“Pushpa, there is this road-trip, self-drive to London from India. It is about two and a half months long. Should we?” I called Pushpa within moments of getting an email to the effect on 20th May 2016. She was on a train from Rishikesh.
“Yes! Let’s do it!” she said without waiting even for a second. A green signal from my better half and I was confident of convincing other members of my family. Within a few minutes I gave our provisional confirmation to join the expedition – “Road to London”.
As I confirmed, I wondered if this was a hasty decision. My memories reeled me back.
Over fifty five years ago, near my native town Bellary, the Tungabhadra dam was inaugurated. Anyone who visited the site came back only with praises. I too wanted to visit the place. I was school-going child back then. My mother gave me Rs. 5 for the trip. Bus or train was unaffordable. I convinced some friends to pedal the total distance of 130 kilometers on rented bicycles. To make the trip affordable, we decided to ride “double seat”.
Since the load of two people would be difficult to take through, the person at the back had to help peddle along with the main rider – two legs pedalling on each side! If anyone was tired of pedalling or plays smart and say he was tired, he would have the comfort of sitting on the front pipe and get exemption from pedalling – a smart punishment we thought to have the bottom hurt by the pipe. It was two days full of fun! It was a thrilling to try to do the unexpected! It was a challenge! And I was crazy to accept and face the challenge!
Later in life, my wife and I wanted to watch the midnight Sun and fulfil my childhood dream. I figured that it could be best watched from Nordkapp (North Cape) in Norway. In 1983, I decided to reach Nordkapp on the midnight of 25 July. I reached Narvik from Oslo by a luxurious train. There was no regular public transport facility from Narvik to Nordkapp. But hey, I could enjoy driving that distance on an European road. By the standards of European roads, I could drive those 800km in say 8 or at the most 10 hours. I planned accordingly.
Those were the days when there were no internet or Google or GPS.
As I started driving from Narvik, I was surprised with the shocking road condition. It was all broken, narrow single, rugged, kutchha roads. It was inevitable, since most of the year those roads were covered with snow. I was determined to be punctual for my date with the midnight Sun. Not just that. I had my flight booking for my next flight from Oslo. I had to reach Nordkapp and return by the same road in time. I’d have to drive continuously for 46 hours without sleep or break. It was a thrill to reach on time to enjoy the best. It was a challenge! And I was crazy to accept and face the challenge!
A few years later, missing a train turned out for the best. We planned a Badrinath Char Dham Yatra. We were to travel by train upto Delhi and then engage a cab to complete the rest of the journey. Our shipment (business) was delayed by a day due to some objections raised by the Customs department. Despite having buffer time for contingencies, by the time the shipment was completed, we missed the train. It was difficult to get new reservations as this was peak travel season We decided to leave by car within the hour. Just five of us, Pushpa, our children and me. No driver. We drove right upto Badrinath temple via Rajasthan, a round trip of about 6,000 kilometers. We faced problems and we learnt how to resolve them.
On that journey, there was an incident that inspired me to start trekking. I will leave that incident for another time. After that trip, we started trekking to various places including Amarnath, Hemkund Saheb and Mt Kailash Parikrama. Meeting Peter Hillary, the son of Edmund Hillary inspired me to trek to Mt Everest.
Except Mt Everest, Pushpa and I trekked together. After 55, Pushpa developed a knee joint problem. It became difficult for her to undertake long and steep treks. Without her I did not feel like going for treks either. We switched over to driving expeditions instead of trekking. I had heard that driving in Iceland was extremely difficult and risky. We went for driving adventure with our granddaughter Nishi, Seema’s daughter in Iceland.
You see the pattern? Whenever I hear of a particularly difficult trip, I like to take up the challenge.
It is no surprise then, that the very idea of driving for over two months in unknown and diversified territories was something I’d want to do. Maybe that is why the impulse decision. I couldn’t control my excitement joined the “Drive to London” group, as if it would have slipped away if I had delayed confirmation for a few minutes!