After a gap of almost 11 years, Hyundai India re-introduced the Tucson back in November 2016. The Tucson now slots right between the best-selling Creta and the Santa Fe. When it was launched, we were really impressed with its looks and feature list. Featuring Hyundai’s all-new Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design philosophy, it won’t be surprising if the Tucson replicates the success of its smaller sibling. But will its stunning looks alone propel it to the top of the segment? To answer our question, Hyundai invited us to take part in the annual #GreatIndiaDrive to see if the Tucson can indeed take on whatever surprises that our country can throw at it.
We’ll be starting this epic #JourneyOfFaith on April 2, 2017 from Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh heading south-west all the way to Dholavira in Gujarat through 4 states. While we put the Tucson through its paces, we also aim to uncover stories of faith from all over the country. This drive will see us cover Amritsar, Sri Ganganagar, Bikaner, Longewala, Jaisalmer and Pokhran. Along the way, we will rely on our faith in the Hyundai Tucson to make sure we cover the distance in the safest way possible while getting to know our country a lot better. We have broken down our journey into 8 legs which should give us enough time to explore the Hyundai Tucson’s capability in different condition and also the towns and cities we’ll be passing through. Here’s what you can expect over the next ten days: Leg 1: Dharamshala - Amritsar (214km) Dharamshala is a city that stands as a symbol of faith among millions, it is home to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. This city stands as a testament of how any place that you choose to live in can be made home, you just got to believe. We plan on exploring the various monasteries that dot the city and then proceed towards Amritsar, the spiritual and cultural centre for Sikhs across the word. Leg 2: Amritsar - Sri Ganganagar (260km) On this day, we will be visiting the Golden Temple which instils belief in the millions of pilgrims from different religions who throng the city every year from across the world to pay their respects. Afterwards, we’ll be heading to Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan where we expect to witness the marvellous man-made structure that has brought life to this otherwise arid part of the country. Leg 3: Sri Ganganagar - Bikaner (240km) As I mentioned earlier, Sri Ganganagar in the That Desert is one of the hottest and driest parts of the world. This city is one of the first well-planned cities in India has stood the test of time and evolved from a barren desert to one known for agriculture. This was a result of the faith instilled in Maharaj Ganga Singh in the late 19th century who built the Gang canal which brought water for irrigation from the Sutlej river. From Sri Ganganagar, we then head to Bikaner for our night halt. Leg 4: Bikaner - Longewala (395km) This leg will be one of the longest in our #JourneyOfFaith and we expect to rise early and feast ourselves to a sumptuous breakfast thereby fulfilling our faith in food. After breakfast, we drive from one of the most vibrant cities in Rajasthan to one of the remotest - Longewala. Leg 5: Longewala - Jaisalmer (124km) If you’ve seen the movie ‘Border’, then you definitely must have heard of Longewala. The border town witnessed one of the most famous battles between the assaulting Pakistani forces and the defensive Indian Army. Even though the odds were stacked against our soldiers, the faith that millions of Indians placed on the army made sure that the 23rd Battalion of the Punjab Regiment could defend Indian territory and hand Pakistan one of their biggest defeats in warfare. After we explore the border outposts and the remnants of the war, we head towards the beautiful city of Jaisalmer. Leg 6: Jaisalmer - Pokhran (111km) Built on a sandstone ridge, the ‘Golden City’ crowned by the Jaisalmer Fort has been an inspiration writers like Satyajit Ray who wrote about how the people of this city has always kept their faith in humanity, and in their leaders to take care of them as well. We also plan on visiting the Akal Fossil Park that contains fossil remains of the Jurassic era till 130 million years ago! Leg 7: Pokhran - Radhanpur (437km) Pokhran’s claim to fame is undoubtedly the Operation Smiling Buddha - the first nuclear test done by the Indian government in 1974. This test meant that India was now part of the elite group of countries with nuclear technology and also marked our country as a strong, independent and self-sufficient nation. Later, in 1998, Operation Shakti or Pokhran II was declared successful and further cemented India’s position as a superpower. Afterwards, we make a quick dash to Radhanpur in Gujarat for a good night’s sleep before we embark on the final leg of our journey into Dholavira and the Great