Preparing For a Long Distance Self-driven Car Tour
I see 3 (+ 1) types of readers for this page of my travelogue:
- The first one is you, i.e, a member of BCMT…. And you are reading this log on a daily basis since I started posting my story on 9th April 2015. You may continue reading this log. I also have something for you at the end of this page.
- The second one is someone who has come to this page from my some other travelogue…. You may read this page in entirety and go back to reading the original travelogue. However I suggest you read this Gujarat travelogue also later on, from first page.
- The third one is someone who has come to this log while searching for some travel related information of Gujarat…. I assume that you are continuously reading this log from Page 1. In your case, I know that you are too tired reading my travelogue so far. It is not good for your eyes and brain to look at the screen continuously, non stop. Like in the movies and TV programmes, let us take a break now. But you can’t go off. You have to stay here only. Let us change the topic a bit.
- The last one is: Normally there will be a “Q & A” section in these types of travel websites. (I don’t know whether BCMT has one or not. Frankly speaking, I did not get enough time to explore that). And many questions in such Q & A sections will be related to travelling, routes, driving, places etc. Such people who want answers to their queries can also read this page to get a fair idea of what they are looking for.
Now let me start off:
Whenever I tell my friends about my travel related stories, the most common questions that I get are like these:
You say that you have never visited Gujarat before. Also you don’t know even a bit of Gujarati language. Then …
How do you know what are the places to visit ?
How do you know which route to take ?
How do you know the sequence of places to visit ?
I am afraid to drive long distance. How can I overcome this ?
What are the points to be noted before you undertake this kind of a tour ?
How do you manage without doing any reservation of rooms etc ?
How do you manage to keep yourself medically fit ?
How do you manage your food in a totally different environment ?
And so on and so forth.
If you fall into the first category of people above, you may not get these doubts.
But if you fall into third or fourth category of people above, then if you try to undertake this kind of a travel on your own, you are also bound to get these doubts. Because you would have observed that we are touring continuously, non stop, covering lots of places in any given day. And most of these places are off beat and remote places. How did we come to know about them.
So let me try to clear these doubts. As you are comfortable with my Gujarat story so far, I will use this Gujarat tour for replying these questions.
I have been touring like this from a long time, much before I came to know about internet and smartphones. But as this is the age of IT, I will limit my answer to the present only.
Both of us (me and my friend MKR) had never been to Gujarat before. So the selection of places becomes most crucial in any tour like this. I had spent around 2 weeks for preparing all the details.
And here it is:
I opened an MS Word document file.
I also opened Google Chrome (my default browser).
In one Tab, I search for “List of districts of Gujarat”.
And I got the Wikipedia link for the same.
I opened the URL in another tab.
It lists out all the 33 districts of Gujarat.
I ‘copy-paste’ed these district names in my word file.
Next I search for “Gujarat districts map”.
I got the “mapsofindia.com” link for the same.
I opened this URL in another tab.
Looking at the “All India Map” in another tab, I know that from Bengaluru, I have to take NH4 till Mumbai, and then NH8 to Gujarat. I have to enter Gujarat thru Valsad district. And I must return back in the same route.
So I decide to travel along NH8 in Gujarat till Kheda district or so, and then take a left turn along the coast towards Ahmedabad and Bhavnagar districts. Then I have to move along the coastline till Dwarka, move along ‘Gulf of Kuchchh’ till Kachchh district. Then I have to take a right turn, move along the districts bordering Rajasthan. Then finally take another right turn downwards to cover the districts bordering MP, and return back to Bengaluru via MH.
So I re-order my district list in my Word file to suit my new travel route.
Next comes the places.
In one Tab, I check for “tourist places in Valsad district”.
Now I get lots of listings. They might include the links to Wikipedia, wikitravel, tourismguideindia, holidayiq, tripadvisor, gujarattourism and many more.
Now I open all these URLs in different Tabs.
After going through all the websites, I carefully note down the important tourist places in that district.
Here I must tell you few things.
For few places, there will be seasons. Like it is better to visit a wild life sanctuary (WLS) during summer and water falls in rainy season etc.
Also I may not be interested in certain types of places (like WLS, beach, Hill station etc).
I take care to see that only those places which are of interest to me are noted down.
Also I note down whether they are a ‘must visit’ or ‘can be skipped’ or ‘if time permits’ place.
I repeat this exercise for all the districts.
And now I am ready with my first list of places to be visited.
