A couple of years back when I told my husband about my plan of us taking off on a never-ending road trip, he dismissed me as crazy and even after a lot of coaxing from my end he did not concede. Thus my epic plan never took off. Recently I had the privilege to talk to Air Commodore (retd) G L Hiremath, who along with his wife drove a stunning 16,000 km across the country and I am sure none of them had to really beg to the other for this! (Are you even listening husband?)
Read their story for some inspiration.
Air Commodore (retd) G L Hiremath is an energetic man. At the age of 65, he, along with his wife Uma, who is 64, drove approximately 16,000 km in a Tata Hexa on a unique road trip across India from their hometown Belgaum in Karnataka.
What primarily inspired Hiremath to embark on this trip was to go back to the places he was posted. “The first thing was to see the Air Force stations and we wanted to visit the border areas,” says Hiremath. They visited 32 Air Force bases, 2 Naval bases and covered almost 34 cities in just 60 days!
Their epic road trip took them to Wagah at the India-Pakistan border, Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The couple travelled through the west and east coast, and drove all the way up to Kanyakumari. Undoubtedly there was tremendous planning involved in seeing the journey through. “Everything starts small,” says he adding, “We planned everything from the route map, the navigation and our stay. All the coordination with the Defence headquarters was also done by us,” Hiremath adds.
The couple had prepared charts, physical maps and small booklets with all the possible details of the route, emergency numbers and the rest mentioned in it. The Air Force training helped Hiremath draw the maps and plan meticulously and his wife took care of the documentation. Carrying a diary along with them throughout their journey, they had prepared themselves for last minute changes and modifications.
Being a veteran, the Air Force appreciated the efforts and provided support in terms of permissions and the couple also stayed overnight at the stations most of the times. The people were very excited to meet them and they received a warm welcome throughout, he says.
Hiremath, who was a part of the Kargil War, also helped provide relief to tsunami survivors, especially in the South and the Andaman and Nicobar islands. He was also involved in earthquake relief operations in Bhuj and Jammu and Kashmir.
Driving constantly for long distances can take a toll on one’s health but Hiremath tells that the car was a perfect companion in their arduous dream expedition. “Hats off to the vehicle and its suspension. Even after a long journey we did not feel tired and still had abundant energy to interact with people at our destination,” he adds.
Taking interest in their drive, Tata Motors provided them support so that their expedition went off smoothly. The vehicle was given a ‘rally car’ feel and extra equipments like air pressure monitor were provided so that they could keep a check in the mountainous terrain.
A part of their planning was to set off with sunrise and try to reach the destination before sundown, so there was hardly any night driving involved. “Initially, when we left we drove a distance of around 300-400 km per day. Over a period of time, we progressed to almost 600 km per day. A couple of times we could not reach our destinations before sunset due to traffic jams,” he says.
Ask Hiremath what was the highlight of their entire journey and he promptly says that they did not buy mineral water. They refilled their bottles at whichever place they stopped and drank only locally available water. “Not once did we fall ill. We did not suffer from an upset stomach, no cold, cough, absolutely nothing,” he shares.
But their journey also had scary turns. While driving through the Darjeeling area, there was a lot of disturbance due to Gorkhaland protests. The roads were closed. It could have been worse but thankfully seeing an elderly couple drive and also the Air Force symbol on their vehicle got them out of the situation.
Imparting some first hand tips to those who would want to undertake a road trip, Hiremath says, “Health is of utmost importance, especially for senior citizens like me. Make sure you do a complete health check-up before you embark on a journey.” The most crucial tip he gives us, “Avoid night driving.”
This story first appeared in Sakal Times
Photographs provided by Tata Motors