Day 1
20/5/16 Mumbai to Dhamnod – 496 kms

We started from Octavius, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai with a grand flag off ceremony organised by BMW Infinity and Rotary Lakers. The priest from Trinity Church showered his blessings on us followed by a hymn. Ms. Ashwini of Octavius along with Mr. Singh of Octavius gave a flower bouquet and handed over a coconut which Louis broke in front of the car. Arti Shetty did puja and thus started the beginning of our journey – Mumbai to London and back in 7 months covering 50000+kms. 6 Harley Davidson bikers – Dieter and his friends, led the way with the roaring of the bikes out of Octavius followed by three cars with bursting of fire crackers and to sounds of Dhol & Shehnai. We were overwhelmed with such a lot of blessings and well wishes showered on us by family & friends.

Luckily it was the last day before the Mumbai-Nashik Expressway was supposed to be closed down for repairs work.

The first pit stop was at Kamats, Shahapur for breakfast after which the bikers bid adieu to us before they returned back to Mumbai.

We reached exactly at 12.00 to the Infant Jesus Shrine, heard mass, got blessings from Infant Jesus and the priest said special prayers for us while he blessed us and the car.

Another felicitation was organised by the Nashik locals in the presence of Dy. Mayor of Nasik, media and others. Everyone was so excited.

Finally we left everyone behind and went ahead. In real sense, our journey just began when finally friends, daughter, niece and family bid us goodbye.

The major cities on this highway that we passed by were Dhule and Indore after Nashik. The Eastern Express highway runs as a four lane divided with six flyovers from Mumbai to Nashik – 150 kms and then onwards as NH 3 to Agra and the north of the country.

We had lunch at a small dhabha at Chanwad in Nashik after which we continued our journey.

At 8.30 pm we halted for the night at Hotel Woodies at Dhamnod, a town and a nagar panchayat in Dhar district in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. After the scorching heat thought it would have been a respite to sleep in the air conditioning, but unfortunately the AC was not at all cooling. The power failures worsened the situation. Hivayking had made booking for us and they were expecting us with our Beamer. The staff was very helpful and tried to make our stay as comfortable as possible. After dinner we managed to get some sleep.

Day 2
21/5/16 Dhamnod to Bhopal – 304 kms

Left Dhamnod the next day morning at 8.00 after breakfast for Bhopal. After a good 5 and a half hours drive we entered Bhopal around 1.00 pm. The roads were very good but the heat was killing. The car was like an oven outside. After taking directions we managed to reach Mr. Lakshendra Singh’s residence at Shri Golden City, close to Aashima Mall. The entire family was waiting for us for lunch. We then checked in at the Courtyard Mariott Bhopal Hotel. The car with the stickers drew everyone’s attention and the entire team was at our service. They even offered complimentary stay and food.
In the evening Mr. Lakshendra’s family came to take us around Bhopal to show us the City of Lakes.

We also met Dr. Gupta and his wife Neelima along with Rajpari whom we had met at a Health Retreat last year. Mr. Arslan Gunmaker post his dialysis also came over to meet us at the hotel. It was so good to meet such a lot of people who were all proud of us and had lots of well wishes for us.

Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, was absolutely fascinating with amalgamation of scenic beauty, old historic city charms and modern urban planning. The city of Bhojpal, was founded by Raja Bhoj, but the present city was established by an Afghan soldier, Dost Mohammed (1707-1740). His descendants built Bhopal into a beautiful city.

Bhopal, known as the city of Lakes with its two lakes still dominating the city, and are indeed its nucleus. Bordered along their shores stand silent sentinels that testify to the growth of the city. The city was very impressive with its verdant, exquisitely laid out parks and gardens, broad avenues and streamlined modern edifices. It is greener and cleaner than most cities in the country.

Unfortunately we had only very little time with us to explore this city, but we will surely return to explore it further.

Day 3
22/5/16. Bhopal to Lucknow – 692 kms

The next day morning they flagged us off from Bhopal. From Bhopal the next destination that we were headed to was Lucknow. We reached Lucknow around 7.30 pm after a very long drive and we headed straight for dinner after check in at Hotel Renaissance.

