The excitement was at its peak as just before the first light of dawn, we were passing through the Gurgaon’s famous cyber city which otherwise is buzzing and soaked in traffic. This road trip had been pushed by a day due to the rain in Gujarat and Maharashtra that added to the overall excitement. A night before I had fuelled up the vehicle, checked the tyre pressure and off we were in the Volkwagen Beetle. The journey to connect the National capital of India with its Financial capital. We travelled through the roads of Gurgaon through the pink city of Jaipur via Udaipur and Surat before reaching our final destination. The idea was not to just travel from Delhi to Mumbai but to explore and visit places that suits the character of the Beetle and to find out how practical the Volkswagen Beetle is and is it really meant for long drives?
As I started to frame these answers for none but myself I found myself zipping through the morning truck traffic on NH9. When the idea was passed on to me to do this road trip connecting two important Indian cities, I immediately took up, not that I don’t like to be in office but I simply like to be out more. Both cities Delhi and Mumbai are very aspirational and have its own charm while one can argue endlessly about which one is better over the other, there will be no answer to this question. I have spent most of my life in Chennai, in Delhi since last 6-7 years and remember going to Mumbai as a kid to spend my vacations there and so instead of spending more time in any of the metro cities, we decided to spend more time in tier-2 cities and so headed to Udaipur via Jaipur.
The street leading towards Amer fort was buzzing and packed with all kinds of tourists. From the religious ones to foreigners and everyone did notice this small little car finished in white going to and fro the fort looking for a spot to get a perfect click in front of the fort. It was a hot and humid day but tourists were at its peak and the locals were busy showcasing their skills to support their daily livelihood.
Located on the hill, the Amer fort is an extensive palace complex finished in pale yellow and pink standstone complimented by white marble and was built under the rule of Raja Man Singh I in 16th century. Coming from Delhi the Amer fort marks the beginning of Jaipurs’ city limits.
It was decided that the Beetle’s stop at Jaipur would be a short one and intentionally we decided to take the state highway that connects Jaipur to Udaipur and not go back on the national highway to check out the state of the Rajasthan state highway. Going through the traffic of pink city the Volkswagen Beetle was a head turner, the car suits the personality of Rajasthan as it is the state of kings and maharajas who in past and still own the old vintage model of the Volkswagen Beetle. We also managed to take the car on to some rough roads to find a deserted location in middle of nowhere.
The Beetle’s suspension is a bit stiff so you do have to go slow on the rough patch considering the ground clearance is also a bit low, but the other major reason is on a highway you need to take extra care of exotic cars, even a small set back like a puncture takes up a lot of your time and the spare wheel is a smaller sized wheel which will restrict your speed limits. It was a hot and humid day, the temperature on the car’s instrument cluster was recording almost 41 degrees and staying out of the car was getting a bit tiring. The automatic climate control on the car did come to rescue and made out life’s easy.
The initial route of the state highway is nice and smooth, the trucks of course can get really annoying by not sticking to their lanes but that tends to happen when you are driving on one of the most busiest truck routes.
The city of Udaipur is most relatable to Volkswagen Beetle, the city has a glorious past and still carries the ancient look with beautiful palaces, a few located inside the lake. Famous palaces converted into hotels that look old and royal from outside and have modern interiors and amenities. Just like the 21st Century Volkswagen Beetle. It took us about 15 hours to reach Udaipur (with many detours) covering a distance of about 650 kilometers. We called the night in Udaipur.
Udaipur or the city of lakes has one of the best morning views in the country, we started our drive very early but instead of driving out, we decided to take a stroll around the famous Lake Pichola.. The friendly people of the city guided is around the narrow lanes of the city and a since it was very early in the morning we couldn’t enter the Udaipur Palace but the public park right next to it was also a delight to visit.
As much as we wanted to spend more time in the city of lakes, we had to push off to explore more of the Rajasthan highway before we enter Gujarat. As we hit the highway and took the NH8 towards Gujarat, we witnessed the most scenic highway of our journey. Nice, wide and curvy roads surrounded by mountains and going through it was the Beetle which surprised me with its handling. Smooth at corners and provided as much as power required to zip through the morning highway traffic. The bright sunshine again reminded me that I should have carried my sunglasses and as I regret forgetting them back in Delhi, I continued my concentration on road and in span of 2-3 hrs with an average speed of 75-80 kmph we entered the land of Gujarat.
The initial highway as we entered Gujarat is reduced to two-lane and that often piles up the traffic. But unlike what we witnessed on day 1 the cattle population on the highways had reduced drastically. Most of the tolls operated by Gujarat state government despite being operation did not charge us but did monitor vehicles for safety. This reduced the overall cost of toll. Each day we were consuming fuel worth Rs 3000 and the 1.6L petrol engine on the Beetle did not give any other trouble despite heavy heat outside. The distance between the lake city Udaipur and diamond city Surat is about 500 kilometers and on our we many deviations going through Godhra and vadodara continued its journey to Surat.
Soon after we crossed Godra and entered Halol we were on look out for the former General Motors plant that has now been overtaken by the Chinese MG Motors. The plant was on the highway and we had the chance to see the brand new holdings with not a single sign of General Motors. MG Motors have overtaken the whole plant and expects to begin operations from 2018 and might make its India debut with new SUVs. A quick stop for lunch in Vododra and we were back on the 4 lane national highway that connects directly to Mumbai. The highway is meant for such small cars with quick responses however, with no lane discipline with important to stick to the speed limits and judge the slow moving vehicles correctly before over taking them. With heavy traffic we it took us about 13 hrs to reach Surat leaving us with no time to explore the city.
The Volkswagen Beetle has honestly surprised me with its abilities not only in terms of its performance but slowly it made me realize that it’s an ideal car for two-people even on a long-drive. It does lack on the utility spaces. The dashboard of the car is neatly laid-out and despite being a bit old the infotainment system still remains the very user friendly and the use of cruise control did help me to relax a bit from every day’s driving.
On our way to Mumabi, we decided to stop at Daman and take a stroll at its famous beach. The heat had almost irritated me but the Beetle did not give us a single trouble. I still wish a bit less stiffness on the seats and more use of soft leather would have been more comfortable but not many times you will be sitting inside this car for three days straight plus most of the buyers of Beetle in India will have more than one car or SUV to take care of their long distance travel. So while my complain is genuine, Volkswagen is seeing at the larger picture. The car comes to India from its Mexican plant the sole manufacturer of Beetles in the world.
In no time we made it to the Bandra-Worli sea link road and the beauty of Mumbai left me with no words. Every one fighting their own battle, making their way in the city of dreams aspiring to become successful and somewhere lost in between success and happiness and yet waking up with a new dream every single day, that’s how I define Mumbaikars.
As the Beetle parked itself at Mumbai International airport, there was a sense of exhaustion and not good feeling about going back to the hustles of life in Delhi… but with memories to cherish and stories to tell about the Beetle we ended our journey.
We overall clocked about 1700 kms and stopped at four important cities. The petrol on the Volkswagen Beetle costed us about 15,000 and the tolls on the way including the final Bandra-Worli sea link saw us spending an approx Rs 1500 but the experience in the Beetle was something beyond value. I could do this again and again and I hope someday Volkwagen India brings in the convertible version of Beetle in India which would make it good car to drive in the winter sun. It’s sad that we don’t see as many Beetles on the road as it should sell but the import duty has made the car far too expensive to own one. I had the chance to live the legacy the Beetle carries, the history it has seen and worldwide popularity of the Beetle. The car was a head turner and I enjoyed my journey through Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra but it’s the memories and time spend with Beetle that I will cherish for the rest of my life.