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The Big Drive Up – Hyderbad to Delhi via Mumbai and Udaipur – Road Review

Of late I had this itch to do a massive drive out. So I decided to drive all the way from Hyderabad to Delhi. With 2 pitstops, one in Mumbai and the other in Udaipur. But I will describe those in another post. This post is for describing the roads along the way. Before travelling out, I sought out this information all over the net but found no credible source or recent post. So I took it upon myself to chronicle the roads of India.

This was the condition of roads in January 2014. Of course with rains and sundry, all things can change. Having said that, all roads are metaled, even if the conditions vary from path to path. So here is the detailed path.

mahindra thar, short round, road trip

My ride – Short Round : )

 

HYDERABAD-MUMBAI (690 KM)

The first day is always full of excitement and energy. But this time I was headed out on a rather longer journey. So a bit of nervousness ensued too. But time is of the essence, so shall we start?

Hyderabad, Solapur, Road

The Road to Solapur. Look prettier than it is.

 

Hyderabad to Solapur (290 KM)

As soon as you get off the Outer Ring Road (ORR in Hyderabad) after 17 blisteringly fast kms, the first 250 kilometres ahead are quite patchy with a lot of potholes and uneven stretches. It’s not possible to get over an average of 50-60 kmph at any time. For some reason, when I travelled there was a lot of indiscriminate tree felling happening, perhaps a seasonal thing. The point being, the branches from the trees are being cut down to size on the road, again slowing you down. You get momentary respite every now and then, only to be rudely brought back to the ‘injar-pinjar’ highway. When I entered Karnataka, I expected the roads to improve, having had the pleasure of driving on the HYD-BLR highway many times over. Nope. Nothing like that. It is literally going in the wrong direction here. The first true change comes when you hit Solapur in Maharashtra.

 

Solapur to Pune (250 KM)

The road improves dramatically, it becomes a 5 lane highway (yes, I know, but you know…) and you can actually get your speeds up to 90-100 kmph.

western ghats, maharashtra, morning, dawn

As you leave Bombay, the ghats rise.

Pune to Mumbai (150 KM)

The fabled expressway doesn’t disappoint, but expect a lot of traffic as the two cities have a lot of people shuttling for work or otherwise. I hit this at 8 pm, so it was pitch dark, but easy to follow as I moved in a motorcade. Lucklily everybody is in a hurry.
MUMBAI TO UDAIPUR (770 KM)

This was going to be one long day of driving. And I was hoping it was nothing like the first day. Luckily it wasn’t :)

 

Mumbai to Surat (280 kms)

As you exit Mumbai (takes about an hour) the roads widen up, the ghats rise up and you have quite a brilliant drive. As soon as you come to the main junction where the sign tells you to go right for Ahmedabad, just outside Ghorbund, is where the highway experience starts. It’s a proper 6 laner and everybody (trucks) follow the lane rules, which makes driving a pleasure. The roads are great, well maintained, and you can drive without worry. This lasts all the way till Surat.

 

Surat to Vadodra (175 kms)

The roads continue to be generally good, and remain a 6 lane highway. Occasional roadwork slows you down in patches but nothing massive. Still a clean drive.

 

Vadodra to Ahmedabad (115 kms)

Oh. Em. Gee. The expressway is just brilliant. 4 laner. It’s 80 kms or so long – and the first 35km and the last 20 kms are absolutely silk! Rules are followed. It’s absolutely clean. Awesome. Although you want this stretch to last longer, it gets over soon – like all good things.

 

Ahmedabad to Rajasthan border (130 kms)

You’re pushed back to the olden days, with a 20-30 km 2 lane stretch after the Ahmedabad ring road. It’s quite annoying because the traffic rules go back to hell. But once you’re past city limits, the highway comes back with 4 lanes and a divider (something that we must learn to appreciate in India). The road remains fairly clear and uneventful till you hit the Rajasthan border.

green, lush, rajasthan, udaipur, desert

Yes, this is Rajasthan. Much more than a sandy patch!

Rajasthan border to Udaipur (130 kms)

The topography changes and it’s a really charming drive from the Rajasthan border on. The Aravallis rise up and the weather cools a bit. Mind you, I am travelling in January, so it’s perfect. Can’t promise the same in June. It’s a 4 laner and fairly clean.

