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Old 3rd August 2018, 17:22   #1
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Default We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 km : Monsoon Drive in Western Maharashtra

Let’s chase the rain through the mountains and terrain...

And it all happened where 8 cars and 11 of us clocked a total of 16,000 Kms together in the lush green regions of western Maharashtra.

This drive too was akin to our previous drives in the rains to the same region but different routes, albeit we were lesser cars altogether since it was not a scheduled event as such this time around.
Drive to Panchagani and around in 2015 (Chasing the Rains : Group drive from Bangalore to Panchgani (MH))
Drive to Ratnagiri and around in 2016 (Tracing the Konkan Route in the Monsoon - 6 cars and 1,750 km of driving pleasure)
The planning for the drive, the rules of the gentlemen’s game called ‘convoy driving’ didn’t change this time too and hence I would talk less and let you see more this time. So, it was yet another successful edition (and addition) for our annual Monsoon drive. There is a lot written during the previous travelogue which can be referred here (Tracing the Konkan Route in the Monsoon - 6 cars and 1,750 km of driving pleasure).

The Line-up this time:
>> Fiat Linea - Arunjosie
>> Ford Figo – Sri Harsha & Sujit Das
>> Maruti Suzuki Ertiga – Yours truly & Audioholic
>> Maruti Suzuki Swift- Aveen & Sridhar
>> Renault Duster- Ravi
>> Skoda Laura – Mighty_Lothar
>> Skoda Rapid – Dipin
>> Toyota Innova Crysta - speedsatya
We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 km : Monsoon Drive in Western Maharashtra-7bordermaker.jpg
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Old 3rd August 2018, 17:47   #2
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Default Re: We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 Kms: Monsoon Drive 2018

Deciding on the final route:
  • We all wanted to drive more, so a lot of options were considered : Western Maharashtra, Konkan Region, Vapi – D&D Region, Nashik –Jawahar region but after weighing the pros & cons, the distances, the priorities that we all need to be back to Bangalore before weekenders start spilling out on the highways, we decided to stick to the combination of majorly Western Maharashtra and a small bit of Konkan region

  • We didn’t want to drive on sections where we had driven before or at least sections where most others had not driven before

  • Unlike all these years, hvkumar and his forum didn’t conduct any scheduled event and hence we could drive anywhere, anytime without any designated route

  • Couple of conference calls with him, including few inputs taken from quite a few of my friends in Pune, we decided on the final circuit mentioned above

Final Plan: On various days
D1 :Bangalore to Expressway exit at Lonavala Town:

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D1 :Lonavala to Kamshet Police check-post on the expressway:

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D1 :Kamshet Police Station - Pawna Lake - Paud - Mulshi (Paradise Cafe):

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D2: Mulshi (Paradise Cafe) - Tahmini - Mangaon - Mahad:

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D2: Mahad - Varandha - Ambeghar - Raireshwar:

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D2: Raireshwar - Wai - Pachwad - Satara - Karad - Kolhapur:

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D3: Kolhapur - Belgaum - Hubli - Bangalore:

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Navigation:

For the main circuit beyond Lonavala, we used RoutO Maps which is an offline navigation app by Team HVK. I used this for the first time ever and was quite impressed mainly with the fact that its usage (offline) was quite brilliant albeit few hits and misses with respect to the compatibility of the app with certain phones (available for Andriod only). In fact, the app was smart enough to work even when the app or the phone was restarted and there was no Network Coverage anywhere. Sooner as we were reaching Lonavala on Day 1, we received the notification do download the routes on the App which we duly did and kept loading the circuit into the app for each sector.

These routes are carefully created marking each POI and turn in detail that you may find it difficult to do on Google maps due to the limitation with the number of via points. Secondly, Googlemaps may not function in case of Zero network or reroute you if you missed a crucial turn in the land of no one. One may argue that you could mark the turn offs on Offline Navigation device like MapMyIndia or Garmin but for that you need to be crystal clear and precise to dot on the locations.

