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Planning

What’s happening at the moment before starting the journey:

28th September 2012

Next update on the day of the flag off with the pictures.

26th September 2012

The news about the journey seems to be flowing all around the world, with coverage in major media houses in Canada, USA, UK,  India and Pakistan. There will be some news papers and TV channels that will follow the journey until it ends in Goa on the 1st of November. A few of them are Pakistan Post, Pardes Weekly, Dainik Jagaran, Punjabi Daily, Sikh Post, Aaj Di Awaz, Generation Next, Canadian Pakistan Weekly, Sur Sagar, Sikh Channel, Sangat TV and Awaz FM. I would be meeting media and friends  on the 28th in Birmingham (on the way after the flag off) followed by another meeting at 8 p.m in Indian Gymkhana. My ferry leaves Dover early in the morning on the 29th at 4 a.m which should give me an early start in France.

With 2 more days left i am moving around like a robot, doing millions of things besides my work at office during office hours. This is when i wish we could make up at least 4 clones of ours for a limited time.  For now i am trying to finish as much as possible in the next a few hours. So should not be spending time here on internet, rather should get back to work.

24th September 2012

With only 4 more days to go, everything seems to be happening at the same time. Except pre-approved Turkmenistan visa, all the papers are in order. I have been told that the approval letter should come by Friday (day of leaving), else it would have to follow after me. RAC finally gave me the carnet after keeping me on the tender hook for over 6 weeks. The Chinese approval to drive through is almost there with only a few formalities. I hope to get a formal communication in next week or so (before i reach Iran). The car finally has a snorkel, designed and worked on by me (with some support from the garage). Its amazing to see your own design shape up so well. (pic to follow)

A motion in the Scottish Parliament by for my journey Glasgow to Goa, was presented by Sandra White from Scottish National Party on the 17th Sept 2012 in the Parliament in Scotland. It was passed with the over whelming cross party support and all MP’s rose above political boundaries to support the journey. This motion has now been published in the parliamentarian Business Bulletin to be viewed by all.  Motion details below :

Motion S4M-04163: Sandra White, Glasgow Kelvin, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/09/2012

That the Parliament commends Inderpal Shergill who aims to drive from Glasgow to Goa, India, in order to raise funds and increase awareness of cancer; understands that Inderpal will travel 9,000 miles through 25 countries across Europe and Asia and that the money raised will benefit Marie Curie Cancer Care and the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital in Pakistan to support both the provision of high-quality care to patients in the Glasgow area and offer high-quality treatment to people in Pakistan who are unable to afford it; praises Inderpal’s commitment and dedication to improve the lives of people with cancer, and wishes him a successful and safe trip.

Supported by: Kenneth Gibson, Jamie McGrigor, John Finnie, Rob Gibson, Christina McKelvie, Hanzala Malik, Roderick Campbell, Bill Kidd, Dennis Robertson, Mike MacKenzie, Jackie Baillie, Bob Doris, Joan McAlpine, Stuart McMillan, Annabelle Ewing, Chic Brodie, Brian Adam, Richard Lyle, Adam Ingram, David Torrance, Anne McTaggart, Jamie Hepburn, Jean Urquhart, Kevin Stewart, Colin Beattie

There will be more MP’s signing it but following were confirmed in the first instance after the motion. 

The flyer for the journey seems to be doing the round of the Glasgow city and stickers are in place on the car. Thanks a ton to Mr Walia once again. Iqlakh Ji from Imran Khan Cancer Appeal has been burning a lot of night oil to help me get some things for the journey in order. He will be sending out details of the journey and appeal to all their members world wide. He is working on getting my coverage of hospital in Lahore in place and a meeting with the great man himself Mr. Imran Khan.

19th September 2012

Was in Canada on the weekend of 8th,9th and 10th September. Met Gugni Gill, a friend of over 20 years, who joined me in raising awareness for cancer. On the request,  she has been nominated as Ambassador for Imran Khan Cancer Appeal for North American continent. We did a number of interviews and press conferences to raise awareness among ethnic minority community (details on media page). She has been working for a number of projects but connecting to the journey and the cause, she has taken it to a new level. Though she wanted to come to the flag-off in UK but it was decided she will continue with the media campaign in India. Chances are she would come to Pakistan for a documentary of the hospital in Lahore and then drive to Amritsar with me.

