History & Culture

From Coimbatore to London in a car...

more-in

70 days, 24 countries, one car... Coimbatore-based entrepreneur Meenakshi Arvind’s legendary road trip turned out to be a life-changing experience

When Meenakshi Arvind set out on a long drive, it made news. Because she drove from her home town Coimbatore to the charming city of London. Titled XPD2470, the expedition covered 28,600 kilometres, crossing 24 countries in 70 days, to commemorate 70 years of India’s independence. Her co-travellers were Mookambika Rathnam from Pollachi and Priya Raheja from Mumbai. The journey started on March 26, last year and ended on June 5.

Arvind was recently in Chennai at an event organised by the Chennai Chapter of FICCI FLO and had helpful pointers for intrepid travellers who now want to embark on similar journeys.

Plan, plan and plan

From Coimbatore to London in a car...

For six months to a year, Arvind researched the route, and read up on rules for each country. Then she started applying for visas and prepared documents for the expedition. “A lot of time was spent doing paperwork. I learnt that one can go up to Poland and head straight to London, but as I was keen on exploring Eastern Europe, I devised the route accordingly. Every hour of the day was planned meticulously, for a delay even on one stretch, would have had a cascading effect,” says Arvind.

The Carnet

 

From Coimbatore to London in a car...

 

If travelling overseas by road in a car, and if intending to ship it back home, then a Carnet, an international customs and temporary export-import document is mandatory. Travellers have to get the document stamped at every border crossing. “Borders are open only for a few hours a day.”

 

 

Understanding Dhanno

Tata invited the team to Pune and provided them training in the mechanics of the car they were driving — Tata Hexa. The vehicle was named Dhanno (inspired by the Hindi film, Sholay).

From Coimbatore to London in a car...

“I took along a diagnostic cable and software for the car, which when plugged in to a laptop, pointed out what could be wrong with the car. We carried two spare wheels as our vehicle had 19 inch- tyres which were exclusive to this vehicle, oxygen cylinders and a whole lot of spare parts. But thankfully, we did not need them.”

Braving weather

From Coimbatore to London in a car...

Adapting themselves to left and right hand driving was not a problem, it was understanding the road signs that posed a challenge. “We covered deserts to high altitude (almost 16,000 feet) and some tough roads (Guwahati to Imphal). We kept hydrating, and restricted driving to six hours per day. We experienced completely different weather conditions. We would begin our journey at 30 degree Celsius, and by the end of the day, reach a destination where the the temperature would be minus 16,” she says.

 

On an expedition such as this one, staying connected was made possible by technology. The team had taken with them a satellite connected gadget, which provides WiFi facility in 200 countries. “We can buy the facility for as many days required (8USD per day) and it was with this gadget that we could update our progress in social media and also stay connected with our families. The device gets restarted everyday, and functions as a wifi hotspot, to which five gadgets can be connected,” says Arvind.

Cabin fever

Constantly being confined to a small space can be a challenge, and when travelling with two others who are actually not friends, makes it tougher.

 

From Coimbatore to London in a car...

“Even for something as simple as buying a bottle of water, there were three different opinions. After few weeks, we started making our own set of rules. For example, the person who drives gets to choose what music to play. But these experiences taught me the importance of tolerance.”

Building cultural synergies

While traversing in Uzbekisthan, Meenakshi came across a family band, Havas Guruhi, singing Bollywood Hindi songs. Fascinated by Hindi film songs, they memorise the lyrics and rendered it.

From Coimbatore to London in a car...

Impressed by their talent, Meenakshi invited them to perform in Coimbatore for a fund-raiser on January 6, 2018. Havas Guruhi rendered songs spanning the Raj Kapoor era right down to the madly popular ‘Jimmikki Kammal’ in Malayalam.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 4:35:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/meenakshi-arvinds-xpd2470-2017-coimbatore-to-london-by-road/article22508695.ece

Next Story