I was slightly uneasy and unsure as the question kept popping in my head. At Sandalkad Coffee Estate in Coorg, things looked simple and easy when I just entered. The approach road to our cottages was metalled and comfortable to drive on, but something told me that it is not a smooth ride all the way. We could see coffee plants spread thickly across the undulating slopes of the estate, interspersed with ‘jungle wood’. Small roads slit the bushy coffee plantation, leading to what appeared to be a mysterious and faraway destination. There was not much room to traverse on them in comfort, but we were going to drive in anyway.
The big huge Ford Endevour seemed a little too big to tread on these small roads. Coffee leaves kissed the windows on either side as we drove forward, occasionally brushing my face and reminding that they rule this place. I was behind the wheel, slightly uneasy and unsure but foot on the pedal anyway, diligently following our convoy. I was nervous when we started, felt slightly better in minutes, but became completely confident in no time. The Endeavour could take these roads without much effort. Show me tougher roads, baby! I am ready for them!
We were exploring Sandalkad estate in a convoy of Ford Endeavours, after driving through the highways and open roads on a trip that started from Bangalore. The drive began from the chaotic traffic on the roads of the city followed by a smooth drive on NICE road, and later along the open roads leading to Mysore and Coorg.
We started late in the day, but the quickly-accelerating Endeavour allowed us to pick up speeds and regain the time we had lost during the day. The automatic 4x4s that I drove seemed a little lethargic in the first two seconds when we stepped on the gas, but would reach three figure speeds in no time and helped us consume miles quickly.
Once in Coorg, we checked-in to Honey Pot Homes, located in the 250-acre expanse of Sandalkad Estate.
The next morning, we left the main roads and entered the barely navigable tracks of the estate, testing the Endeavour where it should really belong. At first, the roads were metalled and just wide enough for a big car. A little later, it narrowed down and the tarmac disappeared, but was still smooth enough to cruise without trouble. But very soon, we were trampling through the deeper sections of the estate where trees covered the open space above the road and coffee plants fought to cover-up whatever little is seen of the road below. The smooth unmetalled surface turned into an undulating road-like strip, which also disappeared very soon, leaving us with a moss-covered clearing to drive through.
Naturally, I was unsure in the beginning. “Is this safe? Will our vehicle take this? Wouldn’t we slip? Wouldn’t our wheels get stuck?”
It did not take long for the answers to appear. Whether it was uneven surfaces, moss covered track, muddy ground or rocky trail, it all seemed the same sitting behind the wheel. The Ford Endeavour that I drove took every kind of surface with composure, rarely letting the driver feel the randomness of the road. In the few times that I saw a really tricky way ahead, all that I had to do was to switch the little 4×4 knob and pretend that there is nothing wrong with the road. The drive was nearly as smooth as it would be on the tarmac, barely letting the driver feel the roughness of the surface beneath.
The pit-stops we made in the coffee estate was time reserved for lessons on brewing the perfect coffee. The Coffee Nazi would take over at each break, helping us understand the variety in coffee (from crude Arabica to highly refined Kopi Luwak) and explaining different ways to make coffee suitable to a variety of palates (from espresso with french press to filter coffee to foaming latte). I was a fan of his brew as soon as I took the first sip of black coffee made with a french press. Coffee never tasted so refined in any cafes that I normally hang out in. Now, after nearly six months after moving away from coffee and experimenting with other beverages, I am contemplating switching back to coffee, which would be made using a french press.
We moved out of Sandalkad by noon and made the long road back to the city. A good number of travellers were to catch an evening flight out of Bangalore and were worried about reaching on time, but once again, miles were quickly consumed on metalled roads and we were back in the city well in time.
Experience of driving the Ford Endeavour
The version of Endeavour we drove was a 4×4 automatic. It came with an on-the-fly switch to move from 4×2 to 4×4 and contained two 4×4 modes to tackle different terrains.
The SUV’s off-road performance is something that took me by surprise. We could take worst of the worst roads in Sandalkad Estate without the slightest fear of being cast away. In the rare moments when I saw a vehicle ahead of me in the convoy slipping, a quick move to 4×4 ensured that everything went normal. Even in very uneven surfaces and rocky roads, the steering wheel never felt the problems of the road and the shock absorbers kept us comfortable in the front seat. I was a little uneasy when I started on bad patches, but it took little time to become confident about the vehicle’s road handling.
On the highways, the Endeavour is quick to gain speed and it is comfortable to drive at high speeds. There is an initial delay in accelerating, which can test your patience. But two seconds later, you are quickly putting everyone else behind. In smaller roads, the vehicle can easily handle occasional move to the road’s shoulder to make way to oncoming vehicles, even at fairly high speeds. On curvy roads and swithbacks, Endeavour clearly falls behind more nimble vehicles. I had to struggle to keep up with our support vehicle – a Ford Figo – at the curves when we were in the hills of Coorg, but in whatever little straight stretches of road we could find, we would quickly recover the lost lead.
Overall, it is a pleasant vehicle to drive in. What impressed me most is the ease with which it takes rough roads.
About the Great Ford Endeavour Drive to Coorg
The Great Ford Endeavour Drive to Coorg was an event by invitation to experience off-road driving in coffee-estates of Coorg combined with coffee-brewing sessions from The Coffee Nazi, organized by Ford India.