Yellowstone National Park #4

Our jet-lag had got us by the tails. We all woke up at different times. All of us woke up before 5 am. The plan was wake up at 6:30, but our bodies were still in Mumbai Time!

After breakfast and checking out, we sat in the warmth of a fire that had been set up. There is nothing quite as soothing as the warmth of a fire, the crackling sound it makes, the randomness in its designs and patterns. It really calmed us all down as we waited for a van to take us to the rent-a-car.

Ruhi and I browsed through their cars, and finally settled on a Ford Escape. Owing to its huge trunk, comfortable seats, and – most importantly – in-built navigation system, we thought it was perfect. The person at the counter happened to be from Goregaon, so we got chatting. Delightful person. He took me through it all in Gujrati, which I understand, but can’t quite speak much.

I turned and the engine purred to life. We were on our way. At around 9 a.m., we set out to White Sulphur Springs, on way to Yellowstone, USA.


The road was mostly flat. If you live in India, you have never seen this much flat land in your life. There were no mountains for miles. The ground was brownish-yellow, but I suspect that if one goes in the correct season, it would all be lush and green.




As we got closer, the view got better. The mountains started coming in, and with them, the snow. There is nothing like the feeling of snow: its shining white colour, the cold it brings along with it, the warmth you get from the inside… one can never get enough. I hadn’t expected this. By my plans, we were to come back up north via the snow, but I had not anticipated this beauty at all.




There were vast stretches of road where we were the only car on the road. No one else seemed to want to be here, and that really surprises me. It was also sort of soothing. We had a little joke in the car where we would start clapping and cheering when we saw a car.


All said and done, the car ride from Calgary to White Sulphur Springs, Montana, U.S.A. was about 10 hours. Adding to that the eleven hour layover we had at Heathrow Airport the previous day, and the two nine hour flights it took to get here, it’s safe to say we were all tired out of our minds.


The Motel we stayed at, Spa Hot Springs Motel, was special.  It had three pools with pure natural sulphur spring water, each pool set to a different temperature. The lowest was 98 degrees Fahrenheit.

We got into our swimming suits and to the pools. You will never have a more soothing experience in your life. I don’t know what it is – the high temperature or the Sulphur, but my God, such a refreshing experience.

Tiredness if any vanished.  It was so good, for a moment I considered changing our route so that we could come back to this place on our return route to the Canadian Rockies. Alas, that cannot be. We have better things planned for the way back. More exciting news to come!

Canadian Rockies #3: Planning

During our driving in first half of May, the winter snow will still be there. Some lakes will still be frozen in Canadian Rockies and a few roads in Yellowstone will still be closed.   But the snow all around will have its own charm and excitement.  Considering these closures, I worked the route, keeping maximum time on road to be 10 hours per day.

Against the expectation of 30-45 days for Canadian visas, we got our visas in less than 2 weeks.

To ensure that the car has enough space to carry the baggage of all four of us, I selected a compact SUV after assessing its cubic feet storage capacity.  I opted to hire it from an agency a few km outside the airport as it reduced my rental cost to less than half with hotel pickup facility.

Hotel bookings were done at each location, giving preference to “free cancellation” option terms.  That gave me scope to change the route to certain extent while finalizing the plans.

Bags are packed and all set to go on tomorrow, the 30th April !

If you would like to receive more frequent (almost daily) updates of this trip here are the social media links: FacebookInstagram.

Canadian Rockies and Yellow Stone Drive #2 – Why ?

Why Canadian Rockies and Yellowstone NP? 

On one of my business trips to the U.S.IN 2008, a prospective customer asked me about my recent trek to the Mount Everest Basecamp. It turns out he was a regular trekker. He told me about his favourite hike-and-drive: the Canadian Rockies. That’s what created the spark to explore this Range.

Research revealed that it would be thrilling to go from Vancouver to Alaska via the Canadian Rockies. However, I had other trips lined up, so the Rockies had to wait.

