Road to London – Week 5

Looks like it is right out of a Rohit Shetty film, doesn’t it? But, that’s us. This is the “Road to London”ers on the 20 lane road mentioned last week. You can’s see all 20, but we could and boy, what a sight it was!

Little did we know that, this would be just one of the many incredible sights we would see this week. First off, each of the first four nights, we spent in four different countries.

4 days 4 countries…in a car! From left-hand-side driving to right and back. Can’t say this enough – this is what we thought a real road trip is all about!

And isn’t this what a milestone should really look like?

And we had a birthday in the gang! Our own Ninni turned all of 10 this week! Words like these (her latest blog post) don’t really sound like they are from a 10 year old, right? Or they maybe do 🙂

Now that we are in China we are going to be here for a bit – 6,000 kms. We are quite literally driving through the ins and ins of China. Chiangkong, Kunming, Jing Hong, Jinghonj, Kunming, Xichen and you thought China was only Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou!

Those earth formations look like man-made cathedrals, don’t they!?

We have picked quite some pace now. We are driving at 100-120 kmph on winding mountain roads. The Chinese ghat roads have good surface and are divided. Such a new experience!


It is getting colder too. In a way, this is the other side of the Himalayas.

Oh by the way, just in case you are wondering, our staple diet these days is rice and mango pickle or groundnut chutney. Thankfully breakfast buffets have abundant fruits, cheese and breads for us! But when the company is so much fun, who cares about food. Presenting to you, “The United Colours of #RoadToLondon”

We leave you with some abstract fun for you. Not always, does everything need to make sense. Like, does it make sense that we are already done with half the trip! By the end of today, we would have finished half the number of days and weeks and yet we would have covered 41% of the distance. A lot of fast driving on our way! By God’s grace all is well and as per schedule so far…

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Road to London – Week 4

We started this week being just one stop away from the Indian border crossing and now we are over 1000 kms away! Whoa! Let that sink in….wo-wo-whoa!

After some lovely orchid park siteseeing near Kaziranga, we left for Kohima, Nagaland.

The road to Kohima and onwards to Dimapur was quite awful with some holes about 6 to 8 inches deep. One of the worst we came across. At times we were driving at 5-10 kmph. Some of the worst we’ve seen so far. Thank goodness for Anand’s selection of a 4WD. God bless! And all is always well when the sun rises so…

In Nagaland we also passed through a village which has minimal new construction – a green village of sorts.

Now, we were on our way to the final destination before crossing over to another country. Meanwhile, another landmark crossed, we are at 5,000 kilometers! Along the way now we started meeting other members of our #RoadToLondon trip. 13 cars and 27 participants would soon be on our way to London…by road! Whipppppeeeee! It was lovely to meet new people. A jovial bunch, we are! It is positively a fun time ahead.

And it is finally happening! We are crossing the boundary. None of us can believe that we are crossing the Indian border in a car. Today is the beginning of our journey eastwards to go to Europe.

We go eastwards because going directly west means crossing through Pakistan and Afghanistan. That can get pretty dangerous, and is not an ideal experience for someone who still has their entire life ahead of them at the young age of 72.

So! Onward to Myanmar, and from there to England! To the heart of the British empire, to the land where the sun never sets. There’s no turning back now.

It’s not like we could have turned back before, but for some reason, this feels different. It feels as if this is the point where I must look back at the ground I’ve covered and smile victoriously. The point where I look forward, and see the beauty of the rest of the world.

Today, I leave my motherland with hopes to have the best experience of my life. Of course, my companions cannot be spared! Beware, Pushpa and Ninni, and the gang of 24…for here come my jokes!

After a wait of a few hours the entire crew crossed immigration and we were now in Myanmar. Earlier it was states, now its countries – here is a mouthful for you, Myanmar (Kale, Bagan, Kyaikhto, Namsang, Kent Tung), Thailand (Chiang Khong) and Laos (Boten and Mohanzhen).

1,800 Kms to be covered in the next 7 days!

It is amusing how we tend to not think much of practical issues like, how long will it take for 13 cars to fuel up at a one-pump gas station or how long will a washroom break be. We had 2 back-to-back days of being on the road for 12+ hours, give or take. Now, this is the real meaning of a road trip!