On not so busy moment in Toronto, i spent some time to go to a friends place. The view in the morning was unforgettable and so were home made butter tarts. Thank you so much Rajiv for taking time out to make them special moments.

On the flight i met two special people who need a mention. First was Mr Donaldson who has fought colorectal  cancer and was kind enough to give me some tips to be passed on to others. One of his advice has been to ask people suffering from cancer to use curcumin. It has healing properties which are quite beneficial at the time of the treatment. The other person was Jill Raschka (flight attendant) on flight from Toronto to Glasgow. She has created a thread called Raising cancer awareness: one man’s road trip from Glasgow to Goa on care2.com for people who would be interested in following the journey .

15th September 2012

Finally everything seems to be falling in place despite numerous obstacles. My visa for Pakistan was granted thanks to Mr Walia, Mr Sohan Singh and Mr Sarwar. They were the ones who made it possible with the biggest push coming from Mr. Sarwar who chased the Pakistan High Commission till i had the proof on my passport. Two other people without whom this was not possible at all is Mohammed Ali, a top notch DBA(IT) and my colleague at work who having lost his cousin and sister-in-law to cancer shares the same passion for the drive. Was it not for his back pain, i am sure he would have been my co-pilot. The second person is Mr. Yusuf (Mohammed’s nephew) who sponsored me to Pakistan without having ever met me. This love and support from them has strengthened my belief in mankind. For the right cause i think the whole world will stand, all you need to do is take an initiative.

 I have had my share of problems with the visa for Iran. I was granted visa authorisation from Tehran which takes upto 3 weeks. By the time visa code came my passport had gone missing from the home office. They were not able to find it (did not have the time) with such a huge rush for Olympics. With time running out I had no other option but to apply for another passport. With new passport, which luckily was done in 5 days (giving me an appointment on Sunday), Iranian High Commission wanted me to apply for a new visa code again. With no other option, i had to go, right to the back of the queue and wait patiently for another 3 weeks. So finally the new visa code came just in time.

Next big issue was, i needed to take my passport personally to Dublin, Ireland as Iran does not have consular services in UK.  They only operate on the Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays which are working days for me. With a lot to be finished at my work before i leave on 28th Sept, i could not spare a day off work. Steps in Dilip Mishra, a friend of mine who agreed to take a day off work, to personally go to Ireland and get this done. Having made numerous calls to Iranian High Commission in last 2 weeks and number of mails, i seem to get no response from them. Dilip was able to get the visa for me and Nuclear sanctions imposed by the west did not work against me. The amount spent on Iran visa tripled but at the end of it, i have the required visa on the passport. Iran is an important country in my route from Glasgow to Goa. Now that i have Iran visa,i will be able to get a pre approved transit visa letter for Turkmenistan. Now for anyone who wants to do a similar drive, it is important to understand which visas need to applied for which country and in which order. Turkmenistan wants a full time guide to be present during the drive through the country if a normal tourist visa is taken. The service of most of the tour operators/agent is not very professional and you can end up sitting on border for 2/3 days while your guide arrives. The stay has to be arranged for yourself and your guide, which is planned in such a way to get maximum money out of you and provide you the least comfort. If you take transit visa where you have 5 days to cross the country, you can get away without the guide. The problem with this is you need an exact itinerary i.e. the day you enter and day you leave the country. This can be a problem as  you have to cover 19 countries before entering Turkmenistan and timings can go haywire depending upon road, car, physical and political situations. The best way to get around this problem is to apply for a pre approved transit visa letter which take up to 3 weeks. You need to have a visa for country of entry i.e. Iran and departure i.e. Uzbekistan but once approved it can be used to get visa at the border. It gives a leverage for 3-4 days delay though you are still advised to stick to your itinerary as much as possible.