In 2014, I went to Alaska. Though I wanted to drive to Alaska, I soon realised that taking a cruise to Alaska would be an equally exhilarating experience. So, we took a ship, and once more, the Rockies were put in the back seat.

After Alaska, I drove in Iceland, and completed the epic 22,000 kilometer ‘Road to London’ drive, I began to contemplate the big question: what’s next? I didn’t want to stop. This world is too beautiful to not explore!  After some research, three options presented themselves: Egypt and Jordan, an African Safari, or the Canadian Rockies.  Pushpa and I also desired to take some of our grandchildren on this trip.

Nishi, who was with us for the ‘Road to London’ drive, was going to begin her 5th standard in a new school. She didn’t want to miss the last few days in her current school, so she passed on this trip. Aarya is just 4, so she was out of the question. That left my other two grandchildren Arsh and Ruhi, who instantly consented to join.

I presented the options to them. Arsh was totally indifferent. Ruhi, however, was all for the Rockies, owing to the abundance of snow. She said, “I just love snow. Traveling in snow sounds really exciting to me.” The grandchildren had spoken. Rockies.  Looking to their other educational commitments, early May appeared to be the only possibility.

Normal season for Rockies is July to October.  May is an odd season as some of the roads would still be blocked with snow and the lakes at higher altitudes would still be in frozen state.  But the month of May gives us an advantage.  More of snow everywhere.  Hiking and trekking on snow covered mountains, frozen lakes and river glaciers would be a real fun.  Driving around these mountains during that period would be an added excitement.

Bingo! The plan was set. Pushpa, Arsh, Ruhi, and I were going drive around the Canadian Rockies. But as the title of this blog suggests, we are also going to Yellowstone National Park. Where did that come from?

Arsh and Ruhi’s educational commitments in India were very complicated. After factoring in these commitments, and the correct season, this is what we came up with: we had to start the trip on any day between the 1st and 3rd of May and continue for two weeks before returning to the motherland. For the Rockies, 8 to 10 days were adequate, but we wanted to spend the maximum of available time with the grandchildren. So, we had a few more days in hand. Hence, I decided to put in the Yellowstone National Park. That takes 7 days. We’d be done 3 or 4 days too late. I dropped Vancouver, and instead we would land in Calgary, and do a sort of circle, south into the U.S., to visit Yellowstone, and then back up north into the Rockies, making the most efficient use of our time. That was it!   A drive through the Canadian Rockies and Yellowstone National Park was decided.

I will try to keep you updated on this trip.  If you would like to receive more frequent (almost daily) updates here are the social media links: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Canadian Rockies & Yellowstone NP Drive #1

It is time, once again, to leave the comforts of home, and venture into the hills. On the first of May, 2018, Pushpa and I will be going to the Rockies in Canada, and Yellowstone National Park, in the USA on a solo self-drive. We will be travelling with our two grandchildren, Arsh and Ruhi, who will be 16 and 14 respectively on the day of our departure. I hope to share everything from planning to execution, including pictures of the best-looking snow capped mountains (apart from the Himalayas, which always hold a special place in my heart), frozen lakes, glaciers, high rising geysers, hot sulphur springs, and wild animals in their natural habitats. Stay tuned for further updates.

Our Chinese Drivers Made the Night Exciting

A memory of crossed by and I thought of sharing it with you.

“Mission Accomplished!” No, I am not referring to ‘Road to London’. This is a flashback after completing the tough Parikrama of precious snow mountain Kailash in 2004. It meant trekking at an altitude of over 20,000ft above sea level. It was a 3-day steep climb which my wife, 4 other devotees and I took up to Mt Kailash in Tibet.

3 Land Cruisers waited for us. 9 of us, including 3 trek staff with their stove, gas cylinder, utensils and food supplies. After a short drive, the vehicle, which was carrying our cooking material and tents, ran into some technical problem. We decided to adjust in the two other vehicles. We had to leave the camping and tent material behind because we were not expecting to need them till we reached Kathmandu.  We moved all other materials for cooking to our vehicles.