Day 4
23/5/16 Lucknow to Kushinagar – 337 kms

After breakfast we checked out of Renaissance. The Chef we met was very happy to see us. He came down to click a picture with us and the car. The service overall was not satisfactory. We requested to freeze our Gel packs for the Cool Box but they were returned to us in the same condition. The reception guys too were very cold and had limited knowledge. Ww were not sure whether it was the overall attitude or they were trainees with little knowledge of customer service. The security guards were however very cooperative unlike the ones at Courtyard Marriot Bhopal.

We then left for St. Joseph’s Cathedral. In the crowded lanes of Hazratganj we began to follow the GPS. The GPS did not guide us not to enter a one way lane and there were cops who stopped our car. They summoned Louis out of the car with all original documents only to extract a bribe. Louis refused to pay any bribe but offered to pay a fine for the mistake but the cop was not keen and finally he let him go without even verifying any documents.

We finally found the Cathedral. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the busy streets and lanes of Hazratganj, St, Joseph’s Cathedral stands tall with divinity and splendour.

This beautiful Church dedicated to St. Joseph was built in 1860 and blessed by Bishop Anastasius Hartmann on 10 May 1862.

Here we met Fr. Rajesh Dsouza, Fr. Robert Monteiro, Fr. Mathew Dsouza, Fr. Clifford Lobo & Fr. Elim Kindo. Over a cup of coffee and cookies we were answering their queries regarding our adventurous journey.

We then left Lucknow, amazing city with fantastic roads, flyovers, roundabouts, etc.
took a wrong turn and got caught in traffic which delayed us by 25 minutes.

We then left Lucknow, amazing city with fantastic roads, flyovers, roundabouts, etc.
took a wrong turn and got caught in traffic which delayed us by 25 minutes.

Once on the highway we were on our way to Kushinagar. Since there were no decent places to stay anywhere in between we had decided to stop here. We were booked by the Hivayking at Hotel Pathik Niwas, a UPSTDC resort. The resort was good with good people around with a homely atmosphere. Someone readily even agreed to clean our car. We met a group of BJP party workers among whom was one Mrs Vandana Gupta who clicked pictures with us and the car. She also conveyed her best wishes to us.

After check-in we went around visiting the Myanmar temple in the neighbourhood.

We had a rat who managed to sneak in through the open door for company in the room throughout the night. In the morning when I opened my bag the rat jumped out of it.

Day 5
24/5/16 Kushinagar to Siliguri – 585 kms

Checked out of Hotel Pathik by 7.00 in the morning. Had hot hot Parathas packed for breakfast on the way and bid goodbye to Kushinagar. We were then on our way to Siliguri, a city located in the Darjeeling district, Jalpaiguri district and Kalimpong district in the Indian state of West Bengal. The city is located on the banks of the Mahananda River and the foothills of the Himalayas. Siliguri lies about 40 kilometres away from its twin city, Jalpaiguri, which both merge to be the largest metropolis of the region. Siliguri is a principal commercial, tourism, transportation, and educational centre in the northern part of West Bengal. The city is blessed with natural beauty of flora and fauna . The population consisted mostly of huge immigrants from Nepal, Southern Bhutan and adjacent Indian states apart from eastern Bengal.

Enroute we booked Sinclair Hotel and followed Google map to the hotel. On arrival at he hotel our car was parked right in front of the entrance. The people around were very friendly and helpful. The stay was very comfortable.

Day 6
25/5/16 Siliguri to Gangtok – 125 kms

We arrived at the breakfast table and we’re greeted by the Pinto family from Jeevan Jyoti Coffee Estate at Sangameshwar. From them we understood that a few days ago they had read about us on Daijiworld, besides the Times of India, Bangalore edition which carried out an article about our journey. They had seen the car parked in front of the reception and wanted to meet up. Being Mangaloreans and meeting up at a place like Siliguri, we were all very happy and shared a lot of information. They had three priests in the family. One was Fr. Felix Pinto who is posted at Siliguri, the other priest, Fr. Stany Pinto, works in the tribal belts of Gujarat. One more priest is at Italy in Rome. They also had one Nun, Sr. Margarine who is at Jeppu. They were accompanied by their brother, Mathew with his wife and 2 sons. It was really very wonderful to meet them a very loving family.

