Romancing the Western Ghats with the Tata Tiago [Photo-log]

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Background:

Having stayed for over five years in Pune, the Western Ghats were often my ideal destination in the monsoons. This is the perfect time to visit them, getting lost in the low hanging clouds as you drive across towards the West Coast.
July is a month bang in the middle of the monsoon season for Maharashtra. And it so happened that one of the more popular travel groups on Facebook was having its annual monsoon meet for this part of the country. It was organized by Mr H.V Kumar who is famously known as the Highway King in India. I saw this as the best opportunity to not mingle with like-minded people but also re-visit the beautiful hills and coastline of Maharashtra. A quick call to Tata Motors and they were more than happy to arrange the new Tiago for me.

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Route plan

The plan was to pick up the Tiago in Bangalore, drive up to Karad on NH-4 and join other members. From here, we would drive through unknown roads (and the usual state highways) to Ratnagiri.
From there on, I would trace my route to Pune through some of the most scenic inner roads in this part of the country. The Tiago had to be dropped back in Mumbai thus making it a roughly 1400km road trip from Bangalore to Mumbai via the longer route!

Day 1:
Bangalore Airport to Kolhapur
Distance: 631
Via: NH648, Tumkur, NH4 (AH47)

The single lane NH648
The single lane NH648

An early morning flight and I was outside the departure terminal in Bangalore by about 10:30am. The Tiago, bearing the official MH number, was right there. I left the airport by 10:45 am and the aim was to hit NH4 (now known as AH47) via NH648. It was mostly a single lane affair but low traffic meant the 70km stretch till the beautiful NH4 was done by 12:10 including a quick break for picking up refreshments  – in this case, yummy egg puffs.

The Tiago is Tata Motors’ first all new product in many years. It is also the one that has changed fortunes for the company. It is their largest selling car now and is paving the way for other launches like the Hexa SUV (read our review) and the upcoming compact sedan, the Tigor. I was driving the diesel version which comes with a new 3-cylinder derivative of the same 1.4-litre 4 cylinder diesel that powers other Tata products. This 1047cc engine puts out 70 PS of power and 140 Nm of torque.

Beautiful NH4 that connects Bangalore and Mumbai
Beautiful NH4 that connects Bangalore and Mumbai

The stretch from Tumkur to Kolhapur is completely four-lane expect for a small part near Hubli. The 560km journey was to take approximately 8 hours and the Tiago soon settled down into its cruise mode of 90-100km/h. At these speeds, the driver info display showed an economy of 23-24kmpl and the excellent audio system belted out tracks one by one.

Windmills near Chitradurga
Windmills near Chitradurga

The NH4 is really a delight to drive on. It is very scenic and you never have a dull moment. Traffic is sparse and covering pace is never an issue. Toll plazas come every 45 min or so which can also be a safe spot to park the car and take a power nap.
By about 8pm, I was driving into the parking of the hotel in Kolhapur. Day 1 had been fast and efficient. Dinner was relished with some typical Kolhapuri flavours and I was looking forward to some good local dishes in the days to come by.

Dinner : what flavors!
Dinner : what flavors!

Day 2:
Kolhapur to Ratnagiri
Distance: 290
Via: Karad, Chiplun, Kurdhunda, Devrukh

The plan was to drive ahead to Karad and wait for further instructions. Members of the group were coming from various places and we were to drive together ahead to our breakfast point somewhere on NH17. It was early in the morning and thankfully I managed to find a ‘tapri’ or a tea-stall open. A couple of glasses of ‘chai’ and a few wada pavs later, I was back on the road.

See the windmills? Shot on the Karad-Chiplun stretch
See the windmills? Shot on the Karad-Chiplun stretch

Rains were our constant companion and so were beautiful vistas. The 95km stretch from Karad to Chiplun goes through state roads, villages and ofcourse ghats. At one point of time, you even have windmills on your right and most of them are engulfed in the fog. What a sight!

Somewhere between Karad and Chiplun
Somewhere between Karad and Chiplun

The view from top of the ghats before we lost elevation had me hooked. A few pictures later, the Tiago came into its own. This is one of the best handling cars in the segment. This little hatch can surely give you grinning moments and this was backed by excellent braking abilities. I did have my share of the fun for those ten odd minutes.

View from top of the ghats
View from top of the ghats

The breakfast point was at Drive Inn hotel, about 40km from Chiplun towards South. We were expecting over 55 cars and 150 crazy travelers. An hour later, the group was divided into five convoys with the Tiago leading convoy number one. From here on, we were to drive through some of the most virgin narrow roads to our lunch spot and then again head to Ratnagiri for the stay.

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This event was called the Monsoon Meet for the right reason. From late morning onwards, rains never stopped giving us company. We took a detour from NH17, left civilization behind and soon none of our phones had a signal. We were right in the middle of nature, driving past waterfalls and green fields. We did take a couple of stops to soak in the views and no one was complaining. We were all wet but then this is the right way to enjoy the rains!

The Tiago leading the convoy
The Tiago leading the convoy

Our lunch stop was at a secluded place called “Hill Point Holiday Resort” – this place also allowed others to regroup before we continued ahead for Ratnagiri via Devrukh – Ambav road. A major attraction here is the massive waterfall – you can drive in till the base of the fall and we all did that for the photo-ops. How I wish I was in the bigger Hexa SUV (read my detailed review) this  time. Anyway, with people of all ages enjoying nature at its best, I kept an eye on the little Tiago that was standing there proud and tall. I was beginning to like her!

Posing with the waterfall
Posing with the waterfall

Our stay for the night was at the beautiful (and big) property of Kohinoor Samudra Beach resort. Situated at the top of a small hill, the view of the sea (and the coast line) is fantastic. We had booked almost the entire property and the evening was spent catching up on the events and the drive we had. People from across India and walks of life were here to share their stories as well. Dinner was the highlighting part and consisted of local dishes as well.

Spotted in the resort parking!
Spotted in the resort parking!

Continue to Page 2 for Day 3 and Day 4

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