There’s a proper scarcity of time when you put yourself in my shoes. More often than not, I’m packing across the country getting a grip on what next the Indian automotive scene has to offer.
While this might be a lot of fun for anyone who checks my facebook status, the term ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ holds true. One fine weekend, I decided to explore the grass on the other side - quite literally.
This meant escaping the grey hued concrete jungle that Mumbai is. A couple of quick calls to my photographer buddies and we were all set to witness Bhandardara in all her monsoon glory.
Bhandardara is amongst the most scenic places you can visit on a weekend getaway. It is roughly 170 kms away from the western suburb and the drive upto the place puts the car you plan on driving through it’s paces rather well. Some more phone calls later, I realized the roads leading to the place aren’t in the best of shapes.
Let’s take something which wouldn’t be fazed by broken roads and be a comfortable space for three, I thought. The good folks at Toyota lent an Etios Cross which seemed to tick the requirements quite well. A pre-drive check the night before the trip saw me set the air-pressure on the tyres right, brim the tank and change the oil to Shell Helix 5W40. With a small spin, I retired the Etios Cross for the night.
The itinerary for the next day was rather simple. Hit the roads as early as possible, beat the truck traffic en route and unwind at Arthur Lake. The lake is formed by a dam built during the British raj on river Pravara. Constructed in 1910, Arthur Lake acts a reservoir for the nearby Wilson Dam, which was the next place to visit in the checklist.
As I cranked the Etios Cross for the first time, it settled into a nice smooth idle. We quickly hit the NH3 and were on the Mumbai-Nasik Highway in no time. As the Etios kept munching highway miles, I couldn’t help but reflect on how refined the diesel engine was.
The power delivery was nice and linear as well. The little Toyota has the highway manners of it’s elder sibling - the Etios. The ride quality is fantastic and the wonderful tarmac right upto Ghoti only bettered the overall experience.
As soon as we took a right towards Ghoti, the road almost vanished at places. The Etios Cross was definitely a good choice of weapon. The higher ground clearance helped immensely and we sprinted across broken roads like nobody’s business.
Since the location is a bit too pretty to be only taken in with the eyes, we had plenty of camera equipment with us - which was promptly stowed away in the generous boot.
We parked atop a hillock near Arthur Lake and decided to soak in the scenery….and Mother Nature did not disappoint one bit. The mix of dark and light hues of green, the dark blue sky with a dash of black clouds and the gushing fog made for a spectacular sight. Whoever said God is an artist - was right!
Of Course, the star of the show had to be the black and white Etios Cross for ferrying us there without any fuss. A whole lot of relaxing and some piping hot snacks later, I commenced the drive back to base. By this time, the sun had gone past the horizon and darkness had come out to play.
The drive back was rather uneventful and involved tailing a lot of trucks ferrying goods for Mumbai to wake up to the next day.
Slightly weak reach of the headlamps apart, the little Toyota did not disappoint. It is properly comfortable, has an extremely effective air-conditioner, has decent luggage space and not to mention - a frugal motor. With Shell’s Synthetic oil running through it’s heart, the Etios Cross can be a proper touring hatch.