THE BEGINNING – the birth of the Idea K2K

I’m an entrepreneur who runs her boutique in Chennai and also an amateur photographer. I’ve been driving my car on the roads of Chennai for over 15 years. In AUGUST last year I heard about Roshni Sharma who did biking solo cross country from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and ever since that day I decided I’m going to do something like this by car. Oops! Forgot to mention I’m one of those impulsive 37 year old who never seems to get enough from life. I always have this dying need to do something to challenge myself, else I don’t feel alive. Dreaming is all good but serious questions first; do I have the driving skills to complete such a long journey’? I honestly don’t know, but do I have the will power and mental endurance to overcome any problems I’ll encounter enroute?? yes yes yes!!!

In April 2015 I bought FORD ECOSPORT so that I can give wings to my dreams. This being a once in a lifetime trip and being a photographer, I wanted to have the best possible DSLR to capture my experiences…so with my savings I bought a Nikon D750 and 24-70 2.8 lens, which further put a hole in my pocket by 2 lakh Rupees. Well! it was easier to strike away the to-do list by doing the easy job of buying things first. Anyways after buying the car on May 1st, myself and my bestie Parry (Parneet Sandhu) took this car from Chennai to Wayanad and back, travelling around 1400 km with this car. After that there was no looking back . By now even Parry was smitten by the idea of K2K.

Brief background on Parry: Remember we all have friends who are a part of all the hysterical and historical and Why on earth did I do this moment! She is one among that legendary friend. Every time I suggest I want to do this she will be like really “tu pagal hai! yeh kaise karegi”(in English: Are you crazy – how will you do this?”) and her next sentence would be kab karna hai?(in English : “When do you want it?”) …She has been my best buddy since past 3 years and the damage that this friendship has done is as follows… 2 years before she went to settle down in USA , before a year was over she was back in India and with the aim to start her own travel company. Of course she is still working for the US based company , yet her heart still yearns for her first love travel.

Parry and I decided to start preparing for our expedition by road from Kanyakumari to Kashmir – K2K , taking us from the scorching land of the southern tip of India to the cold barrenness of the northern most point of India to Turtuk in Ladakh. This would mean driving through 14 states and covering nearly 5,000 kms (3107 miles), we contacted Mr H.V. Kumar and his organization Hivayings. I Sent an email to Mr Kumar describing our intention and he immediately got back, helping us with the support throughout the trip. He guided us with 24×7 navigation, mobilizing help in case of maintenance issue enroute . He even took care of hotel bookings during the entire journey. When I spoke to him I realized he was an encyclopedia on Indian highways. He gave us the detailed script of the roadmap enroute, detailing every aspect of the conditions of road we would be expecting. When he came to know that I’m a photographer he gave me more insights into things to watch for and capture in my lenses. After having spoken to him I realized that I don’t have to worry about any logistics and planning during the journey. With Mr H.V.Kumar on board in our team, all we needed to worry about was to drive and to take pictures. Anyway, without wasting any more time we decided the date of journey as June 18th.

Meanwhile we were reading a lot on highway driving, driving in the rains and ghat road riding, the dos and don’ts….spent hours together watching videos and being scared seeing the Himalayan ghat road drives. Did I tell you , never before had we ever driven on any ghat roads! We also learnt some basics like learning to change a flat tyre ….in fact when we got a flat tyre for the first time we were so excited to change and fix the spare tyre all by ourselves. We went through the Ford manual to learn more about car and 3 days before the trip got our vehicle completely serviced at MPL Ford , Chennai. We even told them about our journey from K2K and how only two women are going to ride the car, so as to make sure they completely check the vehicle for all issues. Anyway the day arrived, but to our dismay it was peak monsoon season and it was raining all over Central India. It rained as if it would never stop – and it did exactly that – did not stop and kept pouring and poured away our hopes along with it. The weather forecast was also not on our side. There were warnings by the government to stay indoors. With nature God showing his fury and owing to family pressure we had to call off the mission…I remember I sent a message to HVSir as we fondly called him by now (Mr H.V.Kumar) to inform him with a heavy heart that we were calling off our expedition and he said I know many people enquire and ask about such trips but very few do it. His reply made is made us feel very disappointed … I did not know at that point of time, how to prove that I really meant to do this trip. Anyways, after the initial hiccup our determination to do execute the trip only became stronger and we chose Aug 8th 2015 for our Mission Kashmir.