On the road we saw a row of Buddhist monks and nuns on a peaceful march. That reminded me that Kohima, Nagaland is a 98% Christian town. The thought of this combination of religions brought a smile.

And finally we reached break day at Bagan, Myanmar!

After a lovely rest, we were on for another 12+ hour day covering 600+ kms yesterday. People ask me, “am I tired?” and I say, “Do you know me?” The zeal is never-dying. I have travelled the world but I saw a 20 lane road in Myanmar! How can I be tired?

Sure, it has been 4+ days since we’ve had a chapati, but this is only the beginning. And what’s to worry when we can customize a bit here and there by taking over the kitchen. The chef at our hotel thought papad can only be fried, the record had to be set right. Pushpa demostrated the roasting of a papad.

We are on our way to Tak, Thailand as you read this post. It is beginning to feel real now. Thank you all for your company so far! Until next time…

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Road to London – Week 3

Week 3 started with a 2 day stint in Bhutan. After overcoming a few “permit-related” challenges, we were well on our way to Thimpu, Bhutan. After having been through some internal parts of the country, days in the city seem … well … lame. While Thimpu was a shade better Darjeeling was quite disappointing. There are only so many ways modern buildings can be made interesting.

Thimpu, Bhutan

Thimpu, Bhutan

 Bhutan and India – this week we saw a handful of animals. An unusual crocodile park in Phuentsoling, Bhutan crocodiles are breeded for distribution to zoos. Elephants along the road in a forest and rarities like One-horned Rhinos at the Kaziranga National Park.

Crocodile Park, Phuentsoling

Crocodile Park, Phuentsoling

Kaziranga National Park

Rhinocerous, Kaziranga National Park







Kaziranga National Park

Deer, Kaziranga National Park


Kaziranga National Park

Elephant, Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park

Ninni, Kaziranga National Park

Speaking of animals, you should read a bit about Ninni’s tryst with the insect folk of Buxa forest on her blog. “As many insects as there are leaves in a dense forest”, was the description. Top it off with no power, closed windows because there weren’t netted. It was a restless night in the forest.

Buxa Forest

Buxa Forest

We next made our way to Mawlynong. Here’s a “Did you know?” for you. Did you know that Mawlynong, Meghalaya is known as the cleanest village in Asia.

Cleanest village - Mawlynong, Meghalaya

Cleanest village - Mawlynong, Meghalaya

 Imagine this! A foot bridge made with roots! Can carry elephants too!

Foot Root Bridge, Mawlynong

Foot Root Bridge, Mawlynong

The rest of the week was full of caves and waterfalls.

Buxa Waterfall

Buxa Waterfall

Mewsmai Caves, Meghalaya

Mewsmai Caves, Meghalaya

Arwah Caves, Meghalaya

Arwah Caves, Meghalaya









Nogkalikai Falls, Meghalaya

Nogkalikai Falls, Meghalaya










On the roads of Assam, we also saw a disciplined protest by NGO representatives and women workers who were raising a voice against an unauthorised protection fee of Rs. 10 per week being charged.


Bongaigaon, Assam

Bongaigaon, Assam

This is something we have seen through and through. No matter what their problems. Genuinie smiles to welcome you, everywhere.

Local from Mawlynong

Local from Mawlynong

Local from Buxa

Local from Buxa










We made it to Cherapunjee! You know what that is, right? Pushpa’s dream come true! Yes, it was raining when we got there. But we saw a clear sky too.


We are now going to spend a few days in Nagaland and Manipur before we join Adventure Overland to head out of the country. There is limited connectivity in these areas, so updates are sparse.

Know we are safe and you keep safe too!

Until next week, then…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

Road to London – Week 2

Day turns into night, night turns into day. Road leads to hotel, hotel leads to another road. The roads have begun to get winding now as we go up the Himalayas. And yet it is to sink in – this is actually happening.

In the day-to-day drives, media engagements, family visits, we don’t realise how far we have come.

If last week’s highlights were temples, this week’s highlight is universities and rope-ways.

