Travelogue: Weekend drive to Neemrana Fort in a Honda City diesel

How does one spend a Sunday after a particularly draining week? You can laze around at home in your pyjamas and watch TV. You can visit a mall or go for a movie. Or, you can drive to a place in the lap of nature, take part in adventure activities and spend some peaceful and quality time with your loved ones. One such place in the vicinity of Delhi is Neemrana.

 

 

Route brief (ex Faridabad):  Faridabad-Gurgaon Road (FGR) to Gurgaon. Join NH8 (Delhi-Jaipur Highway) at IFFCO Chowk. Cross Manesar, Dharuhera and Bawal. Turn right below the under-construction flyover at Neemrana, opposite the Japanese Industrial Zone.

Distance:  129km one way

Travel time: approx 3 hours one way including 30min lunch stopover

Toll: Rs 307 for the complete return trip

Traffic: Moderate to very heavy, depending on your time. Manesar and Dharuhera are notorious for jams during morning and evening hours on weekdays.

Car: Honda City iDTEC V

Overall economy: Approx 21.5 kmpl

This was an absolutely impromptu program made as late as 9 30 in the morning. The City was tanked up and we hit the Faridabad Gurgaon road a few minutes before 11.  FGR is one of the best driving roads in NCR. 4 lanes, well surfaced, plenty of sweeping corners and little traffic on a Sunday. Its well worth the Rs 22.5 return toll, and it was a task keeping boy racer instincts in check here. However, you do need to keep an eye for loaded dumpers carry stones from the nearby quarries.

A lunch stopover was made at Haldiram’s in Manesar. Highly recommended – excellent food, ample parking space, manicured lawns, a kid’s zone and a large seating area covering two floors. It’s crucial to have a heavy lunch. Why? Read on.

City cooling her heels at Haldiram’s

You know why the Delhi-Jaipur Highway is infamous the minute the leave Haldiram’s. The immaculate six lane Gurgaon Expressway is replaced by a battered 4 lane road. You suddenly start sharing road space with everything from Mercedes SUVs to 18 wheelers to dilapidated hatchbacks to overloaded autos to crazy bikers, construction machinery and tractors coming the wrong way.

Road conditions are generally like this….

And this….

But are occasionally as good as this too.

With the removal of the Delhi-Gurgaon toll plaza, toll after Manesar has increased to Rs 56 for cars. Incidentally, they do not offer any return slips or day passes. You have to queue up and pay every single time you cross by.

It being a Sunday afternoon, we encountered only moderate traffic with no major blockage. The new City’s much improved suspension kept the ride comfortable at all times. The Michelin XM1 tires are adept in keeping road noise at bay. Special mention to the spacious and super comfy seats which are the best of all cars on this side of the Aria. The torquey engine and excellent drivability made overtaking easy and kept gearshifts to a minimum.  The quick steering and the absence of body roll also helped.

Road conditions significantly improve after Dharuhera and it is smooth sailing thereon. Speed picks up and 6th gear is engaged. You soon realize that revving the City D is not the right way to drive it. This car is tailor made for cruising, in a RE Bullet or a Safari Storme or a Scorpio kind of way. The sweet spot of this engine is between 1500 and 2500rpm and the gearing is matched to it. You short shift and just ride the torque wave. While performance remains more than adequate, the refinement and the complete lack of noise is a pleasant surprise. The cabin remains vibe free and quiet even at speeds as high at 140kmph and the FE readout refuses to drop below 23kmpl. This is on a brand new engine still in three figures on the odometer.

The fort is hardly 3km from the highway from the right turn at Neemrana. The route as directed by the GPS is spot on.

Narrow but sign marked lanes leading to the Fort.

We reached at around 2PM

View from the car park

The Neemrana Fort was originally built in 1464 by the descendents of Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan. In 1947, Raja Rajinder Singh of Neemrana moved down to Vijay Bagh as the façade of his Fort-Palace crumbled and its ramparts began to give way. The property has now been extensively restored and turned into a sprawling 65 room heritage hotel spread over 6.5 acres on a hill.

As we walk towards the entrance, we are greeted by a camel.

