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Ford EcoSport to Corbett National Park : A quick weekend travelogue

  • Sep 03, 2014
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Background:
I have always been a Himalayan lover. Infact, as most of my friends know, one of the reasons for me to shift back to Delhi from Pune (in 2010) was this very, well, reason! The Himalayas are majestic, magical and serene and no matter which month you pick, paying a visit to the states of J&K, Himachal Pradesh or Uttaranchal will never disappoint you. This is also why I have never really been a fan of the base stations - places like Corbett etc have not tempted me and further, the roads leading to this area are also not the best.

The destination:
Jim Corbett park road

However when friends jump in and pester you for a quick weekend plan, places like Corbett start haunting you, especially with tempting offers being offered by almost all the resorts. Moving on the main thing then, a weekend trip to this place, right at the base of the hills and on the border of the Corbett National Park was finalized. I had a few options in mind as far as the choice of wheels was concerned but keeping in mind the 'bad road' from Moradabad onwards, I narrowed down onto the EcoSport.

The vehicle:
I have always had a soft corner of this SUV. I drove it first in Goa during the official media drive (click to read) and later had the EcoBoost version with me for a few days as well - click to readIt looks great, drives well and most importantly has excellent ground clearance to take care of off-road highway stretches as well as stone paths going down to the river bed. A quick call to Ford and the diesel version was made available without a question. Perfect!

Jim Corbett park road

Route:

The good part: No one likes preparing a route that involves bad roads. That said, the initial 185km from my house in West Delhi to the other end of Moradabad is easily doable in just over 3 driving hours. However for this you need to get going by 6am and this is essential if you want to miss the morning mess around Ghaziabad. We couldn't manage this completely and hence had our own share of slow moving traffic but soon the road cleared and the EcoSport was made to stretch its legs.
Now this little Ford makes use of the same 1.5-litre diesel unit that powers the new Fiesta. At 90PS, this engine isnt the most powerful around for a vehicle that weighs a lot (for a compact vehicle) but where this engine shines is the linear power delivery. NVH levels are excellent and only when you push the EcoSport hard does the typical diesel noise (and clatter) filter into the cabin. On the superb four lane highway (that is also home to a lot of suicidal homo sapiens), the EcoSport felt at home at an indicated 100km/h with the air-con running and four passengers feeling comfortable along with a boot full of essentials. That said, the fuel economy left a lot to be wanting, with the display registering under 17kmpl inspite of me not playing with the EcoSport at all.

The worst part:
So, till Morabadad, all stays well, including the fantastic break options after Gajraula. However, for Corbett, you need to drive till the end of bypass and take the sharp left going back into the city. From here on, the right to Kashipur comes after a few km and this is where the single lane road turns into a nightmare.
The 38-40km drive from here to Thakurdwara used to be nothing short of hell. With potholes and crates big enough to swallow a hatchback, driving on this stretch in anything other than a truck meant killing your own car. Things have improved but the bad stretches remain. To put things into perspective, inspite of  thin traffic, it took us an hour and a half to cover 38km which translates into an average speed of just over 25km/h!
From Thakurdwara, the road to Kashipur is average. What irritates you is lack of proper bypass and you waste a good 20-30 minutes to drive to the other end of the town.

[caption id="attachment_14372" align="alignnone" width="3264"]Jim Corbett park road Some of the better stretches enroute Ramnagar[/caption]

The beautiful part: Once past Kashipur, the 25odd km drive to Ramnagar is beautiful. Its a single lane road but one that is well tarred with slight hills and dense forest for company. Past Ramnagar, winding roads start and within a few kilometers, you have river Kosi on the right for company. The line-up of resorts start as well and our destination for the next two nights was Leela Vilas. It took us roughly 5 driving hours for this 265km drive.

[caption id="attachment_14373" align="alignnone" width="1500"]Jim Corbett park road The board says it all[/caption]

Around this area: 
Now the best thing to do is nothing. We went in the low season which meant it was best to waste time in the swimming pool. Day 1 was spent doing just that. We also caught up on sleep, explored the resort, played pool and made a few plans for the next day.

[caption id="attachment_14374" align="alignnone" width="1500"]Jim Corbett park road River Kosi[/caption]

The next day we decided to take an early morning safari. This was done in the resort's Gypsy but as expected, the best we saw were a few elephants and a distant cousin of the deer family. Three hours wasted, we were back in the resort for a quick nap before exploring the cooler climates of the swimming pool again. If you happen to take a safari too, dont pay over 3500-4000 for a Gypsy, guide charges included.

[caption id="attachment_14375" align="alignnone" width="1500"]Jim Corbett park road Hello wildlife![/caption]

Evening was spent lazing around the river side (Kosi river) and also indulging in some off-road antics in the Ford EcoSport. The massive ground clearance comes in very handy and this little SUV could drive over almost every obstacle. Ford should seriously consider coming up with a 4x4 version for the EcoSport - it will be a killer combination. Another highlight of the SUV is the fantastic audio system, one of the best stock systems in this price bracket.

[caption id="attachment_14376" align="alignnone" width="1500"]Jim Corbett park road The poser next to River Kosi[/caption]

The lazy drive back:
No holiday is complete without exploring the check-out time limit to the max. The lazy bums we are, we finally set back for Delhi at almost 1pm and this also meant trouble for our bellies. There is simply not a single good place to eat and take a break with a family all the way till Gajraula. Leaving late also meant spending more time in traffic once we crossed Hapur.

[caption id="attachment_14377" align="alignnone" width="1500"]Jim Corbett park road Some of the roads around Corbett are really nice![/caption]

When to go:
The Park is open all year long via the Jhrina zone but the main area becomes operational from 15th of Nov till the 15th June. This is because during the monsoon period, rains wash off the interiors roads and repair work takes time.

Jim Corbett park road

Where to stay: 
There are numerous options and various websites from where you book a resort. Off season also means massive discounts. We paid as low as Rs 10,800 per cottage for two nights with all meals. All the best, drive safe!

[caption id="attachment_14378" align="alignnone" width="1500"]Jim Corbett park road A final parting shot[/caption]

 
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