Coasting through with the Nissan Magnite
A long weekend road trip to the beachside for most would probably take them to Goa. And while Goa is great, it can get to be a little much sometimes. What with the hordes of beach shacks, the hordes of people in these shacks and the hordes of garbage from these people. Sometimes, it's nice to be with nature in a place that's full of everything but people. And with a 5,400km-long coastline in India, can you imagine how much of that there's still to find?
So, tired of Mumbai and its incessant flooding in the monsoon, I packed a bag, tanked-up the Nissan Magnite, and decided to head out. This time, to one of the least explored parts of the country the Kathiawar Peninsula in Gujarat. Normally, the spacious interior and the large 336-litre boot would have comfortably fit in my friends and all their extra baggage. But this time, all I wanted for company was the Magnite on open roads with stunning views.
While I always enjoy a long drive, the monsoon had ruined the highways and slowed down traffic around Maharashtra and Gujarat. Thankfully, I found a way out of this in the form of a RoRo Ferry from near Surat. It would take me from Hazira, cut across the Gulf of Khambhat and drop me off on a more empty side of the sea.
With a night halt at Surat, I made it for the 8 am ferry which was relatively empty because it was a weekday. Or at least it felt empty because of how much space was left inside despite a dozen fully loaded trucks it was ferrying! Even the rough monsoon seas didn't seem to bother the ferry at all for the five-hour journey. Standing on the top deck and taking in the view of the open sea was a great way to start this trip towards solitude.
By the time I arrived at Ghogha, I was already itching to get back in the comfy cabin of the Magnite and hit the road. I planned to cut straight through the middle of Saurashtra towards the western most coast of India with a night halt at Gondal. I found the directions on Google Maps, set up wireless Apple CarPlay on the crisp 7-inch touchscreen unit and set off.
The vast, lush farmlands of rural Gujarat, full of freshly sprouted crops were a welcome change from the drab industrial backdrop of the Mumbai-Surat highway. Normally, I would have complained now about the roads being ruined by the monsoons and how tiring it was. This time though, the Magnite's well-setup suspension was effortlessly soaking up all the ruts and potholes. All I had to complain about were the heavy rains hiding the view.
Heritage Palace Hotels, Gondal
The Orchard Palace and the Riverside Palace are 19th century heritage hotels run by the royal family of Gondal. The Orchard Palace hosted personal guests of the king, while the Riverside Palace was the crown prince's residence. The former is a seven-bedroom property with 1930s and '40s art deco furniture, antiques and a vintage car museum. The latter is a colonial-style building near the town's river, with period furniture from the family's heirloom collection.
18th century Naulakha Palace
With the 1.0-litre turbo-petrol purring away effortlessly, I checked into the lavish 19-century Orchard Palace heritage hotel at Gondal before dark. The next morning, I visited what used to be the main residence of the royal family in the 18th century - the Naulakha Palace. I could have spent hours there drooling over the intricately carved stone sculptures on the facade and combing through museums of the kings' personal possessions.
But with the sun thankfully high in the sky, I soon hit the road going west towards the sea. This time, they were wide, empty and butter-smooth. With cruise control set, I chewed through the miles effortlessly because of how stable the Magnite felt at highway speeds. And the excellent balance between performance and efficiency from the 100PS/160Nm three-cylinder engine meant I was saving time and money on this trip.
I crossed Dwarka and pointed the car towards the Gulf of Kutch. A couple of kilometres in and the smooth tarmac turned to a rutty, slushy dirt road. But with 205mm of ground clearance and excellent suspension, the Magnite comfortably chugged along without me having to break a sweat. I made it to the coast of the gulf just in time to catch the sun set below the horizon. Meanwhile large, fluffy monsoon clouds in the foreground were being sent inland to help breath new life into the earth.
The end of the day meant the end of the trip. It was time to head back to the dreary grey skies and crowds of the city. But having finally got what I came for ─ a nice drive in a nice car to a nice place ─ I was happy. And dealing with the city streets shouldn't be too much trouble for some time now ─ not while the Magnite is around at least.