How to plan a road trip
Pioneering auto journalist of India, Bob Rupani tells Pooja Bhula about the essentials of planning a great road trip
Read guide books: Start with my book (breaks into laughter). You should read up guide books before planning a trip to figure out the route.
Understand your driving capacity and pace it out: Every individual must judge how much he or she wants to and can drive.
I know someone who recently went on a 60-day road trip and towards the end, most people in the group couldn`t wait to get back. So think about how long you want to drive, how far you want to go and pace it out. That`s the biggest advantage of a road trip, you have the freedom to do things your way.
Don`t pre-book your accomodation: You can keep a list of hotels and contact numbers handy. But don`t book a place to stay.
Instead, if you come across a beautiful place, stop by. Years ago, on my way to Mount Abu I had stopped at a small shop for refreshments. Seeing my modified jeep, another man with a modified car approached me. We got talking and then he invited me to stay at his place in Mount Abu. Today he`s a very close friend. He has taken up something I suggested to him and has started a regal village resort in the region. Had I booked my acommodation, none of this would have been possible.
Ask locals for information: When I visited Sanskar National Park in Panchmarhi this Christmas, the sky was overcast and I couldn`t see anything. The resort owner suggested that I go to Alawar Fort in the evening. On our way up, it was dark and we saw nothing, but on our way down we saw half a dozen porcupines! It`s the best sight ever. Porcupines are such a rare sight!
Bob`s book is well researched, but places change. That`s why even the Brits kept local khabar. For routes, I usually speak to bus drivers, because they ply the roads everyday.
Cabbies will point you to the best food: Those driving local taxis will tell you where to find the best batata wadas and other tasty tit-bits. Cabbies with tourist taxis will also know trends.
Road trips are not for the fussy: If you’re used to getting things at a fixed time and have a rigid mindset, road trips are not for you. You have to expect the unexpected. If you can’t get a full meal, be happy with an omlette.
And landslides are part of life. Long ago, Adil Jal Darukhanawala and I got stuck in the Himalayan sandwich of Lahaul Spiti Valley as both exit routes were blocked due to landslides. Others would have wondered, what now? We stocked up for the stay, went fishing with villagers and enjoyed views of the Sutlej. Adil still tells me it was one his best trips. You have to take things in stride.
Go with an open mind, keep your plans flexible: If you`re going to Agra to see the Taj, see the Taj. But if someone tells you about another place that is equally interesting, check it out too.
During one of my visits, knowing that I enjoy wildlife, someone asked me to go to a lake about 80 km away, “it`s not like Bharatpur, but you`ll find a lot of migratory birds," he told me. And the sight was lovely.
If you`re careful about the basic things like not venturing out too late or avoiding something if it makes you uncomfortable, India is one of the safest places for road trips. Locals generally give you good inputs and advice. And if you`re open and curious, you can keep discovering things.