When Mahatma Gandhi returned to India after his visit to South Africa, he knew that the best way to get to know the Indian condition would be to travel amongst her villages and see, first hand, the greatness of a nation that is borne from one of the oldest of civilizations. Gandhi did that almost a century ago in 1917. Even today, this is a great idea to do almost the same thing except there is an even better way to go about it. Our motives may be a little different from the Mahatma’s, but the effect is just as spectacular and just as colorful.
The best thing is to use the modern day caravan and tour the country by road exactly the same way Shah Rukh Khan traveled to the village in the film Swadesh. Traveling the roads in a caravan allows you to let India marinate within you as you can trek the country from one latitude to the next. GPS databases even in India these days are surprisingly accurate and getting lost is not really possible anymore – even if you do, well, it’s good to get lost once in a while in a country like India.
A billion people; 30 languages; 2000 dialects, over 3.2 million square kilometres (according to Wikipedia) cannot be rushed through and cannot be placed on a train schedule. A caravan means you get to mingle your way from one state to the next.
Here is the way we suggest you plan it.
Start with a caravan rental. You’ll be surprised; you can get caravans in India too. Unlike the UK, where you can get in touch with places like The Caravan Club, to hook you up with choices especially if you need insurance, India has not developed the industry to that point just yet, but you will be surprised as to the extent of what is available.
However in the western world, caravan rental offers you the conveniences of road side assistance in case you need it as well as caravan insurance, travel insurance, and almost every local convenience you can think of. You can also get the truck or SUV’s that pulls the conventional caravans. But those might be a little difficult in India, but you still can get caravans that you can drive similar to the camper trailers. Even motorhomes are available.
It would make sense to begin the trek in Mumbai as some of the better caravan rental places can be found here. From a macro perspective, the journey would begin here and circumnavigate the subcontinent counter clockwise. So, from Mumbai, you would travel south to Pune and continue from there. The trip will take at least 6 months to complete and it will see you arrive back in Mumbai, approaching from the North. While you traverse the length and breadth of this magnificent country by road, you may want to check out, at least one of these, 5 wellness vacation destinations in India.
The entire trip, only to circumscribe the country will roll 6000 kilometres on the odometer. This doesn’t include all the times you will get lost or when you side track and detour. It doesn’t even include the times you will step into the heartlands. This 6000-kilometre drive only takes you from Mumbai to Pune, down to Goa all the way down to Nagercoil, then back up to Madurai on the Southern side. Driving up further will take you into Tiruchirappali, Pondicherry, Chennai then all the way to through the many beautiful southern cities up to Vijayawada and on to Kolkata. That would trace a path along the outer edges of the country. From there you would cut straight across to New Delhi then to Jaipur, Ahmadabad and finally back to Mumbai.
Traversing the length and breadth of India will subject the ear to sounds of over 30 distinct languages, some based on Sanskrit and others, Dravidian. Flying over India at 30,000 feet does not do her justice. The best way to see the colour, flavour the spices and experience the sounds is to take the many roads that weave through this magnificent tapestry called India.
Caravan Holidays in India
You can even book caravan holidays or caravan tours in India. The most popular ones are the tours of Darjeeling. Again the idea is the same, where you can book a caravan that you can drive yourself or get a driver to do all the hard work.
Although the use of caravans in India unlike the western world is still is in its early stages, its picking up. Due to the increased readiness of the emerging middle classes in India, Indians seems to be taking this route. However, do you lack of infrastructure such as roads and service centers for these vehicles, it just might take a little longer to get that vacation and weekend culture in India.
It will be interesting to see if caravans would take off in India or not.