Journey to the North with The Skoda Yeti

Posted on Fri ,27 Sep 2013 5:08 am
Vaibhav Yedavi, Photos: Vaibhav Yedavi & Nikhil Pakath
    
Journey to the North with The Skoda Yeti

We take the Skoda Yeti a few miles closer to its home in the Himalayas and find out it belongs practically everywhere.

I slot the gear lever into first, push the accelerator to feed the engine some revs and then slowly back off the clutch pedal. The car lurches forward, jerks violently and my half sleepy eye-balls pop out from their sockets. The engine stalls! But I don’t blame ‘Yeti’, the car named after a Himalayan beast, for the situation.

Its 4:30 in the morning and nobody wakes up from their slumber in one go at that odd hour. So this time I give it some more gas and the Yeti sprints forward making all sorts of growling noises and pushes’ me back into the seat.

The journey of a thousand miles has started with a stalled engine and a very, very angry car! It’s a journey from Mumbai to New Delhi, covering around 1500 kilometres and will pass through the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and then into Delhi.

The Yeti growls and complains, but I decide to ignore it and wind-up the windows and head off to pick up friends who will load the Yeti with huge amounts of luggage.

On day 1 we have decided to reach Udaipur in Rajasthan, which is approximately 750kms from Mumbai and hence the early departure. It was going to be a long day ahead and even the Yeti had come into its own.

Early in the morning, the FM radio was playing some very melodious tunes, when suddenly it starts to rain heavily. The windshield is sprayed with muck, there is glare from oncoming traffic and the visibility reduces to a few metres. For the next hour and a half I lower the speed and dodge trucks and cars overtaking me from the wrong side.

The Yeti is eager to sprint though, and I know it is perfectly capable of stability and traction on the slippery roads thanks to a Haldex permanent all-wheel drive system, but it is me the driver who is just not confident to push the car in such situations. So after a very tiring 100km drive I decide to stop for some breakfast at Hotel Ahura in Amboli village. A sumptuous breakfast of double omelette, butter paav and tea follows and then we head out as the sun greeted us.

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With a full belly I switch sides with my friend and he decides to take over. With light traffic and good visibility he pushes the Yeti and it responds happily. It runs like an animal just unleashed from captivity and absolutely munches highway miles. It takes hardly any time for it to reach three digits on the speedometer.

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A distinct smell of chemicals greets us as we cross Vapi. My only warning to everyone who passes through this stretch is to keep the windows closed, air-conditioning on recirculating mode and get out as soon as possible.

We made rapid progress on the beautiful and smooth highways of Gujarat until we reached the Sardar Bridge on the Narmada River. Traffic acted up and after the torturous one hour being stationary, the Yeti was hungry and so were we.

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We filled the nearly empty stomach of the Yeti with a cocktail blend of the finest diesel (I could visualise it smiling after the drink) and we filled ours with kathiyawadi thali and the finest chaas at Hotel Le Nandini after which I was back behind the wheel.

We had a lot of distance to cover and had to do it before it gets dark. So I floored the accelerator pedal of the Yeti and it just took off. Press the accelerator in any gear and the Yeti has enough power to propel you from here to there in the blink of an eye.

You don’t get tired of driving it because of the comfort it has to offer. Its dual-zone automatic climate control, perfectly angled seats and rear AC vents provide comfort and a very good suspension setup makes sure the passengers don’t bounce on undulating surfaces.

Soon we were in Vadodara and piloted straight to what is considered the best expressway in India- the 96km long Ahmedabad- Vadodara Expressway or the National Expressway-1 (NE-1). It is a mostly arrow straight 4-lane highway with fencing on both side to prevent animals from entering on the road. It’s quick but extremely monotonous.

Agreed you can take your car to the maximum limit on this stretch (you shouldn’t try it though), but it is devoid of any serious curves which can excite a driver. But my friends thought of it otherwise and praised the road. I was telling them that the road is so straight and boring that drivers may sleep or miss exits and I proved my point a few minutes later when I missed the exit to Udaipur and ended up in the city of Ahmedabad.

