanket in the sky!
But such is the life of a traveller – you just have to roll with the punches. And just as we made plans for a quick getaway, the sun rays shot through the clouds and gave us the opening image of a lifetime. When we did finally decide to head out, we realised that the road we’d taken to reach the sunrise point had, by now, become a fledgling fish market with the fresh catch of the day now occupying most of the road – which meant that we had to head out using another route.
After a hearty breakfast, we set off towards Kochi just as the sun was beginning to hit its peak. For someone who’d just landed from a smoggy Delhi, where visibility and sunlight was being rationed like food in Glasnost-era Russia, the sharp rays of the sun were a welcome change. The clear, blue skies certainly contributed to sharpening our mood.
A friend of mine recommended that, since we were passing through Trivandrum, we should stop for a meal at the Villa Maya – a restored 18th century Dutch manor. Now, we’ve had the good fortune of eating at many fine restaurants during our travels, but Villa Maya – with its stunning architecture and décor – simply bowled us over. And, being in Kerala, there was nothing better than a meal of fresh Appams paired with a local delicacy, Chicken Varattiyathe.
Having had our fill, we proceeded on our way, and the mix of great food and the excellent climate control of the Dzire meant that, before long, the photographer was in deep slumber – no doubt contributed to by the excellent seats of the new Dzire, which feature great support, while the interior as a whole offers a remarkable amount of room for a sub-compact sedan.
As we travelled along the coastal road, we got to see sights that remain a rarity for someone born and raised in the north of our country. There was beach-after-beach as we drove along, not to mention the excavators that are frequently used to clear the beaches and streams of mud and stones – most of which are covered in a thick layer of rust owing to their proximity to the sea. There was even a dredging boat that had become beached, having come too close to the mainland. The sights around the towns and villages are interesting too – you see a steady stream of religious institutions, with each village or town’s church trying to outdo the other in scale and grandeur. Meanwhile, the local populace is busy getting along with their daily chores, such as drying fish or maintaining their homes.
As the day passed, the light begun to fade, and we found ourselves still quite a long way from Kochi, so we decided to move onto the highway to quicken our progress. Unfortunately, calling this stretch a national highway is a bit of a euphemism. Consisting almost solely of only two lanes, the commute in highly urbanized Kerala can be quite a chore in the early evening. But it’s here that you get to enjoy the benefit of the Dzire’s AMT, which relives you from the stress of having to change gears while sitting in traffic. Meanwhile, the improved NVH meant that the cabin is a very nice place to spend time in. Finally, after surviving the kamikaze state transport bus drivers and two-wheeler riders of Kerala, we finally made it to our hotel in Fort Kochi. The next day would be an early start again, as there was much to explore around the gorgeous historical area of Fort Kochi.
Getting up at the crack of dawn in Fort Kochi, before the rest of populace has risen, has its own charm. Peppered with some great architecture, the water in the backdrop and the immense history surrounding the area, it’s a pleasure spending time here. The early morning gives you ample opportunity to admire the quirky architecture and restaurant fronts covered with creepers – which provide some great photographic opportunities. Having worked up an appetite after all the driving around, we headed for breakfast in what is perhaps the most iconic café in the Fort Kochi area – Kashi Art Cafe. A mélange of an airy garden seating area, as well as an installation and art gallery, the café offers a very unique backdrop and provides a glimpse into the cultural insight of the region. Of course, it does serve great food too, so don’t miss out on a chance to sample their French Toast or the bacon and cheese omelette.
And, just like that, having spent three days on the road on the west coast, it was time for the journey to end and for us to fly back to the thick smog of Delhi. But, once again, the drive demonstrated the variety and diversity that our country offers in every respect – be it terrain, vistas, culture, cuisine, or even driving styles. And if you get the chance to undertake such a journey, all we can say is that you should jump at it – and if you can find a Dzire to accompany you, well, that’ll only be the cherry on your exploration cake.