 Next big hurdle has been China. Chinese are not very eager to see foreigners fly into the country, so forget about driving through it. I am planning on entering China from Kyrgystan to Kashghar and exit into Pakistan via Tashkurgan and Sost. This is a total no no go area for even local residents forget about foreigners. There are a lot of ethnic tensions in this part of China as the local polulation is predominatly Muslim and with borders adjoining Paskistan and Afganistan, China is on high alert as to who is allowed to visit. This is also a very strategic location as there are Chinese radars, ammunition dumps and sophisticated army training camps. The situation is volatile most time of the year as the local Uyghurs population is opposed to the reforms being carried out on orders from Beijing. More details about this can be found on web or youtube i.e Kashghar/Kashi.

 I have been granted permission to visit China but a separate process has been initiated for me to drive through the country. I have been informed if the permission is granted, i would have to have a local English speaking guide with me all the time. The sensitive area from Kashgar in China to Sost in Pakistan will have to have an army personal in my car. Aksai Chin which has been under dispute with India is not too far from this place and my Indian face can make the Chinese nervous (it is meant to be the other way around but i hope you can appreciate my optimism). For this stretch of 6-8 hours i will not be allowed to stop on the way for anything (and they very clearly mean it). So the plan is to dehydrate myself before i start this stretch and hope the guide does it too, leaving the army personal to sort himself out. My passport would be handed to me once i have crossed over to Pakistan and fully checked for every thing i carry with me. My cameras and laptops will be scanned for any unwanted pictures during my 3/4 days in China. So anyone looking for any educational/journey clips or pictures from within China, will have to be disappointed. I have no plans to spend the rest of my life learning Chinese and use chopsticks doing laogai (chinese term for reform through labor). I might be able to get some pictures of my car’s number plate in Chinese only if the gurad thinks there is nothing sinister behind that.

 The most exciting part of the journey that i am looking forward to is the drive through KKH highway which passes through highest mountain ranges in Pakistan.  One of the  pictures of the highway is given below :    

                                                                                                                  

26th August 2012

A few major events happened in the last two weeks. There was a charity event organised in Glasgow by Asian women for raising money for Roko Cancer (www.rokocancer.org). The response to the event was overwhelming and it showed how much everyone cared for the cause and the awareness for it within UK. I was invited to say a few words besides Mr K.S. Dhaliwal who is Roko Cancers global roaming ambassador. He was an inspiration as he has been working for this cause, devoting almost 100% of his time for last so many years. He does not take a penny for his services, rather pitches in from his pocket. He is a man of strong words  and a video from him, spreading the message is in the charities page.  

The second big event was from AIO (Association of Indian Organisation in Glasgow) which was held on Sunday the 26th August 2012. The AIO members backed the journey and have extended their support for the cause.  More pictures on the support page of the website. There is a plan to have a dinner and karaoke night in the 3rd week of November when i am back from the journey. This will further be used to raise funds for the cause.

I met Sandra White MSP (Member Scottish Parliment), who has extended her support for the journey and has stepped forward to include it as part of her newsletter. She has also decided to drive with me in my car on the day of the flag off to the starting point. She will also take up my journey in the parliament to pass a motion on it, then send me official support letter with the approval of all MP’s and Ministers in parliament. All i can say is, i am proud to be British and honoured to be represented by an MP of such high stature.

Other than that Rotary Club Bangalore has officially released the brochure and poster for the journey call JOURNEY OF HOPE in Bangalore. This will be forwarded to Rotary clubs all around India and to some selective clubs abroad.  They have also decided to do a cancer awareness camp at the time i am on the route.

Shaukat Kanum Cancer Hospital in Lahore, Pakistan has arranged for me to visit their hospital. It would give me an opportunity to see one of the best hospitals made from people’s money and for people. I am proud to be raising money for them.

