70 days & 18000 kms: A road trip across India in my 2012 Skoda Fabia

idea of driving the entire distance alone looked like a mammoth task and I kept thinking if it was foolhardy to embark on a trip like this. My wife kept encouraging me saying “I know you can do it”.

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Disclaimer:

  • Take a bucket of popcorn & the beverage of your choice to go with it, this is going to be a long one.
  • As there are restrictions on MP4 attachment here, I have added few small video clips to the copy of this travel blog in my personal page. Rest of the content remains the same.

Prologue:

Visiting every state of this vast country has been a dream we have been nurturing for a decade now. But it always looked too big a task to be put into a plan. During the lock-down 1 when we had nothing to do, in one of the discussions this topic appeared.

During the discussion we realized it has taken us more than 10 years just to explore 4 southern states of India. At this rate it would take very long to achieve the dream of visiting all states. So we decided we needed at least one destination in every state to make a plan & state capital was a easy option, hence the state capitals were chosen.

Curiosity to know exactly how big this drive could be, took us to google maps. Half a day of a weekend went into making a route plan & during this process the UTs were added too. The final picture confirmed that this is not a practical thing to do. But since we had put in so much effort to make a plan, I added all the data to an excel file & saved it.

On 28th Dec 2020 I read an article in News paper where a couple from Bangalore had been to all state capitals on their bikes. This reminded me of the excel file I had saved.

Got in touch with them and spoke to them about their experience. Post this,we stopped thinking that this trip is not possible & we started thinking what if we do this trip.

Planning & Preparation:

We were sure irrespective of what we do, with this Covid waves coming one after another, it was impossible to decide on when a long trip like this can be planned. But there was a shift in thinking from not possible to do the trip to what do we need to do to make this trip happen. ( I sound like Robert Kiyosaki who has famously told, “never say I cant afford it ask yourself what do I need to do to afford it.” ). And this brought a list of challenges to work on as we started planning for the trip.

First thing we did as part of the planning was to breakdown this trip into one destination at a time.

Few questions we were looking for the answer were:

  • How long will it take to reach the destination?
  • Does it need a pit-stop or can it be done in a day?
  • If it needs pit stop what it should be?
  • Once we reach destination what are the local attractions to see? ( We decided to pick 2 per destination considering the time constraint )
  • Is there anything on the way to visit without taking a big detour?
  • What is the best time to visit?

Since India was gripped with deadly wave 2 of Covid we knew we could only gather information and feed it to Excel at that moment. And that is what we did with out even thinking about when we can actually start this trip.

At the end of this exercise we realized it could take us approximately 8 weeks to complete this trip and the distance could be anywhere in between 15,500 – 16,500 KMs. And we arrived at 2 possible time window to do this trip Oct – Dec or Mar – May.

Final route plan with destinations marked in sequence looked like this:

Oct – Feb is our favorite time to travel as the weather is ideal and nature is also at its best. Most of our past road trips have been in this time. But Oct 21 was when India was going through wave 3 with covid numbers rising. Also monsoon extended itself till Dec and there were floods in northern part of India. So it looked unlikely. We were not very keen on summer time as it is never pleasant to do a road trip in hot summer. But we were also not sure if it is wise to wait for Oct 22. A decision was made to start this travel as soon as we see wave 3 numbers starts going down and threat of another lock-down diminishes.
The biggest challenge with both the time window we had chosen was it was not very conducive for visit to Leh. But cant alter plan because of 1 out of 35 destinations we had planned. So we decided to leave Leh as probably not possible and go ahead with rest of the plan.

Next challenge was how do we do this trip in a car that is almost 10 years old. Also it is a hatchback so luggage carrying capacity, ground clearance and all these factors come into picture. We decided to remove the backseat and make space for the luggage & also travel as light as possible. This means we needed more laundry breaks. We started looking for which of the destinations are covered by Airbnb to rent a house with washing machine facility, that data was fed into the excel as well. All this was done without even knowing when we will actually be able to start this trip. It was just the desire that we wanted to do it rather than anything else.

By end of Dec 21, wave 3 peaked and it looked like starting the trip in Mar – May 22 a real possibility. Then my mind started playing games with me. I have done multiple road trips over the years. But none of them had been of this scale. My longest trip has been for about 2 weeks and not crossing 2000 KMs. And I had never driven beyond Konkan region in Maharashtra. So this was at least 4 -5 times bigger in terms of time and 8 times bigger in terms of distance. And a 10 year old Skoda was also creating enough doubts in mind. Skoda has limited service centers across India and just 1 in entire NE. Decided not to doubt the car which has never let us down on any road trip till now.

The places we have been to prior to starting this trip.