And a vintage Morgan. It has a V8 petrol engine that gives 1 kmpl and they can arrange for you to be chauffeured around in it.

 

Entry tickets to the Fort-Palace are priced at a steep Rs.750 per head on weekends. However, you can save a fair bit if you pre-book online or have it waived off entirely if you stay overnight.

 

The imposing and immaculately maintained Fort-Palace is a sight for sore eyes. You just breathe in the fresh unpolluted air and stand and stare in awe.

 

The three legged bull. Each leg represents morality. Legend has it that the bull lost a leg to sin during the time of the Pandavas.

In defiance of one and all….

Guardian of the gates

These gardens now play host to the evening tea

A marvel of Indian engineering, the cross ventilation of this place keeps the palace cool even at the peak of summer

Our main agenda for this trip, however, was zipping. The Neemrana Fort-Palace is home to India’s first zip tour. They have five individual zip lines of upto 400m each, with a total length of over 1.2km. The zipping operation is professionally run by Flying Fox.

For the uninitiated, this is what zipping is:

They charge Rs. 2,000 per head for direct walk-ins, of which Rs. 500 is adjusted against the entry ticket. Again, lower prices are to be had if you pre-book online. It is open to all fit and healthy people above the age of 11 and under 115kg. Worth a try? Certainly.

Professional quality gear, all imported

Kitted up, ready to rock and roll!

We started with a steep 1 km trek to the top of the hill. It took us a good 20 minutes to reach the top. Everybody was huffing and puffing by then.

Atop is a small training line where participants are familiarized with the equipment, trained how to use them and taught what to do and what not to do. Communication signs, speed reduction and spin control techniques and rope crawling are also taught.

Right(strong) hand on top of the pulley, left hand on the short carabiner rope, lean backwards with right elbow straight, legs crossed and pulled inwards and off you go!

Neemrana has 5 creatively named zip lines. From top of the hill to bottom,

  1. To Qila Slammer  – 350m
  2. Where Eagles Dare – 400m
  3. Pussy Galore – 90m
  4. Goodbye Mr Bond – 250m
  5. The Big B – 175m

‘To Qila Slammer’ is ideal for beginners as it has a gentle slope and is long enough  to put into use everything that has been taught. The crosswind here is strong enough to cause you to spin but not enough to lead to loss of control. I spun a good 90 degrees, and did not pick up enough speed due to incorrect posture. Ended up crawling the last 20meters or so.

The second zip line ‘Where Eagles Dare’ is the longest and offers panoramic views of the Fort Palace, the hillside and the surrounding area. The crosswind here is strong and speeds as high as 45kmph can be reached with correct technique. This line is the best of the lot in my opinion. The instructors are very observant and helpful and sorted out my technique. I did not make any more mistakes.

Off I go…

Soaring over the hillside

The ‘Cross’ sign by the instructor means you are coming in too fast and need to slow down

Perfect landing. Notice how the right hand goes off the pulley and onto the rope to shed speed. ‘Hand brake’, if there ever was one!

The forth zip line ‘Goodbye Mr Bond’ suffers from rather strong crosswinds. It is very easy to spin on this one if you don’t hold on tight or have weak forearms. Constant corrections are needed.

The fifth and final line is not very long but is the steepest of the lot. You gain speed very quickly and come down fast. You have to slow down a fair bit at the end. It’s great fun.

View of the Fort-Palace from ‘The Big B’.

A parting shot, atop ‘Where Eagles Dare’

We got done with the Zipping by 5 PM.  After that, we spend a couple of hours exploring the property and soaking in the vistas.

A lotus pond fountain

The traditional baoli

A final parting shot

We bid Neemrana adieu just as it was starting to get dark. It was a lazy cruise all the way with the choicest music being played over the City’s excellent 8-speaker music system. We encountered a fair amount of traffic throughout. Night driving did bring to the fore a major flaw with the car. The headlights are ridiculously weak, especially the high beam. Six bulbs in all, including fog lamps, but the illumination is just not enough. Upgrade recommended.

We reached home at 9.30 pm that night after what was a short, but a rejuvenating and fun getaway. Until another Sunday…

Also watch: Honda City diesel video review