Car repair and change overs are going on at full speed. I have been doing weekend trainings at PRL garage who have given me hands on training on how to handle breakdowns. For the moment this is how my Cheetah looks:

On visa front, i am almost there as i got Uzbekistan and China visa done last week. The other important ones to look forward to are Pakistan (hopefully next week), Iran (waiting for clearance from Tehran) and Turkmenistan (need Iran and Uzbekistan in place before i can take this one). My car’s carnet de passage is being processed by RAC (Jessica/Jennifer) who have been very prompt at every step.

6th August 2012

This week has been a hectic one and i feel i am about to start my journey from tomorrow. My passport which was sent to home office was stuck there for the last 3 months due to staff reductions, overload, strikes etc. Which has put me in a fix, as after repeated calls, faxes etc, i have had absolutely no reply from them. So i have chosen to have a new one made, as i seem to be running out of time. Hmm….so much for all the luck that i needed on my side now. The good thing was, the Glasgow office booked me for an appointment on Sunday (cannot thank them enough) and my passport should be with me in next 3-4 days. So now i will have to get another permission from Iran, as the previous permission was with a different passport number. Well i expect a lot of these kind of issues to prop up before and on the trip, but makes me more determined to fight it out.

Last Thursday i went to pick up my daughter Geet Shergill from her nursery Kelvinside Kindergarden. I met the manager Leanne for some preparation for my daughter’s birthday. When she found out about the trip, there was an instant support from her and the staff. I will be spending a few precious hours with the staff, students and parents before the trip, making kids aware of our obligations of giving back to the society and fighting cancer. They are my little supports for the trip providing me with all their good wishes and love.

I also got a call from Mr Nirpal Shergill whose worlds no 1 international NRI directory called “Indians abroad and Punjab impact” (14th edition) is trying to bridge the increasing demand for closer economic cooperation between India and the rest of the world. He was happy to support me in my endeavour and provide me any support i would need on my journey. Having travelled all over the world and with experience on my side, this came as a welcome support. He took the charge of spreading the word about the drive to all countries with maximum NRI migration, which i hope should result in raising more funds for the charities.

The next in line was the support from Yuvraj Singh’s charity “YOUWECAN”. In India, i would be raising money for his charity. Yuvraj Singh, who has been an inspiration for people all over the world with his match winning performances in Cricket was diagnosed with cancer last year. He stood against all odds and fought it out with the same force that he showed in the field. He has become a bigger inspiration for young and old, winning each and every heart on the way. I will look forward to meeting him in person when i get to India and be involved with his foundation.

About Yuvraj’s Singh Foundation (YSF): YSF through its initiative YOUWECAN is here to endeavour that cancer is detected at an early stage, for one and all, and no one has to fight cancer alone. YSF, through its initiative YouWeCan, wants to create consciousness on cancer prevention, early detection & fight against Stigma. YSF is a non-profit organization registered under the Bombay Trust Act 1950. You can avail tax benefit under section 80G if you donate to this trust. More details to follow soon.

This week i also got to speak to Selina Papa from Aga Khan foundation which does a lot of work in Gilgit area of Pakistan. AKF hashospitals, schools, earth quake relief facilities, water filtration plants and so many more human support efforts going on all at the same time there. I felt i wanted to do something for them which is on preventative side to tackle causes of cancer.

Suddenly i felt this journey of 9000 miles is so small compared to the amount of work that i wanted to do for my fellow humans. We share the same planet, divided by borders, cultures and traditions all of which restricts the free flow of emotions. I wish we could rise above all this and share our fortunes across boundaries. I hope this journey turns out to be an inspiration for my kids, who can learn to give back to the humanity. After all we humans are responsible for each other. Do we only have to look after each other at the times of natural disasters like earth quakes, floods, famines etc ? Why not start looking at making small contributions in day to day life. I found it strange, we humans are very competitive race when it comes to working with each others. If there is a football match in a small area of the city, we tend to support the side we live in. When it is an intercity match we support our own city (most of the time), when it is international match, we will support our own country. How about if think the whole planet as our own, trying to compete with evil forces from the other side of the universe. It is time to support each other and make the world a better place. An effort from a few can bring in a much required change. I hope this journey helps me resolve my thoughts further.