In short, RoutO turned out to be a quick, easy and a hassle-free option for our needs this time with no prior preparation in terms of loading route by spending hours before the drive.

Communication among the convoy:

This time we hired 8 Walkie-Talkies and they were immensely helpful right from Day 1 all the way to Day 3. We could remain together and co-ordinate very well due to the presence of these devices in each of our cars.
Breaks, Refueling, Turn offs, Warning, Presence or absence of FASTag lanes, relay broadcast during passing in slush etc – Everything was managed with these devices through a single and simple broadcast message usually by the pilot car. At one point, I missed a crucial left and soon after this Audioholic was quick to broadcast it and rest of them stopped. Thankfully, it were just 2 cars that had to reverse in a narrow path including mine while the rest had taken that intended left.

I think, overall we were more efficient through the walkie – talkies this time without any confusion or need of frequent stops or making too many phone calls. All thanks to Sri Harsha for suggesting this idea and making it work like charm.

None of our breaks were decided, except refueling. Hence we had an active whatsapp group were my co-pax audioholic would message the google map location 15-20 minutes before so that each car would navigate to that. This also ensured there was no confusion within that usually happens when you pre-insist on the break locations. It was all dynamic.

Fare, Fair and Square:

Splitwise app was quick and easy to use, to load all the expenses and the final sharing. In few hours after our drive, we were all clear on what each of our share was for the drive.
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Old 3rd August 2018, 18:08   #3
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Default Re: We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 Kms: Monsoon Drive 2018

Day 1: Bangalore – Hubli – Belgaum – Kolhapur – Pune – Expressway – Lonavala Town – Expressway – Kamshet Police Chowki – Pawna Nagar – Mulshi : 960 Kms | Start Time : 0300 | End Time : 1830|

We all decided to meet at JAS Toll at 0300 on Day 1, and all of us were on time. Speedsatya was to join us somewhere beyond Pune as he had driven to Mumbai 2 days before for another reason. Hence we were 7 cars till Lonavala on Day 1.

Intensified truckers’ strike and our delight! The whole route all the way till we exited Expressway at Lonavala has minimal freight traffic and it was such a wonderful experience to drive in the absence of these trucks. We did some excellent average and too only 11 hours from Bangalore to reach Lonavala town including at least 4 breaks – Breakfast, Refueling, re-grouping, refueling. FASTag worked perfectly at all the booths, where each car spent less than 30 seconds passing the booth.

Rains were heavy right after Davanagere all the way to Lolavala that I don’t recollect any stretch where the wipers were turned off. Thankfully, the absence of trucks ensured our average speeds even in rains were brilliant, factoring a convoy of 7 cars!

Let me take you through the journey on day 1 through the pictures:

This was our first stop since start, around 385 Kms from Bangalore, at Kamat Upachar near Varur (before Hubli) for breakfast:

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Glimpses of the single carriageway Hubli – Dharwad Bypass, along with aftermath of an accident (due to rains?):

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We refueled at our usual BPCL COCO after Nippani, 5 Kms before KA-MH Border:

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The fantastic Dharwad – Belgaum - Nippani Section:

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The beautiful (and empty) 6 lane between Satara and Pune with greenery all around and wet roads:

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This one from Kolhapur - Satara Section:

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Last edited by paragsachania : 4th August 2018 at 00:15.
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Old 3rd August 2018, 18:33   #4
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Default Re: We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 Kms: Monsoon Drive 2018

D1: Continued:

We stopped for lunch at the second food court on Expressway and instead ended up refueling our cars as the options here were quite less!

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Our plan was to take the Kamshet Pawana Nagar road to reach Pawna and then head to Mulshi via Paud. But the easiest option to do this was to enter Lonavala town and pass through the traffic of take the Old Pune Mumbai NH and exit for Kamshet – Pawan Gaon road. So, soon after we got into Lonavala via expressway exit, we stopped for lunch here.

