With the rapidly improving surface condition of highways, long drives have become a weekend feature among motorists across the city. Kolaghat, lined with renowned dhabas and eateries, is probably the most favoured highway stopover but rarely do motorists venture beyond that. On a windy May morning when the weather forecast screamed Nor’westers, Team WHEELS braved the storms in a powerful TATA Hexa SUV and surveyed stopovers beyond Kolaghat upto Kharagpur on NH-16 (earlier known as NH-6) till Kharigeria, Tentulmuri (133 km) via Kharagpur on the way to Bhubaneswar and Kharagpur Chowringhee Morh. Cushioned in the captain seats of the 6-seater power-packed TATA Hexa XT, Team WHEELS drove through the 6-lane scenic NH-16 with lush green fields extending up to the horizon. For highway lovers, long drives on this stretch are as good as it gets. There’s a bit of romanticism in driving on a highway after splashes of heavy rain which gives the surroundings a new lease of life. Sandipa Restaurant NH-16 (NH-6), Bardabarh Deulia, Purba Medinipur, 65 km from Kolkata After crossing Kolaghat, the first stopover, Sandipa Restaurant (65 km) at Bardabarh, is a popular breakfast joint and an ideal setting for recuperating from the 2-hour drive. The shanty-like appearance and dingy setting might not be ideal but there’s no bargaining on the highway. This eatery on NH-16 has ample parking space that can accommodate up to 10 cars. The eatery has been in operation for almost 15 years and is open round-the-clock. The menu, elaborate and non-coherent like most highway eateries, can put you in a ‘what to eat’ dilemma but the important thing to remember is that this stopover is only to take a break from driving and to regain a bit of zest – so order light! The staple puri-sabzi or toast-and-omelette with a cup of tea or coffee should do the trick. You can either sit inside the eatery or have your order delivered to your vehicle, but we would suggest you get out of the car and stretch your muscles before eating. Sandipa Restaurant accepts debit and credit cards which is an added bonus. After breakfast, Team WHEELS resumed the drive on the buttery-smooth highway in the TATA Hexa. The driver’s seat in the Hexa is 8-way adjustable and built to suit all body structures which make taking the wheels on this SUV a delight. Its 19-inch supreme alloy wheels and impressive road control is truly a joy to behold. The only uncomfortable experience of driving on a highway that has just witnessed heavy rain is the glaring sun that follows. The high moisture in the atmosphere acts as a reflector of the sunrays but luckily the Hexa has retractable window sun blinds that protect the second row passengers from the strong sunlight. Hotel Hot & Hot NH-16 (NH-6) Debra Dwarikapur Paschim Medinipur, 98 km from Kolkata After leaving Hotel Sandipa and driving for a good 33 km, you’ll arrive at Hotel Hot & Hot (98 km) after Debra in Dwarikapur on NH-16 which is a great stopover for some between-meals snacking. The parking space is big enough to fit in a good 10 cars. They have a front porch which doubles as a great spot to watch cars whizzing past on the highway. Running for close to 4 years now, the hotel cum restaurant has a 64-seater joint with some enticing snack options. The coffee is great too and serves as a legit excuse to take a break from driving and freshening up for the road ahead. En-route to the Kharagpur traffic roundabout, if the highway lover in you refuses to turn around and head back, take the left exit 8 km before the Kharagpur Chowringhee Morh and continue on the NH-16 (earlier known as NH-60) leading to Bhubaneswar, Odisha. The terrain has prominent crests and troughs and is a delight to drive on. The scenery is packed with paddy fields, wild grass and the sight of the blue sky. The Hexa with its powerful 2.2 litre Varicor-400 diesel engine delivering 156 PS of power and 400 Nm torque drove like a hungry beast on the prowl; its 6-speed transmission finely tuned to carry all 6 Team WHEELS members effortlessly. The elegantly-designed body looked chiselled under the sun as the DRL upped the oomph factor. This stretch of highway also has a few Krishnachura trees, a sort of natural make-up for the surroundings, if you may. Debloke A-1 Dhaba NH-16 (NH-60), Kharigeria Tentulmuri, Near Bengal Energy, 133 km from Kolkata Nestled in a pleasant junction amidst a row of trees, Debloke A-1 Dhaba in Kharigeria NH-16 (NH-60) on the way to Odisha is a pleasant stopover location. Whether you’re stopping for lunch or a night halt, this welcoming hotel lets you settle right in. With an overall warm and cosy ambience and a playground beside the main building, Debloke A-1 Dhaba promises a comfortable experience. Accommodation is