Google Delhi-London and you’ll see scores of flight options. But ask Nidhi Tiwari, and she’ll show you the road map.
Army wife and mother of two Nidhi has just returned from the longest drive of her life. Along with her friends Rashmi Koppar and Dr. Soumya Agarwal, she drove 23,800 kilometres from Delhi to London, spanning 17 countries and 95 days, in a single car without backup. In realising this daring dream, they have also set a world record.
Here is a snippet of the interview. To read the full story, pick up a copy of our Jan – February issue!
L-R: Soumya, Nidhi, Rashmi
When and how did the idea for this trip come up?
The idea was always there, however, it only started to take shape after my trip to Ladakh, in May 2014. Once back, I started to intensify my efforts towards actualising it. We took off on 23rd July, 2015.
How did you arrange for sponsors?
Initially, my idea was dismissed outright – nobody was willing to risk sponsoring a single female driver’s dream journey from Delhi to London! I’m grateful to Mahindra First Choice were the first to hear me out. They provided us a Scorpio (2013 model), which was our only vehicle for the entire journey.
The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, GOI, lent their tacit support and helped out with the sponsorships.
Eventually you made the trip with two other women. Did you know each other before the journey?
Rashmi, Soumya and I – three of us have grown up together since our families knew each other well. We’ve gone for treks and holidays together, so we had a certain comfort level.
What licenses and permits did you need to obtain?
Myanmar and China need separate road permits. In China, a Chinese speaking guide must travel in your vehicle and in Myanmar you need a guide plus an official from the Myanmar government. And it is expensive. For 10 days of permit to drive through China, we had to pay close to Rs three lakh.
How did you chart the route?
Charting out the road map took a month of research. To get to Europe we had to first reach Central Asia. The option was to go via China or Pakistan. We decided to travel via Nepal to get to China and then reach Europe. However, when the earthquake struck in Nepal, we had to travel from Myanmar side. In Myanmar, we got held up due to the heavy rainfall. Our permits for these two countries had to be re-processed. We had to re-work the entire plan and exclude certain countries from the road map. The Ukraine visa expired, so we now had to enter Europe via Finland.
The Ministry of External Affairs, helped out with all the visas.
How did you work out the accommodation?
Initially, we had booked our accommodation through booking.com. However, after the fiasco at Myanmar, we had to rework our entire plan. This time, we booked accommodation only when we were about 200/300 kms away from a destination – taking a chance with whatever we could find and also settling for some last minute options.
What forms of technology did you use and what about wi-fi connectivity?
We picked up data cards in the different countries that we stopped at. Google maps and Google translate were our saviours! Wi-Fi connectivity was not that much of an issue, thankfully.
Can you tell us a bit about the costing? Did you carry cash or cards?
Cash (dollars) and a few debit cards – this arrangement worked out well. A large chunk of our money went towards obtaining permits and license. We were not on a luxury budget, but we didn’t scrounge either. We stuck to a budget of $35 a day, for food and accommodation, per person.
The overall cost was 10 lakh per person.
One moment that made all of it seem worth the tremendous effort.
Nidhi Tiwari: Visiting the Motherland Calls statue in Volgograd. I had read a lot about its history (Battle of Stalingrad), and found it fascinating. So when I saw the statue up close, it was a special moment, for me.
-Nidhi Tiwari shared her story with TS writer Tanya Anand.