I can never forget the months long road trip made in France long long time back when I had been there just after college.Beautiful as France is as a country.Even more splendid is the countryside and the beautiful sea coasts of France.
The beauty of it all is I think only by Road.If the chills of Paris in the morning will get at yu the sweaty coastal climate of the french reveira will leave nothing to imagination from both the heavenly and earthly beauties.
Of course unlike germany where the autobahn is free to ride and on doesnt have to pay taxes for drving ,in France the roads are very very good and well maintained will the deligient road taxes that one pays for most of the toll based roads.
But trips down Marseille,Montpellier,Toulon and Monaco are really to be enjoyed.Road trips are very common in France specially in the weekends most families pack off for the weekend to a sea beach or country side.Traffic every friday and monday from and away from Paris is overwhelming…but the joy of road tripping for two days away from the city is too much for one to give up.
the country side of france is also very very scenic and road side sunflowers feilds and wine of every color and hue and taste are very common sites as one travels by road.Highway cafes with lot of McDonalds spread out is very helpful and gives that much sort of break after travelling for hours together at over 120 kmph speed is awesome.
We off course did our entire road trip in france in a Renault mini van, with hindi music playing..I remeber kumar sanu songs very popular then were our companion for most of the journeys.
Some sights which will never cease to haunt are mentioned below.
I must admit the beaches and french beauties top the list even now.What was shocking was the ease with whihc every person was in their beach fashion wear ,which at some beaches meant nothing,was indeed a very rude culture shock to me initially.Of course I very soon learnt the tricks of the trade 😉
The beautiful wine gardens and the country side wine cellars huge as they are are will surely be a huge draw,specially inside these cellars are huge wine barrels almost 20 feet high and free for tasting :)hic.
In germany the harley family fleet was an awesome sigh.To see fathers,mothers and children as smal as two year olds dressed smartly in black leather tights,jackets,helmets and their roaring harleys ,truly awesome and i think they live to ride.
The mountain biking and trecherous roads of the pyrennes mountains with bikers speeding there many times to their deaths makes one wonder where the passion ends and the madness begins.
The beautiful town of La Rochelle and the wonderful time with the family I spent there.
The beautiful mediterranean sea both on water and under water experience is wonderful.The wonderful musean oceanic in monaco with sharks swimming all around you is breathtaking.
There are so many more instances during the road trip of france that it might take many many attempts to capture them in words.
Day 1 – Noida.
And so, we set out that rainy evening around 6:00pm for Agra our first stop for the night. The idea was to meet my aunt and exchange few pleasantries, food, drink and night-out before moving on ahead.
Pulling the backseats of the 800 down to load the stuff, I could just barely see through the rear view but then what the heck who really wanted to see what I had left behind :).Not safe from a driving stand point but I was referring to life in general.
So far it had still not dawned that I was actually doing this until my first brush with the UP police. As I was driving past Faridabad towards the golden triangle highway towards Agra, I was pulled alongside in a slightly traffic filled road. As usual the normal questions of show me your license was followed by where you are going. I honestly replied Agra, He then looked at the pile of baggage in the backseat till the Dicky and asked what about that, pointing to the luggage. I blabbered that I was moving some stuff from NOIDA to AGRA as my parents were going to stay there for few months in my aunt house. Though he was not convinced seeing my elderly dad in the side seat he said to show me other papers obviously looking for opportunity. I obliged still not talking about money. Finally, he lost his patience and said that I had to open the luggage to prove that it was household items. This would have been a real task as It would not only put a strain on me physically also mentally I was not prepared to do so.I pleaded with the cop and his officer seated in a bike that everything was safe and this was family matter, also that I was getting late for Agra, my mother would get worried. Finally, after much persuasion I could get him off the hook. But down by a few hundred rupees.
So much for my adventure trip I had hardly clocked 30 kms and brush with the cops. I had to travel across 5 more states. I just hoped for once such stopovers would not reoccur. But I was wrong.
Day 2. – Gwalior.
I am moving to day 2 but will complete the events of the previous night. After that brush up with the UP cops, I actually took to the highway. It was late at night and drive was fine as roads were pretty good after leaving Faridabad towards Mathura. We reached Agra outskirts in 3 hours maybe around 11:0pm,but by then the Agra Cantt roads were full of water as there was heavy downpour and the area around my aunts place was in pitch darkness as electricity had gone too.
