To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly (Henri Bergson, 2015). “Creative Evolution”
The statistical feats achieved on the Road to London (RTL) are no way dismissal: 16,000 kms of continuous driving, 02 continents, 18 countries, 34 cities, driving through deserts, mountains, glaciers and all other landscapes one can imagine. However, I would like to dwell on how in addition to these numerical milestones there were countless intangible experiences.
Many of us go through our lives with a fixed routine and surroundings of office space, home, family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, currency and a fixed seasonal variation but suddenly you experience a new wonder as you embark on RTL and I would like to address it as “The incessant change”. Here was our chance to enjoy CHANGES at every point of time for the next 50 days. I personally never realised how much I had loved every moment of this continuous change till I was back to routine after the trip. I never knew that the pleasure of adapting and enjoying the ever-evolving newness at such a rapid pace could be so enthralling.
If you are travelling alone, the first change you encounter is no-known faces and the task of knowing each one of your fellow-travellers. Further, unique to homosapiens, you also make a mental calculation on how much time would you like to spend with each one and what would be your engagement depth. This more or less decides your comfort zone for next 45 days or perhaps longer The sudden change in cuisine is what impacts majority of us…. vegetarian options saw a little declining trend while the non-vegetarian options kept piling on. To my limited list of chicken and mutton came the impressive addition of Beef, Pork, Yak, Horse, Camel, Duck, coagulated blood….Being allergic to seafood I had to restrain myself from indulging in the vast variety of fish dishes, mussels, prawns, shrimps….. and was not as adventurous as some fellow travellers in trying out the crickets and other exotics in Myanmar and other places.
Then started the interesting journey of changing currencies as we moved across different countries and their different rate conversions. Being Indians, we had this compulsion to convert to INR and accordingly decide our buying and eating needs. The icing-on-cake was that in majority of the countries our Indian currency was strong enough to happily allow us the luxury to shop…It was fun to buy local dresses and mingle with the local population specially in Myanmar and “the stan nations”…The pleasure of dawning the head gear similar to women of Kyrgyzstan as a beautiful experience
Next to absorb was the continuous change in landscape. As we travelled through dry landscapes of Myanmar to green carpeted mountains with beautiful lakes to snow clad mountains in China, driving through the desert and then the most beautiful drive through Palmier glacier of Kyrgyzstan …The vast empty lands of Kazakhstan with dried leaves spread across miles of empty lands made you compare with the overpopulated areas back home. Sunsets which you had unknowingly forgotten living in cities remind you of the great loss…daily sunrises in different cities brought in the anticipation of the beauty of the coming day….the chill of Volga (Russia) and Ping (Thailand) river as you walk by the banks, the quietness and reflection of Mekong river. Rain, thundershowers and hailstorms and sunlight making its way through the clouds all welcome you as you continue to drive and move forward towards London. Never realised that somewhere during our lifetime we had stopped enjoying these beautiful gifts of nature.
As we continued to travel across 18 countries it was fun to pick up the local words of “Hello” and “Thankyou” for at least 09 countries. Communication through sign and body language came extremely handy especially when we wanted a well-done egg-white omelette for breakfast or required cutlery in China (though we all made genuine efforts of learning to eat with Chop sticks). It was interesting how many times we went on the other side of the egg section to make our own favourite omelette.
Some countries gave us an extremely warm welcome, treated us as celebrities and spoiled us to the core (Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan) so much so that we all felt so ignored when we travelled through Russia and Europe. The oriental face cuts gradually changed to Uyghurs and merged with the Caucasoid+Mongoloid of “the stan” countries followed by the Caucasians of Europe. And finally, the so-called stiff-lip Brits welcomed the convoy to London (we had some awesome Brit co-travellers who waived us into London).
The contribution of each local guide and facilitator in various countries deserve a special mention. We had many of them: The expert historian: Aung (Myanmar) and Khurshid (Uzbekistan); excellent local knowledge of their region Rumz ( Kyrgyzstan), David (Europe and UK), Vasili ( Russia), Phong (Laos); highly energetic convoy leaders Tin ( Myanmar) and Tom (Thailand) and great facilitators across the borders ( Russia: Andrey) and Andy to help us steer those unending tolls and police check points in China. Special thanks to Andy for his long-standing patience of 17 days in China The change of 34 hotels as you move forward (impossible to remember names), 34-different room numbers ( keep the outer cover please, very high chances you may forget when you step out for a walk), 34- types of different shower handles which you struggle with during the morning shower, 34-different breakfast spreads. Different parks and roads as you go out for a morning or evening walk (would be a good idea to extensively use maps and google coordinates to safely return). One cannot undermine the ever-changing traffic rules, traffic signals and the driving speed. Our convey leader, Tushar had quite a job on his hands while continuously reminding us of the speed limits for each country. It was a matter of applause when the convoy leaders declared that this was the first
RTL wherein no traffic tickets were issued in any of the 18 countries…hurray RTL 2019 Never before had life thrown so many variants into my daily life and all it took was an open mind and a happy heart to enjoy this continuous change.
In addition to these changes during the journey, the expedition has deeply impacted some deeprooted behaviour of
mine. A loner by nature I have no inhibitions in accepting that the journey was exciting and pleasurable because of the co-travellers. In addition, I also accept with total conviction that it’s okay to let-go of your guard at times while enjoying few drinks with friends. So, RTL is not only about transient changes during the journey but perhaps a life-changer for some people. Thank you Sanjay/Tushar/Prachur/Vidhi and the backend team of Adventures Overland for this most beautiful journey till date…looking out for more
Dr Kavita Singh