While we waited for lunch to be served:

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Few pictures of from the Mumbai - Pune Expressway taken before and after lunch:

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After lunch we joined back the expressway but this time towards Pune and drove till the end of Kamshet Tunnel and exited the Expressway at the Kamshet Police station where there is no marked exit but you can enter the Police station parking and then reach the Kamshet Pawna Nagar road

Exit at Kamshet Police Checkpost on the Expressway to join Kamshet Pawna Gaon Road


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All of us got into the slow lane and started to gradually decrease the speed and entered the shoulder to finally slow down completely in front of the Police check post to exit the expressway. The road after this exit was in a beautifully bad state that tested the ground clearances of all the cars and thankfully with some skillful driving, it didn’t scrape the underbody or any car. The pictures do the talking in terms of how the roads were:


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All ready to start the drive towards Pawna after successfully negotiating the super bad approach road after expressway exit:
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And we march ahead:
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Beyond this, the roads were mixed bag and we spent some time at the view point of the magnificent Pawna lake.

Last edited by paragsachania : 4th August 2018 at 00:19.
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Old 3rd August 2018, 18:43   #5
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Default Re: We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 Kms: Monsoon Drive 2018

D1: Pawna Lake and Mulshi:

After spending some time at the view point of Pawna lake, we then headed for Paud, turned right for Mulshi and reached our destination for the day – Paradise Café, Mulshi around 1830.

The lake and surroundings were simply picturesque:

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Just when you realise why ZDi would have been a better pick :
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And seeing some familiar roads, that Eureka moment when you realise that you have been there, done that, nearly a decade back!

Circa 2009 this was in my humble WagonR:
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Last edited by paragsachania : 3rd August 2018 at 20:53.
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Old 3rd August 2018, 18:58   #6
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Default Re: We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 Kms: Monsoon Drive 2018

D1: Halt for the day at Paradise Cafe, Mulshi

We settled for the day at this place which I had earlier visited in 2012 as part of the first Edition of Monsoon drive. It is located right behind Mulshi lake with some breathtaking views of the lake as well as the hills behind.

We had a pleasant surprise to spot HVK's Scorpio and then himself who was there for a recce for some other group drive that he was supporting. We spent the rest of the day by the lake at the cafe, followed by dinner and then some perfect rest for our body, minds and the machines.

Few pictures from Paradise Cafe:

With HVK, rest of we guys:
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The Entrance/Exit for Paradise cafe, on a steep and slippery road due to rains:
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The beautiful view right next to the dining area:
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Feedback on Paradise Cafe : We loved the location, the simple open air ambiance as well as the lovely food. However, their cottages where we stayed were just about OK and strictly for bachelors. They were not well maintained and most of the basic sanitation was managed badly - Towels etc. Hence, We strictly recommend this wonderful place for a dine out only as food gets full marks from our side. There are lots of mid range to high end resorts around which have mushroomed around the lake that you can look out for.

I will continue talking about D2 in the next post to have a fresh start.

Last edited by paragsachania : 3rd August 2018 at 19:01.
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Old 3rd August 2018, 19:17   #7
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Default Re: We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 Kms: Monsoon Drive 2018

Day 2: Mulshi – Tahmini – Mangaon – Mahad – Varandha – Ambeghar – Raireshwar – Wai – Pachwad – Satara – Karad – Kolhapur : 450 Kms |Start time : 0700 |End Time : 1900|

Our drive on second day comprised of many ghats, combination of bad, worse and good roads to end with superfast GQ road till Kolhapur.

