During this tour, I came to a curious understanding. The photos of burly 4x4s fording rivers or clambering up dunes are deeply synonymous with the concept of ‘adventuring’ or ‘taking the road less travelled.’ But it doesn’t end there; the thought of going off the beaten path will take on a more subdued but no less thrilling form.
The Karnataka coastline made up the better part of Honda’s over 800-kilometer path for the tenth Drive to Discover. For me, as I’m sure it is for many others, the western coast of India is described by the few beach towns we have around Mumbai and Pune, Goa, the latest haven for remote workers, and Kerala’s lush backwaters. So there was a surprise or two in store for me with every detour off the NH66 on this leg of our journey from Bangalore to Goa.
A unique environment was just minutes away from the uncluttered highway, from the quaint fishing villages around Kodi beach at the mouth of the Panchagagavali estuary to the busy fishing town of Honavar on the banks of the Badagani river. And at the tail end of our journey through Goa, a wrong turn led us to an unidentified fishing beach with no tourists or shacks in sight. The NH66 slices past pristine coconut palm-lined rivulets on several occasions, but the segment along the Maravanthe beach is the real highlight. The road is situated on a narrow ridge that separates the Arabian Sea from the Kolluru River, making it one of the most unusual stretches of road in the world.
And this spirit of adventure wasn’t exclusive to the coast. Earlier in our journey, on our way from Bangalore to Mangalore via Chikmagalur, we found ourselves snaking through the lush forested hills to Chikmagalur, where the next day we were treated to some spectacular views of the coffee estate-studded Western Ghats. The early morning climb up to Mullyanagiri peak would excite the enthusiastic driver, but the narrow lanes that snake along the foothills through the estates and the crisp, cold breeze you are fed with here will provide an equal amount of pleasure.
The Charmady Ghat portion of the NH73 between Mudigere and Mangalore, however, will satisfy the most passionate petrolhead. There are thrills to be had at any turn on this 25-kilometer stretch of flawless tarmac that snakes its way across the hills in sweeping corners and close switchbacks. The landscape is equally appealing, with open peaks and lush forests dotted with waterfalls and streams.
To reiterate what we said earlier, we weren’t doing any of this in a ruthless diesel SUV or a svelte GT. We had Honda Car India’s latest lineup of vehicles with us, all of which you and I can purchase without losing a functioning bodily organ. We’ve already mentioned how much we like the WR-torquey V’s diesel engine and good visibility on the highway, but those same qualities served it well on the climb up to Chikmagalur’s highest point. We’ve also said that the City CVT is potentially the perfect sedan for commuting. With its well-judged suspension, responsive engine, and reasonably reactive gearbox, the same City CVT is also very strong around a great driving path. In a similar vein, the Amaze’s compact footprint and rev-happy petrol engine make it ideal for navigating narrow village lanes or covering long highway miles. Finally, with its limited footprint but wide interior area, the Jazz seems to widen the narrow, often troublesome bylanes of Goa.
There’s a pattern here if you haven’t heard. When it comes to choosing a car to drive, you don’t have to listen to the ad hype. Most vehicles, particularly well-engineered ones like the Hondas we drove, can stand up to almost anything you ask of them, and not just the ones that seem to be able to sweep aside anything in their way. What you need is an adventurous heart, which isn’t difficult to come by, is it?