On top of it I also lost the way towards by aunts house as it was very dark and late at night and lot of mud and slush in the Road making driving in a 800 very difficult. Nevertheless I tried hard and after 1 hour or so finally reached aunts place around 1:00am.Too tired to narrate stories to her I just went off to sleep.
Next morning with hot tea and snacks I made a lame excuse that I was going to Bangalore as I had a job offer there and waiting to join in a weeks’ time. Since I wanted little adventure, I thought of driving down rather than take a train.
We started from Agra and our next stop was Gwalior. Gwalior was a deliberate stop for me more for my Dad as I had promised him that in our journey we will stop at Gwalior and try and make some wonderful memory of him returning to the place after 35 years where he spent a lot of his youth.
Crossing Chambal valley by road was an awesome experience as Dad had told us stories of Chambal he had also gone by road. These stories we use to hear as kids now I was driving through those roads…It was a different kick and feeling to experience it. Really worth every penny of the journey.
Amidst rain we hit Gwalior around noon and then the search for dads old contacts, remember he came back after 35 years but we finally tracked down some of his old contacts and also some of his old flames ( :)I guess though dad not tell that to me very specifically, but I figured it out.
First time in my life I saw dad with tears in his eyes, when he met one of his old friends. unfortunately, that uncle could not recognise him as he had grown old and almost 75 years now, but his wife remembered dad and all of them shared some old-time stories. Dad was all through out with tears in his eyes. We went on to meet few more of his friends here and there, Gwalior what he left back 35 years ago and now was very different, but he seemed to remember every road and lane and memories attached to all of them.
I must pause and tell that on that day I felt I had done my duty as a son. This was the joy I had given him. That full day driving around Gwalior was like a lifetime achievement for me. I thank God today for that day. Had it not been for that Day I would feel that as a Son I had not done 100% for my Dad.
We stayed overnight in Gwalior and after lot of bitter and sweet memory started for Bhopal the next day morning. Bhopal was going to be our next pit stop.450 kms approx.
Day 3 – Bhopal.
The 3rd Day drive from Gwalior to Bhopal was serious. Both literally as dad and I were reminiscing the previous days events. His meeting the very place and people and roads he once belonged to was nostalgic for him and an eye opener for me. It was those moments when we silently drove and lost in our thoughts. I was now little happy I started the trip though not sure where it will end. We reached a very wet and rainy Bhopal near some railway crossing around evening 4 pm and got caught into a traffic check post where cops were stopping for some routine checks.in the rain? In the mud? Anyways so be it. We did and found a dingy wet place to stay for the night. As Bhopal was only a stop in our long journey to Bangalore.
But I must say. That night was an eyeopener. I realised I was standing at ground zero.no clear roadmap in front of me, limited money couldn’t afford a proper hotel. Nevertheless, we stayed there for dinner and dad volunteered to sleep in the car as the bed was full of bugs. Hardly got 4 hours of sleep, I decided to leave Bhopal and move on for Nagpur.
Day 4 – Nagpur / Hyderabad.
We started off from Bhopal with a little relief to have left back that dingy place and on a new journey to look forward to…As we drove past the city and hit the NH69, I again stated to feel great. The roads the drive somehow always brings me to life. Since we had left quite early driving past NH69, I remember the road condition to be pretty good. I used to stop every 1 / 1.5 hours to take a break, have a smoke and then restart, the morning soon glided into noon and the countryside drive was exhilarating to say the least. Barring the fact that by now the car looked one of the K10 Rally cars. Things were just fine.
We glided on NH69 and passed Hoshangbad, Itarsi, Betel. And was headed towards Nagpur. No problem at all throughout and by now from where we crossed 400 kms I dint realize at all. I never went beyond 80 / 90 kmph. With the luggage and the state of car. But driving that day had been a pleasure and by 4:00pm we almost hit Nagpur. I remember we stopped to have chai and ciggie around 4:00pm and I asked Dad. Isn’t it too early to break for the day? We have lot of time in our hands…and obviously we were not on a sightseeing mission. So, what do we do.
