This is my first post about a Ride / travelogue in TAI
. I had recently purchased a Suzuki Baleno Alpha ( 1.2 Petrol Manual) in November 2017 . I really wanted to get to know the machine better in a longish drive to check out where all it outclasses other cars and where it lags behind. I had just done a short trip to Lonavala in November during the run-in period to identify a few issues before the first service. So when i got the car back from the first service I wanted to check on a few things that were niggling earlier like clutch control, suspensions etc.
So the Christmas weekend was the perfect time to take out the family as well as test the car. It was pretty much a last minute decision to go to Aurangabad since i wanted my son & wife to enjoy the marvel of Ajanta & Ellora.
Since it was last moment and it was the long weekend, I did not want to risk it so decided to book a oyo room for two days in advance. As it was last minute, It costed me about Rs. 6500 for two days. Day 1 : - 23rd December
Left home at around 6.30 am. checked the Google Maps for route to Ellora ( thought will finish Ellora on the first day and reach Aurangabad) and it showed the below route :- Mumbai - Gothi - Sinnar- Kopargaon - Vaijapur - Verul ( ellora)
It was a beautiful morning with clear pink sky during the sunrise. I tried to capture the same but could do no justice to the beauty created by nature.
Stopped for break fast after Igatpuri at the Hotel Sanskruti on the fork of the road leading from Gothi to Sinnar at around 9.15 am ( had poha and misal pav with hot chai) and left from there at around 9.50 am. Roads were really good till Kopargaon, however from there till Vaijapur about 70kms it was a bad stretch ridden with frequent potholes. Stopped somewhere before Vaijapur for a fuel stop.
And finally reached Ellora around 1.45pm . It was a pretty uneventful and smooth ride. So the total travel time was 7 hours and 15 mins including a a 45 mins break covering a total distance of 334 kms.
The crowd was decent at Ellora considering it was a long weekend, and we took almost two hours just to have a look at the main Kailashanatha Temple (cave 16). you must definitely spend time here as this is the main attraction. Then we managed to go through some of the Hindu cave temples ( From caves 17 - 26) for the next hour or so, but around 5 pm my son was really hungry and the caves were to close at around 6 pm, so we did not have time to finish food and come back and check te rest of the caves. So we decided to skip the rest of the caves, probably we will catch up on the rest another time.
After refreshments we went for darshan to the Grishneshwar Mandir about half a km away from the Main cave entrance. It is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva in India. Had a great darshan and left for Aurangabad at around 7 pm. We reached the hotel at around 8 pm covering a distance of 32 kms ( little slow due to multiple factors like night travel, ghat section and traffic inside Aurangabad). Had dinner at the hotel itself and went to bed by 10.30 pm Day 2 :- 24th December
Woke up around 7 am after a sound sleep, got ready by around 8 am , had break fast and left the hotel around 8.45 am for Ajanta Caves. Reached the parking to Ajanta caves at around 11.00 am. Total distance of about 101 kms from Aurangabad.
There was a long queue for the shuttle bus to the caves considering it was a sunday on a long weekend. The queue took us almost 1.5 hours to take us to the caves ( it was just a 5 min ride but the rest were spent standing in the queue). We went up to the caves at around 12.30 pm and there was considerable rush and wait times in Caves 1 & 2 (where there are quite a lot of preserved paintings of Ajanta) and also bit of wait time at Caves 16 & 17 ( which again had decently preserved paintings & sculptures). A lot of time spent in Caves 24 & 26 because my son was playing hide and seek in the unfinished Cave 24 and Cave 26 is a beautiful Hinayana Vihara where one has to spend a lot of time to explore the ornate sculptures from the life of Buddha and a beautiful sleeping Buddha statue can be found ( just an aside the same time last year was in bangkok visiting the sleeping buddha temple, either i am chasing the Buddha or he is ;) ) here .
Left for the shuttle bus queue again at around 4.30 pm and reached the parking at around 6.00 pm. These guys have to really do something about the efficiency of the shuttle service, a total wait time of 3hrs for a 5 minute ride is ridiculous.