But the idea of driving 16000 kms alone looked like a mammoth task and I kept thinking if it was foolhardy to embark on a trip like this. My wife kept encouraging me saying “I know you can do it”. Her desire to do this trip made sure she overlooked all possible challenges. I eventually decided not to look at it as a single road trip and look at it in pieces from one destination to another. This approach helped and the mental block disappeared. We also knew that the biggest challenge in this trip is going to be how we cope with constant change in food and weather condition on daily basis.

Once the wave 3 numbers started reducing we decided to start the trip by 3rd week of Feb. Anyways Leh was considered not possible so there was no reason to delay it.

Got new set of wheels for the car, got the annual service done along with thorough checkup of the car to prepare for this trip. But some unfinished business delayed the proceedings and we could not start the trip as intended. In the process I had already driven about 2000 KMs after getting the car ready for the trip. Finally the date for the trip was decided as 20th Mar. Now only and the biggest hurdle in front of us was to convince our parents to allow us to go for this trip. It took some time and persuasion, eventually that was done too.

As part of planning we made following rules for us to adhere to:

  • Consider this like a marathon and not a sprint.
  • No driving in the nights, driving window to be between 7 AM – 6 PM.
  • Do not drive beyond 7 hours in a day unless it is unavoidable.
  • Not to cross 110 KMs speed limit irrespective of how good the road is. ( I was able to stick to it in most parts).
  • Eat light, do not experiment much with food to avoid stomach upsets.

Route: Bangalore – Panjim – Mumbai – Dadra – Daman – Diu – Gandhinagar – Bhopal – Jaipur – New Delhi – Chandigarh – Jammu – Srinagar – Leh – Shimla – Dehradun – Lucknow – Patna – Gangtok – Guwahati – Itanagar – Kohima – Imphal – Aizawl – Agarthala – Shillong – Ranchi – Kolkatta – Bhubaneshwar – Raipur – Hyderabad – Amaravati – Chennai – Puducherry – Thiruvananthapuram – Bangalore.

We decided not to remove the back seat and split the luggage into 2 sections. Boot was filled with all the clothes and shoes which will not be unloaded on daily basis. All the accessories, camera, laptop, snacks, water cans, clothes to be carried to the room on daily basis were in the back seat. We were also carrying an electric multi cooker and good life milk packets to make our morning coffees. This cooker can also be used to cook maggi if needed. Added hooks to the car seat head rests which helped us to hang few small bags that holds things which might be needed to be accessed on the move. One of the hooks was dedicated for garbage cover.

Luggage waiting for the car.

Car waiting to be on the road.

Road trip begins.

Bangalore – Panjim:

A couple of days prior to starting this trip, we had visited some popular places in Bangalore to kick start the trip:

Vidhana Soudha looks like a golden palace in early morning sun light.

State Central library:

Cubbon Park.

Day 1: 20/03/2022:

Everyone knows how difficult it is to get a good night sleep before starting the trip because of all excitement, we too had similar experience and woke up by 3:15 AM. Most of the luggage was already loaded in the car the previous night. We got ready and left home by 4:30 AM. It had rained a bit the previous night and when we started it was still drizzling.

At this hour you don’t have to worry about any traffic on the road, so it was a trouble free drive to NICE road and from there we took an exit to hit Tumkur road. We took our first tea break as soon as we hit Tumkur road. We generally start the trip early for 2 reasons; beat the traffic and find a nice spot to watch sunrise. But with cloud cover, there was no luck with sunrise, so we drove on. Our next stop was for breakfast around 7:30 AM.

This guy was enjoying an early morning drive too.

Our next stop was near Hubli at this UP Daba for a tea, it was around 9:30 AM. We also stopped to buy some Dharwad peda for the road. It was still cloudy, which was pleasant to drive. Road condition was pretty good except for a stretch of 25 – 30 KMs after Dharwad.

We stopped for our lunch in Ramnagar at 12:45 PM, post this next stop was for fuel after crossing to Goa. We spotted this under renovation structure in Goa and stopped take few photos.

Safa Masjid.

We reached Panjim by 3:30 PM and went to visit the monument we had planned to visit.

Panjim.

Immaculate Conception Church.

Every junction in Panjim was decorated like this.

We had not booked any room for our night stay. This is the first experience for us to travel without booking a place. Our bookings are done well in advance all the time. This trip is different in every count from all the road trips we had done till date. Quick internet search, found some hotels nearby and called them. Few were full, found a couple of them, didnt like them once we visited there. Finally found a hotel in Dona Paula and checked in by 5:00 PM. We got freshened up, went to visit the Dona Paula beach. Because of cloud cover there was no chance of watching sunset. Had some snacks and returned to room.

Dona Paula beach.

We were not very hungry by dinner time, so had some snacks for dinner and called it quits for the day.

Route taken: Bangalore – Chitradurga – Dharward – Ramnagar – Panaji.

What we covered so far.

Continue reading on BHPian thirugata’s road trip across India for BHPian comments, insights and more information.

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