THE D-DAY

The D day was fast approaching and very close. Listening to the news coming in from various states in Central India like Rajasthan, Goa and West Bengal where the monsoon was at its peak was nerve wracking. TV news channels were flooded with news about rains and the destruction involved…..I’m glad I didn’t have TV cable connection back home or else Yash (my husband) would have had a panic attack. He already thought that I’m on my suicide mission…He was scared …Like all normal husband and wife are – we too are poles apart …He is soft spoken where I am loud… I am adventurous where he is a couch potato…..but he being the gentleman that he is… never discouraged me ….never stopped me from realizing any of my dreams… he has always supported me in all my crazy adventures …and while I’m gone on my crazy trip he would be sitting back home praying to Lord Ganesha that some sense prevails in me… so it was very important that I made sure he does not have panic attacks before the trip….and my hiding weather reports from him also helped matters… I don’t think I have ever watched and followed weather and news channel so much in my life…so much so, that I would know which part of India would have rainfall and which areas would be bright and sunny . What would be the highest and lowest temperature of each city for the following days (I could have easily applied for a job of a weather reporter.. I’m sure I would have got the job) Oops! I forgot I’m talking about K2K here…I do get carried away when I’m sharing experiences!

Just 3 days before our scheduled trip I created a Whatsapp group with my friends as group members whom I could update on my latest trip details and one of the group member was my close friend Neeta…. as soon as I created the group I got a call from Neeta….she asked me “Hey when are you leaving for the trip and how long is it going to be?”. I was like “We are leaving in 3 days and the trip is going to be for 11 days”. And then I hear something that took me totally by surprise……she asked if she can join the trip?

Brief background on Neeta: We all have friends whom we are very close with but they are so sucked up in their professional world that they don’t have time for much socializing….well Neeta is one such friend who lives in the same city as mine…but whom I hardly meet because she is a workaholic and she hardly joins us for any get together. In fact even for our annual friends trip I have to try all my convincing skills to convince her to extend the trip from 2 days to 3days.

Therefore, I couldn’t believe that she asked me “She wants to join the trip”….and I was convinced ‘she will not come’ when she told me that she needs some time to convince her boss for a holiday…. I definitely did not believe “she will come” . On the D-day we were supposed to leave for Kanyakumari from Chennai at 3am and upto midnight there was no sign of her….and suddenly she appeared like a genie from nowhere standing at my door, just 3 hours before we left for Kanyakumari with the biggest grin I’ve ever seen on her face…..it was like the scene from the famous Hindi Movie ‘Zindagi na milegi dobara’ (In English: You get Life only Once) where this mad eccentric entrepreneur/photographer/dreamer Sunita meets …. a woman who left her American dreams to come back to India to start a travel company (Miss Parry Sandhu) ….and miss workaholic general manager with Regus – Neeta Jegan got together to do this journey of lifetime! We called ourselves the travelling divas and this was our logo.

DAY 1: KANYAKUMARI TO DINDUGAL
DISTANCE COVERED: 3.00 KM
START TIME: 6.30 IN THE EVENING
END TIME: 11 I THE NIGHT (4HRS 30 MINUTES)