After this exercise, for every place, I search the details in the net.
Again the details from sites like Wikipedia, wikitravel, tourismguideindia, holidayiq, tripadvisor, gujarattourism and many more will be displayed.
Now I again carefully go through all these sites and note down the required details in the Word file.
I also look for the photos and videos of that place in the internet.
This exercise is repeated for all the places and this is the most time consuming job in the whole process.
By this way I arrive at the list of places to visit.
How do you know which route to take and the sequence of places to visit ?
Having finished the list of places, the routing plays next important role. Because unnecessarily I should not travel in the same route more than once. I must take a shorter route, but must be a good one. And I must know which place to visit first and which one to visit next.
So I again go with my district wise list in my Word file.
I open ‘Google Maps’ in one Tab.
And I click on ‘Directions’.
In the first line, i.e., ‘Choose starting point’ I give the name of the first place in my Word file list.
In the Maps, there might be many places which correspond to this name.
So I must be careful in selecting the place from the dropdown list.
Now in the second line, ‘Choose destination’, I give the second place in my Word file list.
Now the Maps shows me the route, approximate time required and the distance.
If there are multiple routes, then all the possibilities are also shown.
Here I will use my experience to judge which route to take.
There is a ‘+’ sign in the third line.
If I take the mouse cursor there, it says ‘Add destination’.
Now I click on that, and I give the third place in my Word file list.
I repeat this for all the places in that district. (A maximum of 10 places can be given like this).
Now I observe that the route is all jumbled up.
I glance at the route taken carefully.
Now I take the mouse cursor to the left of the circle in the list of places in the Maps.
Three dots appear to the left of the circle, a hand symbol is shown and Maps asks me to ‘Drag to reorder’.
I start dragging the places in such a sequence, so that my routing is perfect.
I do this job for the second district from my list. Here for the ‘Choose starting point’ I give the name of the last place of the previous district. I repeat this exercise for all the districts.
Many times it so happens that while routing, I notice that a place in second district is physically in between two places in the first district. This is because of the geographical locations of the places. So, all these points have to be taken care off, while deciding the routes.
Sometimes a single place will be far off from the rest of the places or the route. We have to take lot of deviation and spend lot of time to visit that single place. In such a case, if the place is not a ‘must visit place’ then I skip the same.
I am afraid to drive my car for long distances. How can I overcome this ?
This is more of a mental barrier than a physical barrier. And it is easy to overcome this problem. Assume that your residence and office are 10 km apart, and every day you commute by your car. So you are comfortable with this 10 km distance driving.
Now to overcome this barrier, first try out driving to some nearby place, say within 100 kms.
For this, let us take Bengaluru to Tumakuru, which are around 70 km apart.
So first assume that you are driving to your office which is at 10 km distance from your home.
After driving 10 km on the direction of Tumakuru, stop for a minute, and assume that you have reached your office.
Now start the car again, drive for another 10 km in the same direction, thinking that you are returning to your home.
So repeat this exercise 5 more times, and you will be at Tumakuru, which is at 70 km away from Bengaluru.
Returning back to your home will not be difficult, as you are approaching your home-sweet-home.
After doing this experiment few times with some nearby places, you can overcome this mental barrier.
How to keep good health, how to manage food in a totally different environment ?
This is a tricky point, because good health depends on resistance and immunity power of individual. I always drink filtered water (from Aquaguard On The Go). I don’t eat any food that is not boiled. So I avoid chutney, curd-rice etc, which are not boiled.
With respect to food, Gujarat is a heaven for vegetarians. There was absolutely no problem for us with respect to lunch and dinner.
However breakfast was a big problem. In cities we could get some South Indian breakfast. But in country side, it was typical Gujarati breakfast, consisting of deep fried methi pakoda, chilli, besan chutney etc.
Normally I always avoid such things. Out of compulsion, we had these items at several places for our breakfast. (Even though we carried everything to prepare our own breakfast, we didn’t do it for lack of time). Surprisingly, as the days progressed, we didn’t had any type of health issues after eating these stuff.
I also carry chutney powder, puliyogare mix etc. This way, if the local food is not to our taste, we can manage few days. But most important, it is always better to try out the local delicacies and keep the brought out items only for emergencies.
We also used to buy 2 - 3 small curd packets in the early morning. As we can get plain rice everywhere, it was easy to eat rice + curd (not curd rice). This is a 100% safe bet always.
And always remember : “A true traveler does not have a fixed itinerary”