As i finished the tasty pakora and chai and was dragging into the navy cut? I decided that we had to carry on .no point in unnecessary wasting time. I had a life to start from scratch…and no money.
so I asked dad and checked the way in our road map for our next destination which was ideally in the next day’s itiniery.
It was around 500kms more to Hyderabad from Nagpur without losing way ( that is important as we will now be driving mostly in dark and no one to ask for directions..)ideally it should be around 8 hours’ drive so i calculated that it might take around midnight by the time we would reach Hyderabad. I wanted to go for it.
Dad was for first time little doubtful. He said I had already covered 400kms.and another 500 kms new place new roads and late night. He was two minds. But I saw no point in wasting time here and again feel like Bhopal last night. Also, I was kicked to drive in the night. So, I told Dad lets go for it. He said Ok.
So We started off for the next 500 kms almost around 4:00pm.I had no idea how to make it but just that I had to make it, there was no choice.
So it was decided that it would be NH7 from hereon. Actually, all the way to Bangalore.NH7 from Nagpur goes through Hyderabad and to Bangalore in fact goes on till Kanyakumari. The southernmost tip of India.
That drive from thereon was very aggressive. I was not aware of the roads nor the language as it was lesser of Hindi from hear-on and more of Telegu and other regional languages. Which I was not familiar with. Fortunately, the roads, NH7 is pretty well lit at least till Adilabad I guess.by the time we have finished 300 odd kms we were into Andhra. It was getting dark and we had hit the Ghats. Near Nizamabad probably. But the roads were dark, and the Ghats section was steep. Over that I was getting tired by now had almost driven 700kms for the day. On Indian roads in a Maruti 800.It was taking a toll. I was finding it difficult to focus on the road. I told dad to light a smoke, usually I don’t smoke and drive and Of course NEVER Drink and drive. But I just wanted to get some little kick for going on now. We somehow pushed till Secunderabad by now it was almost mid night; the last few hours driving in the dark inside forests and Ghats was one helllova experience.
Dad said let’s stop here in secuderabad for the night ..I wanted too but I was adamant that I had to touch Hyderabad.
Then near Hussain Sagar lake towards Hyderabad city ..I lost the way ..the highways are no problem. But the city road I was getting caught in circles. By now I had driven almost 900 kms and my eyes were closing down. I had started at 5:00am in the morning and now it was 1am the next morning. Almost 24 hours on road driving. Somehow, we asked some labourers in some language way to Hyderabad city. Or some hotel to stay.
We found a hotel inside the city with parking lot.it was a much better place than Bhopal. We parked the car safely so that both me and dad could sleep and crashed for the night. It was 3:00am almost 23 hours of driving and covering 950 kms What a feat 🙂
Day – 5 – Gutty / Anantapur.
As we woke up in the Hyderabad hotel, after the momentous 950 kms single day drive, my bones were now aching and back was almost breaking. But the hotel was little better than the previous ones and when I did see the time it was around 9am.We had checked in at 3: am.so it was a solid 6 hours of sleep. Not enough but would do under the circumstances. Dad too had a good night sleep.
After refreshing ourselves we checked out and looked for a place to have breakfast. We found a decent south Indian joint and good idle sambar breakfast. Today was 15th August, Independence Day. I was heralding a new day and era in my life. And more excited that tomorrow was 16th August, my birthday. I would celebrate it in Bangalore.
with that excitement, Dad and I started off in our final leg sojourn towards Bangalore. Again, we hit NH7 towards Bangalore from Hyderabad. Our start was pretty good and amidst drives through small villages and forests. Decent roads and refreshed body, it was good drive. The car was now doing pretty well after the 950 kms torture yesterday. It was little hotter here though as we moved from north to the south. Very soon we passed 250 off kms and around noon stopped towards a roadside Dhabi for lunch. Now as we moved from north to south food taste, preference was also changing .no tandoori roti’s. Mostly rice, lots of quantity and rasam was staple. Typical south Indian veg thalis and quite spicy in Andhra Pradesh, I must say.
