Showing posts from April, 2016

15 September 2015 – The Morning After – In Cochin

The sense of achievement of having done a solo Trans Himalayan Expedition, which turned out to be the toughest I have done in the past 5 years of road expeditions, recedes into the background when I acknowledge that this would not have been possible, in the manner it was done despite the stiff odds, without the spontaneous support, encouragement, hospitality, motivational pats on the shoulder and, most importantly, prayers of so many over social media and in person. It is from the bottom of my heart that I thank all of you sincerely. This expedition saw me negotiate five accidents, three incidents where I could have lost my life and an occasion when my car was vandalised and I lost more than Rs 1 lakh worth of equipment. Almost a similar amount will be required to bring the Champion back to her old self, after suffering almost fatal battle wounds. Through it all you never permitted my spirit and passion to flag or even think of quitting the expedition. It was always forward and yet mo…

14 September 2015 – Chennai to Cochin - Day 6

Well rested in Taj Vivanta, Chennai I took the last lap for Cochin early via Sriperumbudur, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Salem, Coimbatore and Palghat. The distance covered was 750 km in 11 hours. The roads were excellent most of the way.

On reaching Cochin I dropped in at the Trans Asian Shipping corporate office - the management led by Johnson Mathew has been a source of tremendous support and motivation over the past 18 months. I spent some time with colleagues detailing the expedition and the challenges faced.

Thereafter I reached home to a warm welcome by my cousin, Abe and dear friend, Mathew Philip.

13 September 2015 – Visakhapatnam to Chennai - Day 5

A night halt in Visakhapatnam has been a regular feature of my expeditions since 2010 when I set out in the All India solo drive. The hosts have always been the ever pleasant Thulasiram Nair and his gracious wife, Nandini. This time too it was no different. I took leave of them after countless cups of tea and delectable dosas with chutneys and 'gun powder'.

The 845 km drive, longest till date on this expedition, was smoothly negotiated. The segment between Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada needs attention. The second segment to Chennai was very good. Just short of Eluru met Biju Jose, a Facebook friend and a senior member of the HVK Forum, and his companions who are on a tour of Sikkim. I reached Chennai in time for a good night's sleep. A business friend of mine had arranged accommodation at the Taj Vivanta. The accommodation was top class and the food delectable.

12 September 2015 – Kolaghat to Visakhapatnam - Day 4

I didn’t have much time to sleep but what I got was quality sleep. I was ready to leave at the break of dawn despite going to sleep an hour after midnight. Since the restaurant was open I thought of having breakfast before starting off. After loading the luggage into the car I ordered a paratha, thinking that that would be available in quick time. As it transpired, the restaurant staff kept telling me that it is getting done fresh and the fresh paratha arrived 30 minutes later when I was almost on the verge of flying off the handle. The portion was hot, oily and so large that it took me more than normal time to get to the end of it. It was tatsy indeed!

It took me slightly more than two hours to motor the 180 km from Kolaghat to Balasore. The road was excellent and that was a surprise to me. I was apprehensive about this stretch because I had found it in the most awful condition in May when I was returning from the South East Asian Expedition. Just after passing the town I saw a long q…

11 September 2015 – New Jalpaiguri to Kolaghat - Day 3

I left the ORH in New Jalpaiguri expecting to be in Kolkata by 6 pm. The expectation had factored in the 650 km that had to be covered in the day. As the day panned out I had to change program and bypass Kolkata. Extremely horrible roads, heavy truck traffic and snaking queues saw me take 5 hours from Malda to Farakka - a distance of 25 km. What I experienced as so called roads in West Bengal begged the questions: Is this India of the 21st century and, Is this Make in India? Mamtadi's land is surely challenged in so far as civil society infrastructure is concerned. Surely the excuse of heavy rains will be forwarded. Then, is this all the technology we have? Or will vested interests continue to play havoc with public funds and their use?

In sheer desperation as the driving day was prolonging with no hope of reaching Kolkata I wanted to find out alternatives. I was well and truly at my wits end. I reached out to Thulasiram in Visakhapatnam, who connected me to his friend who had an e…

10 September 2015 – Maligaon to New Jalpaiguri - Day 2

Fully rested and in fine mental shape I left Maligaon before 6am. Just after the Maligaon town I took the Saraighat Bridge and set course for Bongaigaon and Alipurduar. The drive was fairly smooth except a portion before Nalbari, which was in bad shape. I reached the Officers' Rest House in New Jalpaiguri before 3pm despite a diversion for a broken wooden bridge. The 435 km drive was largely pleasant with topography and scenery resembling Kerala.

I had enough and more time to settle in and rearrange the luggage. The ORH was being painted. There were many high officials supervising the makeover. Many of them wanted to know the significance of the expedition. When told the details they were in total awe. And they were proud that it was one of their kin, a railwayman, who had accomplished it. I had many cups of tea while updating information over the social media sites. I had also a lot of comments to reply to on the sites. While completing the documentation over a meal of hot rotis, …

9 September 2015 – Return to Base Camp – Tezu to Maligaon – Day 1

It was time to start the journey back home after the most grueling expedition I been on. Success at the end of such an expedition did bring a lot of satisfaction because there were times during it that I felt that I would not be able to go on any further. Yet the task had been accomplished. Accidents, strife in Nepal and numerous diversions did not matter in the end – the objective had been realized. This part of the country of valleys and rivers are home to the Mishmi tribes that have customs and traditions dating back to the days of the Mahabharata. It is said that Lord Krishna’s wife, Rukmini, was from the Mishmi tribe! The legend of Parashuram and creation of Kerala are all part of the folklore from Parshuram Kund. Pilgrims from all over the country and neighboring countries come to the Kund to wash away sins of many births, as Parashuram did after slaying his mother and brothers.
Rajesh, as is his wont, had made arrangements with the ferry to take me across the River Brahmaputra. H…

8 September 2015 – Itanagar to Tezu - Day 19

So this would be it. I had begun the last day of the Trans Himalayan Expedition that would take me from Itanagar to Tezu. The original route via Pasighat and Roing to Tezu was closed due to flooding and I had to divert, yet again, via Dhemaji, Bogibeel ghat and Dibrugarh. The Bogibeel ghat crossing took more than an hour. A massive rail cum road bridge is under construction over the River Brahmaputra at Bogibeel. I wondered what that would do to the local enterprise that had been built on ferry crossings. Besides the ferries there were small eateries that served tea and snacks and rice and fish curry even at 11 am. A large contingent of the army was also on its way across the river and separate ferries had been arranged for them.
I was pleasantly surprised to experience better roads on the Arunachal side after Dibrugarh. When I had done this stretch in 2013 it had been agonizing. In a few months, I was informed ferry crossing across the River Brahmaputra may be a thing of the past as a…

7 September 2015 – Samdrup Jhongkhar to Itanagar - Day 18

The guiding principles of the Tourism council of Bhutan is: ‘While tourism may be important as a revenue earner, Bhutan sees no gain in succumbing to over commercialism. It recognizes that a small country emerging from isolation must do so in its own time and at its own pace. The Tourism council of Bhutan is clear that its policy of high value, low volume is the right policy because Bhutan is just too small for mass tourism. And as the world begins to discover the Land of the Thunder Dragon, many go away with a sense of having been in a special place, far from the insanity of modern living. Here is a land where life may not be materially luxurious but it provides much that is good for a society that is not yet caught up with the global rat race' What I experienced in Bhutan is just what the Tourism council prescribed. Crass commercialism leading to degradation of the environment and corruption of local cultures normally accompany unfettered tourism. Many countries see tourism as a …