With each passing day one thing is becoming clear, the journey is like a management program and for me to graduate i will have to clear each and every subject. Every cog in the wheel will have to fall in place for the mill to move. It would have to be like a well oiled machine with no room for interruptions. Each day will have to be planned from now on, not only regarding visas but other paper work as well. A refusal from one country will bring everything to a grinding halt, which is the last thing i want now. Time too if of great essence with so much to do in such a short time and no one to share the burden of planning. I am left with no choice but to work extra hard. With a day job from Monday to Friday, i am left with weekend and a few hours in the evening on the weekdays.

I wanted to speak to my local MSP’s for the support, and that is when Mr. Anoop Wallia stepped in. I can easily say he is the jewel in the crown of the trip. It took him less than a few minutes to book George Square for the flag off on 28th September 2012 at 11 a.m. He has opened so many new gates for the trip, a detailed information of that to follow later. Hats off to Mr. Walia without his support this trip would be like a sugarless cake.

Other than that i made a trip to my official garage. More details will follow about changes to Cheetah, especially for anyone who decides on a similar trip. From now on i hope to put in regular weekly updates as to what happens. Still open for ideas and suggestions from you guys so please having them coming as usual.

29th JULY 2012

After Cheetah was bought, more anxious moments were spent on keeping an eye on it. Does it smoke more than it should, any noise that it should not make kept me on the edge. I took it out for many cat walks on Glasgow roads and it measured up to the expectations. It earned an admiration from every member of the family. So finally we went on the first shopping for the trip. We bought tarpaulin cover which i may need on the way, a tool box with everything i needed, a jet car wash which i understand would be required in Turkmenistan. Someone had a bad experience when their car was refused to be washed as it was too dirty from the drive. There is an instant fine if the car is dirty and driven in the country. Also added to the list was a bright rechargeable search light. The best part of this was an addition of two jerry cans, courtesy Gurmel. He kept up to the promise and procured two, with capacity of 25 litre, which should be more than enough for my requirements.

Other than that the last two weeks were filled with a lot of excitement. I applied for a visa clearance from Tehran for getting into Iran. I initially used an agent who never got back to me after i mentioned travelling by road. Subsequently i went to another agent based in Tehran. After all the fee etc was paid, the first agent came back and wanted me to go with, as they too had started the process. They were not sure why they had been having issues with their emails, which i never received. So now i had two eager agents on my trail. Anyway all the confusion was resolved and now i look forward to the clearance. Without which i will be stuck in Turkey or will have to reroute my travel through Azerbaijan and take a ferry to Turkmenistan. If i am forced to go to Azerbaijan, i will have to skip going to Armenia as they are not at the best with their relationship.

When one hope on expectation ladder takes a hit two more come alive instantly. That is what has happened with me in the last a few days. Someone from UK who had stayed with me (when she moved from Pakistan), was suppose to arrange for an invitation letter for me. All went well with lot of promises, until the phone just kept ringing with no response. This was a huge set back and generated a lot of disappointment. Before i could speak to anyone else, along came Mohammed who works with me in Glasgow. He stepped in with full force and within minutes had sent an email to almost all of his relatives in Pakistan. He had the same passion for the cause as me, as he had lost his sister-in-law to cancer not long ago. She had travelled to the same areas in Pakistan that i had on my plans and Mohammed wanted to be pasrt of it. Though he wanted to be my journey partner (you never know he still may) he took the charge of invitation from Pakistan. He is suffering from a back pain which is a slight hindrance at the moment and hope it resolves and he can join me. So he took the matter into his own hands with full force and within 3-4 days had an invitation letter for me. That accompanied a promise to get me a few more if required. He also promised to accompany me to Pakistan High Commission if required. His cousin Yousuf stepped in for him to sent me the invitation and was happy to receive me at the border too. Even though he lives in Karachi, which itself is more than 1000 miles from the northern border (where i plan to enter from), he agreed to come all the way up. A surprise call from him on Tuesday the 31st July put me in high spirits. He sounded so full of energy and enthusiasm, it gave me the strength i needed at the time. I do not think i will ever be able to thank both Mohammed and Yousuf for such a kind gesture at the perfect time.

