Beyond the Mundane

Words: Ashish JhaPhotographs: Kapil VashistPosted On: May 13, 2013

The Range Rover and Multistrada are both machines meant to take you beyond your everyday city lives. They’re meant to explore the spirit of Mother Earth. So, that’s what we did! 

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We were meant to face intense heat, a lifeless land, and be left with huge boils on our skin – all of which was to be accompanied by an unending view of misery. We were to be in the largest salt flat known to man – the Great Rann of Kutch. The Rann maybe a harsh and uninspiring desert, but it has a colourful and rich history, which we wanted to learn more about. We wanted to immerse ourselves in its sheer beauty and walk on the land that was once part of the Arabian Sea – but is now one of the most lifeless places on Earth. We wanted to chat with the locals and understand more about its forgotten past. We wanted to talk to them about the Ghaggar River and the famous Rann Utsav. We wanted to stand and just gape in amazement at the still unexplained ‘dancing lights’ phenomena, which is famously referred to as Chir Batti. This wasn’t planned as just another comparison feature – it was destined to be a journey through culture and history. It was supposed to be a tale of four hateful chaps trying to explore the land that they’d heard so many tales about – that would have been exceptional.

But history has it that exceptional things often elude us. Our combined luck is so bad that we’ve never been able to do one thing according to the original plan. So, it didn’t come as a surprise when it was decided that we’d be altering our plans at the last minute. Exploring the Rann like we wanted to would take at least a week, and we didn’t have the luxury of time. We had just four days – and even that’s stretching it beyond our comfort zone. A few calls were made, a brainstorming session was called, and more phone calls were made. It was decided that we’d be exploring some largely unknown beaches along the coastline of Maharashtra.

Now, the idea of taking the Range Rover and Multistrada is simple – the Rangie is, certainly in our minds, not only one of the best off-roading SUVs, but also a supremely comfortable touring vehicle. It not just a car – it’s perhaps all the car that you’ll ever need. It’s brilliant off-road, and will take you wherever you want to go. It’s also obnoxiously good at being a luxury car – so much so that it can rival the Bentley’s of the world. Meanwhile, the Ducati here isn’t just another horsepower-fight winning, fully-faired race machine. It’s the Multistrada – known to be one of the handful of things on two wheels that can take you around the world – terrain notwithstanding – and not wreck itself in the process. Italy produces some cult names, but many of them have gained a reputation for being, ahem, temperamental. So, for the Multistrada to be lavished with such praise is huge.

I love Mumbai – always have. My colleagues, on the other hand, loathe it. Kapil was not one bit impressed after we landed and undertook the drive to the JLR office-cum-flagship-showroom that lay in the heart of town. Kapil matched the rate at which the speedo climbed with his volley of carefully chosen choice words. I just gazed out of the window, admiring the vivacity of this magnificent city.

We signed the delivery documents for the Range Rover upon reaching JLR’s facility in Worli, and just a couple of blocks away our Ducati was waiting. Good, we’ll be able to get out of the city in about an hour, max. Yeah right!

If you buy and read our magazine regularly, then you’ll recall that Dhruv has already driven the Range Rover extensively over varied lands – sometimes beyond land, and literally on water as well – in the beautiful country of Morocco. The textual account of his admiration for the immense capabilities of the Range Rover is now on the WWW (autox.in that is). So, we already know that the new Rangie stretches the boundaries of its already massive aptitude by a great measure, and we’re not really on the quest to carve out a path where none exists – that is to say by ‘going severely off-road.’ This, then, isn’t the typical product review. What we’re doing here is just trundling along at a fair pace – proving that these are two machines that can be your best companions when the mood takes over and you just want to keep travelling and keep exploring.

It’s quite obvious that the Range Rover is a big vehicle – but it doesn’t intimidate once you’re inside and the lavish cabin simply fills your senses. It’s also clear that the new RR looks a gazillion times better than the previous one. Suddenly, the SUV that was the grand choice of style icons has become mundane and ordinary to look at. But the good news is that it’s defeated in this respect by itself – its newer self I mean.

Driving through the crowded streets of Mumbai, Ishan, radiant with his bald head, was feeling smug behind the wheel of the RR, while Kapil was showing me the finger of condemnation as I tore apart the traffic on the Multistrada. Ameya, meanwhile, was busy giving Ishan the instructions to get out of Mumbai. Even in a metropolitan city like Mumbai, both the Range Rover and the Multistrada attract eyeballs aplenty – so imagine the kind of attention we’d be getting along our way through many of the smaller towns that lead to the beautiful beaches that were on our roadmap.