We then left from Siliguri to Gangtok since we had two days with us. We thought we’ll see the beautiful Sikkim too. Unfortunately the Rangpo–Mangan road (NH31A) forms the crooked north-south spine of Gangtok and the distance of about 96 kms takes anywhere between 5 to 6 hours. But the road was very scenic and beautiful. The weather too was not favourable, it had started raining and we were worried about landslides etc which would have got us stranded.

 

Day 7
26/5/16. Gangtok to Siliguri – 109 kms

We spent the day in Gangtok. Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, is a hill resort and one of the most popular places in north-east India. It is known for its scenic beauty and striking views of Mount Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world. Tourism is the main source of income in Gangtok since it serves as a gateway to Sikkim.

Not much is known about Gangtok’s early history. The earliest records date back to the construction of the hermetic Gangtok monastery in 1716. Gangtok remained a small hamlet until the construction of the Enchey Monastery in 1840, which made it a pilgrimage center. It became the capital of what was left of Sikkim after an English conquest in the mid 19th century, in response to a hostage crisis. After the defeat of the Tibetans by the British, Gangtok became a major stopover in the trade between Tibet and British India at the end of 19th century. Most of the roads and telegraph in the area were built during this time.

Trade between India and Tibet continued to flourish through the Nathula and Jelepla passes, offshoots of the ancient Silk Road near Gangtok. These border passes were sealed after the Sino-Indian War in 1962, which deprived Gangtok of its trading business. Nathu La was finally opened for limited trade in 2006, fueling hopes of economic boom.

In 1975, after years of political uncertainty and struggle, including riots, the monarchy was abrogated and Sikkim became India’s twenty-second state, with Gangtok as its capital after a referendum.

Gangtok is irreverent, cheerful and pleasantly boisterous, Sikkim’s modern capital perches along a precipitous mountain ridge, descending down the hillside in steep tiers. A gradually growing sprawl of concrete, the town is blessed with a handful of sights, and doubles as a good base for excursions to places such as Rumtek and Tsomgo Lake.

Travellers usually linger here for a few days, soaking up the local culture, stealing Khangchendzonga views from hotel terraces and arranging their travels (eg treks and tours) around the state but we were caught up in the traffics every where and wanted to rush back and come again some other time peacefully to enjoy the beauty of Sikkim. We met a couple Suresh & Nutan (a Kathak dancer & teacher) Patwardhan who wanted photographs of us and the car. After detailing them about the trip and receivng with their best wishes, we went for some sightseeing.

After doing a little sightseeing we decided to leave for Siliguri and spend the night at Siliguri before we head for Guwahati the next day. We reached Siliguri around….. Pm checked into Royal Sarver Premier and relaxed enjoying body massage.

Day 8
27/5/16 Siliguri to Guwahati – 458 kms

Started at 7.00 in the morning, getting our vehicle ready for the long journey to Guwahati with packed breakfast for the way.

We had eager eyes reading the stickers on the car and wanted to know whether we had come back from London, or it was some car advertising.

Stopped for lunch at a Dhaba where we had Dal and Tawa Roti with Green Salad. Just when we were finishing our lunch, we had two visitors our travel partners for part of the journey whom we were expecting to meet up in Guwahati. They happened to see our car parked outside the Dhaba and stopped by. We then started following them to Radisson Blu where we were staying for 2 nights.

After driving…. Kms, we reached Radisson Blu where we checked in and went for some relaxation to the room. My relaxation happens to be downloading of stuff captured for the day lest I forget.
We met Susanne & Michael for dinner at 7.30 pm and tried the Assamese Pork preparation called Pork Curry with Lai Xaak (Mustard spinach/ tendergreen) with rice. Rice being their staple food. After dinner went around the hotel for about half an hour and then headed straight to the room.

Day 9 (28th May,2016 – Louis birthday)
Guwahati

Around 12 midnight we were woken up by knocks on the door. When we opened there was the hotel staff with cake in his hand for Louis birthday.