After a spicy rasam rice lunch we started off towards Bangalore, hoping to hit Anantapur by 4:00pm and Bangalore by 8;00pm latest on Independence Day. We started off and drove almost for an hour in the heat, it was very hot around this area and sun was scorching hot….we were on NH7 a mountainous terrain ,though we were driving in the plains but no trees only rocky hills and scorching sun. The road was straight and sun directly in front of me. I hit the gas pedal for once to th maximum..I must have also ben dozing off as I don’t remember the speed ,but the car was almost at max speed for a long time in the straight road; suddenly the engine sound at maximum torque woke me up ..i guess and I realised that my feet was in the pedal for long time and it was damn hot outside. I must have dozed off in that situation. Even dad was slightly dozing. I guess the heavy rice and rasam with curd must be the reason apart from fatigue. I stopped the car to give it little rest. Poor fellow while we were resting the car was choking i guess under maximum speed and acceleration got out in the middle of nowhere only rocks hills around for a smoke. After 10 minutes or so we got back to start the car, but it would not start. I tried again but still it was not starting. Repeat attempts were futile. I was getting annoyed as to why it was not starting. Not that I am a car mechanic but I simple surveyed the car to see if it was in one piece and reason for not starting. I looked around and saw no one person in the horizon, it was just road, nature open sky, hot sun and me and dad with our broken-down car. It was around 4:00pm.
Dad said that it must be a starting problem with battery or ignition or something. Let’s ask for help. In between 10-15 minutes one lorry passed by but did not stop. Then a scooter bound stopped by who could understand Hindi. He asked what the problem was, I said the car is not starting. He asked me if I had any tools to check the car. I had a d he opened the bonnet and checked. But after 10 mints he said that maybe the dynamo was spoilt and therefore car was not starting. We had to drive to the nearest town called Gutty some 40 kms from here and ask for a mechanic and check.
I was perplexed. I had anticipated this, but dint expect this. I wasn’t sure if this guy was telling any truth, not that I had a choice. He left soon afterwards.
I kept waiting, waiting for a solution to fall from happen. It dint. But what came was a jeep in a distance. As it arrived, I realized it could mean trouble. The open jeep was not empty it was actually crowded. Full of at least 6 men. Well-built and with open shirts. I was little shocked to see tis jeep in the middle of nowhere and that full of men. As the approached towards up. I slowly walked towards dad. As soon as it came towards us i realized some of the men were carrying rifles, at least two of them were. I was not scared but little surprised to see something like this, it was almost like straight out of the Hindi movies i had seen when i was younger. They came and looked at the car with some tools strewn around. They noticed it was a UP registered car. noticed that here was probably a father and son in little dilemma. But they said nothing and asked nothing. We dint actually look like locals nor did we typically look like Punjabi north Indians. The way they came, they took a u turn and left within minutes. Nothing said, nothing spoken. Nothing exchanged. We left it at that too. Dint go to ask for any help or anything. Later I was told that these are Naxal areas, but I cannot comment on that.
But that helped me decide my next course of action ,it was around 5:00pm and the only thing left for me was to push the car and start it and GO.
Little later we stopped a mini truck and asked for help. Two guys helped push the car and I was at wheels to bring it to start without ignition. After few unsuccessful attempts, i manged to start the car and we drove on expecting to reach Gouty some 40 kms from here safely.
We did an hour later.
Day 6 – Bangalore.
I got up at 4:00am (16th august, my birthday) and saw dad was having a smoke outside. He obviously could not sleep in the car while he let me sleep inside. I was little unhappy to see dad. I told him to go and sleep inside with the owner. It was on the floor but there was fan and there was flat surface with a bedsheet. He declined but I told him no ways, he had to sleep there. I would manage in the caraways I had slept for few hours. (Moreover, it was my days of struggle, why drag him into it)
Anyways, i kept awake for new few hours until it was proper daylight and after a wash and chai. We thanked the owner goodbye for his hospitality and left gouty for Anantapur in our 800 without the dynamo working. He also thanks us and said it was nice to meet us and would look forward to meeting us again. I wasn’t so sure 🙂
We drove into NH7 towards Anantapur and finally around 11:00am found a Maruti service centre where we parked and asked for help. Here the owner of this service centre was more professional and knowledgably. He asked us detail and once he got to know from where we were coming etc. He immediately told us to get comfortable in his cabin in the first floor of the garage while he would attend the car. His mechanics were good, but they were all busy with work at hand. but I insisted that I had planned to reach Bangalore and it was already late. He took his time and best person to do the job, but he could get the dynamo which would work. After hours of trying he finally gave up and put an old dynamo of an ambassador car. He then cleaned our car and gave it a nice fresh look after the 200 kms journey so far, we had made. By the time we finished it was 4:00pm. I was way delayed and really out of my mind literally thinking so many things. Specially what a way to spend a birthday.
