A glum sight has been bouncing off our eyes this summer, every time we’ve stepped out of the city. Men and women walking for miles on ends in the searing heat to fill their pots of life. Makes you feel guilty for being seated in the confines of a chilled cabin and sipping on the packaged bottle of water you’ve just bought. But then you realise that like scores of others, you’ve been contributing to the local economy by visiting these places in such times and happily paying a premium for everything they have to offer. So we’ve been hopping at such places quite regularly, and this time, accompanying us was the new Ford Endeavour 3.2 AT, Blind Melon’s No Rain playing on its stereo.
Our dart hit a beach on the map which is roughly 120 kms south of Bombay. Looking at the hollow clouds hover over the city sky before the onset of monsoon, we thought we’d go near the sea in person and check progress on the vaporization. But little did we know, like us, many more had lined up on the roads. Weekends, summer vacations and idle kids is a bad combination. Hitting unprecedented traffic the moment we got out of our parking lot, we knew it was going to be a long day.
Behind the wheel of the Endeavour though, resting my frame in a well supported, tall throne, my left foot was on a holiday like the kid in the next car, who was gawking at the gargantuan proportions of this big Ford as it inched past his father’s German sedan. The ‘I am sold’ look on his face did indicate as how he’d influence his father to buy his next car. His good looking mother too looked at the Endeavour with a noddy smile. No way she was looking at me, because I was feeling shy and hiding my pretty face behind the B-pillar.
Driving bumper-to-bumper, escaping the city took a good couple hours. Hoping to hit the NH 17 from Panvel (Now NH 66) and cut loose towards Alibag, we could’ve been at our destination in an hour or so. Wasn’t the case though. Just after the Karnala Bird Sanctuary, we hit a trail of vehicles that looked never ending. Google helped us with the bad news, showing us a really long red line on the map, right till our destination, which was still about 70 kms away!
My co-passenger, who behaves like a flower when progress is smooth, and goes all thorny when it halts, had started to turn red, mouthing subtle expletives. But just when he was building the tempo to blow a loud whistle, helping him restrain was his young nephew playing soothing melodies from the backseat and the brilliant cooling system in the Endeavour. Thankfully, we had refilled our digestive system at this lovely place called Kamat’s, which serves fresh Indian style breakfast. If you’re travelling on this route or anywhere, shun McDonald’s if it makes you feel uneasy after you’ve gulped that robotic meal down your throat. I’m giving you this advice and writing this piece while biting into a McChicken, washing it down with some Coke, and look how lazy and lousy your reading experience has become.
Talking about lazy, that’s exactly how i felt being stuck behind all that traffic. I was yawning profusely as the Endeavour’s church like cabin isolated us from all the rubbish outside. I was killing time fiddling with the systems on the screen when suddenly I stumbled upon the Terrain management switch. Don’t know why until then I was naive to the fact that I was behind the wheel of a serious off-roader. So I saw a narrow gap on the left, which opened into a loose, muddy section, where some construction workers were smoking their bidis. All of a sudden, my motorbike instincts were driving a rather large SUV, as I carelessly threw the Endy over a steep mound, sloping into the loose soil. It managed to do that with utmost ease, the fancy screen in the instrument cluster conveying that all the power was still being fed to the rear wheels in auto mode and it threw some double digit numbers for the slope and tilt angles.
Sweaty passengers packed in buses, seriously bored folks in sedans and hatches cheered, as we were making our own road and got onto a narrow village bypass which would take us straight to a junction 10 kms away, from where traffic was at least moving. The Endeavour had carved its own path out of boredom and in the RVM, a skeptical family driving its Japanese competition was following its lead. Amit, my co-passenger and our Editor had shed his thorns, although still couldn’t bloom as he was nursing a hangover from the previous night. So he went on yapping about the inefficient government, blaming it for such traffic nightmares, although it was the general populace trying to enter the wrong lane and compounding the problem further. Ten kms later, we saw traffic constables lazily warming their chairs when they had a monstrous jam to clear, and suddenly we too became Amit.
So then, still about 55 kms away, we were still off-roading, cheating the queue from the left. Our progress only halted by jealous State run bus drivers, who couldn’t digest another driver in an SUV making eye contact, sitting at almost the same level. To cut it short, we reached our destination, averaging a speed of 20 kms/hr, taking a little over 6 hours to cover 120 clicks. It would’ve taken more time if the Endeavour stuck to the normal route. We were then greeted by a seriously tanned crowd, men roaming about in towels wrapped around their waists, clutching each others hands and feeling happy. The place was seriously crowded and had this queer fest atmosphere around it. We decided to move on, eat lunch and then find a stretch where our resident DJ in the backseat could take a dip. But we were having a bad day already, and then we paid for a meal which had lentils, veggies and prawns, all drowned in a watery grave with some fancy oil slick floating on the top. Water has no taste and thus, nor did the food. Maybe the restaurant owner was being gracious, offering a scarce resource to all his guests in times of drought.
