Every year, Honda Cars India organizes a unique drive event called Drive to Discover. Unique because, unlike conventional drive events, this one not only allows you to spend more time with the car, but also gives you an opportunity to discover new places. With Mobilio being their latest car, the official drive-car for Drive to Discover season 5 was Honda’s 7 seater MPV.
Day 1: The starting point of Drive to Discover season 5 was Coimbatore, second largest city in the state of Tamil Nadu. First day saw all participants (11 from media and 3 from Honda Cars India) arrive in the city. By late afternoon, most of us had checked into the hotel. With nothing on the itinerary, the day was spent resting in the room.
During dinner, all of us got a chance to interact with each other. Some of us knew each other as we keep bumping into at various events, while some were new faces. All in all, a good session where we also finalized the route we will take to reach our destination tomorrow, Bandipur National Tiger Reserve.
Day 2: We were to gather in the hotel parking lot by 11 am. Once there, we had five clean and polished Honda Mobilio’s waiting for us. The idea of spending all our day time for the next three days was exciting enough. We quickly placed our luggage in the allotted cars.
Third row seats were folded in each car, as there were not more than three people travelling. The boot easily accommodated all our luggage, with some more space to spare.
After a quick photo session, we were all set to leave. Two more from Honda Cars India had flown in this morning, just to wish us luck and flag-off the drive. By 12 we were out in the busy streets of Coimbatore.
The route we had decided upon, in order to reach our stay for the night in Bandipur National Park, was via Mettupalayam – Kotagiri – Ooty – Masinagudi – Bandipur. After hustling our way through the city traffic, convoy of five Honda Mobilio’s was not exactly unnoticeable. In fact it was quite opposite. Many on the road asked us what was going on? Some even followed us on their two wheelers, to find where we were heading.
Though the second largest city in Tamil Nadu, Coimbatore is not really big. In about half an hour we were out of the city. Soon we could see the mountains which were surrounding this city, and the ones we were about to climb. Without wasting any more time, we continued our journey.
If you are not familiar with local language, it will be difficult to find your way. But, this was not at all a problem as Honda Mobilio comes pre-loaded with navigation system, which works perfectly fine.
In no time we approached the ghat section. After climbing a certain height, we took a pit stop, to admire the city of Coimbatore from a distance.
The car we were driving for the day was a diesel variant. Powered by a 1.5l iDTEC diesel engine, this one delivers 100 PS power and 200 Nm torque. With luggage and three people on board, we continued to pace towards the top, mostly in the 2nd and 3rd gear. The five speed manual transmission powering front wheels, works effortlessly, making the climb even easier.
With Ooty getting closer, the hot weather of Coimbatore was no longer a problem. The tea gardens and violet blooms provided us with an excellent backdrop, and we stopped again to click some pictures. After spending a brief time with Ramesh, the caretaker of this tea garden, we continued with our journey forward.
By the time we reached Ooty, it was close to 2-30 PM. All of us were hungry, but we were not sure where to head. One of us in the team was familiar with Ooty and he suggested we should have lunch at Nahar Hotel. In spite of being a pure veg hotel, everyone agreed promptly. I guess, the idea of having food as early as possible was more tempting, then to wait and look for a hotel that served non-veg.
The distance between Coimbatore to Ooty, via the route we had taken was about 100 kms. We took a little over 2 hours of drive time to cover this distance. The quality of roads was good.
With lunch taken care of, by about 4 PM all of us were back in our cars. Now to Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The drive was downhill, but through a dense forest. Mobilio’s navigation system told us we were a little over 50 kms away from our stop.
With our stomachs full, the drive downhill was a little careful one. None of the five cars showed the same urgency, as was shown while climbing. In about half an hour, we were out of the ghats, and about to enter Madumalai Tiger Reserve. The roads started to worsen. But in a way it was good, if there were smooth roads inside Tiger reserve, not many would follow the speed limit of 20 kmph.
We did not manage to spot any tiger inside the Madumalai Tiger reserve, but did spot a few deers and a Cafe Coffee Day outlet. The reserve was not very big, and we soon entered Masinagudi village.
Before entering the Masinagudi Tiger Reserve, there was a police checkpost, which took details of our cars and told us not to speed inside the jungle as it was evening time. With high hopes of spotting a tiger, we continued our discovery into the reserve. The roads inside this years were smooth, but with speed-breakers installed every 500 metres.
Though we are not supposed to stop inside the reserve, we had to stop to help a colleague. Who had gone off the road and thus punctured both tyres on the left side. Mobilio is equipped with one spare tyre which is fixed under the boot. The boot wall has all the equipment you will require in order to change the tyre. 30 minutes later, we were back on the road.
Yes, it was dangerous to stop on the road. We did realize the enormity of our mistake about 100 meters from the spot where we had stopped to fix the tyres. There was family of five elephants, busy indulging in some evening snack.
Apart from deers and elephants, we also spotted quite a few peacocks.