But there’s this one patch where a particularly Rajasthan highway feature shows up – road grooves. Basically the asphalt has sunk, for various reasons and it’s pretty much like HotTracks where you car settles into the track. So be careful while braking – especially at high speeds, because my Thar would drift and go somewhat out of control. The first time it happened I was lost and checked my tyres. I soon realised the problem and had to drive carefully for 20-30 kms before the road restored to normal.

 

UDAIPUR TO DELHI (660 KM)

The last leg of the drive. I was mentally a bit tired, and kinda looking forward to the end of this day.

Udaipur to Ajmer (310 kms)

The roads from Udaipur to Ajmer are fairly clear as a fairly good 4 laner. You will pass through some smaller villages or town which will drop your average a bit, but other than that you’ll hit the higher speeds easily.

 

Ajmer to Jaipur (130 kms)

This is the part of the journey that you will thoroughly enjoy and you can let the engine rip as you get a 6 lane highway that’s fresh and well maintained. This part just whizzed by. Only to be brought to the last and irritating…

 

Jaipur to Delhi (250 kms)

I would call this the ‘Truck Alley’ on ‘Diversion 77’. Being a major trade route, you will unknowingly become a part of the convoy of trucks travelling down. And that would be ok, because generally on the highways trucks are disciplined.

However the Jaipur-Delhi route is full of diversions, thanks to progress and construction of bridges, which will slow you down. And then this stretch is also generally full of holiday makers returning to Delhi. And we all know how car drivers are on the highway. And as you get closer to Delhi/Gurgaon, the traffic keeps getting deteriorating. And when you come to a grinding halt, you know you’re at the city limits – somewhere stupidity begins.

Sigh. And the journey ends.

 

 

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Mail to Mahindra After-Sales and Koncept Motors

Hello,

I am writing to voice my utmost grievance regarding a month-old Mahindra purchase from Koncept Automobiles, before I go to press with it.

I purchased the Mahindra Thar 4×4 model, plate number DL 7C K 9518, (invoiced on July 27, 2011).

I was promised delivery on July 27, but then was delayed till August 2, and it wasn’t easy as I waited 4-5 hours at Koncept Automobiles to get delivery of my vehicle.

I had seen the black coloured Mahindra Thar a month ago and fallen head over heels and wanted it. It was love, but as I soon learnt – love is blind.

From day one there were issues with the car. Allow me to elaborate:

1) First of all, I got a distinct impression that I was being pandered the display piece. Why do I think so?

a) The left door handle was broken when I had seen it a month ago, and when I got it on Aug 2, it was still broken.

b) The moment I drove up to collect the car, I saw the ropes being uncoiled from the bull-bars, which had been there on the display piece.

c) There was rust on the disc-brakes on the vehicles.

d) The key I was given was completely worn down rather than a new set of keys as one would expect for a new vehicle.

e) Finally the odometer had clicked 300 kms when I received the Thar. I don’t know how far your stockyards are, but 300 kms is by no norms the amount a new car should be driven before being handed to a customer.

I decided to overlook almost all of this. Love, you see.

2) The speedometer would die on me.

3) The alignment of the BRAND NEW vehicle was off, and I had to bring the car back the second day for it to be taken to a professional to be corrected (reference Mr. Puneet, who took it with me to Chanakyapuri)

4) The driver side door handle was cracked which snapped at some pressure applied. It was never changed.

5) The A/C unit was leaking inside the car, which also had to be corrected in the same session (I ended up spending another 4-5 hours of my time on a new car).

6) The A/C vents just don’t work. You can close them – they still pump air. You can change the direction of the vents and they will still throw air straight. I know Mahindra is not responsible for this, but it is your partner and the choice of your partners reflects on you.

7) The major rattle sound when the Thar goes over potholes is because of poorly applied foam cushions between the canopy and the metal bar running overhead. All it needs is to be fixed properly and the sound drops by 50-60%. This was never corrected.

I thought things were sorted, but then came the piece-de-force….

8) THE CANOPY WAS LEAKING WATER IN THE CABIN. Is this supposed to be like this? Well, still, I thought that problem was corrected. But my problems had only begun.

