WHEN KAILASH MONGIA heard that Audi Club India had organised a Getaway from Bengaluru to Kabini, he signed on right away. Never mind that he lived in Pune and would have to drive 850km to Bengaluru, or the fact that he was 65 and his wife would not be sharing driving duty with him. He was not the only one. Vishwanath and Ravi live in Goa, had put their work on hold to join the drive. Madhusadan Reddy, although told that his A6’s underbody might take a beating on some very bad stretches of road, signed on. He was confident of his car’s capabilities despite the doomsday warnings. They were amongst the select Audi owners who were lucky enough to book their slots for the second edition of the Audi Club India Getaways before they were filled up in record time. The inaugural edition of the Audi Club India Getaways, held in June this year, a run from Delhi to Jim Corbett National Park, had already whetted the members’ appetite for driving holidays. So it was an eager bunch of people that were flagged off from the Ritz Carlton in Bengaluru, on November 22, 2014 at 0930 hrs for the 230km drive to the Orange County Resort in Kabini.
ROAD TO HEAVEN AND HELL
To head to Kabini, we take the highway towards Mysuru. Don’t scratch your head, wondering where Mysuru is. It was formerly Mysore. Like Bangalore is now Bengaluru and Mangalore is Mangaluru. On November 1 earlier this year, the names of these cities, along with nine other cities in Karnataka were changed to reflect their Kannadiga roots. But let’s get back to the point, or rather the SH17 connecting Bengaluru to Mysuru. There is a fair bit of traffic on this road as the convoy snakes its way out of the city. Three Audi cars driven by Autocar India act as control cars shepherding the customer cars along the road. Trailing the convoy is an Audi Service Mobile along with an ambulance for any emergency. In spite of the heavy traffic, the cars make good speed, unleashing their ample horses any time they find a clear stretch of road. There are plans to widen this road to an eight-lane highway and also build flyovers to ease the traffic congestion. After two hours behind the wheel, it’s time to make a pit stop. It’s an incredible sight as the cars line up and neatly slot themselves into their allotted places. Now, if only other drivers on our roads were as disciplined as these Audi drivers, our roads would be so much more pleasant to drive on.
The brunch at Empire Hotel in Somanahalli is simple but tasty. It’s also an opportunity to connect with the Club members whom we are going to share the next two days with.
Post brunch, the drive gets into its groove, making good time to the Mysuru by-pass. The drive is marred by what are clearly illegal speed breakers along the route. The road deteriorates after about 200km, and is a test for the Audi A4 and A6 in the convoy. At places, the road seems to have been viciously attacked and feasted upon by a pack of hungry Tyrannosaurus Rexes. While it is not a problem for the Audi SUVs, the lower slung sedans have to be cautious while negotiating these stretches, carefully placing wheel on the highest ground to create the maximum clearance. And kudos to the drivers, who manage the worst of the roads without scraping their underbody once.
A WILD TIME
It’s late afternoon by the time the convoy enters the gate of the Orange County Resort at Kabini. Garlands and high-tea await the guests who, after half a dayon the road, are ready to soak in the luxuries of this tranquil place. Situated at the banks of the Kabini River, it is at the cusp of the Nagarhole and Bandipur National Park, a haven for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.
While the most famous residents here are the tigers and elephants, the place is also rich with other species like leopards, wild dogs, many different kinds of deer, crocodiles, pythons, vipers and other snakes. If you are a bird watcher, you will find a multitude of them here including the Blue Winged Parakeet, Malabar Grey Hornbill, and the White-Bellied Treepie.
Though it’s tempting to soak in the serenity and charm of this place, it’d be a shame to come all the way to Kabini and not venture into the sanctuary to see the rich diversity of its flora and fauna. After a performance of folk dance and a quiet dinner, most people opt for an early night since it’s going to be an early morning start the next day.
Now there are two ways you can enjoy the safari. One is the vehicle safari that takes you into the Nagarhole National Park. Or you can opt for the Boat safari, in which you travel upstream from the resort on the River Kabini and reach the area that divides the Nagarhole and Bandipur National Parks. While half the people opt to go into the jungle in a vehicle, the rest choose the boat safari.
Gliding along the waters of Kabini, watching the animals going about their business, unmindful of a boatful of tourists and the sound of camera shutters is a meditative experience. There is an elephant feeding lazily while a mongoose scrounges around briskly foraging for food. Herds of chital graze contently on the succulent grass while a monitor lizard basks in the sun high on a tree branch. And then there are the birds, some streaking just inches above the water surface like fighter jets on a stealth mission. While the people on the boat lounge back in comfort, the people in the vehicle safari are bouncing around in the special 18-seater Canter as it makes its way deeper into the forest. But all of a sudden, the Canter stops, and the passengers all hold their breaths. It’s as though time itself is standing still, for in front of them is a majestic tiger. Like a true star, it poses briefly for the cameras before disappearing into the underbrush. While the encounter lasts for barely a minute, the memory will stay on with them forever.
After an early morning and a day of activities that included safaris, cycle races and more, there is a special treat waiting for the members in the evening — a Masterchef–style cooking competition where the contestants are divided into teams and given a recipe to follow. While everyone starts off the contest as a lark, soon, the competitive spirit takes over and the contestants are cooking as if under the critical eye of Gordon Ramsay. This is a unique contest that none of the guests have experienced before and it’s followed by a prize distribution for the winners. But the fun-filled evening doesn’t end here. This is also an opportunity for the head of Audi India, Joe King, to take the stage and address his customers. And a chance for the Audi Club India members to share drinks and dinner with the Audi team.
Day three morning. The Audi Club India members are ready to head back to Bengaluru after breakfast at the Orange County. But before they can disperse, there is an important thing to do. In fact, the most important part of the trip. With the registration money paid by all the participants, Audi India has bought laptops, water purifiers and UPS power backup units for the local school. At a small function held on the school grounds, these are gifted to the school by Audi Club India.
The Audi Club India Getaways give Audi customers across India an opportunity to take their cars out for long drives to unique locations without having to bother about arranging logistics like reservations. All they have to do is turn up with a full tank, and drive. Audi takes care of everything else. No wonder, as the members make their way home, the most common topic of discussion is where the next destination would be, and their determination to be a part of it. But above all, the Getaways give customers a chance to really enjoy their vehicles, bond with other members and the opportunity to partake in an unforgettable experience.
So where is Audi Club India Getaways going for its third run? If you are an Audi owner, keep your eyes peeled. And once registration opens, sign on quickly. If you aren’t already a member, log on to www.myaudi.in and sign up today.