Honda WR-V Trail­blazES To DANDI

We’re tak­ing Honda’s go-any­where crossover to vary­ing ter­rain and en­vi­ron­ments to see how it re­sponds. First up, we take it to the water­side on a road trip to the iconic Dandi Beach in Gu­jarat

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The road is slick with rain­fall, the heav­ens have opened up, and it’s rain­ing down so hard that the wiper blades are work­ing at full tilt to help main­tain vis­i­bil­ity. Sud­denly, there’s a whoosh of a truck driv­ing into a pud­dle on the other side of the high­way, the spray arc­ing into the air and land­ing with a heavy pat­ter on my wind­screen. And yet the WR-V cruises on, no drama, no squeamish­ness, no wor­ries. I’m driv­ing down the NH 48, head­ing for the town of Navsari and the fa­mous Dandi Beach. The sat-nav’s dis­tance-todes­ti­na­tion num­ber kept drop­ping as I flicked on the cruise con­trol and just en­joyed the drive.

Our jour­ney from Pune to Dandi Beach was well un­der way by this time, but it started at the crack of dawn in the heart of Pune city. We started from the leg­endary Shani­war­wada, the fortress res­i­dence of the Pesh­was built in AD 1732 and ceded to the in­vad­ing Bri­tish empire in 1818. A bea­con of pride for her peo­ple and one of the most rec­og­niz­able spots in Pune city, this made for a per­fect place to be­gin our jour­ney.

Back to the NH 48 then. This high­way is usu­ally a plea­sure to drive on, but dur­ing the mon­soon that plea­sure is el­e­vated to a whole new level. Hav­ing the sun­roof shade open and watch­ing the thun­der­clouds con­gre­gate over­head as the rain pelted down was a sin­gu­larly mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence. The rolling hills on ei­ther side are bathed in lush green, a cloud of fog lingers near the peak, and it all looks vi­brant and alive. The WR-V’s po­tent 1.5-litre four-pot diesel en­gine of­fers 100 PS and 200 Nm, mated to a six-speed gear­box, and the fact that the power and torque come in fairly early in the rev-range meant I could pick up speed quite quickly. The six-speed gear­box also meant that I could cruise at high speeds while still main­tain­ing great fuel ef­fi­ciency lev­els. The car’s sorted sus­pen­sion meant the WR-V didn’t dis­ap­point around the cor­ners, too, and was nim­ble enough to al­low me to skirt past the slow-mov­ing trucks on the high­way. En route, there were more than a few in­ter­est­ing things to see. Chief among them was a gor­geous bridge just be­fore our turn off at Navsari and we even spot­ted a line of what looked like geese wad­dling along on a ser­vice road on the op­po­site side.

Dandi Beach is just out­side the town of Navsari, so, of course, we set about to ex­plore the town as we were pass­ing through it any­way.

Navsari may be a small town in Gu­jarat, but amid its nar­row, bustling lanes and crowded bazaars, it hides a rich tapestry of cul­ture: Parsi cul­ture to be pre­cise. Navsari is a bit of a hot­bed when it comes to Zoroas­tri­an­ism in In­dia. The big­gest at­trac­tion is un­doubt­edly the Atash Behram Fire Tem­ple there. This fire tem­ple dates back over 250 years, built as it was in AD 1765, thus mak­ing it the sec­ond old­est fire tem­ple in In­dia. Even though you have to be a mem­ber of the Parsi com­mu­nity to en­ter it, a visit to ex­am­ine the ar­chi­tec­ture from the out­side is well worth it. The build­ing has this stoic, old-world charm about it that is quite pleas­ing to the eye.

The fa­mous First Das­toor Me­herji­rana Li­brary is but a stone’s

We started from the leg­endary Shani­war­wada, the fortress res­i­dence of the Pesh­was

Dandi Salt March. For those of you who paid at­ten­tion dur­ing your his­tory lessons at school, that might just ring a bell. For those who didn’t, here’s a bit of a re­fresher.

On 12 March 1930, Ma­hatma Gandhi com­menced a march from his base at Sabar­mati with about 80 fol­low­ers in tow, a march that was set to cul­mi­nate at the Dandi Beach. The march took 24 days and cov­ered nearly 400 kilo­me­tres, with more and more sup­port­ers join­ing as the march pro­gressed. On 6 April 1930, the Ma­hatma and his fol­low­ers reached Dandi Beach and, in a sym­bolic ges­ture that re­ver­ber­ated around the world, he lifted up a fist­ful of salt as a mark of de­fi­ance against the op­pres­sive Bri­tish salt tax. This ac­tion was the spark that fired up the en­tire na­tion, with sim­i­lar protests tak­ing place across the coun­try and prompt­ing the Bri­tish colo­nial gov­ern­ment to make over 60,000 ar­rests. This in­ci­dent is also cited as ground zero for the wildly suc­cess­ful Civil Disobe­di­ence move­ment that even­tu­ally re­sulted in In­dia gain­ing her in­de­pen­dence. In fact, so far-reach­ing was the im­pact of this march, con­ducted on the tenets of satya­graha, that even Amer­i­can civil rights ac­tivist Martin Luther King Jr re­port­edly drew in­spi­ra­tion from this iconic protest.

To­day, the Dandi Beach is a mostly aban­doned stretch of coastal land with its own po­lice sta­tion. The con­stab­u­lary has re­stricted ac­cess to the beach, whether on four wheels or on foot, which meant we couldn’t drive the WR-V along this beach, re­trac­ing the Ma­hatma’s foot­steps as in­tended. How­ever, we did get a chance to get our wheels wet at the back­wa­ters nearby and so ac­com­plished our goal of test­ing the WR-V in the wet.

Be­fore leav­ing the area, we also vis­ited the Dandi March memo­rial just off the beach and, in do­ing so, were able to closely ex­am­ine a larger-than-life statue of Ma­hatma Gandhi in the very act of pro­duc­ing salt at Dandi. Get­ting there meant travers­ing through a path made of mud and rub­ble. The car’s high ground clear­ance and ad­ven­ture-ready stance meant we could dis­patch this stretch of tar­mac with ab­surd ease. This beach has rightly gone down in his­tory as a place of leg­end and it is great to see its most fa­mous vis­i­tor im­mor­tal­ized in this way.

Hav­ing wit­nessed the beach and ev­ery­thing it had to of­fer, we headed back into Navsari and checked into our ho­tel for the night. The fol­low­ing morn­ing, it was off again, back on the NH 48, only this time we were mov­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, to­wards Ra­jasthan. Our next ad­ven­ture and the WR-V’s next ter­rain test was on the hori­zon. But that’s a story for an­other time. Keep an eye out for our next is­sue to read all about it.

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