Allow me to explain why I bought the Mahindra Thar 4×4 at INR 8,10,000 (accessories included).

I was going on a road trip across north India. From Delhi-Solan-Shimla-Sangla-Kaza-Kullu-Leh and back.

The Mahindra Thar seemed perfect and up to the job.

Boy was I in for a surprise when I reached Shimla.

Why Shimla, because till now it had not rained. But in Shimla it came down hard. And I was carrying luggage in the cabin (3 suitcases) and had speakers installed.

When it started raining in Shimla, it started pouring in the Mahindra Thar too. I could not understand. There was no tear, or laceration in the canopy.

And yet, water was dripping and trickling on the left side and also the centre bar. I had to stop under a tree till the rain subsided and had to keep wiping with tissues so that my luggage and speakers would not get any wetter than they were.

Once the rain stopped I moved to my next destination – Thanedar, some 70 kms away from Shimla, with great apprehension of the clouds.

In Thanedar, I tried calling Koncept Motors for help, but help was as available as sunny weather in Himachal that day.

So I was forced to spend INR 1,000 to buy a Tarp (tarpal) and string used by truckers to cover up a good looking vehicle.

After getting drenched, and paying some labourers another 400 Rs. I managed to get the car to be “DRY” with no help of the Mahindra or Koncept team.

The canopy had yet another major flaw – which is in the corners. If you are passing through a muddy stretch, the tyres spin the mud up and the mud enters the cabin through the 4 corners of the canopy (behind the drivers seat, passenger seat and the tail-light corners). All my speakers, and bags had mud streaks regularly, till I stuffer tissues to block the mud out. It was rather annoying and tiring too.

Eventually, I had to cut my trip short and return to Delhi, because the tarpal could not take speeds higher than 50 kmph, for the fear of flying off (it wasn’t meant for a smaller vehicle and I didn’t have hooks to secure it). So, instead of driving down to Leh, me and my friend had to fly to Leh (tickets worth INR 25000) and spend another INR 9000 on taxis there.

You know, I did not expect luxury when I bought the Mahindra Thar. It is a jeep. I know that. And I made my peace with the rattle and hum, and bad workmanship inside. I did.

But for some basic things – like waterproofing the cabin, in an outdoor vehicle, it’s not asking for much.

I can go on about the cosmetic design flaws, but I think I will save my ire for the press. I should let you know that I am a Creative Director in a global top 5 advertising agency and know a lie when I see on. And “Mahindra. rise.” is one!!!!! At least when it comes to Mahindra Thar. Especially in my case.

I will be raising this issue wherever I can as the public should know all angles before investing their hard-earned money with your company.

I don’t know what you could do to correct my impression, but I will certainly be interested to see what happens next.

Rather and utterly disappointed.

Neeraj SABHARWAL

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2012 in travel

 

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The ‘rise’ and fall of Mahindra (Thar)

(Or why I love my car and hate the canopy.)

I cannot lie, even if I tried, it was love at first sight – as much as I hate that cliché. I walked into the cramped Mahindra showroom opposite to Bikaji Cama Palace. The Thar was placed right in front of the lot, looking hot, smoldering in black. Leave aside the silly rope twining the bull bars, everything about the cars exterior accentuated the sense of adventure I had planned for this baby and me ahead. I was going to drive through the great Indian north. Just the Thar, me and the road. So when I saw this beauty of a machine calling out, I couldn’t resist and became besotted.

Now let me offer you a second cliché: Love is blind. And so it was. I fell in love and I wanted it – badly. No other vehicle would do. No other colour would do. I had heard that the wait time for the Thar was excruciatingly long (no not the “without you every moment seems like eternity” kind of long, but rather 3 months.) However the dealer assured me they would get me the model in 2 weeks time. Albeit surprised,  I was more than happy and made my down-payment to book the model.

Why did I say love was blind? I’ll come to that in a bit. However I found out something about myself when I sat in it at the showroom for the first time. The Thar’s beauty is merely skin deep. It looks utterly gorgeous from the outside. I mean, I could literally compare it with international models. I know some of you will already guffaw at that, so I will simply redirect you to my ‘love is blind’ cliché.

