Freewheeling Motoring

More than just a weekend getaway

Jeep Compass Limited

Jeep Compass Limited   | Photo Credit: Joyita Banerjee


The petrol Jeep Compass makes a clean break for a two-day drive out of Delhi

For Delhi’s hapless landlocked denizens — with nary a mountain or coast in sight — a ‘weekend road trip’ might as well be an oxymoron (no, neither Jaipur nor Agra make the grade). Scouring Google Earth for hidden getaways within three hours of driving time, I chanced upon a hamlet in Rajasthan, 175 kilometres from the Capital. Kesroli would probably not exist on the Internet if it wasn’t for an old fort converted into a heritage hotel that sits atop a solitary mound that surveys the village’s flat pastoral landscape.

As a rule of thumb, navigating anything less than a State highway in Haryana and Rajasthan (most district roads are paved only when the State elections come around) requires a prudent choice of vehicle. Capability on less-than-perfect asphalt is a given, but, ideally, you also don’t want to make an in-your-face display of assumed wealth (since it’s untrue in any case!).

And so it was, that two of us set off in the 2019 Jeep Compass. The Compass certainly met the first condition, but in a scarlet tint that would make a burlesque dancer proud, it certainly didn’t meld into the landscape. And crucially, I discovered at the first gas station we pulled into that this variant ran on petrol.

A view of the heritage hotel at Kesroli, Rajasthan

A view of the heritage hotel at Kesroli, Rajasthan   | Photo Credit: Joyita Banerjee

As an avowed advocate of diesel-burners, for all that lovely torque that those engines churn out, I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a certain moral lightness of being that comes with driving a gasoline-powered car. This Compass, with its automatic 7-speed gearbox, can’t really ford rivers or make short work of obstacle courses that its diesel sibling revels in.

But, given the noxious air we breathe in this city, there’s something undeniably gallant about doing your bit. But there’s more: the Compass is a bona fide SUV in the traditional sense of the word. Built like a tank, the reassuring sense of safety it imparts to the occupants is entirely credible.

Kesroli turned out to be the find it promised to be: a rare getaway for people from Delhi who have neither the inclination nor the time for a day-long drive. The valiant Aravalli hills, largely decimated by rampant mining, human encroachment, and deforestation, still hold their ground on the western front and continue to thwart the march of the Thar Desert into this region.

A view from the heritage hotel at Kesroli, Rajasthan

A view from the heritage hotel at Kesroli, Rajasthan   | Photo Credit: Joyita Banerjee

From the 14th-century ramparts of Kesroli Fort, or, its centrepiece, an infinity pool, it’s a clear line-of-sight to these hills. Besides a dip in the pool, there’s not much to do at the quaint fort-turned-hotel and the sense of isolation is absolute.

Curled up with a book in bed, peering down from the window, the feeling of being sequestered in a tower with the world, a world away, is exactly what I’d hoped from a weekend getaway.

It’s possible to get here in a sedan, but I wouldn’t recommend the drive to someone who hasn’t finished paying the EMIs on his luxury car.

There’s no denying that SUVs make sense in India simply on account of the unpredictable road conditions. I’d be perfectly happy with this car; it’ll take me almost anywhere and it’ll keep me safe. That’s good enough.

(Meraj Shah makes a living chronicling his experiences on the road, shooting video and writing on auto, travel and golf. When not roving the globe, Meraj lives in Delhi with a motorcycle named Blue)

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 2:13:02 PM |

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