Danny de Vreeze, who hadn't had a break in 15 years, rewarded himself with the mother of all holidays
When Dutchman Danny de Vreeze wanted to come to Bangalore, he just got into his Land Rover and drove 16,000 km.
The 38-year-old CEO of Everett, an IT consulting firm which has an office here, drove through the best roads through Europe, the deserts and rugged mountains of Central Asia and Tibet, braving rarefied atmosphere and bone-chilling subzero temperatures, passing through a major portion of the legendary Silk Route connecting China to Istanbul in Turkey.
It took his 2000 model black Land Rover Defender 110 all of 45 days from Amersfoort to Bangalore. His parents accompanied him for a part of the journey, another part he did it alone while his girlfriend was there for the remaining.
Taking the wheel
Looking none the worse for wear, Mr. de Vreeze says Bangalore is not new to him, having flown in here some 50 times over the last 15 years. We don't know if it was the airline food but he was dead set on his road journey, iWelcome Expedition 2011.
There were the proverbial butterflies in his stomach on the eve of the trip when a TV programme on an expedition conveyed that it was foolhardy to do it alone without any logistic backup. “But in the last two years, I had this desire of driving down to Bangalore from Holland. This would also be my first major road trip,” he told The Hindu.
“The Land Rover, which I bought three months before the journey, went in for modifications, and the vehicle was ready only hours before I left,” said Mr. de Vreeze, who was inspired by Land Rover's Camel Trophy expeditions.
His own expedition started at Amersfoort in Holland and took him to 15 countries, through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, the gateway to Central Asia. Though the paperwork to enter Turkmenistan was a cumbersome process, the drive through the Central Asian region was unforgettable.
The region is a melting pot of cultures and peoples, offering glimpses into history through places such as Samarkand in Uzbekistan, he said. In Kyrgyzstan, he took the mountain pass through which, centuries ago, feared names such as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Timur had led their armies. “Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan left lasting impressions.”
Sleeping in a tent pitched on top of his vehicle at night, this evidently fit Dutchman was fine most of his journey except when he drove from Osh to Sary-Tash in Kyrgyzstan — bordering China — when he climbed from 500 to 4,000 metres, going from 25 degrees Celsius to minus 5 degrees Celsius in 50 km. The quick climb to rarefied atmosphere without acclimatisation had repercussions on his health, resulting in mountain sickness.
He had his first taste of Chinese bureaucracy after leaving Sary-Tash where a longer wait for the documentation work — to get a Chinese number plate, driving licence, and health and vehicle checks — kept him twiddling his thumbs. However, once the last seal was stamped, he had a “trusted person” with him, a requirement under law to have a Chinese national accompanying him till he exited the country.
Towards the second half of his expedition, Mr. de Vreeze had to be hard on the wheels, trying to catch up with time lost in the oil town of Baku in Azerbaijan. Waiting for a ship — an old Russian freighter — to ferry him 220 km across Caspian Sea to Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan, he had lost four crucial days.
“It was quite astonishing to watch the (Himalayan) mountains rise to 7,000 metres in Tibet,” said the European, used to the geographical midgets back in his continent.
Incidentally, the only flat tyre during the expedition was in Tibet where he had to navigate through gravel roads.
Before entering India, he also visited the Manasarovar in Tibet and the Mt. Everest base in Nepal. Unsurprisingly, this king of the road baulked at the roads in our country.
But then, “The journey was the destination,” said this CEO, who hadn't had a holiday in 15 years, making it a point to praise the warmth of the people he met during this mother of all holidays.
Those curious to know more about the expedition may check out his daily updates on http://expedition 2011.iwelcome.nl/nl/