Motoring expeditions – The what, when and how of traversing India’s terrains
Showcasing the potential of motoring expeditions in India, a recent Dekho Apna Desh webinar organised by the Ministry of Tourism, highlighted the diverse network of roads and terrain available in various corners of the country.
The virtual session was moderated by Tourism Ministry’s additional director general Rupinder Brar and presented by Manish Sarser, senior manager, Mahindra Adventure and Hari Singh, Head of Operations, JK Motorsports and Founder, DriveTech India.
Beginning with India’s leadership position in terms of length of road networks, Brar stated that the country has the second largest road network in the world with a total length of around 5,897,671 km. Indian road network consists of 1,000 km of Expressways, 79,243 km of National Highways, 1,31,899 km of State Highways and other major district and rural roads. She explained how Indian motoring expeditions offer a fantastic and thrilling experience, considering the varied terrain that India has like deserts, plateaus, mountains, highest passes, coastal roads etc.
Opening the presentation, Hari Singh spoke of how cars have become more of a necessity than a luxury and driving holidays in cars gives one an opportunity to experience culture, diversity, cuisines and people of India. Motor expeditions require a little bit of planning, and passion for thrills and driving. With every expedition one gains new experiences. Given India’s varied climatic conditions, the motoring expeditions can be a year-round activity. For instance, expeditions to the Himalayan region can be planned during summers, and similarly the expeditions in Rajasthan can be taken in winters, while in western India, especially in Maharashtra, the best time to visit is from June to September during monsoons.
The presenters recommended SUVs to be most suitable for driving in high altitudes and more importantly, the need to have good knowledge about the vehicle and possessing driving etiquette. The presenters gave out a “to-do” list like knowledge of service centres available in those routes so that in case of an emergency, the vehicle could be attended to. Carrying certain spare parts such as tubes, tyres etc., servicing of the vehicle before beginning the journey and having a music system in the car to make the trip more enjoyable and memorable were recommended.
Talking about the itineraries, the most popular motoring expedition in the Himalayas is for about 9-10 days. The journey starts from Chandigarh-Shimla (a halt there for lunch), and goes through Narkanda (Visit to Hathu Temple and overnight stay), Sangla (stay for 2 days and enjoy the local trip during the day time), Nako in Spiti Valley (Stay in tented camps), Kaza Valley (which has the highest post office of the village — the Hikkim Post Office and then a visit to Gue Mummy monastery which is about 500 years old), Manali and back to Chandigarh.
Another recommended itinerary in the Himalayas lasting for about 5 days begins from Chandigarh via Sangla, Kaza Valley (stay for 2 days), Mandi (2 days), and back to Chandigarh. Discussing the lodging facilities, the speakers stated that during the expedition on these routes there are plenty of options available such as star-category hotels, home stays and basic guest houses. However, one should explore the option of homestays as the people there are very hospitable and are helpful in taking you for local visits. Through interactions with the locals, one can really explore and learn about their culture, beliefs, local cuisines and languages.The hospitality is truly amazing.
Another motor-expedition itinerary during New Year time, lasts for about 7 days. This expedition starts from Delhi via Sikar (overnight stay), Bikaner (2 days), Jaisalmer (2days), Jodhpur (overnight stay), Jaipur (overnight stay) and then back to Delhi. For a shorter expedition, Gujarat will be recommended for about 3 days starting from Ahmedabad via Rann of Kutch and Shahabad.A popular expedition from southern India starts from Bengaluru via Chikmagalur, Cochin and Munnar, which is for about 4-5 days.
A motoring expedition to the North East is also a fantastic experience. The state government of Nagaland hosts the Hornbill Festival every year in the month of December, and similarly, Arunachal Pradesh hosts the Orange Festival. A visit during these festival periods is full of fun and music. Local people are hospitable and even the state government authorities from the Chief Minister to the local authorities welcome visitors. One can plan a 7-days road trip starting from Guwahati via Imphal, Kohima, Bandula, Tawang and back to Guwahati.
The presenters advised that while on a motor expedition, the following things must be always carried — Driving licence, identity card, Indian credit card, passport and insurance coverage among other things. Further, as a responsible traveller, one must abide by certain guidelines like not littering the place and respecting the local customs and environment.