open 24 hours with the restaurant serving from 7 am to 11 pm. The large parking can house up to 25 cars. The rooms and food are both reasonably priced. The menu at Debloke A-1 Dhaba is an elaborate affair with a mix of both Chinese and Indian dishes but we suggest you stick to the basic Indian items for a better all-round taste. Basundhara NH-16 (NH-60) Changul (opp. Tractor India), 126 km from Kolkata If scenic sunsets are your thing then Hotel Basundhara on the down-lane from Odisha to Kharagpur is your best bet. This stopover is defined by its front yard that doubles up as a great spot to click that perfect highway group photo. You will also get an uninterrupted view of the highway and the cars speeding across while you sip your afternoon tea. If you’re stopping for a meal then go for their Thali options which are economical and readily available. The seating inside Basundhara is basic and we would advise you to sit under the front shade instead. The front façade of the stopover is lined with the quintessential flags found at most highway hotels and they make for a scenic backdrop. The view of the auburn sky during sunset from the front yard of this stopover is truly majestic. Hotel Kaushik NH-16 (NH-6), Rupnarayanpur Near Kharagpur Chowringhee Morh, 120 km from Kolkata A little heavy on the pocket, Hotel Kaushik is one of the most well-maintained stopovers on the NH-16. The furniture and decor are quasi-premium while the restaurant has comfortable couch-like seats. The front yard is spacious and can easily accommodate more than 30 cars, so if you’re moving with a large fleet of vehicles, parking would not be a problem. The look and feel of the establishment along with the signages has a movie vibe to it and looks attractive. After exiting Hotel Kaushik we made our way back to Kolaghat from Kharagpur, accompanied by torrential rains. The TATA Hexa XT with its rain-sensing wipers with automatically varying speed handled the oncoming gush of water superbly. The Hexa has been expertly designed to battle conditions like these – the Traction Control System (TCS) prevents the loss of road grip while the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) prevents skidding off the road surface alongwith the Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) system on varying road conditions and speed. These features came in extremely useful as Team WHEELS navigated through the treacherous rain on the highway amidst a fierce onslaugt of high velocity winds. Sun Restaurant NH16 (NH-6), Uttar Jilanda, Purba Medinipur, 67 km from Kolkata On the Kolkata bound lane of NH-16 from Kharagpur, after navigating through the heavy downpour, as the wind velocity decreased and the thunderstorms started to recede, Team WHEELS stopped for a quick round of refreshment at Sun Restaurant in Uttar Jilanda. There are two seating areas inside the restaurant – the general, which bears a crummy and dingy vibe, and an air-conditioned family hall that is clean and tidy. The eatery is open 24 hours. According to the manager, keeping the general dining space clear at all times is tough due to the large number of customers coming in at every hour. The tea here has a strong brew that freshens you up. This restaurant has been running for five years and does well as a quick stopover spot. As Team WHEELS exited Sun Restaurant, the weather started brightening. The persisting light rain created a great driving atmosphere. Hexa’s Harman touchscreen infotainment with the 10-speakers JBL system added a much-needed upbeat vibe along the route that paired perfectly with the atmosphere outside making the drive super pleasurable. Sandipa hotel 2 NH-16 (NH-6) Bardabarh, Deulia Purba Medinipur, 65 km from Kolkata The final stopover on NH-16 before we reached Kolaghat on our way back to Kolkata was Sandipa Hotel and Restaurant (a branch of the up-lane restaurant we discussed earlier) near Deulia. This is a much cleaner setting and greatly favoured by upwardly mobile motorists. Evening snacks are a specialty and so is their coffee. Kolkata to Kharagpur being an 4-5 hour return drive, an evening stopover with snacks and refreshments is essential and Sandipa Hotel and Restaurant does not disappoint on that front. Apart from the usual snack options, they have a delectable South Indian item list which is freshly prepared. After snacking, Team WHEELS left for Kolkata with its companion the TATA Hexa roaring down the highway - its captain seats specially designed to reduce journey fatigue and enhance the overall ride experience. So the next time you're crusing on the highway on a long journey or just exploring its never-ending stretches beyond Kolaghat, these stopovers would serve to be ideal options for recharging along the way.