Along the way, there were no teashops or restaurants, so dinner had to be cooked by the staff.  At that stage, we realised that we had forgotten to move the gas cylinder! We had to satisfy our appetite with biscuits and dry snacks. We found a Tibetan teashop only the next afternoon. In its display, it had cooked rice with meat. Being vegetarians, we requested him to serve us the rice with curd. He obliged by removing the meat from the rice. We couldn’t bear the thought of touching the rice, let alone swallow it. We requested him to make just plain rice for us. He had already cooked all the rice he had with meat.

We made a meal out of snacks yet again. The stock of dry food was near exhaustion too. By evening, we were still looking for a place that would serve us anything vegetarian. It was getting colder; we were already at 10ºC. Heavy winds made it even colder. Thank God, we were inside a vehicle.

It started raining, taking the temperature further down. The route we were on, was completely isolated and was monitored by armed Chinese soldiers. We reached near a check post where a nominal toll had to be paid. Trying to save on that, our Chinese drivers took a ‘short cut’ – an unpaved, dirt road. We were completely unaware of the drivers’ decision because we didn’t understand their language.

When our vehicle made sounds but wasn’t moving, we figured something was wrong. What a wonderful scene to be stuck in – absolutely dark, deep mud, rains, heavy wind and very low temperature made extra special by a grumbling, hungry stomachs in tired bodies. Using sign language, the drivers assured us that we needn’t worry because the other vehicle would pull the stuck one out. Instead of bringing the second vehicle behind the first one to pull it out, drivers organised the other vehicle to drive to the left of the first one so that they could pull out the stuck vehicle from the front. Before we realised what was happening the second vehicle found itself stuck in mud – much deeper mud. Both vehicles were stuck with super-intelligent drivers and stupid passengers!

We all had to get down in the muck to push the vehicle behind. No more protection from the covered vehicle. This hardship was unnecessarily when they could have been driven on good roads for a nominal toll.

Now the car had to be pulled backwards by another vehicle. It would be a few hours or may be the entire night before another car passed by around that isolated area. We were told that we couldn’t sit inside the vehicle. The good thing is that be it good times or bad, they are never permanent. Our Sherpa set out on foot and came back within half an hour having found a structure, half a kilometer away. One of the drivers went there to check it out. He came back in 15 minutes with permission from the owner of the structure to stay there till we got help for our vehicles. Ha! At least we had some protection from the freezing night.

Since we had three women amongst us, I went ahead to check if the place was safe. As soon as I entered, there was a strong, sweet smell of alcohol. Hundreds of beer cans were scattered around. A large stock of liquor bottles and hundreds of used empty bottles were stacked on the side. I knew Pushpa would not be able to tolerate the smell. But then, we didn’t really have an option, did we? To make things a little comfortable for her, I kicked the empty cans aside. There were 3 benches with thin mattresses over them – good enough to lie down for a while. I could sit and share Pushpa’s bed.

There were 3 more chairs. My co-passengers could use two empty ones. The caretaker of the place already occupied one. He was an elderly face, full of wrinkles, large wide red eyes, long beard, a conical cap. It would be fine with us as long as he didn’t use the long gun in his hand. Pushpa tried to relax by lying on the bed. His chair was very close to Pushpa’s bed. He probably had weak eyes and time and again bowed down inches away from Pushpa’s face. That scared her. She asked me to tell him to look the other side. I told her, “I dare not say that as it was not a very bad situation as yet! After all he had gun in his hand!”

After an hour and half, we had our vehicles back and continued our journey by the proper road. At the check post, the army guy checked the vehicle, asked a few questions and allowed the vehicles to pass. There was no toll to be paid!

That was the occasion when we practically had to starve for cooked food for 3 days.

Experienced and Written By: Badri Baldawa

Edited By : Meeta Kabra

Road to London – Week 10-11 – Mission Accomplished

Here is how we finally reached our destination – London.


