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  • Writer's pictureIshaan Bharadwaj

Long Way Home #TrippinWithLemonTree

Updated: Apr 2, 2021

We've all had a tough time through 2020, we got hit with the harshest of pandemics in human history, which made a person like me travel from the comfort of my bedroom to the living room and back, every single day. As the restrictions eased away, we started seeing our grocery shops again, people started appearing out again and things fell back to normal. What took the longest time to fall back to normal however was travelling out. The borders were locked, every time we tried crossing our boundaries we had to present a certificate of coming in virus-free!

Later during the unlocking of our country's systems, I picked up an opportunity to travel with my team and friends from Evo India to the mountains with our trusted hotel chain, Lemon Tree Hotels. I was thrilled about this trip but was a little confused about what cars I should take to celebrate our freedom to travel post-lockdown.

From our extensive TheRaceMonkey Garage fleet I was not going to pick anything else for myself than the tank of the house, the Volkswagen Tiguan All-Space. Launched as a part of Volkswagen's SUVW strategy, this fully imported german SUV is built like no other car in the competition right now. A 2.0 litre 4 cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that produces a punchy 190 bhp of max power and 320 Nm of max torque that is capable-of moving this relatively lighter 1780 kg SUV very swiftly, this brilliant TSI engine is mated to the legendary 7-speed DSG dual clutch gearbox and a 4MOTION All-Wheel drive system which get individual drive modes to suit your driving style. The combination of a sublime mechanical setup and electronics, plus the internationally tried and tested chassis of the Tiguan All-Space couldn't have made me question the capability of the car one bit.

In our convoy, was Evo India's beloved Tata Harrier and TheRaceMonkey Garage's long-termer family runner, the Toyota Innova. The Innova has had a tremendous following in India and people who own it still vouch for the solidity and reliability of this car. It is more popular amongst people who live in the mountains where we were headed because it has the highest ground clearance and the most robust and fool-proof mechanical setup.

Our first destination was Dehradun, Uttarakhand. The state's capital is situated on the foothills of the Himalayas with mountains welcoming you to come to explore. It also is one of the entry points to us North Indian's favourite hill station, Mussoorie. To enter the state of Uttarakhand you need to carry a COVID negative report with you to pass into the border, which makes travelling into any town or hill station in this state one of the safest in the country.

A few hours later we checked into the glorious Red Fox Hotel, Dehradun which is one of the largest Red Fox properties in India. We were greeted in a traditional Gharwali way and everything felt high quality, even the freshness in the air was appreciable. Soon, we called it a day and hit the bed in our wonderful room.

The Red Fox Hotels brand is the most approachable premium hotel chain by Lemon Tree Hotels especially for youngsters and families who are travelling on a budget. But nothing about the Red Fox Hotel's quality is discounted. From their 'Rest Assured' safety programme where they have a strict check on sanitization and cleanliness from your entry into their property to every item in your room to the quality and variety of their food, it really gives an upmarket and safe experience.

Earlier next morning, me and my wonderful friend/teammate Alefia Kapadia (who is also a Bollywood star), drove out up north towards Mussoorie to catch the first glimpse of the sunrise from the mountains while everyone else was sleeping in their hotel room. That was the moment we got a little emotional and appreciated the little joys of life after what all we all around the world have been through. Mussoorie's famous Mall Road is filled with small local tea stalls called 'Tapris' and breakfast places which do offer wholesome and fresh food items while you absorb the beautiful sights and sky from the hilltop.

After a long time exploring Mussoorie, we headed back to our hotel, indulged in some lip-smacking Pahadi food prepared by the wonderful chef at Red Fox Hotel Dehradun.

Next up, we all headed towards Chandigarh, our second stopover before we explore up into the higher range of the Himalayas. The route from Dehradun to Chandigarh takes us through some untouched and scenic forests of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. On our way, we stopped over the well renowned Paonta Sahib Gurudwara to pay our respects. It lies on the confluence of three state borders - Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.

The road connecting Dehradun and Chandigarh has a variety of surface qualities, but nothing that made the Volkswagen Tiguan All-Space lose its composure. The car is super stable on the roads, thanks to all-wheel independent suspension and those brilliant 235/55/R18 tyres that do a great job in making your experience driving the Tiguan sublime. While on the cruise, we switched the Tiguan to ECO mode for maximum efficiency and extracted 18.6 kmpl with 3 people on board and luggage which was quite an impressive number considering this car is running with a 2-litre petrol engine.

On arrival in the city of Rock Garden, later in the evening, while checking into the Red Fox Hotel, Chandigarh we were greeted with the traditional Punjabi Bhangra dance and soul melting Punjabi food which is famous all over the world. We called it a night early in Chandigarh as we planned to drive ahead towards Kinnaur and Narkanda where we were to find some snow.

An early start to the day meant a cold body that needs either a blanket, a fireplace or a warm hug. The Tiguan combines all of the qualities and provides them in the shape of their seat warmers, Yes! To every person saying the seat warmers are not meant for our country's weather condition needs a smack in the face because this tiny add-on to the long feature list of the Tiguan All-Space felt like angel Gabriel touching us with a blessing. As we approached the descents of Kinnaur, we experienced patches of Black Ice which essentially is a slate-like surface that freezes on the tarmac and isn't visible to the naked eye. The impressive traction control of the Volkswagen Tiguan makes sure it keeps all its movements in check and the car can keep up the pace even when the circumstances get tougher.

Narkanda, a town in the region of lower Kinnaur remains snow infested from December to March. In the other warmer months, the regions from here till upper Kinnaur Valley see a flux of tourists and traders from all over the country to visit its infamous Apple Orchards. For now, we had eyes on just one thing, Snow and Skii slopes, and we found those in abundance. Narkanda also is one of the most popular Skii destinations in India with three proper Skii slopes and a village full of trainers.

TrippinWithLemonTree was a memorable and happier send off to the year that was an absolute disaster. COVID19 has changed the way we travel and live in general, but with the new normal, travelling has become a tad safer and easier too. Our trust in Lemon Tree Hotel's safety and sanitization standard is high and we always use their properties for our travel needs whenever we are away from home for a feeling of still being at home. Great Hospitality, Great People and Great Cars to explore the beautiful country that India is. Also, the Volkswagen Tiguan All-Space shined bright as an incredibly well packaged, well-engineered and comfortable SUV which is also one of the safest in the country. And with Volkswagen's presence in all the places, we visited we were assured of a great and swift backup in case anything goes out of hand. Coming back home with a heart yearning for more great travelling experiences and wonderful people. #TrippinWithLemonTree #RestAssured Book your stay with our trust hospitality partner : Special thanks to our friends at Evo India. Photos : Alameen Merchant Rohit Mane

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