The epic journey started on Aug 8th at the wee hours of 3 in the morning. We hired a driver Shankar to take us till Kanyakumari. Post that we were supposed to drive. We all slept in the speeding car until 9AM while Shankar was driving. Once I made up for lost sleep I couldn’t resist MYSELF from driving the car so I asked Shankar to take a nap in the passenger side of the seat and started driving….over concerned Shankar could not sleep peacefully as he was not very sure if I could drive on the highway!….post half an hour he did fall asleep, I presume by now he was sure about my driving or possibly he didn’t care whether he is dead or alive as long as he could catch up on lost sleep. Meanwhile, Parry woke up and she was like “I want to drive too” …I kept telling her after half an hour …because I wanted to stick behind the driving wheel….it was like an excitement where 2 kids get a new toy and each one excited and wanting to have the toy a little longer to play with…. I played a spoilt child here. Eventually we decided on setting some ground rules , like each one should not drive for more than 200km or 3 hrs whichever comes the earliest. We stopped for lunch at this amazing restaurant hotel Sri Uma Shankar. If u want to have the most delicious and finger licking South Indian meal enroute to Kanyakumari this is the place to be (btw myself and Neeta are a big time foodies and one of the best things about road trip is eating different cuisines from different regions everyday !). Anyways , we reached Kanyakumari at around 2PM. We decided to book a room for 3 hours to freshen up, shower and rest. After much bargaining we finalized – Hotel Trisea for a mere Rs1000. The initial idea was to take a shower and rest and leave for sunset shoot and resume on the K2K journey , but the photographer in me was wide awake. Just after the shower, I decided we should visit Vivekananda Rock Memorial, little did I realize what adventure did I have in store here. We met with our first road accident. Till date I keep going back to the incident again and again asking myself what would have happened if we hadn’t visited the most landmark monument in Kanyakumari. So we reached the Vivekananda Rock Memorial paid for the VIP extra charge tickets and went near the parking area to take shots of us with the memorial as the backdrop. This was also to form the first official picture of the trip’s inauguration in Kanyakumari. Well, there are many ways to take a picture with three of us together.
A) Take a selfies (we even bought a selfie stick)
B) Ask someone in the crowd to take our picture
C) Buy a tripod /set up the camera/set the settings/put it on self timer mode run to the picture taking spot and smile inspite of the fact that u are running short of breath doing all this and bingo you have a picture!
No points for guessing which one we chose… the first two options seemed very difficult and yes I took the tripod and set up the camera in it, playing fidgeting and nudging the screws to make sure the camera stays sturdy on the tripod, which took a lot of time… then I adjusted the exposure and other settings ..…while Neeta and Parry waited patiently for good 10 minutes in the hot sun (both suffer from Migraine that aggravates in hot sun), wondering why in the name of God is it taking so long and smiling at the same time facing the camera, holding the smile as long as possible, taking tiny breaks to take the flying hair off the face, with the wind blowing from the all three seas surrounding Kanyakumari and Yes after setting it up, ran towards Neeta and parry for the self timed shot. Ran back again to check how the shots have come and being the perfectionist that I am I realized we were not sitting exactly in the centre of the Thiruvalluvar statue and Vivekananda memorial ….Neeta
and parry moved a little and I ran back for the new shot. And as soon as the picture was shot remember how the wind blows really hard …well just like that ..this wind blew soooo hard ,that it took my camera that was set on the tripod, that was placed in the corner of platform so we all be centrally aligned with the Vivekananda backdrop…………so just like that.. This most expensive piece of purchase I ever did in my life….my camera! My life ! Fell 10 feet down with the biggest bang! I was dumb struck …while Neeta and Parry ran towards the camera to save of whatever was left of that and then after a few seconds I followed too….I could see a few parts of the camera lying down and few wires hanging out from the area where there was flash previously. My camera broke, my lens locked. I was just too shocked to react! Neeta and Parry tried to calm me but I was silent through the journey back towards the hotel. Back in my room I could not hold the tears…I cried, Neeta and Parry promised they will get this camera fixed…they suggested lets hire a camera on the way from Bangalore…but nothing could stop me from letting out my emotion! My mood was off after that…Parry and Neeta didn’t know so to console me…..

Just before sunset we started the journey from Kanyakumari to Kashmir with pin drop silence in the car. To our surprise we saw this beautiful sunset on the way Parry and Neeta encouraged me to take the picture of sunset with the rest of the camera Nikon 3200 with 50mm portrait lens. I got down and took the shot and started feeling bad for the camera again. Anyway, we moved on the way around Tirunelveli we were treated with the sight of huge windmills on the beautiful landscape ….the huge windmills with the sun setting in the background was surreal ….it made me yearn for the camera even more….then I saw the face of my friends Neeta and Parry …they were feeling low too…and I realized …what am I doing on a journey which a bunch of friends who mean so much to me….why should I let this incident spoil everyone’s mood… what’s happened has happened ….I should move on….I broke the silence of the car I asked Parry and Neeta : I have a doubt “Why didn’t you people take a video of me when I was crying….you missed such a golden opportunity to embarrass me” the smile on Neeta and Parry’s face was priceless!

The road from Kanyakumari to Madurai was fantastic. Smooth 4 lane road and our car breezing away with our favorite playlist playing in the backdrop…..the road trip had begun actually!

2 hours on the road and we were hungry . We stopped on the way to Madurai for the traditional Kottu Parota at Hotel Tamilachi….. the food was yummy and we were ate like pigs. It was after the meal hat we decided that instead of heading to Madurai we will go another 80 km and stay at Dindugal. We immediately informed HVSir who booked us a in a good hotel in Dindugal…. on day point 5 (.5)we covered a distance of 300 km….long way to go!!!

DAY 2: DINDUGAL TO HYDERABAD
DISTANCE COVERED : 1000 KM
START TIME : 5.20 AM
END TIME: Midnight (18 HRS 40 MIN)

By the time we reached Dindugal Hotel it was 11’o clock. As soon as we checked into the room Neeta went to take her shower (well Neeta is the reason why there is shortage of water in Chennai city because she just loves taking shower in the morning , afternoon, evening and night) come on! you have spent more than 14 hours in the car and what does a normal human being do if they were to see the bed. Just crash straighten ones back – Right! No – Neeta has to place her suitcase on the clean bed, take out her clean clothes, her shower gel, her perfume, her moisturizer, her shampoo and hit the bathroom with her package gone for good half an hour….by which time I have to constantly hear Parry nagging me, as to how I should also go take a shower before I sleep….God these women! well I do like to shower before hitting the bed but jeez this was 14 + hour of ride and besides we took a shower at Kanyakumari (it costed us Rs 1000 remember). Once Neeta was out I told the group that we should not waste time in showers but rest instead because the next day’s journey was a challenging drive of 1000 km to reach Hyderabad. After Parry also showered and I dry cleaned myself and changed – we hit the bed finally. All three of us could hardly sleep. Neeta and Parry making fun of me for crying we all recalling days happening. I could hear HVKumar’s voice inside my head sleep early start early….but damn where’s the sleep!