I asked the toll-booth operator at the end of the highway if there is any way I can get back to the Udaipur exit, he smiled and said I would have to go back 60-kms and take a U-turn for that. I decided to travel through Ahmedabad city instead. As soon as I crossed the toll-booth and took the road to the city, I was stopped by cops. On asking what my offence was I was told that there was no yellow tape on the right headlight which is mandatory. In no mood to argue, I paid the fine of Rs.200; the cops put a yellow tape on the headlight and directed me on the road to Udaipur.

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Ahmedabad city people follow no traffic rules and the signals don’t work. The only cool thing about the city is the dedicated lanes for buses in the middle of the road.

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After driving on a straight road for half an hour, we finally managed to get out of the city only to be welcomed by an extremely badly surfaced road. Every vehicle moved at a snail’s pace, and the Yeti was getting impatient. After-all it could just glide over those broken surfaces if given a chance.

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After some time the roads became smooth, progress was quick and Udaipur was just 160kms away. On entering the state of Rajasthan, a friend asked me where all the deserts have disappeared. He was expecting sand everywhere. Instead he was greeted by the lush green Aravalli mountain range and marble mines. These kinds of questions arise only when you have bunked most of the geography classes in school.

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The roads were amazing; smooth and winding with beautiful surroundings. It was fun to drive on them and I am sure the Yeti must be happy too. We also did a bit of off-roading to check out the all-wheel drive capabilities and came back impressed. We reached Udaipur just after sunset. The Yeti needed a bath and a good night’s rest.

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We stayed at a hotel near the lake in Udaipur. Our only concern was that the hotel should have parking facility. We soon ordered dinner and after some discussion and planning for next day everyone went to sleep. Next morning we woke up feeling refreshed and the Yeti too was wide awake.

We didn’t wake up the beast early today and so it was very happy. After spending some time near the lake, we headed to the pink city-Jaipur. En route we planned to stop and visit the dargah at Ajmer.

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After treating the Yeti to its cocktail blend of diesel, we got lost in Udaipur and circled for some time until we found the road to get out. We were soon on the highway to Jaipur. Here we encountered our first ghat section on this road and soon reached Nathdwara, a place famous for the Shrinathji temple. The road was rough a bit rough in sections, but the Yeti just went over it with no fuss. 180mm of ground clearance coupled with the all-wheel drive helped I guess. Soon afterwards a toll section of the NH-8 started and for the next hour and a half it was pure bliss.

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Whoever designed this highway must be a true motorist who loves to drive, not just go fast in a straight line. The Yeti did some crazy speeds on this road and pranced away happily as it munched on the miles. This is what a highway should be like. We took a wrong exit and ended up in Beawar town and we put the Yeti through some torturous roads in the little town, but the Yeti did not complain.

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Thirty minutes later we took the exit for Ajmer, got lost in the town, asked a couple of local people for directions and reached the Ajmer Sharif Dargah. We passed through the chaotic but charming little town of Ajmer and onto the highway to Jaipur. It was already evening and all the superhero bus and truck drivers were in plentiful on the highway. We reached the city of Jaipur late in the evening, put the Yeti to rest, had dinner and hit the bed. Tomorrow was all about reaching Delhi.

Before we headed to New Delhi, we decided to roam around a bit in Jaipur and went to see the Hawa Mahal. We couldn’t go inside as it was not open yet, so we clicked some photos and decided to head on the highway to New Delhi. This time though we grew wiser and asked the GPS for guidance and it sent us straight into a narrow street with a dead end. So again we decided to ask some locals, got out and headed straight on the highway to New Delhi.

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After crossing Rajasthan, the highway was in a very bad shape, with potholes and diversions. An Audi A4 decided to overtake us but couldn’t. The person driving the Audi must not be aware that the Yeti had the same engine under its hood with the added advantage of a manual transmission. It took us a lot of time to reach New Delhi and after circling and getting lost in the city for some time, we finally reached our destination.

We said our good byes to the Yeti and I am sure even the beast got a bit emotional. After all we spent a couple of days with it. We are going to miss this compact 4x4 whose capabilities are unmatched by any other car. Had they priced it well, Skoda would be minting load full money. But this truly is a priceless possession and thank you Skoda for giving us this opportunity. You’ve left us wanting for more.

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Engine: 2.0-litre, turbocharged diesel engine

Power: 140 bhp

Torque: 320Nm of torque

Mileage: 16.2km/l ( driving was mostly on the highways with the AC on full time)

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