“Always dare to dream. For as long as there’s a dream, there is hope, and as long as there is hope, there is joy in living.” ~ Invajy
What are dreams without an adventure? Without the curiosity to explore the unknown? Every auto enthusiast dream of going to the unknown and exploring what has not been done. Not been driven. I, too, always dreamt of heading out on the open roads and exploring the unknown. One such dream has always been to explore the 7 states of the northeastern part of India, famously known as the 7 Sisters. This journey of mine is a pen down of me achieving this dream of mine with two perfect companions, the striking Volkswagen Virtus and the stunning Volkswagen Taigun. Over 12 days, I took on an adventure that spanned the entirety of the 7 sisters of the Northeast.
My adventure started in the mesmerising city of Shillong in Meghalaya, where I spent the day exploring the streets of the town and the cafes too. That is where I first noticed the Virtus and the Taigun turning a lot of heads. Yes, not only did the Virtus and Taigun grab the people’s attention, the exterior beauty of both these vehicles is something even I had to admire. The Taigun exudes character and charisma, turning heads whenever it swerves in style. Functionally conceptualised and cleverly constructed, the muscular design exudes power, strength and sturdiness.
Moreover, the first-in-segment infinity LED tail lights, 3D chrome step grille, LED headlights with DRLs and the muscular elevated bonnet really caught my attention. The Virtus, too, was highly appealing to the eye. Its striking design exudes elegance every time you set your sights on it. I really spent time admiring the sharp shoulder lines, its signature grille with the integrated LED headlights and DRLs and those 16-inch alloys. I spent nearly all my time just driving around town, absorbing all the pretty sights of Shillong right up to the point I had to head to my next destination.
Next on my bucket list was to visit Kaziranga National Park, which is located in Assam. The park hosts two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also a sanctuary for these animals, protected from poachers and hunters. Now, the roads in Assam are nice long highways, but the people’s driving sense is really worrisome. But the Volkswagen Taigun and Virtus protected me on this leg of mine. The Taigun achieved 5 stars in Global NCAPS’s updated crash tests, becoming one of the first models ever in India to achieve five stars for both adult and child occupants’ protection. With over 40+ safety features such as ESC, hill hold control, multi-collision brakes and 6-airbags, I felt extremely safe and cocooned in the Taigun. So were my colleagues in the Virtus, which also carries all the same safety equipment that the Taigun offers.
After admiring the one-horned rhinos, I left early the next day to travel to Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh. Frankly, this was the most fun I had on my adventure since the roads leading to Ziro Valley were freshly paved, allowing me to showcase the fun-to-drive element of the Taigun and Virtus. At the helm of the Virtus, I was carving the corners with so much ease it kept me smiling the entire way. The 1.0-litre TSI motor making 155PS and 178Nm had me cover the 13-plus hours of driving so effortlessly. Plus, the 6-speed torque converter kept me in the perfect rev range to extract all the power from the motor. To further enhance my drive, I also used the paddle shifters, which really had me brimming with a smile from ear to ear. At Ziro valley, I visited Seeh Lake to take in the sights of the mountains and the lake formed at the bottom of it. After such a thrilling drive up the hills, I really needed the serenity that the lake had to offer and spent my evening camping beside the lake, taking in the sights and spending the night star gazing before drifting off into a slumber sleep.
My colleagues awakened me before the crack of dawn the next day since our journey for this leg was extremely long and arduous. We had to drive nearly 400 kilometres towards our next destination, Kohima in Nagaland. I took the keys for the Taigun for the dash down the hills, and that is where the Taigun surpassed my expectations. While the engine specifications were the same as the Virtus, our Taigun was a 6-speed manual. While cruising down the mountains, I constantly shuffled through the gears, which was possible due to the light clutch and the 14-hour journey that we had to cover was completed effortlessly. We woke up the next day to explore the heritage village of Naga in Kohima to explore the heritage that Nagaland is immensely proud to showcase. That is where I realised that Volkswagen, too, has quite a rich legacy that they have created in India. When people think of Volkswagen, they remember superior build quality, safety and, most importantly, a fun-to-drive vehicle. Such as, the Polo GT that was sold in India ignited the flame in most young Indians to own a fun-to-drive car, and the Virtus and Taigun are carrying forward that legacy that is built by Volkswagen. For a German automaker to create such a vibrant heritage in India is something that is quite commendable.