Nalanda University Excavations

An impressive school in Darjeeling


An impressive school in Darjeeling                               Nalanda University Excavations

So, Ninni is scared of heights and was unwilling to sit on the open-bucket type, single rope-way seats at one of the spots. After a lot of convincing, she very nervously agreed.


Before                ————->                During           ————->      After

And here is “after ka after” for you – Ninni after her next ride. Our seasoned rope-way traveller has now lost all fear of height.

This week we also saw the real adventure begin. So here we are, driving along down the road from one destination to another, just another day in this road trip. And we find ourselves at the head of a very narrow bridge. Broad enough for just one car. And the bridge was long, really long. Suddenly we stopped and leaned forward. Ninni yelped. “What happened?”

“Uh oh.” I said. “Ayyo.” muttered Pushpa. “What?” asked Ninni.

“Bus.” I said, which made Ninni say, “Oh.” I’m pretty sure she still didn’t understand the situation.

A bus had shown up in the middle of the bridge – facing us. It was unpredicted and caught us all off guard. I looked behind me. From the back window I could see the vast expanse of the bridge behind with a line of vehicles on it. As if it were a competition, vehicles lined up behind the bus too. I sighed, and allowed myself to slump a little. We were going to spend a lot more than just a long time on this bridge.

Ultimately we crossed and escaped dropping down in the river by an inch or so.

Worry not, that is behind us and all ended well. But it was amusing to see a single line traffic jam.

No, no photos. Our hands were occupied biting our nails.

And now here we are 14 out of 72 days spent with nature, buildings, temples, media, family and so much more. 3,000+ out of 21,000+ kms driven through the ins and outs of North and North-Eash India. And yet, it feels like just the beginning because only 1 out of 18 countries have been visited.

We are experiencing Bhutan as we speak right now. The Himalayas are the same. The trees lush green. The rivers gurgle like they do in India too. But it still feels like a different place. Maybe because we passed this grand gate that’s called the border. Maybe because we were asked for official documents identifying the country we come from. Maybe because the soldiers wear different uniforms. Nothing takes away from how serene this place is.

Until next week, then…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

Road to London – Week 1

It was so heartening to see so many well-wishers at the flag off event on 24th. While a lot of details about the conceptualisation and planning of the trip were discussed. This cute little speech stole hearts. It wouldn’t be surprising if you watched one particular line a few times on loop.

Despite leftover butterflies from this cute little speech, Nishi started off with a smile. Of course, day 1 out ofAirplane wing on truck on way to Bhopal the way now, the nervousness had settled. And we were off enjoying camels on roads and airplane wings on trucks.



On the way to Indore is a school that does something really cute. Just look at this picture on the left:

Who doesn’t like happy children? Only this glee is the ice cream gleeeeeee! They are out on a monthly school trip to a garden where they play-eat ice cream. Play-eat ice cream. Repeat.

Now those smiles on these Indori kids from La Sagesse school make more sense, don’t they?

Day 3 saw team RoadToLondon reach 1000 kilometers!





Unfortunately they witnessed something terribly, heartbreaking. Hills are being cut down to make way for “civilisation”. Soon caves that are centuries old will be destroyed.

Any journey is also a lot about the pauses…and the road-side dhabas!
Dhaba between Jhansi and Ayodhya

We were wondering when the first cute, little problems, that any adventure brings, would begin to crop up. Imagine looking for a usable, Western-style, public toilet. Now, imagine looking for one on the narrow, single lane roads of villages in Uttar Pradesh. The rest is left to your imagination.

And then our man Friday, Shiva lost his shoes – of all the places, in the VVIP section of a temple in Varanasi!

When you are truly blessed, all things fall in place. Two days ago we got a call from the leader of Muslim Foundation of India. They had gotten leaders from all religions – Hindu-Muslim-Sikh-Isai (Christianity) – together. They wanted to show their support to the “Peace is Possible” mission. It was one exhilarating experience to be with them!

It has been one week since we left home. Seems like yesterday but is 2100+ kilometers away. Through wonderful highways across Madhya Pradesh, through tiny villages and single lane roads, you do indeed see the two Indias. Sure, the development has brought pollution and destruction. But, the national flag unfurls, the temples continue to add to history, the colors are bright, the people are warm. Here are some memories we collected along the way.




