We left Anantapur around 4:30 pm towards Bangalore hoping nothing else delays our journey from thereon. The car was much cleaner but physically Dad and I were completely drained. The last 5 days of driving around the country and facing some good and some bad circumstances. We both felt it was enough.
We finally hit Bangalore around 8:00pm and went searching for St john’s hospital. That was the supposedly meeting point for me for someday. Thanks to Alo, my buddy who was a doctor there to get me a place to stay there. Finally driving through the city which was more complicated than driving in the country. We reached Bangalore.St.Johns Hospital.Alu and Geetu ( his wife) met us and said HAPPY BIRTHDAY.I told Alo.Man ,I am so happy to see you all.They were very excited that I had made it from Delhi,because I had met alo and geetu the day I left from NOIDA in the morning.( chk my blog of day 1).They had reached 3 days back by train though they left one day after we left.But it was a great get together.for all of us.
Alu put us in the Hospital annexe to stay for the night.I parked the car in the silent parking of the hospital,quitely thanking him in my mind. Then Alo and me left for beer to celebrate my coming to Bangalore.AND OF COURSE IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY.It was 9:00pm.
So, it was. July on the 12th, returning from my friend’s house in South Delhi. That once in a lifetime moment of truth.A single decision that changes your course of life forever. Taking that leap of faith.Guess it was my turn, that 12th of July 2002.I took that leap of faith.Yes, it was bye bye Noida/Delhi. Time to move on. Make a new start. Bangalore.
It’s so strange that once you decide things, they really start becoming clear. Your views are only in one direction. At least for me that always worked. Now began the timing, planning and action.
So, I decided to pack up everything and make new start in life…Yes start from zero. Calculating is always easier that way. I sold / left everything back including my fond Hero Honda splendour. bike. Took the one-way trip in my Maruti 800 car and headed from Noida to Bangalore. Where, How, Why. Those were Questions whose answers, I hoped will fall in place. As when I started, the Trip I dint have any.
While my family were very confused about my decision. Dad was quiet and supportive. His only condition was to allow him to come with me during the trip to Bangalore. I agreed only with the condition that once we reach Bangalore, he would leave me and go back to Bhubaneswar, no questions asked. He agreed.
Post Note –
That was almost 10 years back, Here I am now settled in Bangalore for last 10 years. I have a career (which I never knew could exist), have a family (with 2 boys who are my best buddies), have a house to live in and of course a car to do more road trips. But nothing can ever beat this life changing decision of doing the one way road trip in 2002 from New Delhi to Bangalore, with my father.Those amazing 5 days of my life. I am going to write about them in the next post.
For Perspective few other things have also changed since that 2002 Trip.
Dad is no more. He died month and half back. March 2011.
His first trip in Bangalore was St. John’s Hospital. We stayed there for 3 days.(Thanks to my doctor friends.Albert & Geetanjali)
His last trip in life was also to St. John’s Hospital, earlier this year. I reminded him about that day in March 2002 when we had reached Bangalore after the long drive of 5 days.He was very weak and could barely walk. But remembering that trip brought out a smile in him. Few weeks later he passed away.
Albert and Geetu have also moved back to Delhi. My bestest buddies in Bangalore, my Sanity.
But that trip in 2002 will always cherish in my heart. Road trips can be so much adventure and fun. And sometimes the best moments of your life.I urge all people to do it sometimes in their lifetimes.
I have been mulling over a blog on road trips for sometime now. I am a self confessed fan of road trips though not done many yet .Nevertheless the need to express and share something on these lines got the better of me and here I am writing my first blog post.
Have to confess that the lazy me eventually took this up more in memory of my dad whom I lost last month.While I have not really been on many road trips,one of the most memorable one was with my dad, probably the most defining one in my lifetime till now.I will describe that trip in my next post,but for now I will stop to only reaffirm my faith in road trips and a solemn promise to start doing more trips in the time to come. cmon my kids are also 5 and 3 now, so my wife cant complain that road trips are dangerous for small kids..etc. follow nike.just do it.