2014 Renault Gang of Dusters- Desert, Dunes and Dusters
Holi, the festive of colours, becomes even more enjoyable, the way we celebrate it. To make this Holi a memorable one for its customers, Renault India organized the 2nd drive of Gang of Dusters.
The Duster has been a big success in India resulting in more than 75000 units being sold and that certainly, forms a big community nationwide. To bring all these like-minded people on a single platform, Renault India started Gang of Dusters (GOD) initiative. The Gang of Dusters’ members get many privileges on servicing and regular maintenance; moreover one can also get a chance to be a part of Gang’s annual expeditions, which includes driving in some of the most adventurous and scenic routes of the country. The customer gets a chance to drive his Duster on long highways rather than his daily commuting.
After the first installment of the GODs at Western Ghats, the 2nd GODs drive was scheduled in Desert State. CarDekho team was a part of this drive and we explored the Desert State of Rajasthan with the Gang. Here is the report
Day-1, Jaipur- Bikaner, 335Kms
The 2nd Gang of Duster drive was scheduled for 4 days and for 1400 kms that comprised Jaipur-Bikaner-Jaisalmer-Jaipur. The Gang of Dusters drives are being scheduled by the motorsport biggie ‘Cougar MotorSport’ and the experts briefed the route and necessary safety and traffic guidelines to participants before the final flag-off. After the pre-event briefing, 20 Renault Dusters including customers and media, flagged off on 15th March from Jaipur.
The media fleet had both 85PS and 110PS versions, and for the first day, I was driving the 110PS RxZ variant. To reach Bikaner we were using NH11 (Bikaner-Agra) highway, the Jaipur-Bikaner has been recently built and apart from a few patches, which are still in construction, the newly built road make you push your vehicle to its extreme. The Duster uses proven and potent 1.5-litre dCi K9K diesel engine that houses a variable geometry turbo to generate maximum power output of 108.5bhp. We were en-routing through Sikar, Laxmangarh, Ratangarh and the 4 lane highway till Sikar, allowed us to cover the initial 150 kms in just 2 hours. Our first halt was at Anokhi Hut, Fatehpur, and 180kms away from Jaipur. The Anokhi Hut is a resort on NH11 based on traditional Rajasthani theme, which serves some delicious Rajasthani cuisine, so it was pretty obvious that we took our lunch at the resort.
The next destination was the Hotel Vesta, Bikaner and by 3 pm, we were at the hotel. Based on the royal architecture of Rajasthan, the Vesta is the best hotel available in the city. After a warm welcome, we went to our rooms to comfort our tired bodies, for the scheduled fun activities. There were some fun activities organized for the customers, followed by cultural program and dinner.
I was driving the Duster on a long drive for the second time and I was well aware of all its abilities, the strongly built SUV has capability to do 160+ kmph and its monocoque chassis allows you to take turns with ease even on those high speeds. As most of the roads were good, I enjoyed the Duster in full throttle, even in those bad patches it was doing fairly good as its ample ground clearance and good suspension can handle most of the terrains with ease.
Day-2, Bikaner- Khuri, Jaisalmer, 475Kms
As the saying goes, early bird catches the worm, I use to wake-up early on my drives to click some good shots. I woke-up early and went to the Bikaner town to shoot some of its iconic monuments. One of these were the Junagarh fort. Originally named as Chintamani, the fort was built in 16th Century. One of the well preserved forts of India, the Junagarh is a must visit palace in Rajasthan. As it was early morning, only the front entrance was open for the devotees, who come to visit the temple inside the fort, however, I got some nice shots.
After the shoot, I returned to Hotel, where Cougar Team briefed the route to us, and we get to know that we would not take the highway and going by an alternative way, which is through the interiors side by side to the Indira Gandhi canal. We enrouted through Bajju Tejpura, Nachna Phatta, MohanGarh, Jaisalmer and Sam to reach Khuri. The Indira Gandhi Canal changed the whole demography of the desert and some time it’s hard to believe that you are driving through a desert. The single lane road has deep plantation on both the side, which makes it scenic. After crossing Chinnu, you get BRO (Border Road Organisation) roads, which have been built quite good and you can achieve three digit speeds easily.