So finally with so much of support i took my Cheetah for a valet session (picture attached after the valet). Another surprise awated me!! While i was getting valeting done, a casual conversation started with Mr. Sayeed Sadiq. He had seen me come to his car wash time and again in my Honda Accord, so was surprised when he saw me with Toyota Land Cruiser. I told him about the trip and he instantly chipped in for help. He said he belonged to the Gilgit and Baltistan area which i was planning on travelling entering from China. His father Haji Mohammed Sadiq was born an orphan in Hamsherian (on the way between the towns of Mansera and Khaqi) and moved to UK in 1960. He started a wholesale cash & carry in 1999 but with the expansion of M74, Glasgow it had to be closed down. In 2007 he decided to work for the less fortunate in the city of his birth and opened “The Nadir Khannum Welfare Trust”, Hamsherian. The trust takes care of over 300 girls providing them education and boarding for a few of them. It is an amazing effort given the seclusion of the area from big cities like Lahore and Islamabad. This was the area which suffered the maximum in 2010 earth quake. Mr Sadiq worked towards expanding the trust until he passed away in 2009. From then 10 family members stepped forward, pitching in contributions to the tune of £25,000 which are required every year to keep it running. The manager Shakeel Ahmed has been running the trust with all the sincerity required of him. Mr Sayeed Sadiq invited me to visit the place on my way, which i have whole heatedly accepted. I wish i was there for the annual Bukhari Jalsa which is like a graduation ceremony. That is when around 50 girls graduate making room for 50 more to step in. Since it is all girls facility, on all other days, i will only be able to visit certain areas, which i do respect.

While valeting was going on, i went to PRL garage (Paint room limited) recommended by some of the other guys from valeting services. I had gone for some work on my Honda when i asked the owner Mr Abdi about sponsoring my car for the trip. He instantly answered in affirmative and said he was all up for it. It amazes me at the enthusiasm all around and how the support seems to be flowing from all corners. He said he would be more than happy to carry out all the checks, make the required changes for the trip, whilst training me to the basic repairs for the trip.

I also met Murray from Marie Curie cancer care, Prestwick who had come for his visit to Glasgow hospice on Wednesday. A few minutes with him infused the faith i had in the charity all along. All along i had been speaking to Fiona on emails but putting a face from someone the charity did make a lot of difference. He agreed to make an extra effort in getting in touch with some companies who might help for the trip. He had some excellent suggestions and i am grateful he could meet me inspite of his busy schedule. So finally i can put an Indian phrase “ab manzil door nahin” – “The destination is not far off now”. Well even though the journey still has to start, i am moving closer to making it a reality now.

17th JULY 2012

Finally another major step has been accomplished now. I am the proud owner of Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 2003 which is to be my ride for the journey. I have named it “Cheetah” as agility, flexibility, speed and toughness are all the essentials that have been ticked with this 4×4.

Acquiring Cheetah would not have been possible without the big support of my dear friend Gurmel. He is an aircraft engineer working for Ryan air and like his 4 year old son Navroz has an eye for good cars. He had been a constant support, whilst I had been looking at different options available for sale. As it happened he was the first one to push me on Monday morning what was suppose to be a bank holiday in Glasgow. We left for our first viewing of the day in New Castle, which turned out to be a dud. I was called to view what was termed as an excellent LC (Land Cruiser) but having gone there, i found it was rusting at the base. The sales man told me that someone had actually bought the vehicle but while transferring it in their name the finances fell through. So now papers are with DVLA for transfer and I am expected to buy on a promise that I will be the next owner. It annoys me at the unprofessional behaviour of some of these salesmen. Why was I not told about this in last 5 phone calls I made to him ?? Well ignoring that it was 3p.m, we jetted off to Perth via Edinburgh to view the next two. On the way we were told that they were sold, so all we could do was continue to Aberdeen to view the next one. We had another one after that so had to make a dash.

