Essential Highway Companion…

Every once in a while, work, weather and pandemic permitting, my family likes to drive out of Bangalore, for a break in the wilds. In this post, I will talk about my family vehicle- a 2014 Renault Duster, which we’ve driven more than 50000kms over the last seven years.

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On the shores of Kabini Reservoir…

At the time, I was happy with the ‘all I can afford’ base model, which seemed a significant step up from our outgoing Chevy Beat. It did not have much in terms of safety equipment and as we realised over time, was disappointingly basic on interior features. Today, it probably qualifies more as a ‘truck’ than the trailblazing off-roader that started the SUV revolution in India.

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Somewhere in the Western Ghats

Still, I feel old Dusty has endearing characteristics that warrant its legendary status. It’s  torquey diesel engine is pretty frugal when it comes to fuel consumption. Seven years on, the fabled ‘magic carpet’ ride quality endures. A decent mile muncher, its a pleasure to drive on the open highway. All round visibility in the vehicle is one of the best in its class. There is no raked window line, subduing occupants into car sickness. As a driver, I’m  more confident piloting the Duster through narrow bylanes of Shivaji Nagar (an old neighbourhood in the city) than my wife’s little Honda hatchback. The car is a bit of a ‘carry it all’, like American station wagons of the 70’s- the boot space is surprisingly large! I’ve once transported a single bed in it, with the seats folded down, the boot half closed and a passenger beside me! The Duster is no fancy frilly, loaded to gills, gizmo flaunting Korean ‘softroader’. It’s a joy to drive off tarmac, with its 30 degree approach angle and 205mm ground clearance. It’s built tough and can take punishment. And because it handles dirt with aplomb, it WILL get you from Point A to Point B, wherever they may be.

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Duster loves distance. Its great for sunsets too.
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Exploring the beaten trail off Coonoor, Nilgiris.
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Good for impromptu picnic drives, soaks in the wild.
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Amidst tea plantations in the Blue Mountains
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On a back road near Wind Hill, Karnataka
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All round visibility ensures you see the end of your bonnet (and everything beyond!)
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Hill climb? No Worries!
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Somewhere in Tamil Nadu, enroute to Madurai
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In coffee country, Coorg.
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Southbound Again! Enroute to Kodaikanal

We have roamed a fair bit of the South in our beloved family ‘truck’. Its always been a trustworthy, accommodating and fun vehicle to explore the outdoors. But with diesel phasing out and electric the way to go, I’ve been thinking of what’s next for good ol’ Dusty. Some days ago, I came across some Youtube videos which certify this car as a popular camper van conversion, especially in Europe, Russia and South America. And that is giving me exciting ideas for the long run!

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At Harangi Reservoir, Coorg
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Essential Highway Companion.

 

 

 

Hinterland beautiful…

“When in Bangalore”, I heard a wise man say, “pick a direction and ride. You’ll get somewhere nice!”.

The year gone by has been hectic for me, to say the least. Work was demanding, and so were some family commitments. I also did many road trips to Pondicherry, Coonoor, Coorg, Madurai and Kodaikanal, on four wheels. The upside was that I spent a lot of time with family and enjoyed driving my 5 year old Renault Duster, to these beautiful destinations. The downside was that I could not really go for a long ride on my Himalayan. What I did do, however, was discover more of the hinterland outside Bangalore and found some neat little spots.

Ganalu Waterfalls, Mandya

The sheer beauty and accessibility of these falls (you can get quite close to the water) is an awesome experience. Still off the mainstream tourist map, this place is a hidden gem. The falls are just 100kms from South Bangalore and great for a day’s ride.

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Landscape enroute to the falls.
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The last 5 kms is through lovely scubland.
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Ganalu Falls viewed on approach.
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This quaint canal is about 5 minutes away from the falls…
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…with a spectacular little bridge to park your moto.
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Loved this spot!

While the falls were breathtaking, I found this lovely canal enroute even more enticing. It was the perfect spot to just park the bike and revel in the gentle flow of water, watch reeds waving in the wind and listen to birdsong.

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Route options from the Mysore and Kanakpura higways.

Muninagara Dam

This place is a little tricky to get to but extremely rewarding, once you have found it. Its barely 50kms from Bangalore and less than an hour away on a good day.  You can access this one off Kanakpura Road. Google Maps tends to mislead on the final approach, as there’s a couple of waterbodies close by-and we were led to believe that these were the dam. So we asked the locals and they pointed us in the right direction.

Waterbody en-route to Muningara dam
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Muningara dam- pumping station bridge

The reservoir forms one edge of the Bannerghatta Wildlife Reserve and on a good day, you are likely to sight wildlife. An electric fence separates the village fields and runs along the bank highline to keep predators at bay. A great spot to spend moments in idyll and admire nature at its finest. The good thing about this place is that its not accessible by car. If you aren’t on a Himalayan, you probably cant access it by bike either. 🙂 So its very heartening to see the place only frequented by village folks who have kept it clean and beautiful.

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The hills on the far side belong to the Bannerghatta Wildlife Reserve
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Great spot to to soak in views and observe wildlife
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The electric fence behind the bikes is a deterrent for wildlife entering the village area
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Route options to Muninagara Dam

Dandiganahalli Dam, Chikabalapura

If you own a Himalayan (or any other similar bike for that matter) and want to a ride to a place where you can generally thrash about, then this one is for you. While the Dandiganahalli Dam is a lovely destination by itself, its this dry lakebed enroute that caught our fancy. We had a ball scrambling and drifting on this lakebed, which was part slush, part grass, part gravel. Check footage here- Scramble by the lake!

The dam is best visited early morning, when the sun is just lighting up the waters and you have the whole place to yourself. There’s a fair bit of ‘beach’ area by the water where one can set up a small tent or have a picnic.

One can get to far end of the lakebed, on the bike, between these shallow bodies of water
Lakebed enroute to the dam
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Dandiganahalli Dam

 

Nandi Hills Circuit, Nandi Hills

If you live in Bangalore and are into motorcycles, its a no brainer, you would have ridden to Nandi Hills. I used to do that quite often, about 5 years ago. Lately though, with the place receiving a whole lot more attention, with a whole lot more people living in Bangalore, going up and coming down can become an annoying affair- traffic snarls are common at the start of the climb and towards the narrow entry gates. On weekends and public holidays, this place is best avoided. A few months ago, we decided to chance it and see how the hills were faring. Once we turned off the airport highway, it was evident, we had not picked a good day. On a whim we continued past the turnoff to the climb and ended up doing a 20km loop around the base of Nandi Hills. This turned out to be a very nice road indeed. So next time you are in these neck of the woods and dont want to battle the sunrise crowd, head on round the hills- you might like it more.

Morning ride, hot tea, Indian Paratha Company
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Lovely back road to ride around the hill

 

Four wheels only…

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Every once in a while, I get out on four wheels. This one from Harangi Reservoir, Coorg, March 2018