However as much as the Chassis-body-designer of the Mahindra Thar should be praised, the interior designer of the Mahindra Thar should be publicly flogged. To say that he or she or they have done a sub-standard job would be to shower praise on him, her or them. Allow me to bullet point:

  • The plastics are cheap. I mean utterly cheap. The kinds they made the kids plastic school tiffins out of… back in the early 1980s… probably.
  • The trimming on top of the dashboard is merely a rubber sheath that is lying loose and comes off at a sharp turn.
  • The steering wheel is not centrally aligned with the driver’s seat, but that’s already been covered by many others.
  • The passenger seat cannot be reclined as the seat behind the passenger seat is longer than the one behind the driver seat. As a result – the passenger must sit upright throughout a journey.
  • The handles, window-rollers are made of cheap plastic and break when you close the door a bit hard (mind you this is an outdoor vehicle).

But all this, could not deter me from falling in love. Seriously. I can be considered for the Darwin award. However, I digress.

SWITCHEROO?

So now we come to delivery date. You can probably guess  what happened next. Usual drama of delays, “No sir, the stockyard paperwork wasn’t correct.” “No sir, the waterproofing is being done.” Etc. Etc. All in all I was promised a date, and I was delayed by a week. Small mercy, considering I was in Delhi. The service of the showroom “Koncept Motors” was shoddy at best as they tested my patience duly. Did I tell you that I paid the amount in full a week before delivery date? Yes. Yes. I know. Darwin!

Finally a week later, I received the vehicle. They ask me to come to collect the vehicle at 2 pm. For whatever reasons I land up there around 1 pm and find the rope being taken off the bull-bars. Remember the rope from the first time I had walked into the showroom? I also noticed:

  • The left door handle was broken when I had seen it a month ago, and when I got it on Aug 2, it was still broken.
  • There was rust on the disc-brakes on the vehicles.
  • The key I was given was completely worn down rather than a new set of keys as one would expect for a new vehicle.
  • Finally the odometer had clicked 300 kms when I received the Thar. I don’t know how far your stockyards are, but 300 kms is by no norms the amount a new car should be driven before being   handed to a customer.

No prizes for the right guess, but Koncept Motors insisted this was a “fresh” piece. “Really. It is.”

They were no longer testing my patience. Now they were testing my love.

I persisted. And said, “Screw it. What’s the difference?” I wanted a black Thar and no other. And  by then I had heard enough stories of the legendary wait. So I stuck to my love.

The jeep came in at INR 7,00,000 or something. Add to that everything else (bull bars, roll-over bars, A/C (really???), light grills, engine grills) and your total is up to a good INR 8,00,000. But it’s not about the money. Really. It’s about the product and the service.

So I moved on. A happy camper. Finally united with my baby whom I christened “Short Round” (go google it.) And set off for my first great adventure. A month long drive through the Himachal (Kinnaur, Spiti, Kaza) and Ladakh valleys.

Skip forward to Shimla, one of the  very first pitstops before I hit Kinnaur valley.

RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY

It started raining cats and dogs – as it does in the hills in August. I mean it really came down. And I was on the road to get to a small place called Thanedar about 80 kms outside of Shimla. There was no place to stop. But why would I want to stop? Because I felt like the the rain was coming into the jeep. I parked Short Round and looked back. THE CANOPY WAS LEAKING.

WHAT? THIS IS AN OUTDOOR VEHICLE!! AND THEY COULDN’T GET THE CANOPY RIGHT???

I had my bags and my speakers rigged in the back. (I got the seats taken out so that the passenger could recline and so that I could park my bags and ration.) And it was all getting wet now.

S#%T! So I did what every scooterist does in India. Parked under a tree and waited for the rains to abate… in a covered jeep. After 30 minutes or so, once the rain stopped, I got out and used tissues to clean up the water, moisture and everything  so I could move. I stuffed the tissues in the corners where the roll-over bars connected with the cheap see-through plastic, so that they could absorb any water should it rain again.

BRINGING THE GREAT OUTDOORS… INDOORS!