Once out of the Masinagudi Tiger reserve, we entered Bandipur Tiger Reserve. This was a much denser forest than the previous two we had just crossed. This was evident from the sheer number of deers roaming, more trees, thicker cover, and more police security.
Deer in the jungle are familiar with car sound, and show no urgency to run away from approaching cars. They try and stay off the road, but once in a while they do come on the road, probably to ascertain whose property it is.
By about 7 pm, we reached our hotel inside the Bandipur forest, and Day 1 had officially ended. Though the distance from Coimbatore to Bandipur is less than 150 kms, our odometer showed we had covered 220 kms, thanks to the exploring spirit inside us.
During dinner, the entire team came together and discussed the day’s happenings. We soon parted, as Day 2 was to begin at 5 AM.
Day 2: By 5-30 AM we were to meet in the hotel lobby, where two jeeps were waiting to escort us to the main office of Bandipur National Park. Once there, we were directed to a mini van, which would take us much deeper inside the forest, in our quest to spot a tiger.
Our safari started at 7 AM. The driver had told us not to talk or make any kind of voice inside the jungle, as this would disturb the animals and they might run away. When asked doesn’t the diesel clutter disturb the animals, he said they are used to the sound.
While travelling on the state highway yesterday, we had seen these kuchcha roads branching out from the highways. These kachcha roads were barricaded. This morning, the driver opens the barricade of one such road, and thus we begin our journey into the dense forest.
Apart from us, the driver too seemed to be equally ager to spot a tiger, or thats what I thought. For about 3 hours we continued to roam inside this jungle. But as luck had it, we did not spot any tiger, nor any family of elephants. It were the deers and peacocks once again.
Soon after the safari, we were back to our hotel, ready to pack and start our journey for Day 2.
Some pictures of the hotel we stayed in.
Destination for Day 2 was Madikari, Coorg. From Bandipur, our navigation system told us that Coorg was about 200 kms away. Once again, we chose to take the forest route. This time it was via Rajiv Gandhi National Park, Nagarhole.
It would not be wrong if we said that there were no roads inside the Nogarhole Reserve, atleast for a few kms in the beginning. There are such big potholes, that if you are not careful, your car can get stuck or underbody damaged.
But, the Mobilio had a decent ground clearance, which managed to manoeuvre through these roads with ease.
Another elephant we spotted, this one inside the Rajiv Gandhi Reserve, Nagarhole.
The elephant glancing at the Drive to Discover convoy.
Some signs inside the reserve.
Before we managed to get out of the forest, we continued to spot deers, but no tigers. On our way, we also managed to come across the Officer who was in charge of the reserve. The Officer had already seen some of the cars in the convoy passing, as ours was the last car, we were stopped. He enquired what was happening and where were we heading. We too asked, where can we see tigers. He gave a smile, which soon made us realise that it was a dumb question to ask.
By around 7 PM, we had reached our hotel in Madikari, Coorg. For Day 2, the odo read another 250 kms, but this was a day that the car had been through many bad roads. And still, none of us were complaining.
With enough comfort and legroom on offer, the Mobilio had kept us relaxed throughout the journey.
As has been the norm for previous two days, all of us once again gathered for dinner. And as tomorrow is a rest day, it was going to be a long night before we hit the sack.
Day 3: With no excursions planned for Day 3, we were free to do what we wanted. We had decided to spend the first half of the day inside the hotel, check out the property, go to the swimming pool, play table tennis, snooker, etc.
By around 4, we decided to go out and explore Coorg and the coffee estates (mostly all of them owned by Tata) around. Once again, the roads didn’t disappoint.
Day 4: This was the last day of the journey. Today, we head to Bengaluru airport, from where each of us will then head back to our respective cities.
By 9 AM, we were out of the hotel. The route was a slight de-tour. Instead of heading to the Mysore highway, which would have been a little over 300 kms, we decided to try another route via dense forest. This was via SH85. We crossed Devachalla – Guthigaru – Subramanya – Kurasthe – Channarayapattana – Rajapura.
The route took us through scenic landscapes. The combination of smooth tarmac and twisties on offer, we were glad that we chose this road, instead of the bigger highway.
By 1 pm, we were on the Mysore highway. In the four days we have been driving, this was the first time we had been on a proper highway which had lane markings and a divider. This was also the first time we were going to pay any toll. With Bangalore about 130 kms away, we decided to take a pit stop as all of us were hungry.
The whether had completely changed. Instead of the cool climate which we had been experiencing over the past 2-3 days, the whether now was hot. So much so that by the time we had finished lunch, the cars were roasted.
We soon started our journey once again. Surprisingly, the AC was powerful enough to cool the cabin. Within minutes, we were comfortable again.
With the open highway on our side, we covered the distance to airport sooner than expected. By 4-30, all of us had reached airport, where a team of Honda drivers were waiting to collect the cars.
The minute we handed the car keys, realisation struck us. The journey had finally ended. Tomorrow morning we will not be driving Honda Mobilio, to discover new roads and routes, but back to our work station. Probably, thinking about Drive to Discover season 6.
Kms driven – 800
Fuel Efficiency – 16 kmpl