I have no idea when I slept last night. When Parry woke me up in the wee hours I knew that HV KUMARS voice inside my head was right SLEEP EARLY! Damn! I so love my beauty sleep in the morning and do you even know how Neeta is a life saver in these type of situation…well when I got up Neeta was already there inside the bathroom!…parry was packing …and I happily sneaked in extra half an hour of sleep!

We started from Dindugal at 5.20 in the morning, 20 minutes later than scheduled time and I teased Neeta and Parry how they delayed the whole group because they didn’t have to have bathe in the morning if they already did in the night. God save the poor soul stuck up with me for the next 11 days.

Where was I ? OOPS! WE ARE IN DAY 2 of the trip …sorry as usual I got carried away with personal stories….the advantage of starting early was you are welcomed to the beautiful sight of morning sunrise as soon as you start your journey…..so we took some sunrise shots, the roads on the way was fantastic …..Parry just drove like a breeze while I went and covered up on my leftover sleep on the backseat of the car snuggled in the warm blanket listening to soulful music of AR Rahman plying in the background.

Our first halt was at 9.30AM at Adyar Ananda Bhavan (A2B) where we hogged on tasty Pongal, Vada, Dosa , Idlis, Rava kichadi….yes we ordered everything , because we told ourselves this is the last place we are going have the south Indian breakfast! God! ….the reasons we women give for over eating. Anyways after a sumptuous breakfast we took a selfie at A2B and resumed journey to Bangalore .

The roads once again were just too good. My confidence grew and so did my speed from average of 90 km limit for highway to going easy even at 110 speeds ….wow! I felt like a queen…I boasted Parry….who simply stated oh! I did like an average of 120 -130 speeds…well Parry is a person who speaks very less….I am glad she spoke less here!..driving is fun ..anyway we reached Bangalore at noon.

Before we reached Bangalore we were warned by HVkumar Sir that we were to be very careful not to get in the lanes of Bangalore city and to avoid that we had to follow route-o plan without any compromise and not to follow google map route. The biggest blunder happened when we were to cross Nice Road towards Tumkur in Bangalore….there was a signage that pointed left and said towards Bangalore and Hyderabad. We kept following that road , until I saw the city traffic after some time and realized that we are deep inside city. Too scared to call up HVKumar Sir what we committed the next blunder of the day. We looked up Google Maps to find our way towards Hyderabad….the App only took us even deep inside Bangalore….when we realized that Google map was only making things worse…we went and asked the driver of an Auto rickshaw –Auto wala…who prompted us towards more complicated route through city…and that is when HVSir asked us for location update…with embarrassing we sent him our location on Whatsapp. Anyway, the highway God rescued us from the horrors of Bangalore traffic and was guiding us back to the safety of highway. It was a huge sigh of relief when we got back on track to reach Tumkur road. We were discussing in the car how Mr HV Kumar must have been cursing
his luck having to put up with these bunch of idiots. We lost 2 hours 40 minutes inside Bangalore city. We crossed Bangalore city at 2.40 and this is when Parry Madam got back from her beauty sleep and she asks did we reach Anatpur yet? We were like we just crossed Bangalore!

Post Tumkur the road was fantastic again. We covered 200 km to reach Anantpur in less than 1 hour 45 mins. Post Anantpur the weather was cloudy and it was a visual treat to see the huge grey cloud cover. We took this moment to take pictures. Infact Parry went and stopped an auto guy so we can he could take a picture of all of us together. The surprised man must have had a shock of his life when he saw us climbing on the roof of the car for pictures! Post the shoot we resumed journey to the next destination Kurnool which was another 150km and roads till Kurnool were a delight and we reached Kurnool by 8.30.

We still had 236 more km to go. We stopped at the Dhaba enroute to have our dinner. The journey from now on was very tiring. Myself and Neeta dozed off in the car but Parry drove nonstop with the lights blinding from the opposite road and finding her way amidst huge lorry container traffic. Parry can concentrate on the road for hours at a stretch due to which we were able to cover 240 km at the end of long tiring day. We reached Hyderabad Hotel at midnight . This night we didn’t need to make any effort to sleep. We just hit the bed and slept like logs…of course after Neeta took her traditional bath!