Luckily, for me, it didn’t rain again that day. However the roads were muddy. Now why would I mention this to you? Because the canopy screwed me over again. How? The bottom corners of the canopy in the Mahindra Thar are not closed properly. And the mud-guards of the Mahindra Thar do precious little. So when the wheels fling the mud up, the corners which are ajar, let the mud fly in. In fine, little precise streaks. Nice, eh?

By the time I got to Thanedar, my stop 2 of adventure North, my bags had been wet, and muddied – all thanks to the fine engineering effort of the designer of the Mahindra Thar.

Do you want to know how I resolved the issue? Trucker-style.  I got a tarp to cover the canopy of the Mahindra Thar. Got it well strung up, and drove through the rest of my adventure.  Because I just lost all faith in the accessories of the Thar. Suddenly I was wondering whether the roll-over bars would hold in a critical situation. Luckily I never had to test them.

Coming back to the canopy, you should also know that you cannot completely close the canopy. Why? Because of the spare wheel hinged on the back door (which doesn’t open easily from the exterior handle). The hinge it rests on has an upward bend that comes in the way of the canopy and doesn’t let the canopy close entirely to seal the cabin. So there is a constant loss of air-conditioning and in-flux dust, etc.

JUSTIFY MY LOVE

However, at this point I must add the positives: The exteriors of the car – OMG! I don’t think I saw one grown man – not smile as it passed by. Kudos to the body-job Mr. Mahindra. And even the engine. Not once did it give me any trouble (but then I have only driven it 5,000 kms, the rest is yet to come.) Well done. But this is where the praise ends.

The Thar’s interiors are 4th-world shoddy and cost cutting cannot be the mantra to apply when someone sits in a 8-lacs plus vehicle. This is certainly not a city vehicle (even though that’s what you would like to project). And even if, it is a second or a recreational vehicle.

So wouldn’t it make sense to charge the customer a wee bit more and give them the quality they should expect from your company? I would gladly pay more as long as I don’t have to be stuck under a tree in the middle of nowhere just because it’s raining and the canopy used by your team can’t take it.

AFTER SALES DIS-SERVICE

Yes! I called the after sales. And got more sub-standard handling. After writing an elaborate mail (see below)  to management and senior people in the Delhi side of your operations, all I got a was a call back (2 weeks later) and upon insistence a person who came and inspected the vehicle post my travels.

If you’re really interested, that was in September first week. Nothing post that. Not even a ‘promise’ to change the canopy. That’s why I decided to write and at least let the world know, that if you love something, be prepared for all you will have to sacrifice in the process.

Shame. Really. Cuz I do love the Thar. The company that makes it – not  so much.

PS: Quick update – July, 2012 The canopy was finally changed, under the warranty, and I thought my worries would end. So – no rain inside anymore, but the dang canopy just doesn’t wrap around the frame at the back of the vehicle, constantly remaining open. Again letting in the elements and leaking out cabin air. I finally give up. Like most common Indians do, and make peace with what we have. Shame.

 
 

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Exploiting his look. Not his labour.

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Ramesh pulls for a living. Some call it exploitation of human dignity. I think he calls it dinner.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2011 in delhi, india, Jama Masjid, travel

 

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Don’t Jump…….

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…to conclusions. It’s not suicide. The dude is responsible for building up and bringing down scaffoldings.

This tent, I believe, was the Anna Hazare tent. However I prefer the common Indian to the over hyped ones. Cheers.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2011 in delhi, india, Red Fort, travel

 

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The Jama Gatekeeper

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Meet Mohammed Azhar. He is the gatekeeper at the Jama Masjid in Delhi – which happens to be the largest mosque in India built around 1628 (when a lot of countries didn’t exist).

He is also the keeper of modesty and ensures women cover up before going in and made me put a long cloth on over my shorts to cover my sexy legs!!!

He also has polarizing opinions that you can ignore for a photograph ;)

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2011 in delhi, india, Jama Masjid, travel

 

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Plat du jour: humayun’s tomb

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Babur was the first Mughal emperor. Jehangir was next. Akbar was the most famous. Humayun was his son. This is his tomb. A pre-cursor for the Taj Mahal. Both built by humayun’s son – Shahjehan. History lesson over!

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2011 in delhi, india, travel

 

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