The garage was to close at 8p.m, so I called them at 7:55p.m to say we should be there in next 10 minutes. Adam Cardy the senior sales executive was waiting for us on arrival. What a gentleman he was, as he greeted us with a big smile and waited patiently while we feasted our eyes on the available LC. I took it for a test drive and raised a few concerns which he was patient to answer. Some of our questions needed some technical assistance and he promised to call us first thing in the morning. A promised he kept for sure, but by then Cheetah had entered my life.

So after the viewing we continued further north as we were determined to see the last of the Land Cruiser’s for sale. We drove towards Inverness from Aberdeen as that was the last one we could have seen so late in the evening. Brian and his family, the owner of LC were based in a small village called Rothienorman 30 miles from Aberdeen. We met them almost at 10p.m and took their LC and my future Cheetah for a drive. Instantly I could relate to it and in next 5 minutes I knew I was buying it. Iona (Brian’s wife) had sent me pictures of the LC on the internet and one of them had a slight rust. I had liked her for the honesty which made me drive all the way as most people normally never mention negatives, especially the garages. If their honesty was something that made me drive all the way, meeting them in person was an even better experience. Their son Jessie had the energy and excitement, which I could relate to from my school days. The whole deal was done in less than an hour and we were on our way having said our goodbyes. Iona had mentioned about someone in the village suffering from cancer and also how “Marie Curie cancer care” were taking care of her. I felt proud that I would be raising money for a charity, which is making so much difference to the human life. I would have liked to go and meet the lady in person but with almost 11p.m on the clock, it did not seem appropriate. We were left with no choice but to start our 176 miles journey back home straight away.

After covering almost 1000 kms since morning, we got home at 2:30a.m with our pride possession. Gurmel who seemed very tired was quick to point about what i should expect on my journey. After all he had the first hand experience of my quota of daily drive on the trip. He was happy to have done his part of this “crazy journey” as he calls it and straight away wanted to hit the bed. Despite my persistence and tired as he was, he left for Prestwick. He wanted to go home to be with his family, adding another 30 miles to his last leg.

So overall this was a fruitful week but this takes me to the next step of getting the visas now. Iran and Pakistan seem to be the hardest in the chain so will pursue these. The problem is my passport is with home office and even after numerous calls, faxes and emails they seems to be in hibernation. I am left with no option but to wait, one of many i can expect in next a few weeks.

13th JULY 2012

There is so much to do before the journey. I have been looking at so many 4×4 and the priority has been to buy a “Land Rover”……UNTIL NOW. Spoke to some experienced travellers and all of them have been of the opinion, nothing is more reliable than the Toyota’s. They are quick to add if Toyota can’t do it, no other can, which i personally think might offend others. It amazes me at the Japanese dedication. They seem to excel at making the best in transportation. In any case my inclination to Land Rover has more to do with the good looks and famous transformation by the Indian company. The demand in India seems to be rising every minute for this car where as in UK, they seem to be for sale in every nick and corner. I know British seem to have tried and tested everything ahead of the world. So I decide to follow the experienced and now Land Cruiser looks to be one of the most beautiful 4×4 in the world. The very thought of deserts, mountains, snow and water logging gives me peace of mind.

The journey not only consumes most part of my day but i also end up driving in my dreams. Everything that can go wrong seems to happen when i hit the bed. The route seems to stretch longer by the minute and i seem to drive to infinity. I could beat Alfred Hitchcock what it comes to the most innovative ideas in dream driving. My car engine blows up in the middle of nowhere and no one comes to my rescue. I seem to have put anti-freeze in the radiator when it should have been putting the coolant for the heat. Some nights i find diesel the worst choice of fuel with no availability on the route (in reality its the other way around). Other times I come awake, with my body covered in sweat. I see my wife next to me who has no clue about what’s going on. My kids are sleeping peacefully in the next room and i wonder, is it worth the trip. If i speak about it to any of my Asian friends, they think it’s an omen. A few of them are quick to elaborate that i should give up and live long to enjoy my life. When i speak to my English friends, they admire me for my strength. Until now it was their born right to do everything adventures in the world. Asians, especially Indians are known to sit on the other side of the phone or commputer and play it safe. I am quick to point out to my English friends that some of their habits have rubbed hard on me be it a pint of beer, watching football or travelling.

