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Bijoy takes us through the trials and tribulations (and logistics) involved in organising and executing a road trip
The decision to drive to Jaisalmer for the annual Mahindra Great Escape was taken on a whim. We figured all of us could do with a change of scene, away from the monotony of the office. And flying would be too easy. So we decided to pack our bags and hit the road. Wait a minute, the original idea was couple of us riding motorcycles with a back up car driven by other colleagues, carrying all the luggage. Like most whimsical ideas, it was vetoed by very important people in the family and driving was the only logical alternative.
With over 100 cars in the Mahindra Adventure fleet, there is always a nice choice. We narrowed it down to Adventure One, a first generation Thar that I have been shielding from the boys. This Thar has gone through many iterations and currently wears a bright orange roof on a three box full metal body coated in silver. Not exactly a great car to go on a tarmac trip, but it had to be moved for off-road duty later in the week. Manish, our off-road instructor called dibs on a brand new Scorpio. We also had to move a Mahindra Alturas G4 for VVIP use at the Great Escape and that completed the fleet.
There are three things that are important for a great road trip. The car, the road and the people. The cars and people were sorted out and we expected the road to be a cakewalk since it was mostly made up of national highways.
Then we hit traffic.
There were trucks all over the place. They trundled at 50kmph on the fast lane trying to overtake more trucks that occupied the middle lane and even the service lane. There is hardly a thing that you can do to up the proceedings, even when you have powerful machinery under your control. Within an hour into the trip, I thanked those ‘important people’ who dissuaded us from taking the motorcycle. It would have been hell.
It took a while to escape the labyrinth of maximum city and its never-ending suburbs. The speed picked up soon but despite well-paved and arrow-straight roads, something was missing.
Maybe I was trying to relive my drives on the same highway some time back. I remember storming to Delhi on the same road several times. There was traffic on the road then too and life on the road was unpredictable with road works and so on. But then, there were dhabas to stop at, steaming chai to be had, leisurely lunches topped with sweet lassi to be relished. Now gleaming restaurant-cum-hotels have taken over the dhaba scene, especially in Gujarat. While they look neat and clean with their laminated and glass facades, they lack the old-world charm. These multi- cuisine behemoths of the GST regime had stolen the romance of the road trip completely.
Whatsapp warnings from close mates insisting that we stop for the night to avoid dacoit trouble (really? Yes, apparently they stop you and take all valuables and even cars they say). Up ahead in the distance was a shimmering light and we stopped for the night at, err... Hotel Lee Grand. It was not exactly hotel California and instead of champagne on ice, we had to do with Coke and vegetarian pizza. How romantic.
Next morning we crossed over to Rajasthan and voila, the world turned back a couple of decades. It was indeed reward time. We swapped cars, maxxed them out on desert roads and played the songs we love through iPhones and Apple CarPlay. Boys were fighting for the keys all the time. There was a lot of laughter in the car when it was stopped for the Thar to catch up. And yes, we found a dhaba and topped our stunningly local meal with lassi.
Jaisalmer was a great destination to have, but we were seeking thrills on the road. Perhaps we should hunt down some dacoits on the return trip. Just perhaps.