Continued from Road to London # 12 – “Soham”, the Companion….
Right from the beginning, we knew that driving to London through the Western borders would mean going through Pakistan and Afghanistan, which might not be the safest route. The Himalayan mountain range on the North and oceans on the South rule out those routes. That left only the Eastern route through China. There are roads linking from Nepal and North-Eastern parts of the Indian border, but entry is restricted only for the Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage. Thus we had to cross China, some parts of the old USSR, now countries like Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, certain European countries before we reach United Kingdom. This is a drive of about 45 days from the time we cross the Indian border. This itinerary was considered as almost final for the tour.
Myanmar is a country I have been wanting to visit for long. I heard of it as Burmah where Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose founded the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army) to fight for independence. The ruling military junta changed its name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989.
However there was an update that though the entry point in Myanmar is safe, the exit point, Muse was not very peaceful. Therefore the route to China had to be changed. The best practical alternative was to drive to Thailand, cut across Laos and then enter China. This added two countries to the itinerary and increased the overseas travel from 45 to 47 days and the number of countries from 14 to 16.
We need to drive for a fortnight to cross the Chinese territory and reach Kyrgyzstan. I was very happy when I realised our next destination country was Uzbekistan. It would give us an opportunity to visit Tashkent where our former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri breathed his last. From there on to Kazhakstan before we touch the border of Russia.
As per the original plans we planned to enter Belarus through the Kurgan border from Moscow. It
was not possible to get vehicle permits for Belarus from Russia. In October 2016, the Belarus–Russia border was closed to foreigners. Therefore, the itinerary had to be re-routed again. Instead of entering through Belarus, we would now drive further north and enter European Union through Latvia and Lithuania. The onward drive thereafter is easy through Czechoslovakia, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France and finally to The United Kingdom. Once we enter UK at its South East, we would drive to London. This revision added two more days to the itinerary.
However this created another technical problem. If we left the Indian border as per original schedule on 16 April 2017, we reach the China border on a Sunday. The border is closed on Sundays. Hence the departure from India was postponed to 17 April 2017.
All these changes made the total countries visited from the original 15 to 18 (excluding Bhutan). The total number of overseas driving days increased from 45 to 49. Add to that the 23 days drive to reach the Indian border. The total duration of the tour now is at a total of 72 days!
The action begins in less than 10 days on 24th March 2017. We would love to see you all cheer us when we leave at a small flag-off event. Please do come!
Written : Badri Baldawa
Edited : Meeta Kabra
To Be Continued ………….