Guwahati happens to be the largest city of Assam, a major riverine and the port city with a lot of ancient Hindu temples giving it the name “City of Temples”. Guwahati lies between the banks of the Brahmaputra River and the foothills of the Shillong plateau. It is also the second-largest metropolitan region in eastern India, after Kolkata. The Guwahati region hosts diverse wildlife including rare animals such as Asian elephants, pythons, tigers, rhinoceros, gaurs, primate species, and endangered birds.

Unfortunately this visit of ours is not the right time to see any Rhinos as the park was closed on account of the monsoons.

A Sattriya dance performance, traditional form of Assamese drama is called the ‘Bhaona’, based on a religious play written by Shrimanta Sankardeva usually performed in ‘Naamghars’ or at some religious functions.

The cuisine of people from Guwahati is basically simple with the use of fewer spices. Rice is the staple food which is also used to make a variety of Assamese snacks, sweets as well as beer. The traditional meal of is strongly influenced by the use of local ingredients. An authentic Assamese meal begins with ‘Khaar’ (an alkaline dish), followed by the main course such as meat, ‘Maasor Tenga’ (sour fish curry), green leafy vegetables and complimented by ‘Aaloo Pitika’ (mashed potato). ‘Tamul’ (betel nut) and ‘paan’ generally conclude the meal.
Pork Curry with Lai Xaak (Mustard spinach/ tendergreen)

The foursome ready to explore Guwahati. The first stop was the Umananda temple, a Shiva and Parvati temple located at the Peacock Island in the middle of river Brahmaputra. We had to take a ferry to reach this island. The Brahmaputra river was so scary with heavy currents in it. The ferry was getting pulled along the current.

We had take the ferry from the Sukleshwar ghat and they charged Rs.300/- each to ferry us across and return back after half an hour. The climate was warm and very humid. We did not feel like doing anything much and wanted to eat.

We had decided on Naga Kitchen for our lunch as we wanted to taste the special naga food.
Naga kitchen was an ideal place to taste Naga cuisine. It served good and reasonably affordable food. The restaurant is quite popular amongst the locals and even tourists. We tried the smoked pork with bamboo shoots for the starter and then went in for the Naga thali which consisted of rice, naga curry, pork dish, smashed potatoes, green vegetable and dry pork chilly preparation. Naga cuisine is supposed to be heavily spiced, but we did not find it that very spicy.

After a heavy meal came back to the hotel and had a good afternoon nap after which we went to get our car washed as it had become very dirty on account of the dirty mucky roads.

Day 10
29/5/16. Guwahati

Today being Sunday we went to Church – St. Joseph’s Church, narrow Pan Bazaar. We thought they had an English mass at 11.00 am but unfortunately we reached only when the 8.30 am mass had got over and there was no 11.00 am mass. Since we landed there at the Church there were a lot of curious faces who wanted to know who we were and from where we had come. When they came to know about our journey they were too excited and wanted to click pictures with us. The people from here were so friendly and nice, felt at home.

Rest of the Day spent relaxed as we had to leave early the next day on a long drive.

Day 11
30/5/16. Guwahati to Kohima – 352 kms
Our day began early. Had breakfast and left Guwahati by…… In the morning. We had to cover…. Kms stretch to reach Kohima. The road was very scenic but after about 140 kms, we could not find much of the tar road. The entire road was pot-holed and we had to manoeuvre the car from one side to another trying to find a smooth patch.

Around 3.00 we stopped for lunch at a nice restaurant in Hotel Lake Shilloi at Dimapur after a long hard drive required a break. After lunch headed straight to Kohima again with the ghats road. Reached Kohima around 6.00 pm. Checked in at Hotel Oriental Grande, a decent hotel with good and clean rooms. Had dinner at 8.00 and off to bed. I was sitting up late taking back ups, completing the blog, etc.

Day 12
31/5/16. Kohima

After breakfast hired a local cab to go sight-seeing.  The first destination was the Khonoma Village, the first green village in India, located about 20 km from the state capital Kohima. The village, referred to as Khwunoria, a Christian village (named after the Angami term for a local plant, Glouthera fragrantisima), is estimated to be around 700 years old and is spread over an area of 123sq.km. The total population of the village is about 3000, settled in 600 households. Khonoma is famous for its forests and a unique form of agriculture, including some of the oldest terraced cultivation in the region. The terrain of the village is hilly, ranging from gentle slopes to steep and rugged hillsides. The hills are covered with lush forestland, rich in various species of flora and fauna.

