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Old 3rd April 2014, 07:06   #1
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Default The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan

The Desert Odyssey. A four-day and 1500 km drive through various landscapes of Rajasthan with their flagship product – the Duster.

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-cover.jpg

And the time was just about right. In a few weeks, the entire of Rajasthan was going to simmer. Most of the desert resorts would close down and wait for October to come.

The Desert Odyssey was not only a drive for the media but also for Duster owners. Renault's invitation for them was for an experience of a very different kind - a drive with all the necessary support.

So, for a large number of attending customers, it was a nice holiday.

Last edited by GTO : 4th April 2014 at 09:43.
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Old 3rd April 2014, 07:08   #2
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Default re: The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan

March 15, Saturday. Jaipur.

Renault dealership at Jaipur was a stone's throw from our hotel. By 8 in the morning, we were all ready to start. Five cars were for the media. One car with a large 01 sticker on the windshield was the pilot car. And the car with sticker 33 was the sweeper car carrying all probable and necessary spares for any emergencies. 15 cars from the owners.

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-d1.jpg

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-d2.jpg

All cars were numbered in order to keep track as a convoy. We realize why this was essentially important - all around we saw so many Dusters on the road and it would have been very easy to miss one from the group.
My car for day one was number 18.

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-d3.jpg

We had a small briefing giving us all the instructions for the trip. Car number 1 will always be in the lead. Nobody should overtake within the convoy. Well, media cars were exempted from this strict rule because they at times may want to go ahead for shooting purposes. In the case of any unnatural situation, phone numbers were given in the road book. This book also had the distances between towns and routes very clearly chalked out. It was a well documented effort from Renault and the event management team Cougar Motorsport.

Ah well, I forgot to mention, a freshly launched Adventure version of the Duster was also there with us for the trip. Smoked headlamps and height extended front skid plates (as crash guard) with fog lamps adding to that stance.

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-d4.jpg

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-d5.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 4th April 2014 at 09:46.
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Old 3rd April 2014, 07:11   #3
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Default re: The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan

I had not driven a Duster before this trip. They say it normally takes sometime to get adjusted to a new drive. After the flag-off fanfare, I was on the road and it felt like I had been driving this car for years. With excellent frontal & lateral visibility and high sitting position, this drive was going to be a lot of fun.

Roads in Rajasthan are better than most roads in other states in this country. According to our road book, we were scheduled to reach our destination - Bikaner by 6.30 pm. Given the road condition, we were sure that we would reach well within the given timeline. Car number 18 was the 109 bhp version. Severe turbo-lag below 2000 rpm. Above that, it felt wonderful. The final drive (6th gear) was actually very responsive. With good surface below and with excellent NVH, Duster allows you to cover long distances without any fatigue.

Sun in end March was still not that scorching. Ensconced in the A/C cabin, one can enjoy distant mirages in Rajasthan that reminded me of the movie Lawrence of Arabia.

Rajasthan is a dry place and the landscapes are a constant reminder. From any given point to the next 200 km, one will not notice any big difference in the topography.

179 km from Jaipur we stopped at Fatehpur for lunch. It was quite a view for the locals to see so many Dusters at one time. After a heavy duty rich Rajasthani lunch it was time to hit the road again. Gradually we saw the dry barren land giving way to sandy, wavy surfaces.

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r1.jpg

Lead car and sweeper car.

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r2.jpg

A large contingent of Dusters passing by on a dark slate road. A camel with a totally blank vacant look stared on as if to say - Get off the road....I will show you who is the real king here!

Well before the anticipated time, we reached a large fort like construction – our night halt at Bikaner, Hotel Vesta Palace. A typical old Rajasthani Haveli designed with large courtyards.

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r3.jpg

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r4.jpg

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r5.jpg

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r6.jpg

Me and my co-driver (Avishek - from another automotive portal) decided to take the car out to get some photos as the light was still good. Somewhere, we heard another car getting stuck in soft sand. Camels in that area must have been discussing about not being able to understand the limitations of a two-wheel drive.

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r7.jpg

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r8.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 4th April 2014 at 09:54.
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Old 3rd April 2014, 07:14   #4
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Default re: The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan

March 16, Sunday. Bikaner.

We needed to drive 415 km to reach Jaisalmer and our drive was the 85 bhp Duster (car no 13).

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r10.jpg

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r11.jpg

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r12.jpg

With the odometer reset and cars ready to leave the hotel by 8.30 am, we were to drive 67 km on the NH15 and take a narrow state road from Bajju Tejpura. This entire stretch ran through rural Rajasthan for more than 210 km. We were joining NH15 again at a place named Hamira. This 200 km plus stretch was covered with jungles, sand dunes and various types of cacti. One needs to be really careful while driving because often, wild animals cross roads there. One can spot the famous Chinkara deer here. There are enough notice boards to warn drivers. This stretch was not smoothly tarmac'ed and many parts of the road were broken and had caved in. Add large vehicles speeding in from the opposite side to this chaos- we often had to drive off the road. With great ground clearance and a well balanced suspension, the Duster didn’t let us go off balance! We wanted to stop for a photo shoot. The idea was to shoot a row of cars on this narrow jungle road. So we moved ahead and to create enough gap between us and the group. The plan was to shoot quickly and join the group again. After the shoot we started again, we tried to keep the speed above average, but we just couldn’t see any other car. All the cars were gone and how!

After covering almost 80 km, we stopped at a place called Chinnu to devour our packed lunch. Post lunch-run started through narrow winding roads surrounded with sand dunes. We had to cover 100 km plus to get back to NH15 again. This detour, though longer, was surely much more interesting for drivers from other parts of the country.