That wraps up week 1. As you might have guessed, the excitement is only building up. After a good rest day at Benares yesterday, we are off again! We will keep you posted week-by-week.

Meanwhile, 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

As always, thank you for your best wishes!


Road to London # 8 – The Influential Hidden Character

In continuation of earlier blog RTL # 7 – The Route Across India

It is not the first time that she influenced me to take on an adventure. She has supported all my crazy endeavours. She may not initiate the trips. But if I proposed one, she would be enthusiastic about the tour, even for the most complicated and risky ones.  Pushpa, the wife, is not my better half, she is the first half!

In fact, she just might be better qualified to undertake adventure and risky trips. She takes over the gadgetry, which I have never understood.  It is a family joke, particularly by Anand, that it is  because of her I can handle my mobile.

Pushpa Sliding on Australian Sand Dunes 2011

She maintains her cool during testing times of the tours. She accepts that adventure trips have inbuilt calculated risks.  There were times when we had no shelter, but she had no problems. No food, it hardly made a difference to her. She has understood and adjusted to the whatever the situation has demanded.   There have been occasions in our trips together when we had no water to drink, but she didn’t complain.  She prefers tap water to bottled, mineral water wherever she is.  You and I fall ill, not her!

Once when we were in Tibet, our vehicle stalled in a murky place.  It was the dark hour of midnight.   There were no villages for 20 kilometers in any direction. The temperature was minus 10-15 degrees Celsius. And there was a slight drizzle. Every drop of rain felt like a needle piercing your skin.  Boots were getting stuck in mud with every step. And here she was helping me push the vehicle out of the muck.   Ultimately,  we had to walk cold and wet for about a km, in complete darkness. We rested in a road side godown (if we could call it that!) where even a beast would be scared.  The place had a strong stink. It was badly maintained alcohol den, full of beer and was scattered with used cans and bottles.  She has never tasted onion or garlic, let alone alcohol.  But she didn’t even wrinkle her nose when she had to lie down there for a couple of hours of much needed rest.

And oh! That place was owned by a man in his 80s or so. He looked like he was straight out of a western movie, a cowboy, only with horrible, excessive make-up.  He had a spear in his left hand, instead of a gun. Long salt-and-pepper hair and beard – probably unwashed for a long time. He covered it with a cowboy hat.   He was probably wearing new clothes, only that they were bought years ago. His face showed his age in wrinkles. He had extra skin hanging from his cheeks, large red eyes set just above them. Sharp long grey eye-brows.  The place had no lights, it was almost all dark. Just a small dim lamp gave the scene a horror movie feel.  I was outside, in that freezing rain with a driver-guide to see if the car could get on the road. When I returned, the face of the owner, with extra wide eyes, was almost a foot from Pushpa’s face. She was speechless. I dropped in and engaged our host in slow motion, sign language. Pushpa did not complain even about that day ever.

The moment I ask her opinion about a trip, she always has a positive answer. To the extent that some times I take her for granted and forget to even take her consent. Ghar ki murgi daal barabar!

Once in 2012, on a flight to London I mentioned to her that I wanted to drive one day from home to London. She just replied with a “hmmm”, that too forcibly, knowing that it was one of those improbable dreams. However, I knew it is not unachievable, particularly since she would be with me.  She used to drive way back in the 80s when we lived in the Middle East.Quad Driving in Tangalooma Island 2011 With Pushpa as Co-driver


A few months ago, she was travelling elsewhere, I called her, “we have a chance to drive to London. Are you interested?”  Her reply was the as quickest as it can be “Grab it”.  It is all through now to make the dream come true.   She is not my better half, she my best half,  Pushpa!  I am really lucky to have such a lady as my companion for these exotic journeys.  She would be my co-driver for “Road To London”!

Written : Badri Baldawa

Edited : Meeta Kabra

                                                                                                To be continued …………………

Road to London # 10 – Setting New Records Adds Thrill

In continuation of earlier blog RTL # 9 – My Brave Bachchus

Once I decided to go for this journey, I was reading through the experiences of people who had been through similar journeys, in the past.