We were driving at a speed of 120km/hr when the stork hit our car.  I saw 3 birds, a large one with two little ones, flying together above the car in front of me.  In a fraction of a second, the huge bird hit the windshield, shattering it.  Since the windshields are made of toughened laminated glass, the broken pieces of glass do not fall out.  But in this case the impact was such that small particles of glass spread all over, inside the car.  They even spilled over Nishi who was sitting in the rear seat.  My spectacles saved my eyes. Fortunately, I was in a right frame of mind and ensured

that the vehicle does not go out of control. I slowly pulled the car over to the shoulder.

Though it was difficult, I managed to drive for about 100 kms to get to a safe place to park the car for a few hours.  BMW agents had a 10-day wait to get a new windshield.  That would have completely upset our schedule.  However, my co-travelers helped to locate a garage which hoped to find a similar windshield – the next day.


We attended the grand reception extended by the Vilnius corporation authorities followed by another warm reception by the Indian community.  We witnessed a wonderful laser and fire cracker show at the beautiful Grand Resort.  But all through these, I had an uncomfortable feeling about getting the right windshield.  There was a huge chance of us being held back for 10 days! My happiness was for everyone to see when I got saw the windshield replaced to perfection.

Our next stop was Warsaw, Poland.  Warsaw has been rebuilt after complete destruction in the Second World War.

Modern buildings and the palace of the last Polish King are sites to see.  Thereafter it was a drive to Prague, Czechoslovakia – a city with a mix of modern an d historical buildings.

We then had our longest driving distance in a day – 930km.  We had breakfast in Czech, lunch in Germany and dinner in Belgium.

We were welcomed by a dinner by the Indian Ambassador and enjoyed visiting the break day at beautiful Brussels, the capital of Belgium and the European Union.


Next day again was cutting across multiple countries.  Breakfast in Belgium, Lunch on the ferry in France and dinner at London.




Finally, we reached London as per schedule.  Mission accomplished.  Drive from Mumbai to London, over 22,000km, in 72 days passing through 19 countries.  Hip Hip Huray!!



We stayed back for about 3 weeks in London where we had the privilege of sharing our experiences with family, friends and the School authorities and students of Nishi’s school in Chelmsford.










The invitation from BBC Essex to join their studio for an interview was icing on the cake.






‘Home Sweet Home’ it was in the early hours of 26 June 2017 – The Dream Came True.


Road to London – Week 9

We seem to attract the police a bit. This time, rightly so 😛 it was for speeding and a minor traffic offense. Then we had a bit of an event where our windshield got hit by a small pebble while driving causing a small hole. 

Worry not, we super-glued it with the help of a very friendly mechanic who went around Samara town with us till we found the right glue.

We were also hosted by the Indian embassy at Samara.

Samara is a pretty town with lots of natural and man-made beauty. This is a beach on the Volga river. Yep, a riverside beach. Amazing, isn’t it?

The local authorities of Samara have training facilities for various sports on the riverside beach. Here’s a gymnast practising her skill.

What is a roadtrip without some adjustments? We stayed at a hotel with shared bath. At other points there were toilets that were basically pits in the flooring.

If you had heard impressive things about Russian architecture and the beauty of Moscow, you were right.

You would think that we would have grand stories about the difficult terrain we drove through. Well, we have loads of those and some more. And we will share those once we are back. But, here’s a weird surprise. One of the most difficult ones was getting out of a parking lot in Moscow.


Video of parking lot

Every time we think we have accomplished something, life presents new inspirations. Meet Mr. Ulla who is cycling from from Germany to Philippines!

And on that note, we bid adieu to Asia and are off to Europe. Latvia marks the end of the penultimate week of our trip.

Just yesterday, the windshield had another episode. A stork flew into it when we were driving at 120 kmph.

All’s well. No one is hurt but it was a bit of a scare for sure.

We had a beautiful night in Lithuania.

Yep, we are almost done, crossing one European country after another. It is as exhilarating as it is saddening. It is soon going to be done with. Till then!