Unfortunately it started raining and we could not explore much of the Village.

After the Khonoma Village we visited the War Cemetery.

The War Cemetery in Kohima is a memorial dedicated to soldiers of the 2nd British Division of the Allied Forces who died in the Second World War at Kohima, in April 1944. The soldiers died on the battleground of Garrison Hill in the tennis court area of the Deputy Commissioner’s residence. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), which maintains this cemetery among many others in the world, there are 1,420 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War at this cemetery, and a memorial to an additional 917 Hindu and Sikh soldiers who were cremated in accordance with their faith.

We then had lunch at a local restaurant and then went back to the hotel.

Day 13
1/6/16. Kohima to Imphal

We left Kohima at 8.00 am after refuelling our vehicles on the bad roads to Imphal.  Did I not find a single place to check our tyre pressure.  Passed thru Jakama town with a lot of potholes, rather there wasn’t a single stretch of good road to drive. After a lot of maneouring managed to reach Mao the entry border of Manipur.

At the check post we were requested to alight from the vehicle and get ourselves registered.  When they realised we were Indians they said we were not required to do any registration.  While Susanne and Michael went ahead for the registration we helped ourselves with a cup of tea at the local tea stall.

We then left the check post and passed thru Maram, Puni Phosemani, Khongnem Thana, Karong, Senapati, Hengbung, Mayangkhang, Kangkopi, Pangmoul, Charhajare villages before entering Imphal.  At Imphal we were stopped at 3 different places by agitators as Imphal was declared as bund by the locals fighting against the government.  The last place they even said u we may have to wait till 4.00 pm to travel to our hotel which was just about 2kms away from that place.  After a lot of persuasion and checking our identity they let us go.

Finally we reached Hotel Classic Grande and since then we are at the hotel awaiting to leave early tomorrow morning before the strikers stop us and create any nuisance.

Day 14

Imphal to Moreh – 3/6/16

We left around 6.00 am to the Moreh Border.  Moreh is a town located on the India-Myanmar border in the Chandel district of the Indian state of Manipur.   The name literally means “I’m tired” in Burmese. The town is inhabited by Chin, Kuki & Mizo people by historic land allocation in the Kabow Valley together with a sizeable number of Tamil, Nepali, Naga, Meitei, Punjabi, Telugu, Bihari, Marwari and Pangals. Previously, Moreh was in the Kabow Valley Zone. The town is an important and rapidly developing trade point in India on the border with Myanmar, with the town of Tamu being close to the border.

We were approaching the border and we had to go through 3 army check posts before we reached the Moreh Border.  The board directed us to clear the Immigration & Customs at Gate No. 1, but when we reached there we were informed that no officer was available at that gate, and we should go back to Gate No.2.  We then went back and met the Immigration officer.  Also the Customs official came to the same place and got our Carnet stamped while the Immigration officer stamped our passports.  They were really very good and nice.  Our guide was already waiting for us at the Moreh Border who showed the permissions obtained by his company for our entry into Myanmar.  We then moved to the Myanmar side of the border ie Tamu.  We crossed the Indo-Myanmar Friendship Bridge in Moreh which connects India to Kalewa in Myanmar’s Sagaing Division.

After crossing the Indo-Myanmar Friendship Bridge we had to clear the immigration with the Myanmar immigration officials.  The official at the Immigration was so lethargic and had no information about what he required to do or what documents he required to stamp our passports with the entry stamp.  After about more than 2 hours he stamped the passport with great reluctance.  We even had to tell him that he would be reported to the seniors.  Our guide had to get the Minister of Tourism to speak to him.

Then, we entered the Indo-Myanmar Friendship Highway constructed by Indian Government.

The highway was narrow but the road was very good.  There were no pot holes. We could drive at a speed of 60 – 70 kms an hour.  The right hand vehicles were driven on the right hand side of the road.

We reached around 6.30 pm at Hotel Majesty, Kalay, where we checked in for the night.  We had dinner and then retired for the night.