Rann of Kutch. Leg 8: Radhanpur - Dholavira (206km) Dholavira is an archaeological site which contains the ruins of an ancient Harappan city. It is one of the five largest Harappan cities and a prominent site of the Indus Valley civilisation. In its time, Dholavira was said to be one of the grandest cities anywhere in the world. The quadrangular city that spanned across 120 acres was fed by two streams in the north and the south. The site, occupied from 2650 BC to 2100 BC is, indisputably, one of the oldest in the world. We hope to finish our epic #JourneyOfFaith in the salty marshlands of the Great Rann of Kutch which spans from Kutch district in Gujarat to the Sindh province in Pakistan. You can follow our epic #JourneyOfFaith on the forum and watch out for the latest updates on Facebook and Twitter with #GreatIndiaDrive and #TucsonGotFaith. Also, you can visit the #JourneyOfFaith website to participate and win some amazing goodies from Hyundai India. To participate, tweet or post one story that established your faith on a person, place, institution or even an idea along with the hashtags #TucsonGotFaith and #GreatIndiaDrive. Tweets and posts that get maximum retweets or shares till March 5, 2017 will receive exclusive designer merchandise from Hyundai India
Dharamshala To Amritsar Total Distance: 240km Duration: 4 hours and 30 minutes After a good night’s sleep at the Fortune Moksha hotel in Dharamshala, we woke up to a crisp and sunny day ready to start our #JourneyOfFaith. Hyundai had a lineup of 7 Tucson’s for various publications for the Great India Drive 2017. The maroon Tucson was to be our steed for the next couple of days.
After the flag-off, we drove to McLeod Ganj, where the 14th Dalai Lama set up the government of Tibet in exile. This serene town is now the official residence of the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetan refugees. Driving through the market square, we passed through a little temple where people from all walks of life come to offer their prayers. Even at this early hour, the prayer wheels were turning. We then decided to visit the Theckchen Choeling Temple better known as the Dalai Lama’s Temple.
As soon as you enter the gates to the temple, you are greeted to the large Tibetan Martyrs’ National Memorial. On a small wall next to the memorial hang photos of the martyrs along with their story. To get to the temple, we had to walk past the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives which houses over 80,000 manuscripts related to Tibetan culture, politics and history. At the temple, we offered a small prayer and then headed back to our hotel for breakfast before we set out for Amritsar around noon.
Amritsar was just 207km away from Dharamshala. This gave us enough time on our hands for short breaks and we decided to take it easy.
On the way, we stopped at the Dharamshala Tea Estate hoping to get samples of the best tea they had, but it being a Sunday, the factory was shut and there were only a few guards around. Back on the main road, we stopped at a little roadside stall for some steamy vegetable momos.
As we started descending, the more we wished we could go back to Dharamshala. All four of us started missing the cool mountain air and started dreading the fact that this leg would be the most pleasant and that it was only going to get hotter from here. We soon crossed Pathankot and took the bypass towards Gurdaspur. After the well-paved and twisty roads of Himachal Pradesh, the bumpy highways of Punjab started taking a toll on us.
At the next break, we deflated the tyres a little bit to make the Tucson’s ride a little less bouncy. This worked brilliantly and soon we were headed to Amritsar in the hope of finding a good place for a late lunch. We zeroed in on Monu’s Kulcha Land recommended by Karan Vaid of The Roadographer’s Club. We reached Amritsar around 4.30pm and soon found out that Monu's had run out of Kulchas. Since most of us were starving by this point, we decided to head towards Kulcha Land inside the city and treated ourselves to a hearty lunch. If you ever visit Amritsar, make sure you try the Masala Kulchas at Kulcha Land. After lunch, we headed to our hotel for a quick shower before we sat down to lay plans for the next day. Toll Booths Ladpalwan Toll - Rs 95 (Cards accepted, No PayTM) Waryamnangal Toll - RS 85 (Cards accepted, No PayTM) Up next: The Golden Temple, Amritsar and Gang Canal in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan
Amritsar to Sri Ganganagar Distance: 289km Duration: 9 hours Day 2 of our Journey Of Faith with the Hyundai Tucson began in earnest with the four of us driving to the Golden Temple also known as Harminder Sahib at 5am. Over 1 lakh people from all walks of life and all religions gather here to worship God equally. The large lake that surrounds the mandir is said to contain Amrit or the immortal nectar. This lake is fed by the Ravi river.