Road To London – Week 7

When you have a list of 250 items to pack, you might forget your moustache trimmer. The good thing is, India or Bhutan, Bhutan or China – every man needs a moustache trimmer. So, in Hami, China,  we were trying to cross a huge intersection to get to a store on the other side of the road. There was heavy traffic and crossing the road was confusing. Fortunately, we saw a couple of policemen at the corner who we reached out for help. Unfortunately, we didn’t speak each other’s language and we were swiftly taken to the police station. A couple of hours and intervention by our ever-helpful guide later, we were out of the police station. We are yet to understand the exact reason but what we know is any uncommon behaviour is treated with suspicion and the police play it safe. It is a rather sensitive area and they are extra careful there. Who knew a moustache trimmer would take me to the insides of a Chinese police station.

Anyway, on the road we were next morning.

Packed lunch because there is no restaurant for a 400 kilometer stretch! And off we went again at a speed of 120-170 km/hour.

The Police in China are friendly but they are very wary of strangers and foreigners. There is a lot of checking on the road and each major stop took about 30-45 minutes extending the day by that much longer. On Sunday, one of the cars in our group, found itself stuck on the road and we waited for it to be cleared. By then it was 10 PM, and we had a good couple hours to drive to our destination. The car was cleared but since it was night the police got stricter with its checking.

The roads became plainer and straighter and we took to speeds of 140 to 180 km/hour. As is possible with speed a bunch of us ran into the risk of meeting with a bad accident, after which we decided to restrict speed to a steady 120 km/hour.

And we stop for gas under surveillance.

This day, 10th May started at 8.30AM. We drove 12-13 hours and had a 8-hour stopover for exit from China and entry into Kyrgyzstan.  We reached our destination at 2AM local time (4AM China time!). But what a beautiful welcome it was. Not by hotels, but by mother nature!

And now we are enjoying a rest day!

Looking back at how far we have come! 47 of 72 days, 7 of 10+ weeks, 13,500 of 21,000 kilometers…

Road To London – Week 6

You would think the best thing after 9 days of driving 10-12 hours without break would be the “rest day”. No, sir! The best thing that can happen to a parent who is on a long, long drive is a surprise visit from the son!! We just stood there at the room door in the middle of the night, unable to believe it was him. Were we missing him so much that he is in our dreams? No! It was him!

Oh and look what Anand brought along. The much looked-forward to batch of theplas! We can’t remember the last time we ate a chapati. Who knew the Chinese for “thepla” is, “a bright ray of sunshine.”

The rest day took Pushpa and Nishi to panda park while Anand and I took Sohum out for servicing.

Meanwhile, along with Sohum, I went for an over-alling too.

Rest day done, we visited a park which exhibited the oldest irrigation system known.

This sight-seeing meant an additional 3 hours to our usual 12-hour drives. So, we reached 1 AM of the next calendar day, after having left at 8 AM. A lot of fun, challenge and thrill was added to the dark-night drive with winding roads … and … wait for it … snowfall!


This is what most days this week were like. Through a variety of landscapes …

through snow, snow, and more snow …

and did I mention winding roads? Not enough.

Some times a picture just isn’t enough.

10+ days in China and no “Great Wall of China”, you must wonder where did the wall disappear. It is there, alright!


Along the way we crossed the halfway distance mark, 10,500 kms up!

Equally mesmerizing is landscape of this area…

That’s most of what we have been upto this week. Let us leave you with this merriment on the road side. Our group was singing and soon enough we gathered some bystanders. And India or China, everyone needs just a little push to join in the fun. And join he did!

Oh, just in case you are wondering if all is going well. We had a little bit of an upset – I lost my phone. Just in case, anyone is trying to get in touch, that’s why I haven’t responded. Oh well…only a small hiccup!

~ ~ ~

If you would like to receive more frequent (almost daily) updates here are the social media links: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. If you would like weekly updates, please send an e-mail to