There are a few who have driven from London to Delhi.  There is also the story of three friends who started from London and got stuck in Afghanistan – they were sent back after a week’s experience in an Afghan prison. There are some who had to return halfway due to health or political problems.

Tushar Agarwal has a series of Guinness and Limca records for his driving achievements.  Amongst several others, he drove from London to Delhi with his wife.  He and his friend Sanjay Madan also have to their credit,  a 70,000 kms self-driving trip through 51 countries in 6 continents!  Whoa!

I wanted to make a record too!  But it is absolutely difficult to beat their records.  But I am heads up on one factor.  Being senior in age has its advantages.  I beat them hollow in age. While interacting with Tushar, he realised and hinted that I would be the senior most person to take up such a long self-driving trip.  That aside, Pushpa and I could be the senior most couple to achieve this.  That we could attempt to establish these new records added to our excitement.  Yes, if I am fit and confident enough to do it and face the problem in the process of achieving it!

That would be another record for us!

When Nishi agreed to join the expedition, I realised that it would be an another record.  She would be the youngest to take such a journey. We should be celebrating her 10th birthday on the way, if all goes well, in China.

Possibilities of setting these three new records – (a) senior-most individual  (b) senior-most couple and (c) youngest individual boosted our spirits even further.

Written : Badri Baldawa

Edited : Meeta Kabra

To be continued…………………..

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Road to London # 7 – The Route Across India

In continuation of earlier blog RTL # 6 – Family consent

All the expedition participants have to assemble at the exit point from India,  Imphal, Manipur.  This is where we will leave India on 17th April, 2017.

This means, before crossing the Indian border, I have to drive across India from Mumbai which is on the west coast to almost the eastern end of India – crossing 10 Indian States.  A straight drive from Mumbai to Imphal is about 3,300 kilometers and can be done in about 10-12 days.  Google maps showed our initial route within India as:

I haven’t travelled to the North Eastern States popularly known as “Seven Sister States of India”. Or their brother, Sikkim.  I haven’t been to Bhutan either.  Since I have the luxury of a car while driving to those North Eastern states, we decided as well visit some interesting places like Darjeeling, Sikkim, Bhutan, Kaziranga National Park on our way to Imphal.   Some of these places need an extra stay of at least one day each. This adds to 17 days and 4,000kms drive.

As we were finalizing the itinerary, Pushpa revealed that it was her childhood dream to visit Cherrapunjee, the wettest place in India.  I would like to spend the rest of my life with her!   A good husband that I am, I had no option but to add Cherrapunjee to the itinerary.

A few hours from Cherrapunjee is the cleanest village in Asia – Mawlynnong.   There are many other interesting places around like unusual caves, various natural earth formations, double decker bridges naturally-formed out of tree stems and multi-stage waterfalls.  The world famous Shillong also falls on this route.   How can you be so close and miss all of that? Another 3 days and 400 kilometers.

Just to make sure that I do not miss any interesting places on the route, I collected tourist maps and literature of each of the states I would be passing through.  I noticed that there are certain  other important places on this route.

Deoghar in Jharkhand drew my special attention.  There are twelve religiously auspicious Jyotirling locations in India.  We had visited all of them except Baba Baidyanath at Deoghar, at the extreme east end of Jharkhand.  We are not sure when we will visit that area again.   We added Deoghar.   This takes us very close to Varanasi on the Ganges, Gaya-Bodhgaya where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, Sarnath where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon,  Jalmahal, Pavapuri where Lord Mahavira attained salvation,  Nalanda University claimed to be the first university in the world.  You got it right. I could not ignore any of these places when they mean just 3-4 more days.  By increasing our daily drive we should be able to squeeze in these places with 21 days to Imphal.

There are many more interesting places, but I froze it to 21 days. For now!   The map at this staged looked like:

                                                                                                To be contd…………...

Written : Badri Baldawa

Edited  : Meeta Kabra


Road to London # 12 – “Soham”, the Companion

In continuation of earlier blog RTL # 11 – Driving Duration a Day…..