DAY 3:HYDERABAD TO SEONI
DISTANCE COVERED :730 KM
START TIME:7.15AM
END TIME:11 PM

Ok, we all slept like a log and didn’t get up at the morning alarm ringing at 6AM. I got up with a sore back. We all got up reluctantly at 6.40AM , showered, packed and left Hyderabad at 7.15AM. HVSi’s instructions were to follow the same route given by him from the hotel to outer Ring Road which was some 5 or 6 km for which maps were given the previous night itself and we were to use the same map to get back too. Simple right! Well …we switched on the mobile …Looked into map and started navigation ..so we kept going following this amazing Google voice who was kind enough to assist us with voice navigation after every turn. We just kept driving until 8.20AM… when we got a message from HVSir on location update and when we sent him our GPS location this is the reply we received: “you are on wrong road, you did not return the same way as yesterday and you are hopelessly inside the city in wrong direction.” Damn! we are lost in the city !!!!……again !!!! and then we again got a message from HVSir
“PLEASE STOP USING G MAP NAVIGATION .
I KEEP TELLING YOU THAT FOLLOW
THE BLUE LINE THAT I DREW AND SENT
DO NOT USE NAVIGATION APP
YOU ARE COMPLETELY MESSED UP
INSTEAD OF REACHING ORR IN 3 KM
YOU ARE GOING AROUND THE CITY ON ELEVATED ROAD BACK TO AIRPORT AND DEEP INSIDE CITY!
THIS COMES AS A GREAT DISREGARD TO MY INSTRUCTION”

We were so embarrassed and disappointed with ourselves. This is when we got the Eureka moment and we realized where we are going wrong in navigation. In our defense let me make it clear we never used any navigation tools or apps or maps ever before to go from point A to point B even inside our own city. We had no idea that when we use google navigation help, every time we take any wrong turn, instead of prompting us to go back this …stupid voice navigation and the app makes it our detour map (to be read as long possible map) and guides us!
We were to only use map as marker and our GPS tracker as a guide to know if we are following the marked line in map. Now how do we explain that to HV Sir that the 3 ladies who are taking this great journey from K2K ..don’t even know how navigation apps work. Thank God! There is this word called “sorry” ….this is all we had to offer HVSir. His humility and huge amount of patience guided us to get back onto the cursed Outer Ring Road (which was proving to be our biggest jinx) . Anyways when we reached Outer Ring Road at 9.30AM we has already lost good 1.5 hours of day light driving.

Not a problem, we thought, as we had only to cover another 750 km .We had breakfast on the way. As usual the roads between Hyderabad to Adilabad were fantastic. On the way we stopped over to take pictures where we spotted a group of boys. One of the boys asked us if we could drop them to the nearby village. It was a sight to see when we said OK to the boys. He had a cute smile. He also brought a friend along with him.Wile we were talking to them, we told them that they should study well. Their destination was only some 2 km away. But the joy and happiness that these 2 km brought in boys face was priceless .it made our day!

As we were moving from Nizamabad to Adilabad it started to rain. We slowed down our speed and were going along, on the way, we saw 2 ladies standing by the side of the road, they wanted to travel somewhere probably I thought. Since it was raining and 1 women was carrying a child on her shoulder I asked Neeta and Parry if we can drop them on the way .They said they couldn’t agree more . We reversde the car to where they were standing. Neeta who could speak Telugu therefore asked them, but they got scared and said no. Neeta came back with answer that they are probably feeling very conscious ,they wont come with us. I got down from driver’s seat and went again with Neeta to convince them in half Hindi half English half Tamil and half Telugu – yet they didn’t understand anything I think. My translater Neeta did a good job because they agreed to get dropped. We made space for them to sit. In our conversation with then ,of course with Neeta as a translater, we found that their name was Shailaja and Swati. Shailaja was the mother of 2 kids and Swati was her sister. They were Hindus…so we asked them is Nizamabad population mostly Muslim to which they replied yes. When we asked if they ever felt out of place living with them they laughed saying “no no …they are very friendly in fact when there is a Muslim festival their neighbors share Biryani and other delicacies and during Diwali and other Hindu festival they share their festival food with their Muslim neighbors. It was heartening to see a living example of communal harmony. Besides, she always looked amused every time we asked her something. It was aa experience we would have never gotten if we hadn’t been on this road trip. It truly felt like seeing the real India. After half an hour we dropped them at their destination, took pictures with them and said bye. We also told her to make sure that the little one is well educated so some day she could also do things that she dreams of.