After loafing about, driving alongside the boiling sea, we reached the town of Murud, which is where you’d find a fort in the middle of the Ocean. In our quest to find a less crowded beach, we wandered through the town’s narrow bylanes, allowing ORVMs of little cars to pass under ours. Except a few men charging us 30 bucks for allowing us to pollute the town, we found nothing. So we drove back towards Kashid and found a rather secluded place, where the two of us were to take a nap under the tree and DJ was to go take a dip. But the water was mucky and the waves were wild, so he decided against it. We still pushed him to go take a walk in the sand, as being the youngest among us, he wasn’t allowed to rest. Strange reasons like ‘you are young so you should wander restlessly‘ being cited, all because we knew if he had to be in the car, he had to play his music.
Fifteen minutes into the nap, Amit wakes up to some chimes as I was fiddling with the park assist system. Surprisingly, he said I feel much better and walked towards the beach. I found that strange, but didn’t bother to follow him and die of a sun stroke next to a pyre. It was right there on the beach, teasing me, daring me to go out in the sun so that I could be its meal that evening. Some men had conspired along with it to dig chicken pits at the entrance to the shore, so that no vehicle could pass through. So i dialed in ‘Sand’ mode on the Endeavour, avoided the pits and got to the shore like I was eating Chicken.
I got out for some pictures and soon experienced the vaporization we were talking about earlier. The Sun was going all out and stroking it fast to make the sea rise and impregnate the clouds. The rays were so hurting, it felt like they were out for the fluids inside our bodies too. The air was heavy and one could sense the moisture rising up towards the skies. Sense prevailed and rather than leave our snake like dead skin on the beach, we decided to dodge the ultraviolet attack and took refuge in the Endeavour, which stood there like an isolated chamber. The sand wasn’t all that firm and the Endeavour is heavy, but it got out onto terra firma without losing traction or giving us that sinking feeling even once.
Dj in the meanwhile had strolled towards Queer paradise and we had to go pick him up to watch the Sun go down some place nice. We found one place eventually, where a lady had put up a little tent, offering the sweetest, tender coconut water to thirsty travelers. Her little one hopped around nonchalantly as we saw the biggest tandoor known to mankind disappear for the night.
I had been kind and asked Amit to drive in the sand, thinking he’d return the key in a while. Brother never gave it back. So I took the opportunity to get in the backseat and enjoy the sometimes pink, sometimes orange sky through the massive moonroof. I had overhead ac vents and a switch to control airflow to my feet and face at the rear, while the seat itself offered great support all round to a 6 foot tall frame.
On our way back, we decided to take a longer, but trouble free route that would take us through the rafting hamlet of Kolad, divert to Khopoli on the expressway and back into the city. As the Endeavour hustled through the night on a lonely stretch, even from the backseat, I could sense the poise it maintained through corners and how it wouldn’t weigh up heavily on the outer side like a typical SUV even on bends. Ride isn’t what you’d call mushy, but this thing flies over ruts and broken patches, dismissing them with authority, while the ones inside remain composed.
Those super bright headlights need a special mention for being so good at illuminating everything ahead, a must have for a genuine tool meant for crazy wanderers. Overall economy stood at 9 kpl, including the 6 hour long pathetically slow drive. Sure there are a few things, like the not so accomplished auto box, or the sometimes slow to inputs infotainment screen, but otherwise, there isn’t one flaw we could find. For the amount at which the Ford Endeavour is being offered, it is that one car which can do it all. A serious ally if you’re a serious wanderer and a lot of car for your money. I love the idea of travelling to nowhere at the drop of a hat and I’d buy the big Ford without contemplation. And I say this after having driven the Endeavour’s direct competition for 5000 kms across 3 countries. That thing is capable too, but the Ford feels a couple generations ahead and trumps it in many areas.
Back in the city, we had decided to take the Ford Endeavour to a hilly place the next day. But unfortunately, a few worldly commitments made us act otherwise. But then we’ll take it to that place when the Sun would’ve done its job, the seas would’ve risen and the clouds would’ve fertilized. A place high enough for the already tall Ford Endeavour to paint itself with slush. And when it’s done, it could simply obstruct a bloated, puffy object, prick it with its height and wash itself in a splash of waters cool and cleansing. We’ll wait until those showers bring life to life, heal cracked heels, and she gets back to to her spot where she sells sea shells on the sea shore.
A few more images: