Honda Drive to Discover is an annual event conducted by Honda, where select journalists get a chance to experience the Japanese carmaker’s line-up while exploring some of the most scenic parts of India. This year, the Drive to Discover commemorated 300,000 1.5 i-DTEC-equipped Hondas on Indian roads. In addition to this, it also marked a first, of sorts, for this event – with the journey venturing past the international border, to Bhutan.
Day 1 - September 12 - Siliguri to Phuentsholing - Siliguri was the starting point for the journey. Flying in to the cool of Bagdogra, the weather was a welcome relief from Mumbai’s humidity. A hearty lunch later and we were good to go. Our destination for the day was Phuentsholing, past the Bhutan border at Jaigaon. I was quite pleased to be allotted the CR-V as my drive – it’s an SUV I’ve always had a soft spot for. The CR-V was pleasurable to drive on the twist and turns and felt surprisingly nimble, too. The powerful petrol engine and the automatic gearbox just added to the driving convenience of not having to frequently downshift gears on climbs.
Day 2 - September 13 - WR-V - Phuentsholing to Paro - After breakfast, there were immigration formalities (necessary, to proceed from Phuentsholing) to complete – a process that took all of about 20 minutes. With me on day 2 on the drive to Paro was Honda's latest offering – the WR-V. On the way to the designated lunch halt, what started as a sunny day soon deteriorated to a gloomy one with heavy rain and fog reducing visibility to nearly zero, at times. The roads were good, though, with little traffic and it gave us a chance to enjoy the torquey WR-V diesel engine as it gobbled up the kilometers. Even the small bad patches of road didn’t prove too much of a bother. We finally got to Paro and checked into our hotel, a little before dinner.
Day 3 - September 14 - Paro, Tigers Nest - The next day we had to choose between either driving to Bhutan’s capital, Thimpu or visit the famed monastery known as the Tiger's Nest and hike all the way up. We decided on the latter. Having enjoyed my drive in the WR-V the day before, I decided to keep it, for the rest of the drive. The drive to the base of the climb didn’t take much time but my word – the climb up was long. The walk up took two and a half hours but the sights made it worth the effort. Tiger's Nest, perched on a hillside, looked magnificent. Views of Paro in the distance and the surrounding countryside were no less special. Alas, my fitness got a reality check, on the way down. The journey down took an hour and a half! We regained our breath and strength on the journey back, which was punctuated by stops for photography and a lovely traditional Bhutanese meal. Satisfied after a fulfilling day of activity and a good meal, we retired for the day.
Day 4 - September 15 - Paro to Phuentsholing - It was time to head back to Phuentsholing, on the border. The weather on the drive back was clear and sunny. The comfortable WR-V with its ample performance proved to be a smooth cruiser, all the way back. However, I do wish the engine was quieter. On an unrelated note, the good traffic sense in Bhutan was an eye-opener. The cleanliness of the streets and discipline of people were noteworthy factors that added to the journey's overall experience.
Day 5 - September 16 - Phuentsholing to Siliguri - The final part of the drive the next morning had us headed back to Siliguri. After a serene few days in Bhutan, the cacophony of car horns, hordes of people and potholes of India’s world famous roads were a jolting reminder that we were home. It was a pleasurable few days and my big takeaway was how good a long distance machine the WR-V diesel makes. I didn’t expect to – but I do miss the car. As they say, absence makes the heart grow Honda!