The Multistrada is a bit of an animal in the city to be honest. It’s not just the loud engine and the exhaust that attracts attention, but also the way this thing looks and moves. Tipping the scales at about 225 kilograms, it should be impossible for such a big bike to handle and be as nimble as the ‘strada was. Many confuse the Multistrada to be an out-and-out off-roading machine, designed to monster any topography. It isn’t. Sure, it’s a good machine to go off-road in, and will tackle almost all surfaces with ease, but really the ‘strada is a touring machine – a brilliant two-wheeled touring machine.

Our pace picked up as we exited the city confines and embraced open and inviting stretches of highway. That’s when both the RR and the ‘strada came alive. The Ducati has an L-twin, 150bhp motor that keeps growling even beyond 11,000, but leave it doing a steady 4000 revs in 4th and it’s happy. It’s also a lot less tiresome, and yet you do speeds that are illegal in India. In the Range Rover though, things are surprisingly dull in comparison. You don’t get that sensation of speed or the various elements of nature hitting your visor – you just sit with a straight face, while the massaging seats take to your already quite relaxed bones. We had to catch the ferry that was to take us across the river, so we made a dash for it. It’s then that the full force of the TDV8 shows itself. Suffice to say we made it with time to spare. The chaps on the ferry looked at the Range Rover and Multistrada in complete awe, as we soaked in our 5-minutes-of-fame. We were the VVIP’s on that boat. A 15-minute boat ride later, we got off and ploughed on.

A couple of hours later, we stopped to stretch our limbs. We were on high ground, and could see a series of bends with perfectly laid down tarmac below. The four of us – Ameya, Ishan, Kapil, and I – stood against the setting rays of the Sun. The scene was orgasmic – the sky was lit orange with a hint of blue, and the hills in the backdrop were teasing us with their magnificence. The faint water body – merely a thin ribbon of glittering soft waves – made the heart go weak in admiration of the wonders of nature. It was truly inspirational.

The winding roads made for spectacular enjoyment. The three lads were finally getting to take pleasure in the brilliance of the Rangie. But, if anything, I was reveling even more on the bike. In no time, we were running parallel to the beach and were scouting for a road – any road – that could lead us to the soft sand below that was being caressed by the gentle waves. We found one, and made a beeline for the beach – just in time to watch the sun slip behind the veil of the sea. The ravishing yellow became a soft red, and all we could do was just sit – eyes fixed on the horizon.

Our bodies were tired, and I was literally broken, so a good sleep was what we needed. A well maintained inn run by a local family was where we parked ourselves for the night. Dinner was served, and after that we sat outside in the lawn for a bit of chit-chat. Some chilled beers helped, and we were soon in the Land of Nod. The next morning, we started bang on time – something completely unlike a typical autoX start! The early morning Sun spread its soft glow, and we decided to go to the beach once more. The waves coming in were gentle and we could literally go to the edge of the waves without fear of drowning our machines. We stayed there till the waves started waking up from their slumber, and then decided to push on. The whole day was spent on the road, apart from yet another ferry crossing during which we were treated in much the same way as we were during the previous one – it’s not a bad thing to have your ego inflated once in a while.

Once we landed, the roads were brilliant – and the wide smiles on our animated faces told the story very well. There was never a moment when I didn’t have a grin inside my helmet. A short burst of good, snaky roads later, we came to the entrance of yet another sensational bit of sand and water.

An old-timer, who served as a truck-driver for the better part of 30 years, runs a shop of local snacks on the beach. We invited him over and a good conversation ensued – and we consumed quite a lot of his bhelpuri’s too. The sun was setting, and that told us that our journey was coming to an end. We played cricket with the kids, walked down the beach in silence – each one lost in his own thoughts. We did what one is supposed to do at times such as this – feel at one with the place. Feel at peace.

As for the Range Rover and the Multistrada, we were glad we made the decision to take these two along. What did we not do – went crazy splashing water on the beach, climbed rocks, and went down by-lanes, and dried-up ravines. Few other machines would be able to do such things with such grace and composure. And no other four-wheeled example will ever be able to do all that while keeping its occupants wrapped in such luxury. Ishan made full use of the massaging seats, while the entire crew lapped up the absolute luxury it offered. The Multisrada has its own version of massaging seats too – and there are no buttons required, it’s on automatically once you hit the road. But, jokes apart, I was immensely impressed with the ‘strada. I thought it would give me a lot more trouble than it actually did. And it did everything that the mother-of-all-SUVs did, and never complained. Huge respect, then, to both machines. And to our Mother Earth for being so brilliant.

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