Arrived back at the hotel at around 8.45 pm after a pretty taxing night drive on divider less roads for 101 kms :). Went for a dinner to a nearby restaurant and had chinese food. We came back and hit the bed around 11 pm. Day 3 :- 25th December
Woke up at 7.45 am. Got ready by 8.45 am and were ready to check out and leave the hotel around 9.30 am. After dabbling with the idea of doing a trip to Lonar and returning to Mumbai that day, we decided against it and instead decided to cover local places in Aurangabad like Bibi ka Maqbara and Daulatabad Fort. I decided against it because it would have been an additional 6 hrs ( Lonar is a crater lake formed due to meteorite about 135 kms east of Aurangabad and in the opposite direction to Mumbai) plus the journey back to Mumbai of about 8 hrs would have been really taxing and i had work the next day in Mumbai.
First off went to Bibi Ka Maqbara or the Little/ Baby Taj, spent about half an hour there and left for Daulatabad fort which is about 24 kms from Aurangabad on the way to Ellora ( we could not do this fort on the first day because it was too late in the evening). For me this place was the hidden gem of the trip, It was a medieval fort on top of a conical hill completely fortified and well defended against any kind of attacks with secret mazes ,multiple moats, hidden water sources and single horse bridges. We spent about 2 hours at the fort fully exploring it and enjoying ourselves. The view from the op of the fort is also beautiful . There is a Bharat Mata temple and a Chand Minar which are part of the attractions with in the fort premises.
We left from Daulatabad at around 2 pm. Though Google was asking me to take the same route back that I came on, I decided against it because for a major part till Gothi there were only 2 lane roads and I did not want to risk travelling on divider less roads in the dark.
So i decided to do the following route despite it was 60 kms more than the other route ( also i knew they were 4/6 lane roads with divider for most part and also wanted to try a different route) :- Aurangabad - Ahmed Nagar - Shikrapur - Chakan - Talegaon - Lonavala - Mumbai
Though there was bit of traffic in the main cities/towns on the way like Ahmed Nagar, Shirur and Shikrapur, the ride till Chakan was smooth and i could cruise easily at around 100-110 km/h. The road from Shikrapur to Talegaon ( through Chakan ) for about 35-40 kms were 2 lane roads, apart from that it was an uneventful and a smooth drive. Stopped near Talegaon for a fuel stop and entered the expressway near Talegaon. Stopped again at the newly opened McDonald's at the Woodstock Foodmall for a quick dinner.
Just opposite to the mall we could see wildfire ( i guessed so - why would somebody burn down a forest) on the forest atop the mountains. This was the first time i was witnessing such a fire in India, did not know what to do so we called up the road assist on the expressway to inform them about the same. Luckily they had already got the information and had dispatched fire control units, hopefully everything was brought under control.
Finally reached home at around 10.45 pm and hit the bed at around 12.00 am. Total distance covered that day was 440 kms and over the weekend it was 999 kms. Overall it was a nice comfortable and smooth weekend ride/trip where my whole family enjoyed a lot.
Now a short review about the Car and the ride:-
What I loved :-
1. Super smooth and comfortable drive , no back aches/ leg aches, ample leg room to stretch for taller drivers like me.
2. Once on the 5th gear , can easily overtake and outmaneuver any big car.
3. Awesome Mileage of about 17.9 km/l ( i know it could have been much better but i was really pushing to check the speed range of the Car).
4. Amazing braking power coupled with ABS
gets two thumbs up from me
What i did not like :-
1. The field of vision of the windscreen is not so great especially the rear view mirror blocks a major part of it. I have to really crane my head to check if somebody is coming towards me from the left.
2. Low end torque in the car seems low, considering that it is meant for the city I would have liked more zip for easy overtaking in the traffic.
3. Suspensions again were a bit suspect on bad patches if you are not careful, though the calibration after the first service the suspensions seems to be performing much better than earlier.
4. Though at high speeds car feels very stable, there were some vibrations caused due to the cheap quality of the plastics vibrating against the water bottle in the side holder etc which gives a non-premium feel.
Overall I loved the comfort of the car except for a few minor grievances as no machine can be best at everything.
So i am enjoying and adapting to the idiosyncrasies of my new grey beauty. Mods please note that i am unable to upload any images greater than 1 mb. If you could help on the same it would be great.