After Nizamabad we entered Maharastra area. At 3 ‘o clock , 150 km before Nagpur the roads were so bad that we kept hitting one big pothole after another even while driving at an average speed of 20km. For 2 hours the roads were bad and turned better post Chandrapur.

It was with a sigh of relief we headed towards Nagpur. It was almost 6.30pm when we reached the outskirts of Nagpur. HVSir was constantly worried and asking us for location updates. We were supposed to take a right to get to the outer ring road of Nagpur. As was the tradition we missed the right turn and got inside the Nagpur City. Meanwhile we stopped to check our location, where couple of traffic constable came towards us and asked for license and papers. On seeing Tamil Nadu registration, he enquired about us and when we told him of K2K mission he was shocked and surprised at the same time. He told his senior “sir yeh ladkiyan Kanyakumari se gaadi chala ke aa rahi hai, late ho raha hai, paper sab theek hi rahenge, unko chod do” and yes we were allowed to go. Anyways we called HVSir (to be read as hvk) and again he guided us to back to the outer ring road. He asked us to hurry up as it was already 7.30PM and we were to cross the Pench National Park, the Tiger Reserve forest and also the fact that the roads are very bad and there was just a 2 lane road.

But we were not worried about that then. We were all hungry and we stopped at the Dhaba on the way happily , little did we understand the seriousness of why God (hvk sir) warned us!

It was almost 8 when we were out of the Dhaba we had another 120 km more to travel. Soon the four lane road turned to 2 lane and the roads were the worst ever we came across even worse than Chandrapur road. On top of that the lorry traffic that was coming from the opposite end was totally blinding. This was the first time I was driving on a 2 lane road and passing it at night was even challenging. This was a test to the concentration level and driving skills. Infact this being a Tiger reserve we came across many bends and curves. Nonetheless I kept driving , I realized I am slowly getting used to driving in the dark and that grew my confidence (I am sure Neeta and Parry were holding on to their nerves) we discussed what happens if we have a flat tire here? What happens if our car breaks down and we were to confront a tiger? the unanimous answer was it would be our lucky day. I was like , no, I don’t want to see the tiger as my camera had broken. Then we started discussing about ghosts. I think we reached a point in this trip where nothing could shock us anymore! We were laughing away the entire journey.

When we reached the Seoni Motel at 10.50 pm God (HVKSir) sent a message asking if we saw spotted a tiger? to which we replied yes! we did….infact one is snoring on the back seat! and then I got kicked by Neeta who was sleeping on the back seat….

DAY 3:SEONI TO AGRA
DISTANCE COVERED :750 km
START TIME :7.15 AM
END TIME :10.00PM

Seoni was beautiful in the morning. The area surrounding the motel where we stayed was lovely …and this is when one can almost hear these lines inside your mind….the woods are lovely dark and deep….but I have miles before I go to sleep…I have miles before I sleep!!!

At 7.15AM we started our journey towards Agra . God messaged us his Customary “Namaskar your biggest challenge is to cross Agra city. Please target Jhansi before 4 pm.”

We instantly started calculating the distance from our Motel to Jhansi which was roughly 500km. God gave us 9 hours to cover those 500 kms. In our minds we decided we would not halt too much on the way and targeted reaching Jhansi by 3PM . After all the getting lost in the city, we had a lot to prove. Myself and Parry decided we will both drive 250 each nonstop and even pictures need to be taken only from inside the car. Keeping the word Parry pushed the accelerator and off she flew……..the drive was pleasant…roads were smooth 4 lane…one of the best we came across in terms of beautiful landscapes. These are the prime dal growing regions in India. It was a sight to behold when we saw the farmers in the field …..yet we didn’t stop anywhere.

We covered 250 km in less than 3 hours. Now it was my turn to drive. The beauty about these roads was that there were hardly any vehicle traffic anywhere. We could easily push our accelerator to the max without much worry. My joy knew no bounds when the speedometer showed 150 speed…..wow! Anything can make a women happy….it was celebration time and we promised ourselves after reaching Jhansi we are going to have a feast! So off we zipped, zapped and zoomed (lack of vocabulary to express that we were going nonstop at high speed) we did stop over for 15 min for photos and 10 min at a Petrol Station and for air check up.

You wont believe what time we reached…12.40 full 3 hours 20 minutes before schedule arrival time. For the past 1 hour HVSir had been asking us for location update and we ignored his requests purposefully. On reaching Jhansi we got out of the car near the Jhansi board, took a selfie with the Jhansi background edited the picture with handwritten note that said “Jhansi Ki Rani’s” reached Jhansi at 12.45PM”and sent the picture to HVSir. We got the reply from him “The three Musketeers in great form today”. W were swelling with pride on our achievements….
We decided to have lunch on the way to Gwalior. Road from Jhansi to Gwalior was very bad with very big pothole due to construction of road. After a bit the the 2way lane become 1way lane in most parts with vehicles crossing from both the sides.

