The statistical feats achieved on the Road to London (RTL) are no way dismissal: 16,000 kilometres of continuous driving, 02 continents, 18 countries, 34 cities, driving through deserts, mountains, glaciers and all other landscapes one can imagine. However, we 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 we 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. If you are travelling alone, the first change you encounter is unknown 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 the next 50 days or perhaps longer. The sudden change in cuisine is what impacts the majority of us. Vegetarian options saw a little declining trend while the non-vegetarian options kept piling on. To the limited list of chicken and mutton which are amongst the favourites of Indian non-vegetarian food eaters came the impressive addition of Beef, Pork, Yak, Horse, Camel, Duck, coagulated blood, crickets and other exotics.
Then started the exciting journey of changing currencies as we moved across different countries and their different rate conversions. Being Indians, we had this compulsion to convert every item to INR and accordingly decide our buying and eating needs. The icing-on-cake was that in majority of the countries, the Indian currency was strong enough to allow us the luxury to shop happily. 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 headgear similar to women of Kyrgyzstan was a beautiful experience.
Next to absorb was the continuous change in landscapes and terrains. We travelled through drylands of Myanmar, the rubber plantations of Laos, the green-carpeted mountains with beautiful lakes to snow-clad mountains and Gobi desert in China, the most beautiful drive through Pamir Glacier of Kyrgyzstan, the vast empty lands of Kazakhstan with horses running parallel to our convoy across miles of open lands and the sunsets which we had unknowingly forgotten living in overpopulated cities. The chill of Volga (Russia) and Ping (Thailand) river as we walked by the banks, the quietness and reflection of the Mekong River in Laos. Rain, thundershowers, hailstorms and bright sunny days kept us company as we drove towards London.
As we continued to travel across 18 countries, it was fun to pick up the local words of “Hello” and “Thankyou” in at least nine different languages. Communicating with local people using 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 Chopsticks). It was interesting how many times we went on the other side of the egg section to make our favourite omelette.
Some countries gave us an extremely warm welcome, treated us like celebrities and spoiled us to the core (Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan) so much so that we all almost felt 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.
Road to London is a life-changing journey that is bound to bring a positive impact on the lives of each person who is fortunate enough to live this dream. It gave us a new identity and put us in that rare group of travellers who had driven 16000 kilometres from India to the U.K. For as long as we live, Road to London has become a part of our identity and will immortalise us, for generations.