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The first part of the Mahindra Marazzo Ocean Trail had so far been incredible. We had witnessed a sunrise over the ocean, had delectable seafood and spent our evenings gazing at the horizon with fine sand under our feet. But now we decided to look for something else apart from the beaches. Yeah, we’d had too much of a good thing and the East coast had to have more than just beaches, no matter how beautiful they were. So, for The Mahindra Marazzo Ocean Trail – Part 2, we went a step further and decided to tick off the most unusual of sights from our list. Visakhapatnam to Puducherry was on the Marazzo’s navigation, the distance was less than a thousand kilometres and for us at evo India that could mean one of two things — a day of spirited driving or four days of exploring. We chose the latter.
From Visakhapatnam, we set out to explore the magnificent Araku valley, incidentally one of India’s finest coffee-growing regions. The roads leading out of Visakhapatnam and towards Araku valley, much to our delight, included several windy bits with tight corners and numerous hairpin bends. Nestled deep in the Araku valley and soaking in the sights of the marvellous valley that lay below, we were making our way towards the Borra caves that are over 150-million-year-old caves and were first discovered over 200 years ago. Since then, the stalactites and stalagmites there have become a major tourist attraction. A rather fun drive up the hills gave us another chance to put the handling of the Marazzo to the test, and it surprised us with how well it took to the tight twisty roads. Credit goes to the unique architecture of the MPV that marries the robustness of a ladder frame with modern lightweight design and a front-wheel drive, transverse-engined packaging. The twisties only reinforced what we said in our first tests, that the Marazzo has got properly sorted handling that blends good grip with even better composure and doesn’t spring any surprises on the enthusiastic driver.
After putting the tyres through some torture, we were soon outside the Borra caves and went in to the colourfully-lit and immaculately-maintained cave complex. With considerable time and energy spent trekking up and down the caves, it was time for lunch. Coincidentally, we found a local delicacy — bamboo chicken, that was just being taken off the fire. We held ourselves back a tiny bit because of the twisties that we would soon find ourselves on and admittedly we really liked the beige upholstery of the Marazzo. Needless to say, we didn’t hold the Marazzo back on the twisties. The MPV displayed remarkable poise and speed as it made its way down the hills of the Araku valley and soon we were back in the city of Visakhapatnam and decided to call it a day.
The next day, we set out on the drive to Vijayawada. A great section of the NH16 beckoned us and the smoothness of the road surface allied to the extremely pliant suspension of the Marazzo ensured we could all take turns getting some shut-eye in the back. 40 winks later we were in quaint Kakinada. Fairly popular among the locals, the town has a fabulous 3km stretch of road that runs right along the ocean. And while we did say we’d had enough of a good thing, we had to make an exception. You can walk along the entire stretch of the beach and marvel at the empty seashore and the tranquil waves with little to no traffic to bother you. What more could we ask for?
In the heart of Kakinada town, we stumbled upon an eatery that was more than half a century old. The Subbayya restaurant is a feast for all your senses. It is immensely popular and has more than a few outlets serving the same fare, on the same street, to cater to the thousand or so hungry mouths that throng the place during lunch hours. The place is absolutely jam-packed and the all-you-can-eat South Indian vegetarian fare coupled with the amazing hospitality — we were even handed beverages for the road as we were heading out — is absolutely worth the effort and time. With tummies full to the brim, most of the team decided to take a nap, again! The Marazzo really does indulge the laziness in us! The pliant suspension, extremely quiet cabin, low NVH levels and comfortable seats ensured that the second and third row occupants got some rest.
We had driven on the NH16 for the majority of the drive and the cruising ability of the Marazzo was something that we had come to love. The 450 or so kilometres to Chennai were dismissed at a quick trot and from one metropolis to the other the Marazzo impressed on all fronts. Everything from the ride, the handling and the sheer comfort inside was top-notch. The way the Marazzo is built also inspires confidence. There is a reassuring thud every time you shut the doors. And the high safety ratings that it has received (a 4-star Global NCAP rating) ensure that you can rest assured that the MPV will have your back even if, God forbid, things go wrong. But more than anything else, it was the little things that really won us over. The roof-mounted AC vents with the option of direct or diffused cooling is a highlight. No matter how hot it was outside, we could easily find the right temperature inside. Also, the top-end feature-loaded M8 variant that we were driving comes with an 8-seater configuration, something that will be well appreciated by every extended Indian family.
For the final stop on our Ocean Trail, we headed to the charming town of Puducherry. The beautiful beaches, quaint cafes and pretty streets, all hark back to a time in the past. The Marazzo with its shark-inspired design looks futuristic and contrasted beautifully with the French-era architecture. A walk along the picturesque Marine Drive is an experience to savour and should certainly not be missed for anything. The narrow lanes in Puducherry tested the manoeuvrability of the Marazzo and with its small turning radius, it exceeded our expectations often, getting us to places we thought the MPV couldn’t get to — good for us lazy bums then, the fact that the Marazzo could keep us shielded from the scorching hot sun for so long ensured that Rohit and Alameen got seaside pictures and footage they wanted without an unwanted tan. Now Puducherry is known as the Goa of the South and that tag has made it a popular tourist destination for Indians and foreigners alike. Unfortunately though, it has had a negative effect on the beautiful town. Unchecked construction on the beach as well as a lack of effort to slow down sand erosion has resulted in beaches that have coarse sand and the famed beaches of the Goa of the South are no longer as spectacular as they were. That hasn’t done much to the spirits of the Puducherry folk though, and they remain as jovial and fun-loving as ever.
A short twenty-minute drive away was the town of Auroville and even though it wasn’t on our list, it had always fascinated me with its environmentally-conscious, self-sufficient way of life. We just couldn’t miss a short drive there. We had lunch at a vegan, organic restaurant there and when asked for a bill at the end of a fabulous meal, I was promptly told by the pretty Frenchwoman that I would only receive an email as “Trees are givers of life”. Stupid me! It was Auroville that I was in after all. Reluctantly, we bid adieu to the relaxed vibe of Auroville, and returned to the hustle and bustle of Chennai.
We were at the end of the Mahindra Marazzo Ocean Trail but we had just one last thing to do. We drove to the Mahindra Research Valley to meet the men behind the Marazzo. Led by Velusamy R, the senior VP of product development, we were educated about the various innovations and developments that have made the Marazzo what it is. We realised that the Marazzo being what it is, is not happenstance. The engineers and designers behind the project have spent countless hours refining the ride, handling and performance together with colleagues from the North American centre in Detroit. All that effort was evident in the way the Marazzo performed all through this epic road-trip. We stumbled on things to do that were way off the usual tourist trail and way off our list too; made plans and then changed them. And all it took was a drive that lasted a little more than a week. The fact that the Mahindra Marazzo Ocean Trail was so effortless was clearly a result of the Marazzo’s inherent qualities. The Ocean Trail also told us something that we should have known earlier. Incredible India has numerous hidden treasures for anyone who is willing to look. The only thing you need is a desire to do so, and a car that is willing to take you and your buddies wherever you want to go.