So Arun and rest of us get ready to start for the day, with the usual task of wiping the windscreen clean :

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We stopped for breakfast soon after we started from Paradise café, at Vittal Kamat/Sai Resorts at Sarole, overlooking the massive Mulshi Lake:

Killing time before the breakfast gets served:

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Never miss these 2 when in the Maratha land:

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Group Photo time, for the machines:

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And some 'alone time' for the European beauties :

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After this, we faced regular bad to worse roads all the way till we exited Pune district into Raigad and then continued with our usual pace:


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Dashcam grab from Tahmini Ghat:


Last edited by paragsachania : 3rd August 2018 at 20:52.
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Old 3rd August 2018, 19:24   #8
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Default Re: We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 Kms: Monsoon Drive 2018

D2: Continued:

Without much waste of time, we managed to pass both Mangaon as well as Mahad. Here’s the new Bridge at Mahad constructed soon after tragedy struck 2 years before destroying the bridge due to incessant heavy rains which is common in this region:

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Our joy of driving on our all-time favorite NH17 short-lived since we had to exit out of NH for Varandha after the Savitri River bridge after Mahad. What followed next was some breathtaking view of Varandha ghats that totally made us forget the bad part of the roads:

We stopped at just one point on the ghat which is fairly common to take a photography break:

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Last edited by paragsachania : 4th August 2018 at 00:22.
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Old 3rd August 2018, 19:34   #9
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Default Re: We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 Kms: Monsoon Drive 2018

D2: Continued: After Varandha, we continued to drive towards Bhor, passing the even more beautiful and massive Nira-Deoghar Dam that was in full glory due to the recent rains:

We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 km : Monsoon Drive in Western Maharashtra-nira-deoghar-dam-1.jpg

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Soon after, we exited the Bhor route by turning off at Ambeghar to take on the Ghera – Kenjal road to climb up till Raireshwar. This by no means was a regular road with slush greeting us right from the base of this climb. The slush part was easily 1 Km long in bits and pieces and was tricky mainly because 3 MSRTC Busses ferrying school kids had passed this before us and couple of them getting stuck as well. Thankfully, each of our cars managed to tackle this slush without any incident and with sheer tactical driving and wonderful co-ordination through the walkie-talkies. Kudos to all the drivers behind wheels of each of the cars in variates. Goes to show how few terrains can be tackled with careful and proper driving that you can go home and still pat your back and say "I bought the right car" instead of "I should have bought the right car".

Here are the pictures and a video of this slush ridden climb before the actual ghat began:

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I clubbed the videos of most of the cars taking on this slush captured by Dipin too. Perhaps the video should do some justice:


Last edited by paragsachania : 3rd August 2018 at 21:12.
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Old 3rd August 2018, 19:46   #10
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Default Re: We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 Kms: Monsoon Drive 2018

D2: Continued:

After negotiating the slush part, it was bliss up ahead. Lush green surroundings, typical shade of Konkan green, narrow asphalt and absolutely no vehicles in both directions. By pulling over to take snaps, we could also notice those 3 MSRTC buses negotiate the climb, one hair pin after another to reach the summit. This clearly was one of the fastest ascent in shortest time for us and as HVK Termed it, this typically felt like mini Gata loops of the Manali – Leh Circuit but with a lot of greenery around.

Few pictures taken during the climb on the Ghera – Kenjal road till Raireshwar treck base:

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After Raireshwar, we started to descend, with zero throttle input and mostly engine braking all the way down till the backwaters of Dhoom Dam. This was the same route we had done, way back in 2015 during the Monsoon drive to Mahabaleshwar and Panchagani area. So this one felt like home with similar scenery greeting most of us all.

Dashcam video of the descent, also seen is waters of Dhoom dam:


Last edited by paragsachania : 3rd August 2018 at 20:42.
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Old 3rd August 2018, 19:49   #11
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Default Re: We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 Kms: Monsoon Drive 2018

D2: Continued:

We were hungry, and it was already 16:00 and whatever snacks we consumed at the Nira-Deoghar Dam helped us survive till here. Right from Warandha till Wai there are absolutely no hotels whatsoever to stop by. But hey, we never cribbed and we kept enjoying the drive as always. Our idea was to stop by at Wai for late lunch but I instead decided to spend another 30 minutes and reach the Pune-Bangalore highway and stop elsewhere. Opted for Vittal Kamat on Satara Bypass, had some excellent lunch (Thali) that was served hot and fresh even at 5PM. Since none of the Vittal Kamats are consistent with their food, I was super surprised this time.