The gold plating of the gurudwara was finished in 1830 under the patronage of Human Singh Chimni and the Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, Emperor Ranjit Singh.
The walls of the gurudwara are adorned with plaques commemorating past historical events, saints, martyrs and even the Sikh soldiers who died in World War I and World War II.
After we offered our prayers at the Golden Temple, we headed back to the hotel for a quick breakfast. Some of us who were really tired from the earlier day’s drive took a power nap while the rest caught up with the news. We set off for Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan around 11.30am. Getting out of Amritsar was not as difficult as we thought it would be but a few kilometres later the roads started detonating which made our progress slow. At Tarn Taran, new stretches of the highway were being constructed and to make matters worse we had to negotiate our way through a huge convoy of Army vehicles. The roads did improve a while later but we thought we had lost a bit of time and dialled up the pace.
The Hyundai Tucson proved to be the best companion for this trip as its all-independent suspension soaked in all the bumps and ruts that peppered this part of the country. We reached Ferozepur in time for lunch and since we were in Punjab, we decided to have the traditional fare at Chawla’s - Garlic Naan, Roti, Butter Chicken, Chawla’s Special Paneer and Dal Makhni. We made sure our tummies were full for the long way to Indo-Pak border at Fazilka.
We reached Fazilka in another hour and took a detour from our route to Sri Ganganagar to visit the BSF’s Border Outpost at the Sadqi Border.
We were just on time to catch the marching retreat ceremony and were joined by people from around who arrived in their tractors, bikes and SUVs. Patriotic songs from both sides of the fence could be heard from a kilometre away and made for a very hair-raising moment. On the Indian side, the ceremony started like clockwork while the Pakistan Rangers arrived a few minutes later. Both sides put up a blustering show for the crowds. This drill, a BSF jawan told us, was a symbol of the two countries’ rivalry as well as the brotherhood and co-operation. After the brilliant show of strength from both sides, both the flags were lowered simultaneously and folded before sunset. After the ceremony, we took a few photos with the brave jawans. All of them were really happy when they came to know that the four of us were from different parts of the country and had driven a long distance to witness the ceremony. After we said our goodbyes, we headed off towards our stay for the night at Sri Ganganagar.