As there were no good food points available on this route, the organizers provided packed lunch, which we took on the go and by 3 pm, we reached to Mohangarh Lake, which was our regrouping halt. At Mohangarh lake, a 5 kms speed run was organized to check the best of the drivers among the group. After the speed run, we move to Sam Sand Dunes, where we found the real desert. The Sam Sand Dunes, are 45 kms away from Jaisalmer and you can find proper sand dunes only around this place. The village has been developed by RTDC (Rajasthan Tourism Devlopment Corporation), which is now a big tourist destination. You can enjoy camel safari, dune bashing, para gliding and some of the best Camps around the Sam village. And we went there to enjoy dune bashing. After the dune bashing and camel safari, we continued to our destination Khuri, which was 30 kms away from the Sam Sand Dunes.
We reached Mama’s Resort by 7 pm, where we got a royal welcome with the salute of guns. The Mama’s resort has both camps and rooms, where one can choose the accommodation accordingly. After we checked in, there was a chef demonstration scheduled, where the local chef showed how to cook two delicious Rajasthani dishes Laal Maans (Red Meat Curry) and Daal, Bati, Churma.
The 475 kms journey included both bad & good roads and the Duster proved its caliber once again, for the day I was driving the 110PS RxZ variant and newly launched 110PS Adventure Edition. We found some of the longest and straightest roads on the journey, where the Duster hit remarkably 170-175 kmph. Even on the bad patches the Duster has shown its ability to drive on rough terrains. As we were driving on a single lane road, we were going off the road many a time for overtaking and Duster did it with ample ease.
Day-3, Holi Celebration and Khuri-Kuldhara-Khuri
The Day-3 was reserved for Holi celebration, after the holi celebration in morning; I decided to go to the Kuldhara ruins, which are located near by Jaisalmer. The Kuldhara was once a rich city of medival India, however after several attacks, the city abandoned by the Paliwal Brahmins, who developed it. With the time the city converted into ruins, most the building collapsed and remaining digged by treasure hunters to find out the hidden treasure. The ruins are also famous as a haunted city.
The ruins give a sense of haunted place, but I found it amazing as the ruins built of sand stone are spread in acres and surrounding desert and barren land make it look splendid at the time of sunset.
If you are a history lover or like to visit haunted place, Kuldhara must be on your travel destination list. In evening, there were two magnificent performances organized, a group of local folk artists and a talented folk dancer Queen Harish performed, which amused all of us for sure.
Day- 4, Jaisalmer- Jodhpur- Jaisalmer 675kms
The last day was designated only for drive as we were about to drive 675 kms to reach Jaipur. The roads were amazing as we stick only to the national highways and did our journey on NH15, NH114, NH112 and NH8. The last day was the real test for both the Dusters and their drivers, and for the day I was driving the 85PS version. To be very honest, I always found the 85PS version a bit underpowered, but on this long drive the 85PS was doing surprisingly good. I was doing 130-140kmph with ease, which is quite impressive.
The lunch was served at Marugarh Resort, Chopasani, which is located just before Jodhpur. We enrouted Jaisalmer, Pokharan, Jodhpur, Bar, Beawar and Ajmer to reach Jaipur, and we took around 12 hours to reach Jaipur. With our arrival to Jaipur, the drive concluded and we took our dinner together at Fortune, Bella Casa discussing the highlights of the 2nd Expedition of Gang of Dusters.
I personally think that initiatives like Gang of Dusters are need of the hour, as we didn’t get time to go out and drive our cars on open and wide roads, which is slowly killing the fun element of the driving. Again, when experts like Renault India and Cougar MotorSport design an expedition, you don’t need to worry about anything and you can enjoy the drive with your family and friends. The Desert Odyssey was organized pretty well and I didn’t find any glitch during the whole drive, everything was well managed from food to accommodation. Kudos to Renault India on organizing such a wonderful drive, it surely made my and fellow participants Holi a memorable one.