Time when Data signals are back and everyone is waiting for food to be served:

We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 km : Monsoon Drive in Western Maharashtra-img_20180728_171329bordermaker.jpg

Overall, each of the cars including this one performed wonderfully in some of the worst terrains and now needed some rest while we took a grub:

We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 km : Monsoon Drive in Western Maharashtra-20180728_165814bordermaker.jpg


Driving on dual carriageway, after continuously driving on bad to very bad single carriageway roads for the last 10 hours felt like the dogs let out of the cage. Everything felt to easy and relaxed and we were in Kolhapur in no time for a night halt at Hotel Opal inside the city. Good dinner followed by good sleep and what follows on next day is the home run for 8 -9 hours.
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Old 3rd August 2018, 19:58   #12
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Default Re: We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 Kms: Monsoon Drive 2018

Day 3: Kolhapur – Belgaum – Hubli – Bangalore – 600 Kms | Start time : 0630|
End Time : 1530|


We had decided to start no later than 0700 today for we didn’t want to drive along with weekenders returning back to Bangalore. So we all started at 0630 while speedsatya left at 0445 alone.

The first break of the last day comes in under 20 minutes after departure from Kolhapur, at BPCL COCO near Nippani.

The Second break comes within 10 minutes from the refueling break, this time for our hungry tummies and at 'Hotel Amar - Only Veg' at the base of Tawandi Ghats. Needless to say, proper and safer parking remains our drive's most important aspect:

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We stop by for our 3rd break soon after Chalageri toll, where Ravi will exit the convoy to head towards his hometown (Davanagere) and return to Bangalore later with his family:

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Our last break was at JAS toll, 30 Kms from Home for handing back the Walkie-Talkies to Sri Harsha and bid goodbye till the next drive.

Back then during the onward journey, we had a party at full blast without trucks and today we had to drive among lots and lots of trucks, often slowing us down on some really fast stretches. Nevertheless, it was still very pleasant to drive all the way till Bangalore and reaching our respective homes by 1530, much before the mayhem begins nearing all the entry points.

Few parting shots of good looking dirty cars followed by water wash:


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Thanks for reading and watching through folks, See you around till the next one.....!

Last edited by paragsachania : 3rd August 2018 at 20:10.
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Old 4th August 2018, 08:17   #13
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Default re: We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 km : Monsoon Drive in Western Maharashtra

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!

Lush greenery, monsoons, good (and bad) roads and perfect company. Looks like you guys had an amazing drive! Loved the panning shot of the vRS!

Time and other things permitting, will join you guys next year. Never been in a convoy drive. *sulks*

Last edited by Gannu_1 : 4th August 2018 at 08:29.
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Old 4th August 2018, 09:05   #14
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Default Re: We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 km : Monsoon Drive in Western Maharashtra

Amazing report of some happy people on a fun drive in nice cars.

I was thinking of having a lazy Saturday, but your travelogue has changed my mood. Heading out on the highway to 'chase the rains' in 90 minutes.

Thanks for sharing! This travelogue is going straight to our homepage.
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Old 4th August 2018, 09:16   #15
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Default Re: We chase the rains again, 8 cars, 2000 km : Monsoon Drive in Western Maharashtra

You were super fast to bring this TL out in quick time, parag. As usual, very well-written with all the details.

It was a super drive and our 4th consecutive Monsoon drive to MH.

The drive on the slush part was highlight of this trip and everyone enjoyed it.
Walkie-talkies were super helpful plus fun as well. For such drives, to locations with no network coverage, this will be very helpful to communicate within the group. It was a nice experience using it for the first time.

Eagerly looking forward for the next drive with this gang.

Here is the dash cam video from Linea traversing through the slush roads.



A bad stretch on the Exit at Kamshet Police Checkpost on the Expressway to join Kamshet Pawna Gaon Road




Last edited by arun_josie : 4th August 2018 at 09:35.
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