Louis, 62, and Janet Dsouza, 56, completed their lifetime trip starting off from Mumbai going all the way to London in their BMW X5, covering as many as 40 countries on the way. Vibha Singh gets an insight from them about planning the World trip and handling the nuances…
Age is just a number which forces us to ponder, ‘Is this an age to drive across so many countries!’ To contradict this mindset and to contradict this statement Louis, 62, and Janet Dsouza, 56, set on an unforgettable journey
Challenges of a road trip
A road journey doesn’t mean taking your car out on an impulse and hitting the road instantly. Thereis a lot of planning involved and a lot of groundwork to be done before heading out. Every country has all kinds of terrains. Janet and Louis both experienced different and extreme landscapes and road conditions during the journey. Luckily language wasn’t an issue, as they thought initially would cause difficulty to them but while visiting various countriesGoogle translate came to their rescue. “Border crossings was a major challenge and stressful. Not only the documents — the visas and passports were verified — but the luggage in the car was checked at all the border crossings,” says Janet.
The couple found all of the Central Asian countries wonderful. They met many lovely local people, besides Indians working/settled in these countries. Also they found that the countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmensitan, Azerbaijan, Moscow and Europe were all very beautiful and full with history. Also Iran was a very friendly country with people who were excited and happy to welcome tourists, that they even sometimes waived the toll at the toll gates. The duo thoroughly cherished the time they spent with the ambassadors and their families in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, besides attending the Diwali function hosted by Indians in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Driving on roads of all these countries was pleasurable experience for them because of the road discipline in every country. Both were reluctant to drive on snowy roads, but due to the changing weather conditions they got the opportunity to drive on snowy roads. It was stressful but the tough couple enjoyed every bit of drive inspite of having no experience at all driving on snow-laden roads.
Problems and fears
Sometimes fear can hold a lot of people back especially when you plan to drive over 50,000kms. Janet talking about their fear says, “Safety of our car and ourselves was the biggest concern. However, after driving through these countries, we never felt safer, than we ever anticipated. Border crossing at times took long hours, especially during summer which is a holiday season and a lot of people travelling across the borders.”
Their greatest challenge was the Ruili border wherein entry to Myanmar was not permitted due to a political unrest situation in Myanmar in early November-December 2016. While permission was denied on the northern side of the border at Ruili, the enthusiasm of the couple did not stop them to look at an alternative route through Laos and Thailand. Louis said, “Our moment of happiness was short lived when we reached Tachileik (the southern border entry point to Myanmar) wherein we were refused permission to enter the country from the Ruili border. We were told that a new permission would have to be obtained from Myanmar authorities to permit us entry from the Southern side of Myanmar which was a complete setback and distressing to us considering that we had no clarity as to how many days it would take.”
They then decided to parktheir car in one of the hotels in Tachileik in Myanmar wherein the staff at the hotel co-operated with them and they flew back to India to celebrate Christmas and New Year with their family. After some days they came back to Tachileik with new permissions and crossed the border with the official from Ministry of Tourism and a guide and drove to Tamu border from where they crossed back into India.
Louis explains, “One must be prepared to incur expenditure for not only the fuel but for hotel, food and camping expenses, besides servicing the car. Our maximum expenditure was on obtaining permissions to drive our car through Myanmar and China.”
Tips and tricks for successful trip
During the journey the couple found that focus, patience and co-ordination is very important among the travel partners.One must possess courage, determination and never hesitate in executing the plan intended for that willingness to travel and explore the unexplored!Though it is an adventure, but not so much that you land up in a place without planning for the requirements of that particular country such as visas, insurance, etc.
Janet is of the view that if you are planning a road trip then, “One should work on your itinerary few months before the journey. Apply for the visas to those respective countries/places in an organized manner with an exclusive statement of purpose on why you would take this road journey. Requirements of each countryare its dress code such as Iran, or traffic rules in countries such as Turkmenistan, etc. Some important things to keep in mind are to follow your planned timelines, flexibility in your stays, avoid driving in the night, follow the speed limit and have the exact location of service centers.”
Other important factors to be kept in view are the weather conditions of the place. As sometimes, according to them one has to be prepared for driving in the snow like they had to do in China where the temperature was -10 degree celsius and they drove through the roads covered with snow and thick fog.
The couple had a purpose in mind before embarking on the trip that for kilometrethey would drive they would donate Rs. 10 for a cause to NGOs White Doves and Muskan.
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Myanmar, China, Mongolia into Russia to Europe crossing Lithuania, Norway, Belgium and a host of other nations before eventually arriving in the United Kingdom. They drove all the way back as well, covering 50,000 km and 40 beautiful countries.