Here is where the first time our car broke down near a Gurudwara. We stopped near the Gurudwara for food and after coming back the vehicle would not start. We called HVSir who asked us to open the bonnet and check a few wires. We were excited but the only problem was we forgot where the bonnet button was! After much struggle with google search, we found it and HVSir asked us to check if the battery cables were loose and we checked them. We were constantly on the phone with HVSir trying to sort the problem, meanwhile just out of nowhere the car started automatically After some time, again the car stopped and all of a sudden the AC started blowing hot air. We panicked and called HVSir again who spoke to Ford Service center in Gwalior located 20 km away. Meanwhile a Sardarji came from somewhere and without even asking was trying to pour water inside the coolant tank. It was hilarious too. Anyway we stopped him from doing that and waited. The car refused to restart and all kinds of error signals started flashing in the dashboard. We were in the middle of nowhere, in an unsafe part of India.

We kept trying to restart and luckily after 10 minutes the car restarted. We mobilized the help of the HiVayKing Club, which helped do a preliminary remote diagnosis of the problem & directed us to the car’s dealer in Gwalior. God knows what we would have done without HiVayKings! Anyway… we headed to Ford Service Center. To ass to our miseries it started raining very rain badly. To top it the roads were very bad and every time we hit a pothole the AC would start automatically and start blowing hot air. I had to drive non stop…was really scared every time we hit a bump so that the vehicle should not stop. All said and done it was one hell of a driving experience.

At the dealership, the car was checked and they claimed that they did a ECU remapping after running OBD. Needless to say, they could not tell what the problem really was but assured there was some minor problem and the same was sorted and we don’t have to worry and continue with our journey as planned.

We left the service center at 6 in the evening. We had to cross the city from the service center, HVKSir already said that this is the famous Chambal District, where it is common to see people walking around with licensed semiautomatic pistols on the belt slings. We wanted to make sure we would at least be able to take a photo of that. We decided to have food at Rajhans Motel on the highway outside Jhansi. We ordered the food and were waiting and to our surprise we saw a well dressed man walking inside the restaurant and yes he had a semi automatic attached to his belt. Well, I told Parry to take my picture with the man in the backdrop. The picture was not really clear. This man then walked to the cash counter, that is when we realized it was the owner of Motel. Once we finished food and settled the bill we went to this man and spoke to him. His name was Pramod Yadav, he was the owner of motel Rajhaans. On enquiring why we was carry a weapon, he replied that is a licensed weapon . In these areas many people carry licensed weapon. Since the 1980’s due to many dacoits and kidnappings that had happened the area is absolutely clean the and the government and police have made sure the area is free of the criminals but the tradition of carrying licensed arms is more of the show of power and prestige here in Gwalior. Infact he himself owned a licensed arms shop in Gwalior. According to him there are around 30 licensed gun dealers in Jhansi. After the chat we asked him if he can hold the semi automatic and he gave is to see so we started taking selfies and also made Promod Yadav pose with us. Was this really happening with us? It was like we are in another world!

After we left Motel Rajhans we headed for Agra which was about 230 plus kms from wjere we started at 7 from Jhansi and drove nonstop to Agra and stayed at the Hotel Amar Yatri Niwas.

Day – 4
It was going to be a long next day as our target was to reach Jhansi , which was 500 km from the Motel. We started at 7AM and our target was to reach Jhansi in 8 hrs by 4PM. While driving to Jhansi, we crossed the Thugee region where the Thugs used to waylay and strangle travelers in the 19th century till the Narasingpur Collector Mr Slater went after them and eliminated them. (History is IMPORTANT) of course it’s a very safe place now. Also these areas are among the prime daal growing regions in India. The roads from Seoni to Jhansi was so fantastic that we covered the distance of 500 km in less than 6 hrs!! Our initial plan was to stay at Delhi that day but due to out car breakdown just before Gwalior which took about 3 hrs time to fix we decided to halt for the night in Agra.

Day – 5
Next day after the photo shoot of the Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bhag, we zipped out of Agra through the high tech Yamuna Expressway which bypasses the chaotic towns of Mathura and Vrindavan, and crossed 184km in just 1.5 hrs and we were asked to expect heavy traffic due to Kanwariya Procession in Delhi…but as luck would have it we met no traffic on our side….we were flying through Delhi…like the President of India….!! On the way we stopped at Pahalwan Dhabha for an awesome lunch and again….yes again…our vehicle refused to start and then restarted after 10 mins. We proceeded towards the Karnal Ford Service station and we got out car rechecked where we spent 3 hrs getting the battery changed, etc. Post, which we drove and halted for the night in Rajpura.

