A part of our 150th issue celebrations, this 150-kilometre leg of our journey takes us to some of the finest, and emptiest, roads in Rajasthan – and, finally, to a destination that was once the summer residence of the Royal Family of Bikaner.
Putting you in the driver’s seat is at the core of everything that we do here at autoX. For twelve years now, we’ve been relentlessly bringing you reviews, features and the latest cars and bikes. In fact, we’ve been so engrossed in doing what we love that we barely noticed how quickly we approached this significant milestone – our 150th issue!
So, to commemorate the occasion, we decided to do what we do best, drive! We decided to head out in search of some of the best 150-kilometre stretches of road around the country.
This leg took us to a state that has (arguably) the best roads that you can imagine – Rajasthan. Known for its long, straight stretches of flawless tarmac, Rajasthan offers you a true experience of the joys of a road trip, sparing you the hassle of dodgy tarmac and brutal traffic. Our 150km route began at the historic lake city of Udaipur and finished at the highest point in Rajasthan – Mount Abu.
Land of Kings
As we began our journey, the weather in Udaipur became cloudy and breezy – the gods were in our favour, it seemed. It was all too perfect as we journeyed into the heart of this historic town to explore its heritage and beauty.
The old part of town that borders Lake Pichola is stunningly beautiful and full of buildings and palaces that instantly remind you of the regal heritage of Rajasthan – the land of the Kings. As we marvelled at the shops selling everything from knives and swords to old locks and traditional handicrafts, we didn’t even realise that night had fallen – by which time, of course, Udaipur only got even more beautiful.
A worthy companion
The next morning, we woke up early to beat the traffic. Our travelling companion, the new Honda CR-V, is known to be a comfortable all-rounder. The cabin is immensely inviting, with its dual tone theme, faux wood trim inserts and large, well-contoured seats – you need only to look at them to know that they’re extremely comfortable.
I stepped into the electrically adjustable driver’s seat and adjusted the lumbar support. It took but a moment to find a comfortable driving position. As I depressed the Drive button, I quickly realised that the nine-speed automatic gearbox is absolutely phenomenal. It’s just so smooth that you can’t tell that the gearbox is going about its business of shifting from one gear to the next. In fact, at times, you tend to forget the very existence of the gearbox – it’s brilliant!
But should you choose to drive with a little more gusto on the highway, you can engage Sport mode – at which point it holds gears longer and allows the engine to respond more quickly to sharp throttle inputs. However, if you desire a more engaging driving experience, you can simply choose to change gears manually using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. And that’s exactly what I did on the road from Udaipur to Mount Abu, which was – how should I put it? – fantastic. I didn’t come across even a single pothole along the way. The road is wide, with long straights and nice sweeping bends that allow you to revel in the journey.
A truly great road
It really felt like an ideal road trip in India. We didn’t encounter any towns or cities along the way. What we did encounter was a section of low-lying hills with no traces of human civilisation. After crossing through a few tunnels along the way, in just over two hours, we hit the foothills of Mount Abu. It was here that we had to leave the four-lane highway for a two-lane road. Soon, the road began to get narrower still, as we neared Mount Abu.
At this point, I must mention that the CR-V is extremely easy to drive and manoeuvre on tight and challenging roads. And it’s all-wheel-drive system helps it out of tricky situations. Also, its brake-hold feature doubles up as a hill-hold function and stops the CR-V from rolling on an incline. This, along with the lane departure / park assist camera, ensures that the CR-V does all the hard work – leaving you to simply enjoy the journey.
As we continued uphill, I noticed how markedly different the vegetation on the mountain was. In contrast to the rather barren landscape of Udaipur, Mount Abu is lush green at this time of year. The top of the mountain, peppered with flowers, greeted us in its colourful splendour. It really was breath-taking.
Nestled in the heart of Mount Abu is a beautiful heritage palace. Built in 1893, this palace was the summer residence of the Royal Family of Bikaner. It was converted into a hotel in 1962, and today it’s classified as a Heritage Hotel. Through its historic rooms and suites, it truly lets you experience life from the pages of history. As if by magic, it instils in you a deep sense of calm and serenity.
Interestingly, calm and serene are virtues that are also at the core of the CR-V. Its cabin completely isolates you from your surroundings and offers you an extremely relaxed and serene driving experience. But perhaps one of the best aspects of the CR-V is its ride quality that dismisses road undulations without unsettling the car in any way – leaving you to enjoy every bit of your journey.
And this is a journey that you will certainly enjoy, for the moment you head out of Udaipur and drive onto NH27 (which incidentally is the second longest National Highway in India), you’ll be treated to smooth flowing tarmac and virtually no traffic whatsoever. The only thing that you need to do is find your favourite tunes for the drive and just cruise to the music. But, once you veer off the main highway and drive up to Mount Abu, you’ll encounter a dramatic change in tempo as you charge through uphill hairpin bends that accelerate your heartrate in line with the ascending altitude. This route, then, sure has all the right elements for a great road trip – not to mention two very interesting destinations at either end.
Rajasthan truly is the land of Kings. A benefit of staying at the Palace Hotel, Bikaner House, is their authentic food – where they give you a feast fit for a King!
The CR-V’s all-wheel drive system gave us the liberty of straying off the beaten path when we wanted to get a bit more adventurous.