On such a strenuous driving expedition, our physical and mental fitness aside, it is equally important to have a right and reliable vehicle. A comfortable car surely enhances the level of satisfaction of driving. Very affectionately I named our car, “Soham”. “Soham” is a chant popularised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, of The Art of Living foundation. It means, “I am He”. I acknowledge the presence of the Almighty in the vehicle that takes me around.

The varied terrain requires a safer 4-wheel drive car with ground clearance of at least 190mm, if not more.

Anand’s “consent” to the trip was on the condition that I should take the vehicle of his choice!   Smart on his part to have discovered what I was trying to hide.  Both our current cars are fairly new with about 25K and 15K km on them. “Pappa, you certainly should not undertake this journey in your favourite Skoda Superb. Yes, the  BMW-X1 SUV is better.  But still not good enough.  After all, you would be driving through some of the places where roads hardly exist.”

Anand was right.   Under such situations, my Skoda Superb, with a ground clearance of only 164 mm, is far below the minimum safety need of 190 mm.   Further, Chinese authorities do not give road entry permit for sedans.  They demand the pictures from all sides of the car.  For them, the vehicle should have SUV looks.  They consider SUV more reliable.  They don’t want me to have a vehicle breakdown and get stuck in their country for any reason!  Fair enough.

I had the option of taking the BMW-X1, compact SUV.  It has a better ground clearance of 179mm.  Though not good enough. I checked with some of my contacts who have driven on the worst of the stretches we would be passing through. I was told X-1 would be just about ok.     Arguably, it is just good enough for two of us.

Neither Pushpa nor I understand much of car mechanism.  A few years earlier, I was capable of attending to any minor car-related problems. But now I have become lethargic and have developed the habit to look for assistance even to change a flat tyre.  Habits hardly die!  I decided that  at least for the first 3 weeks of my journey, till the time I drive within India, I can have an assistant with us.  So I decided to have our household assistant, Shiva with us.  He is like a younger brother or son to me.  Once we reach Manipur, the border city of India, he can fly back home!  Our count of passengers in the car increased to three.

And then, my 9 year old granddaughter Nishi decided to join us for the entire tour. We would now be four for the Indian part of journey and three for the overseas drive.

We need to carry baggage to last us three months.  We would be crossing through all types of climatic conditions – normal, cold, very cold, wet, warm, hot and very hot.  Therefore we need  to carry all types of garments.   That aside, extras like food and water, a jerrycan for spare fuel, etc were also essential for such long journeys. Anand wanted me to play safe.  He proposed that I take a bigger, better and safer vehicle than BMW X1.

Anand has reasonably good knowledge about vehicles.  He shortlisted a vehicle each from Mercedes, Volvo, BMW, Land Rover and Toyota.  Land rover is expensive and  even its 3-year used model without warranty was almost same cost as a new vehicle of other brands with warranty.  Also, Land Rover has a more sophisticated mechanism.  In case of a breakdown, we might not find knowledgeable mechanics or spare parts. Hence we gave up the idea of second-hand Rover.  We further narrowed the selection down to either Toyota Land Cruiser or BMW X-5.  We had a series of meetings with the marketing executives of these brands.  Dealers of BMW offered to provide certain facilities.  Trusting them, we selected to go ahead with X-5. The trailer however

Badri Pushpa with Soham

Badri Pushpa with Soham

was slightly different than the movie we saw / are seeing … the post-sales service was drastically different to earlier promises, up to a point where, in one case, it had put our entire expedition at risk of cancellation. Without dwelling into the details, we decided to continue with BMW.

By coincidence, this is the type of car Anand wanted to buy for two years now. But since our current cars were not even a year old then, the decision was deferred.

One by one, items got checked on the to-do list: Itinerary, timings, hotel bookings, vehicle.  Years ago when I dreamt of such an expedition, I wondered “How To Do It?”.  Now, I have removed the “How To” and “?” and am left with “Do It!”