It was the day before Holi and people here were wildly active. They were stopping cars by putting rocks in the middle road. They would ask for money and one has to pay. Fortunately, we did not encounter any such group.
Long stretches of road across the desert can be a sight to behold, but are very treacherous at the same time. Surfaces below the road move very gradually and create huge dips in between. From a distance it is impossible to make out these dips. With an average speed of 80 km, if we hit these dips, it is a sheer drop of more than ten feet at times. Again, in a normal car (sedan or hatchback), this feeling can be very unnerving. I can confidently say that any sedan or hatchback covering dips like this at a fast pace will bottom out. The Duster can really boost confidence on unpredictable surfaces.

A little before 5 pm, we blended ourselves again with the NH15. Excellent tarmac started again. This kind of surface can misguide one to increase pace and that can be truly dangerous, not only for the driver but other living beings around. At an apex covering more than 400 meters, we see a dead camel and a calf on the road. Broken neck of that camel indicates a large vehicle was involved in this massacre.

After reaching Jaisalmer, we headed out to buy some essentials for my co-driver. Poor guy had lost his toilet kit while coming to Jaipur. We needed to wait for all the other cars to reach so that we could drive another 40 km to reach our destination. We stopped at a so-called tourist spot. People come here for camel rides on the dunes. While sipping strong coffee, we saw the sun going down behind those smooth sand dunes. Before heading out for the resort, the team moved to Sam sand dunes for dune bashing.

Well, this is where all the Dusters have to be parked. We got into some other 4X4 animal. Organizers employ Toyota Fortuner and Mahindra Thar for dune bashing.

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r13.jpg

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r14.jpg

Probably, it is only a matter of time till the Duster comes up with a 4X4.

Last edited by GTO : 4th April 2014 at 09:59.
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Old 3rd April 2014, 07:18   #5
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Default re: The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan

It was a 40 km drive to reach our home for the next two nights. The road was completely broken. This was because we hadn’t taken the usual route from Jaisalmer town to this resort at Khuri.

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r15.jpg

Mamas is a nice desert resort in the middle of practically nowhere. After checking in, few of us decided to take up an offer for a night safari over the sand dunes. Only three of us and the driver on a roller coaster ride in an open jeep. That driver is guaranteed to win all the categories in Palar 4X4 challenge. He took us to every nook and corner in couple of kilometers radius. Showed us a hedgehog acting dead, spotted a Chinkara. Showed us how to effortlessly manage a decently powered 4X4 on soft sand surface.

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-r16.jpg

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Old 3rd April 2014, 07:20   #6
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Default re: The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan

March 17, Monday. Bikaner.

Today we didn’t venture out anywhere because of Holi. As I mentioned before, Rajasthanis take their Holi very seriously. Instead of going out, all the members decided to play Holi inside the resort. They were well prepared to colour the resort completely. After a nice Rajasthani traditional lunch, we got ready for the rest of the day.

The team headed out for paragliding which I refrained from. The evening had a cultural show by local artistes and a man who calls himself Desert Queen Harish. He started the show with a promise that he would make everyone dance. And by the looks of it, it was a roaring success.

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-c1.jpg

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-c3.jpg

Next morning (March 18th), we left early for a 669 km drive to Jaipur. We stopped for lunch at Jodhpur and finally reached Jaipur at six in the evening. Our Desert Odyssey had come to an end.

The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan-j1.jpg

Note: The pictures that you see here are from my phone and not my camera. 90% of camera images were lost because the camera memory card got corrupted.

Disclaimer: Renault invited Team-BHP for the Desert Odyssey drive. They covered all the expenses for this driving event.

Last edited by GTO : 4th April 2014 at 10:01.
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Old 4th April 2014, 10:03   #7
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Default Re: The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 4th April 2014, 12:13   #8
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Default Re: The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan

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Originally Posted by Rudra Sen View Post
Note: The pictures that you see here are from my phone and not my camera. 90% of camera images were lost because the camera memory card got corrupted.
Except for a few pics, there seemed a huge disconnect. Even if we consider the lack of time for good pics .. till I read this line. Any chance of recovery ?
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Old 4th April 2014, 12:31   #9
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Default Re: The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan

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Except for a few pics, there seemed a huge disconnect. Even if we consider the lack of time for good pics .. till I read this line. Any chance of recovery ?
Well, we tried almost everything but no luck as of now. We'll try some more.
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Old 4th April 2014, 14:28   #10
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Default Re: The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan

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Originally Posted by Rudra Sen View Post
Note: The pictures that you see here are from my phone and not my camera. 90% of camera images were lost because the camera memory card got corrupted.
So sad. Looks like we are gonna miss the the master's captures :( When I started reading it from first post, I had set the expectations to myself that I am going to see some awesome pics that would also make it to Best Auto Images thread, but ...

I am sure you had great time there and we would still have much more to read through your narration about the part that photos could have said. And hope you will be able to recover photos from the card. (If its being detected as external media on some computer, I am sure it can be recovered!)

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Old 8th April 2014, 13:36   #11
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Default Re: The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan

A pity you lost the images - our loss. It was a great read.

But not too sure about this...there doesn't seem to be enough interest by any of the manufacturer's to bring in 4X4s in India

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Probably, it is only a matter of time till the Duster comes up with a 4X4.
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Old 8th April 2014, 14:16   #12
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Default Re: The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan

Glad to see no bull bars on any Duster.

By the way Rudra Sir, which phone do you use The pictures are pro material.
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Old 11th April 2014, 21:28   #13
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Default Re: The Desert Odyssey: With a Duster in Rajasthan

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A pity you lost the images - our loss. It was a great read.
Yes, it's a big loss for me too. I had some very interesting captures there. We're still trying and not giving up hope. If we can manage, I'll put up those here for sure.
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By the way Rudra Sir, which phone do you use The pictures are pro material.
An Apple iPhone5. Pics from this phone are OK.
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