While driving from Kohima to Imphal, located in Manipur, I began to ponder something. I have noticed that in recent times, people are shying away from driving altogether for many reasons. It could be due to the long commute hours, people moving towards shared mobility such as public transit or something else. But that made me wonder if the flame ignited in masses for the love of driving has reduced or not. Now, due to my work, I do get to drive quite often, just like I am doing on the 7 Sisters adventure. But has the community of people who love driving become a minority? Honestly, I don’t think so. Like me, others too love to explore and visit the unknown, and as I spent more time with the Volkswagen Virtus and the Volkswagen Taigun, my passion and love of driving were just getting intense. Over the 300-plus kilometres, I spent most of my time trying to find ways to rekindle the love for driving for the masses and realised that they will be able to experience it best when they take the keys to either of these vehicles and go and explore just like I am. While staying at Imphal, we were advised by the locals to start out as early as possible due to the road conditions of Mizoram. But we didn’t realise how bad it really was until we faced our most challenging drive.
From Imphal, we were heading to Aizawl in Mizoram, and we made the mistake of thinking that the roads would be passable. But we were in for a surprise. Since Mizoram is working on building a national highway, the current road conditions are far from ideal. This was a true test for the Virtus and the Taigun. For over 200 plus kilometres of our 400-kilometre drive, we crawled at just 30-40km/h due to the amount of dust on the roads. At some moments, we were driving blind due to the dust cloud left behind by the vehicle in front of us. Moreover, a few hours after leaving Imphal, we came to realise that we didn’t have any fuel stations for nearly 200 kilometres, nor did we have any place to stop to grab a meal. My team and I kept pushing through until we were nearly out of fuel and had to stop in a quaint little town in the middle of the night and wake the locals to fetch us some fuel. For the first time in my life, we had to purchase fuel in black and get nearly 25+ litres of fuel for both our vehicles to continue our adventure.
On this leg of our journey, I really appreciate the fuel consumption of the Volkswagen Virtus and Taigun. Even though the road conditions were beyond pitiful, both these vehicles offered nearly 14 km/l, and we could extract every ounce of fuel left in the tanks to get us to Aizawl. Furthermore, the roads were paved with stones and soft mud in most places, making us assume the ride would be extremely uncomfortable. But the Virtus and Taigun surpassed our expectations yet again by being exceptionally reliable and comfortable on this leg of our journey. Fatigue is something that plagues every long adventure, but thanks to the Virtus and the Taigun, we could keep pushing till we reached our destination, which took us nearly 17 hours to complete. After being completely exhausted from the drive the day before, the team decided to take a break at Aizawl, and we were glad that we did. The city is extremely beautiful, dotted with plenty of cafes and pretty little houses. We spent the day gorging on some delicious pork momos, taking in the sights, and trying to get as much rest as possible before heading to our final leg of the journey to Tripura.
My last stop on this adventure across the 7 sisters was the Unkoti Rock formations in Tripura, and it indeed was a beauty to behold. Unakoti, famously known as Angkor Wat of the North-East, is a sculptural emblem and ancient Shaivite place that hosts rock carvings of figures and images of gods and goddesses. It is a place of worship with huge rock reliefs celebrating Shiva. So it was the perfect place to end our adventure and take the blessings of Lord Shiva and thank the lords for keeping us protected during our epic journey. Honestly though, the true saviours that kept me protected and comfortable during this epic 2500-kilometre adventure of mine were the Volkswagen Virtus and the Volkswagen Taigun. No matter what I put them through, they overcame it easily without even breaking a sweat. After spending such a long time with both these vehicles, I realised the value of the products created by Volkswagen. While the Taigun and Virtus might have their German roots, they indeed are Made-in-India products not only because they are heavily localised during their production but also managed to take on some of the most challenging roads in India and succeeded.
But what truly has etched a place in my heart is the entire northeastern belt of India. Before I set off on this adventure, I was given plenty of advice and guidance about the local culture of the Northeast and how unfriendly the people there are. But it was all bogus. I realised that the Northeast is unexplored and has a lot of beauty and culture to offer. I truly enjoyed every minute of my adventure and also appreciate all the help and love given to us by the locals when we really needed it.
If I had to give one piece of advice to you folks reading this. I recommend applying for the state tourist permits online beforehand while planning your travel, as that is something that took the most amount of time for us. Yes, some belts of the Northeast still are being developed, and like we experienced terrible patches of roads, you face the same as well now. But in a few years, all those will change and exploring the Northeast of India will become more accessible.
Like I mentioned at the start, this adventure has been a dream of mine for the longest time, and, well, dreams do come true. So never stop dreaming. Moreover, my standing ovation to the Virtus and the Taigun for how capable these vehicles are no matter what you throw at them, giving you all the creature comforts while keeping you highly safe !! No complaints, only big smiles, and if I could hug these beasts, I would do that :-)
Photography - Team TopGear