Written : Badri Baldawa

Edited  : Meeta Kabra

To be continued………………

Road to London # 11 – Driving Duration a Day

In continuation of earlier blog RTL # …………………………

Having decided to make this trip, I had to plan my itinerary.  Once a date is frozen, planning various aspects of the travel becomes even more energised.  It inspires you to study and enjoy planning.  We would cross the Indian border from Manipur to Myanmar  on 16 April 2017.  Keeping a buffer for unexpected events, we plan to reach there a day in advance.  I back-calculated to fix a departure date from home.  I laid down some basic principles:

  • No night-driving.   Of course, we drive carefully.  But we cannot control how others on the road drive. It is said that the highest number of drunk drivers are on road between midnight and 3AM. Supposedly, fatal crashes are four times higher at night than during the day. Right from the time I started driving in 1973, I have preferred to drive only in daylight.   On rare occasions,  I drive at night, that too only on well lit roads that have dividers.  For long drives, I make it a point to start early in the morning and break for the day by 3 or 4PM. So, you safely reach the destination by sunset, even if there is any delay due to congestion.
  • Comfortable number of hours per day. I initially considered driving 8 hours a day.     Normally, for a full day’s drive you need an extra 30-35% of drive time for rest and food breaks.

    Pushpa Getting Ready to Drive to London

    That would mean a total travelling time of 10 to 11 hours a day.   A 6AM start gets you to the destination by 4 or 5 pm.  This is not difficult.  Especially, with Pushpa taking up a couple of hours of driving, it seemed quite comfortable.

Once Nishi confirmed to join us, I revised the drive time.  8 hours in the car for two and a half months is a bit much. To maintain excitement till the end, I had to make it interesting and not tiring for the child. Till we reach the Indian border, I revised the drive time to an average of about 6 hours per day. Including breaks, it would still add up to 8 hours a day.  A little delayed start every morning, say at 7 or even 8AM would take us to the revised destination by 3AM. That gives us enough time for a comfortable breakfast, have lunch on the way and reach the destination by the time we are ready for a mid-afternoon snack.  It also left scope to spend about 2-3 hours to visit interesting places around the destination or on the way.  Or just relax.

  • Break from driving. After every 3-4 days, I scheduled a day’s rest. At most, we could go for nominal sight-seeing.  I’ve made a list of interesting sites on the route.
  • Booking accommodation – tricky business. Our dates of travel coincide with peak holiday season: March-June.  Choice hotels during this period are booked well in advance particularly at tourist cities, forest resorts and sanctuaries.  It is important to have right spots to stay in places like Darjeeling, Gangtok, Cherrapunjee, Kaziranga etc.  The earlier one books, the better the options.
    • Selecting accommodation for the 24 nights in India was a little tricky.  It was necessary to consider certain important factors.   I prefer hotels on the highway rather than those in the city. That would save time of negotiating downtown streets.
    • If we find out about spots worth visiting but unknown to me as of now, we should have the flexibility to change the itinerary.  That would mean changing hotel bookings. Therefore, even if it meant paying a little more, I opted for bookings that allowed cancellation or changes free of cost.
    • We need a decent hotel each day. If we are tempted by a good hotel, and cut our journey short on a particular day, it will be difficult to cover the extra distance, the next day.  At the same time stretching longer on a particular day to get to an attractive hotel can make the journey tiring.
    • We know many people who live in towns that are on our route. They have graciously asked us to stay with them. It is always a pleasure to stay with relatives and friends.  Staying with them give us time to interact on the local conditions, activities and culture.  But many a time, a lot of time is lost in formalities.   Excessive insistence in eating is a problem that disrupts the digestion system – which we cannot afford.  Hence, we have chosen to decline some of these offers.

After considering these parameters, I booked accommodation.  I had a real tough time to fix locations on certain stretches like Mumbai to Ayodhya and Varnasi to Darjeeling.

Of course, there have been many revisions in the itinerary   And every change in itinerary, even it is of a single day resulted in a series of changes in accommodation.  With every change, I changed hotel bookings.  I don’t want to miss out on any sites, just because I had to put in some extra effort. I did not lose my patience. Though confusing and complicated, I started enjoying and learning out of it. It is good I had ‘free cancellation’  terms in my bookings!

I have revised my itinerary almost 10 times and I had to change hotel bookings on all 10 revisions!

Written : Badri Baldawa

Edited  : Meeta Kabra

To be continued……………..