We’re in Churu, Rajasthan – the hottest place in India – for the start of the second Audi Great India quattro Drive. And from here, we’re driving to Dras, in Jammu & Kashmir, the coldest place in India.
Churu has some of the highest recorded temperatures in India, the locals tell us that it even crosses 50 degrees on certain days, and that very few people report the fact because it’s not good publicity. Luckily, this morning is supposedly a pleasant 40 degrees. Really? 40 degrees is pleasant? I’m never complaining about the heat ever again.
We’re waiting to be flagged off, but have to wait for another half an hour because the local media wants to interview us. We’re instant celebrities in Churu. And the attention works to our advantage as we manage to even get a camel to use for our shoot. Our photographer decides that he wants a shot of the cars from on top of the camel. Only trouble is getting him off it after.
Static photographs done, video done and local interest sufficiently piqued, now it’s time to head out. It’s a good thing we have the Q3 and Q5 for company. Windows up, air-con set to the lowest temperature setting, and we’re cocooned from the blinding heat.
Normally, we would stick to instructions the GPS gives us, but in this case, we ask the locals what route was the best to take. They point us in the direction of State Highway 7, and thank god for their advice. What follows is a 100km stretch of well-laid tarmac with very little traffic.
We decide to stop again for some more photographs. However, two things we don’t take into account, how much sand is flying around and how hot the tarmac is. Our photographer gets a slight heat burn on his leg. And, by the time we finish shooting, there is enough sand in our ears to bury an elephant, or camel in this case.
Shots done, sand everywhere, and we head out again. SH7 ends and we’re now on SH14 to Sardarshahar, and then onwards to Hanumangarh, and then NH64 to Bhatinda in Punjab. The drive hereon is quite uneventful – barely any traffic and decent roads. One lesson we learn though, if you take a road that not many people use, don’t expect to find a decent eatery.
Once we cross Bhatinda, we have a bit of trouble deciding which route to take. While the GPS points at one route, the locals tell us to take another. We decide on a healthy compromise and use parts of both routes. As it turns out, the GPS directions land us in Moga’s crowded market place en route to Jalandhar and we lose nearly an hour trying to manoeuvre through the chaos. Just goes to show, that sometimes, word of mouth beats gadgets. Once through the chaos of Moga though, it’s smooth sailing all the way to our halt for the night in Jalandhar. It’s been an eventful day and we call it a night soon.
Tomorrow, we’re headed to the capital of India’s northernmost state, Jammu and Kashmir.