I’m sure you’ve all heard of the TV show, The Amazing Race. It is basically about 22 people (in groups of 2) who travel the world, do some challenges and surviving two at the end of 13 episodes would go on to win a million dollars.
It has always been my fantasy of sorts to participate in such a show; after all I’m sure if you were offered a chance to win a million dollars while travelling the world, it would be hard to say no. So When Honda decided to celebrate the first anniversary of its latest-gen Jazz hatchback in Jaipur in a similar ‘TV show format’ I just had to be there…
When we arrived in Jaipur the warm summer sun felt really well on my back after two months of the Mumbai monsoon. After heading over to our assembly point and doing the meet and greet with other members of the auto journo fraternity, we were briefed and then ferried to our cars to begin the anniversary drive.
Our noble steed for the journey was a manual V variant which had all the bells, whistles and even some hoots but lacked the grunt that the diesel had to offer to lug our frames and luggage around. This was mostly due to the combined weight of all the occupants tipping the scales at over 350kgs and a lot of heavy bags at the back. Still, we found that the 1.2-litre four-pot motor when pushed (a bit) stood up to the task and as an added bonus made a sweet little engine note.
We soon crossed the busy and crowded roads of Jaipur City and made our way out on to the highway to head off to our destination for the day – Samode Palace, a fort converted into heritage hotel. There is an unexplained joy and sense of calm that a wide four lane highway can give you. Or so I thought until we came across a multiple clusters of trucks doing 50kmph in the right most lanes. It’s a bit daunting to play feline and rodent between them but that is life and you got to do what you got to do.
More cat and mouse meant we managed to miss our turn to get off the highway. This led a bit of driving on the path less taken to the ‘challenges’ that Honda had in store for us.
I spoke about the Amazing Race in the beginning? Well, here is where it began (sort of). Our first challenge was to make full use of the magic seats by packing and unpacking various items in the nature of a bicycle, potted plants and some boxes. Our second challenge was a slalom used to demonstrate the Jazz’s manoeuvrability in tight spaces.
Post the challenges, we headed to up to 400-year-old hotel fort and after soaking some of its heritage as well as demolishing some traditional Rajasthani cuisine (Lal Maas!) retired for the night.
The next morning began in a blur as we went from having breakfast, to examining the property owner’s collection of vintage cars to being briefed about the activities of day-2 and finally taking off in the cars all in a span of less than two hours.
What followed was our five challenge race that took us first to the outskirts of Jaipur City and then directly to its oldest parts. Each destination was marked out on a clue card and we had to ‘decipher’ it and complete the challenge.
Our first destination was the Maota Lake where we had to stop and take a selfie while sitting on an elephant. In our haste to reach first, we missed the stopping point and ended up taking a small trip to the Jaigarh Fort about 20kms ahead. When we finally did reach the spot, the pachyderms and other cars were long gone. Our portly frames made up for the missing mass in the photos but to catch up with the rest was going to be a real tough task.
Our next clue card was literally a breeze to decipher as the instructions had words like Rajput architecture, clever cooling system and ‘built in 1799’. If you have guessed right, it was the famous Hawa Mahal. It is here that for the first time that the Jazz felt like a really large car as it managed to stand out among the plethora of motorcycles, e-rickshaws and pedestrians. On the downside, we discovered that the climate control couldn’t cope with extreme heat outside and this was felt most at the rear. Travelling around the crowded and chaotic Badi Choupad area of the city we reached our destination and got our photo.
Destination 3 was a famous sweetshop to sample a Raj Kachori, which thanks to a local friend, was discovered to be the Lakshmi Mistan Bhandar. Our last stop in the old city was a shop literally just called Lassiwala. In existence since 1944, this institution is a dairy outlet that serves up some mouth-watering lassi in Kulhads (clay cups). So good it was that I was tempted to carry some lassi to take back to Mumbai but changed my mind when the shop keeper himself said that it would not survive the return journey.
To complete the challenge we stopped at a petrol pump near our hotel to refuel and discovered that we had driven a 100kms extra as compared to the other contestants thanks to our ‘initiative’ in wanting to see more of the city.
Once the frenzy of the race had worn off I reflected for a moment on the Journey, the Jazz and the joy that it had given me. I was thrilled to have lived my dream of participating in an ‘Amazing Race’ and being a die-hard foodie, the overload of delicacies definitely put a smile on my face and a consequently few more inches on my waist. As for the Jazz, it played a great companion in enabling my adventure and shone when we pushed it hard.