A visit to God's Own Country- Kerala was long overdue from my end especially with the region getting its first spell of rains earlier than expected. Lush Green landscapes glowing greener, the earthy smells of the rain tingling your nose and the serene backwaters overflowing with life. Sounds pretty perfect for a holiday and so when the PR team from Vespa invited us for a short experiential ride with the new Vespa S, my bags were packed in a jiffy. So yes, it was a bit of a holiday for us auto journos who deserved this break from attending new car launches and doing endless reviews.
Destination: Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom
We rode the new Vespa S recently in Bangalore and were impressed with the way the scooter wasn't just a good-looking, expensive bike but had impressive riding dynamics to match. Piaggio has unveiled it's 'Do You Vespa?'marketing campaign and this trip to Kerala was to create some buzz about this campaign and catch the attention of the young, affluent scooter buyer..The campaign is to highlight how Vespa customers are a different brood of riders altogether - more independent and definitely more evolved than regular scooter owners.
On a dark and cloudy day, we landed in Nedumbassery airport near Kochi and our cab driver seemed almost relieved at the anticipation of more rains. This was his second trip of the day ferrying from the airport to Kumarakom and he gave us an early warning that the traffic blocks might make the drive almost 2 hours long. But like most of the journey, the anticipation of being by the backwaters helped us smile despite the foreseen delay! And our smile got wider when we bypassed city traffic seamlessly and reached the Kumarakom Lake resort in just 90 minutes. This resort was and is still considered by many as the prettiest luxury resort in Kumarakom with many high profile patrons including Prince Charles and Duchess Camila recently.
Vespa scooters greeted us at the lake resort with a few being parked all over including one interestingly on a traditional Kerala canoe. It was an almost perfect setting for the fun evening that was planned for us. The backwaters looked quite scenic and calm during sunset and we spent an hour just sitting by the lake side before the insects chased us away. There were performances by a renowned sand artist and a standup comedian who managed to lighten the mood further. We had quite a bit of riding the next day and so we decided to head back and catch an early shut eye.
The next morning, we were greeted by a blue sky, sunshine and not a sign of rain. Pretty perfect conditions for a TV shoot and we grabbed an early bite and were all geared to head out. But strangely, the Vespa team weren't expecting us so early and so getting the scooter keys took its time.
So lets talk about the Vespa S for a bit, shall we? The latest model in the Vespa family and arguably the most good-looking of the lot, the Vespa S has quite a bit going for it. From the cool rectangular headlamps to the bold chrome facia and the funky coulous on offer, there is no lack of oomph in this bike. I had already ridden the orange scooter and so it was the elegant white that caught my eye this time. But this is Vespa we are talking and so even the name of the colours have something Italian in them. Read for yourself - Arancio Taormina (Orange), Matte Black, Rosso Dragon (Red), Monte Bianco (White).
We finally got on the road, still planning our route to explore the Kerala countryside. We decided to head first to the closest ferry point at Kumarakom, load the scooter on a ferry and explore the scenic backwaters. We located a ferry stop about 4 kilometres from the lake resort and lady luck was smiling as the next ferry due at 9 am would load both passengers and vehicles. This was the most fun part of our Vespa adventure as loading the scooter on a ferry would be a perfect way to get a real world feel of the backwaters.
It was a one hour ferry ride from Kumarakom to Manakunnam wading through the backwaters and the onlookers were pleasantly surprised to see the Vespa on board. After all, Vespa scooters makes heads turn with their retro timeless design and we weren't surprised by the attention it got. Piaggio does charge quite a premium on the scooter just for the attention it gets on the road or sometimes even off it.
On reaching Manakunnam located about 20 kilometres from the point of origin, we unloaded the Vespa to begin our long ride back. The roads in Kerala are mostly two-lanes with lots of private and government buses taking up most of the roads. With decent riding dynamics, we had to little to complain on the Vespa which stayed steady all through the way back. The roads were a bit wet and slippery after the previous night's downpour but the Vespa's braking was quite impressive inspiring confidence. And riding through lush green landscapes can make it quite difficult to keep your eyes on the road.
Exploring the quaint countryside on a scooter has its own charm but if you want to do it with some style like we did in Kumarakom, a Vespa could just be your best bet.