Did you know that the weight of all the ants is more than that of all humans on Earth? Domesticated and wild animals surround us. We rarely get the chance to wander into the wild with our work schedules and beautiful cars. Lets get down to another Into the Wild, where we experience the beauty of Hyundai’s latest Verna 2023 on wheels while exploring the wilderness of nature around India. It’s summertime, and we scout the states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh at Rajaji Tiger Reserve, home to over 50 species of mammals, including Asian elephants and tigers, over 400 species of birds, and reptilian fauna, including pythons, cobras and king cobras. Hoping to spot a few and make some visual memories, we drove through excellent roads, twisties and dense forests. Accompanied by the utter smoothness of Hyundai Verna’s 1.5L MT and nature as a quest, we headed out into the wild.
Rajaji Tiger Reserve inherited its name from Rajaji Sanctuary, a unit of Rajaji National Park, created in 1983. Rajaji would sound like some king owned this place, but the fact is that Rajaji Tiger Reserve gets its name from C. Rajagopalachari, the first governor-general of independent India. When Rajaji was invited to hunt back in the day, he was so impressed by the biological diversity and amazing wildlife in the area that instead of hunting, he suggested creating a wildlife sanctuary. The tiger reserve is spread across 1075 sq kms, and the river Ganga separates the east and west sides of Rajaji Tiger Reserve. The amalgamation of the Rajaji Sanctuary, Motichur Sanctuary, and Chilla range of the Pauri forest division formed the tiger reserve and park.
Being summer and a strict place protected by rangers, the Rajaji Tiger Reserve and National Park are open for visiting twice a day. Sometimes the park is shut to outsiders, especially during the rainy season. We tried our luck nonetheless to spot some fantastic wildlife. Driving through the twisties, we encountered the first gate of Rajaji Tiger Reserve located in Uttarakhand, and to our despair, the gate has been inoperable since the Covid lockdowns. On further enquiry, the next gate was across state borders—a chance to drive the Hyundai Verna and its light steering through some amazing twisties of the mountains.
Hyundai offers the Verna in both naturally aspirated 1.5L engines and turbo-charged 1.5L engines offered in a manual and automatic transmission, with the latter sporting a 7-speed DCT. We drove the manual, and for regular users, this is a calm sedan for everyone’s abode. The engine is smooth, and the manual gearbox is a joy. The roads in Uttarakhand are relatively friendly, and the Verna seems at home across India, tackling all kinds of road conditions with that impressive soft-sprung suspension setup. The ride quality feels much more premium than the asking price for this vehicle. What also helps is the addition of ambient lights on the doors and dashboard, with 64 colours to choose from, or you can simply make your own.
Reaching Uttar Pradesh was a breeze, and exploring that the Rajaji Tiger Reserve has five gates and all spread across the borders of two states, was fascinating. The Verna made it all look effortless. On reaching the gates, Rangers informed us that the beautiful Verna would not be allowed inside the Tiger Reserve, and we switched into some capable open jeeps. We tried both the morning and evening slots, but the expanse of Rajaji Tiger Reserve is beyond a day’s exploration. We were lucky enough to spot some reptilian beauties, wild boars and a couple of Asian elephants. Searching big cats over a thousand square kilometres when their population stands at 18 was like spotting a Unicorn. The helpful rangers tried their best, but the heat and dense forest were enough to tire our senses and camouflage the best wildlife fauna of Rajaji Tiger Reserve from our visual cortex. It is simply magnificent to experience wildlife in its natural habitat. The animals have a sense of freedom reflected in their behaviour and movements across the acres of land these two state governments preserved for them.
Rajaji Tiger Reserve, the National Park, and all the Rajaji wildlife projects are a beautiful message to society, proving that it takes one to start a change, and change is the only constant. Chandrakant Rajagopalachari did not just save most of the animals but helped preserve the wildlife biodiversity for our later generations to experience animals outside digital screens. On that note, go ahead, live your wildlife, splurge on a sleek-looking sedan, and upgrade your sense of space and style, until the next adventure, heading into the wild with memories.
Photography - Harman Preet Singh