Road trip to Tamhini ghat with the Hyundai Creta: Great Driving Road|Part 5
In this edition of the Great Driving Road series, we planned a road trip to Tamhini ghat with our long term test car, the Hyundai Creta. The road to Tamhini ghat is silky smooth and goes through open lands to dense forest and has lots of corners — the main ingredient for fun. And what happens when a petrolhead gets this kind of playground? Read the story as featured in our July edition.
Pune is a heaven for the car enthusiasts. Major carmakers have their sprawling factories on the outskirts, there’s no dearth of performance cars plying our streets, and a sizeable chunk of automotive press is based out of the city. In fact, evo India’s HQ itself is a great example of this, it comprises a multicultural force of petrolheads from across the country, all bunched up in one place to make their automotive wet dreams a reality. There’s another important thing that brings the group together and that is our collective enthusiasm for road trips. Pune’s proximity to beautiful driving roads in the Western Ghats is a blessing, and we at evo India do not take this for granted. If you have been following our Great Driving Roads series, you’d know that we’re exploring some of the nicest roads in India and this time around, we planned a road trip to Tamhini ghat discovering the wild side of Maharashtra from behind the ’wheel of our long-term Hyundai Creta.
It’s 4am and we’re up unusually early. Tamhini ghat, about 45km away from home, attracts hordes of tourists in the monsoons and we have to get there before the crack of dawn so that the crowds don’t photobomb our hero shots. It is still dark when I hop into the driver’s seat and take my own sweet time to find an ideal driving position; I reach the pedals to check if I can depress them fully and adjust the Creta’s electrically operated driver’s seat height for a good view of the road ahead. I adjust the steering rake for an unobstructed view of the digital instrument cluster. The Creta’s triple beam LED headlamps evenly illuminate the road ahead as we head out onto the road. The shutterbugs have been busy shooting the last few days, so they’re still slumbering on the rear seat, enjoying the wonderfully cushy neck pillows that the Creta has. The initial part of the road is familiar as we pass through Chandni Chowk on the edge of Pune city, and then onto the road towards Mulshi.
As we snake out of the urban sprawl on the outskirts of the city, the roads turn from bad to worse. A portion of this road to Mulshi is being resurfaced with concrete and there’s only a single lane open. As is typical of Indian road works, the remaining one lane that has to deal with a larger volume of traffic is in a pathetic state, with plenty of uneven steps on the surface. The Creta with its 190mm clearance and an absorbent ride quality, comfortably gets through. The spring and damping rates on the Creta are precisely calibrated, translating to excellent bump absorption and brilliant control of vertical movement.
Just when I am about to run out of patience with the potholes, the roads, and the landscape, the surroundings transform into visually soothing vistas. About 30km from the city the unpleasant roads end. This is where you begin getting a glimpse of the wild side of Maharashtra. Where roads start twirling around the flanks of the Sahyadri range. The Tamhini ghat road begins at the end of Mulshi village, and goes on for about 43km with more than 60 corners, 15 tight hairpins and WRC-like crests that can launch your economical cars into orbit if you carry enough speed. It’s exciting and also serves a purpose — it cuts across a part of the Sahyadri range into the Konkan region and connects Pune to the coast, and the other way around. The roads are dry but not for long because the sky is heavy with dark clouds casting massive shadows over the valley. Just the mere sight of an empty road ahead that disappears into the dense forest is spine-tingling. No potholes, no undulations, just a flawless stretch of asphalt. Time to drive.
The road ahead is silky smooth. With a tight hairpin in sight, I downshift two gears into the second cog, trail braking into the corner. I turn in and the precise steering points the Creta just where I want it to. There’s a confidence inspiring bite from the nose on the corner entry, and the heft to the steering encourages me to push harder. Back on the gas. Shift to third after the exit, foot pinned to the throttle and all of the Creta’s 115 horses and 250Nm blasts it towards the next corner. This one is a long, sweeping left-hander and there’s tremendous grip from the new Ceat Securadrive tyres that we have on our long-term car. With poise, the Creta continues to stitch multiple corners together. I’m grinning, but with so much lateral movement, shutterbug Benny isn’t happy. He can’t type the caption for his Instagram post (that I crafted for him), so he wants me to slow down. Mind you this is a tall SUV so there is some degree of body roll, but not to an extent where you wet your pants.
A couple of kilometres in, the notoriety of Tamhini ghat becomes evident. Droplets of rain start falling and there’s an increasing amount of fog, drastically reducing the visibility. Tap. Tap. Tap. A thousand, million taps at once. The rain gods have begun their rhythmic pounding as we drive through the mountain. Forget the next hairpin, I can’t see what’s ten metres ahead. Three clicks on the left stalk and the wipers start to swing up and down in their fastest setting. It may be a great place to enjoy the rain, but the rain does wreak havoc too. At the peak of the monsoons, there’s 24 hours of downpour, landslides, roads caving in and damage to the infrastructure in nearby villages. It’s wild, but then this place is wild itself. The forest is home to 25 species including giant squirrels, leopards and barking deer; over 150 species of birds and 70 species of butterflies. Not a bad place for a vacation, to be honest. We plan to return the same day, but if you want to stay overnight, you will find plenty of resorts and budget homestays on the way. There’s also the lavish Atmantan Wellness Resort where you can splurge on some fine wellness programmes.
Next up we’re passing the most densely forested section of the Tamhini ghat road. There’s a gorgeous canopy of trees ahead where contorted branches loom over the road. It’s a sight to behold. The Creta treads cautiously, and with utmost silence as we continue snaking through the ghat. The NVH levels on this BS6 Creta are significantly better and the diesel clatter is inaudible while coasting. With the rains subdued, I roll the window down to the soothing sounds of nature; chirping birds, buzzing insects and croaking frogs. I find a safe spot to park the Creta and we step out of the car at the Tamhini ghat viewpoint to a majestic sight of the lush evergreen Tamhini forest. There are plenty of freshwater mountain streams around but the massive waterfall in the valley is the one that’s attracting tourists’ attention. The clean air and magnificent sights help us relax, calm down and breathe easy. A rewarding moment especially after driving past the bad initial section of road that drained our energy. After spending so many hours in the concrete jungle, it was a joy plunging into this endless verdure, feeling the nip of fresh air, cracking silly jokes with the boys and enjoying a dramatic drive behind the wheel of the Hyundai Creta.
The vibe of Tamhini is like a fast charger that elevates our moods and restores our energy within moments. The rains resume and we return to the shelter of the Creta’s welcoming cabin. Tap. Tap. Tap. The droplets charge towards the ground at an increasing pace but from the secure cabin of the Creta the sound is rather soothing. In that very moment, I feel grateful for being based out of Pune, a city that has been a gateway for so many of our epic adventures, including this one. If you’re someone who has been deprived of road trips and your area is bereft of great driving roads that deliver such wonderful experiences, I recommend booking a one way ticket to Pune. You won’t be disappointed.