Sri Ganganagar to Bikaner Distance: 285km Duration 5 hours and 30 minutes The earlier day, we had planned to drive to Sri Ganganagar to take a look at the Gang Canal. The history of this canal built for irrigation is quite interesting. The Gang Canal, built by Maharaja Sri Ganga Singh, was completed in 1927. The canal was built after the state of Bikaner witnessed the worst famine ever in 1889-1900. In 1903, the maharaja demonstrated the feasibility of the canal to the British to divert water from the Sutlej river to the state for irrigation and thereby ensure that the state wouldn’t suffer from another famine. We spoke to some officials and friends about the canal and found out that the canal was under renovation and that there was very little water in it. The reason why we wanted to visit the canal was to show you the faith the people of the state had shown to the maharaja to uplift their living conditions. Abandoning our original plan, we decided to stay back in Sri Ganganagar for a late breakfast and then head to Bikaner. One of our friends in the city had arranged a sumptuous meal which included Kachoris, Dhoklas, Jalebis and Rasagolla. After the sugar rush, we got back on the road at around 10.30am. The roads from Sri Ganganagar to Bikaner were arrow straight and well paved. The drive could have been completed faster, but we made a lot of stops for taking pictures of the car and the amazing scenery around us. In between, we hired an auto rickshaw for a kilometre or two to take tracking shots of the Tucson. Talking of the Tucson, the one thing I noticed on these arrow straight roads was the way it masks speed. The ride was so comfortable that we kept swapping driving duties to take a power nap in the backseat. After the tracking shots were completed, we stopped at a small dhaba on the way for some lip-smacking chachh and lassi. After we were energised, we proceeded towards Bikaner. Soon, we hit another canal built by the same maharaja. We stopped here to take a couple of pictures and then hit the road soon after and made sure we didn't make any more stops. Unfortunately, like any other road trip, soon we hit a patch of straight road with almost no traffic on it. This proved to be one of the best locations for actions shots of the Tucson and soon we were clicking a hundred frames in the mid-afternoon sun. We braved the sweltering heat to take the shots and then later found out that the temperature outside was 41c! Whew! Good thing then that we carried enough fluids for the trip. From then on, it was smooth sailing all the way to our stop for the night at the beautiful Vesta Bikaner Palace. After we dumped our luggage, we then went to see the sights and sounds of Bikaner as the sun was still up. After a short drive, the bunch decided to get back to the hotel to take a nice, long shower and get ready for dinner and a good night’s rest. Toll Booths: Nil
Bikaner to Jaisalmer Day 5 of our Journey Of Faith drive with the Hyundai Tucson was the longest so far as we had planned to cover Pokhran in between, a total of 336 kilometres. The day started off with us driving to the famous Amberwala in Bikaner for a hearty breakfast. Driving through the narrow gullies of Bikaner, the Tucson gathered quite the attention. On the streets of Bikaner, the Tucson really stood out, especially with the “Great India Drive” stickers plastered on the doors. At Amberwala, we ordered a lot more than our stomach could take for breakfast. If you go on long road trips, then you definitely know the importance of breakfast before any long drive. We had faith in the food we ordered to energise us for the long drive to Jaisalmer. Just take a look at the starters we ordered and you’ll know what I’m talking about. We headed out of Bikaner at 8.30am and were soon on our way to Pokhran. This little town in the middle of the Rajasthan desert is famous for the two nuclear bomb tests that were conducted there. The first one - Pokhran 1 or Operation Smiling Buddha that was conducted on 18 May, 1974 by the Indira Gandhi government. This nuclear bomb test was the first successful one conducted by a nation outside the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. In the year 1998, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government conducted Operation Pokhran-II or Operation Shakti. This test consisted of five detonations - a fusion bomb and four fission bombs. The tests were termed successful but it also resulted in the country attracting sanctions from various nations. This test was conducted after it was found that Pakistan had been clandestinely developing an atomic bomb program. We made our way through some very bad sections of Rajasthan’s highways. The roads on our route were being converted into a four-lane highway and this made progress slow. We reached Pokhran at 1.30pm and were turned towards the test site, but this being an army base, we were barred from entering the premises. The officer posted at outside the gates told us that the site was an active firing range, so we headed back onto the main road and continued towards Jaisalmer. The roads soon started getting better but then we were slowed down by heavy winds and sand storms. As we stepped out of the car to take a couple of pictures of the sand storm, we could immediately feel our skin crackling with the heat and the sand around us. We hastily took the pictures we needed and got back inside the Tucson’s comfortable and cool cabin. The air conditioner on the Tucson did such a wonderful job of keeping us cool that we didn’t know that the outside temperature was hovering above 42c. Jaisalmer was still around 80 kilometres away and we made a quick dash for the city. We reached our hotel by 4pm and once we had dumped the luggage in our rooms, headed out for lunch and a bit of shopping. With that done, we were back to our hotel for an early night. Tomorrow, we plan to visit the famous Jaisalmer Fort and, if time permits, the site of the 1971 Battle Of Longewala between the Indian and Pakistani forces. Pictures fromSri Ganganagar, Bikaner, Pokhran and Jaisalmer to come up soon!