Day-6
Our agenda was to leave early from Rajpura to reach Patnitop through Ludhiana – Amritsar – Jalandhar – Pathankot . As luck would have it our car stopped post Jalandhar GRRrrrrrrrr…Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr….yes we had the same problem….our car refused to start…..!! Again we had to divert to Bhagat Ford @ Pathankot and there we met Mr. Shashipal Singh a very noble, no-nonsense guy who heard about the issue ,analysed by driving the car , found few wiring problem and rectified it and we proceeded towards Jammu and he tested our vehicle many times before we left for Jammu as there were no service centre in Jammu…luckily she passed all the tests and gave us the confidence that she was ready for the mission…!!! So from Pathankot we proceeded to Jammu where we halted for the night.

Day – 7

The day’s target was to reach Kashmir, taking the ghat roads the never ending traffic roads mostly occupied by the truck walaas and we were informed that we have to keep a good pace to cover 250+ kms in 8 – 10 hrs in the ghat road. As we were travelling there came a news that there has been a landslide because of the previous nights rain and the traffic has been blocked in both the directions and we knew that we will not reach Kashmir before mid-night or early next day….we almost reached the tail end of the traffic towards Kashmir and there we met few people from Jammu and they were asking where are we coming from after seeing TN registration…and when we told them about our trip from Kanyakumari to Kashmir the news spread like fire from them to Policemen . Soon a Senior Police personal came to us and enquired about our trip and knowing that we were 3 women doing this whole trip we were asked to move forward from the line and were made the first waiting car on the stranded traffic. Then we were told to leave along with Amarnath Yatris who were escorted by convoys and there we entered Kashmir with 2 convoys…one in the front and one at the back…what a day it was..!!! We stayed in a houseboat at Nigeen Lake – Srinagar.
Kanyakumari to Kashmir Mission by car was complete on day before independence day at Srinagar . It go a little bit delayed because of 3 breakdowns which meant that we had a timely entrance of entering a day before independence day on Aug 14th in Srinagar.

O!What an experience it was! The night we entered I could see many Kashmiri’s at 8 pm ….women and children sitting by Dal Lake , walking around ,eating food from road side eateries …who said Kashmir was unsafe, should have seen the ambience near Dal lake which is like Chowpaati of Mumbai!
We stopped at a house boat for the night on 14 August and on 15th August while we had breakfast in the house boat it was heartening to see a small Indian flag placed in one corner. The boat owner said ” he is proud to be an Indian”. We were to leave Srinagar that day taking picturs on the way. Anyway while we left we realized we might not get an Indian flag so went back to houseboat to ask for flag but the owner was not there and the caretaker refused to give the flag and said” if you want take photo with flag ok but I can’t give the flag”.
We had to leave for Leh via Sonmarg and on the way we saw Army men all over Srinagar saving it like a fortress. Every 100 meter stretch we could see army men with their AK 47. Infact we wanted a picture with these men…. but when I went and requested him “nahi Madam hum duty pe hai …hum aap ke saath photo nahi le sakte but aap humari photo door se le lo” so we took a picture of them from car . We went further on towards Sonmarg …on the way we could see 90 percent of Kashmir was Closed/band with only a few petrol bunks and small roadside shops open ….for an entire stretch of 20 km …we could not see any Indian flag….then we realized something …we don’t have any picture of us in front of Dal lake …and by luck if we get an Indian flag even better. So we went 20 km back to Dal lake entrance but were disappointed that there was no flag ….and to add to that the car stopped again and would not start ….by now we were convinced that the car is not mechanically ready for Leh Ladhak Circuit.
After 5 min the car started on its own. As luck would have it, we met this bunch of biking group called Unido going towards Leh….no we were not planning on going with them! …. we were happy because the bikers had an Indian flag behind their bikes and at last our dream of taking a picture with Indian flag on independence day at Srinagar was complete!
After that we decided to take a boat house at Dal lake where we took a Shikara for the rest of day to explore Dal lake which runs about 35 km. The ambience inside the Dal lake was so opposite of the rest of Srinagar. While rest of Kashmir was band/closed the Dal lake was alive with thousands of tourists and Kashmirs in the Shikaras going around their daily lives so peacefully….we could capture the beautiful sunset of Dal lake and candid photographs of tourists and locals ….it made my day as photographer… not to forget the Shikarawala Mr Bashir who was constantly giving us insightful stories about the people and the place….all said and done we are proud to say that we spent my independence day on one of the most peaceful serene and beautiful place called Srinagar!! Mission Kashmir completed.

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