In any case i realise we all are the same when it comes to basic human behaviour. Most of us love travelling and adventure but are bound by the sanctity of marriage and obligations in life. It is not easy to work around your job, car payments, house mortgage, children’s educations, parent’s needs and mental stress of daily life. It is not just a 3-4 weeks drive but a journey of a life time. Nothing could have made me realise this more than a trip to my children’s health visitor. The moment she found out about my trip, her nostrils flared. She snubbed me for my evil thoughts of leaving two beautiful kids raising money for a charity (Hmm…. makes me wonder if she is in the right profession, after all the British medical system could definitely do with some funds). With the rise in cancer patients, this is the least i could do, but i know she loves my kids and takes her job to the heart. I admire her for her dedication to my kids and wonder am i doing the right thing. The moment passes when my wife holds my hand and gives me strength to follow my dreams. Just when i thought she does not know about my Alfred Hitchcock moments, she assures me, i am the land cruiser of my family.

Now finally, with all these assurances, i have decided to row down the tried and tested path. When i thought the biggest problem was choosing the car, i find buying one was equally hard. A new land cruiser is out of question, as i would rather give away the money to the charity. I was one of those people who were born with the moral compass pointing to the north. This not only worked towards fulfilling my moral obligation to the mankind but also to follow my dreams to the end. Sometimes i wonder if i had dreamt about going to the moon, but thank God i am realistic. After all this journey is just about a drive on two continents with there is still an option for three more.

Now with less than 11 weeks to go, i am in a race against time. With so many visas to get, buying a car, carnet de passage, hotel bookings (essential in some countries), learning about regulations, guides (again essential in some countries), ferry timings, natures uncertainties, family at the back of the mind, financial, charity etc i feel i am stretch to the maximum. Being a one man team does not help but thanks to all the family and friends for all the support. My work place has extended me the support with more support coming from my charity of choice. With one call from Fiona Leitch of Marie Curie Cancer Care i already feel, the cause is worth so much more than my trip. It gives me the confidence to carry on, irrespective of all the pressures. I also met an amazing energetic personality in the form of Mr Anoop Wallia who works for the “Sikhs in Scotland”. Looks like there would be another cause which will get attached to this trip and it will become worth the while. Let me see how things shape up in the next a few days as so many decisions need to be made at the same time. There is no time for “well planned baby steps” as I will need to “jump in leaps and bounds”. More for next time!!

8th JULY 2012

After one good night sleep i seem to be better focussed. Ok here are so many different things i found out that i am not sure where i stand at the moment. I will define the facts and will clear them one by one day by day. The only thing i know, there is a lot of money, time and luck involved in this trip more than anything else. I am late by at least 6-8 months in my preparation. This kind of trip should be planned at least an year in advance.So let me state the facts one by one for anyone who wishes to do this kind of trip :
1) Check the route you want to take. Now depending upon your nationality you will have to look into all the visas you may need.
2) Now second most important thing is, how much do you love your life or how loved you are by your family. If you are the worlds most loved and loving, the routes will narrow considerably. Lets see how:
a) You could take roof of the world, travelling from UK to Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, China, Tibet, Nepal and India. NOT POSSIBLE FOR ME (i am not too keen on Russian roads)
b) If you are British citizen, you will not be allowed to go to Tibet (who said being British is easy), so either you go over Tibet and look at ways to enter from Myanmar (till now the road is still not open…but you never know 2016 is around the corner). Bangladesh is out as RAC does not give Carnet de passage (again this could change or would have already). NOT POSSIBLE FOR ME
c) From China go to Pakistan and then to India via the most beautiful and not so easy drive. HMM…..SOUNDS GOOD.
d) From Europe to Turkey, Georgia, Azeraijan (Baku) to Turkmenistan (via ferry), Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, China and then what suits you i.e. Tibet or Pakistan
e) From Europe to Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India via Quetta and Lahore (this is one of the most dangerous routes). The border between Iran and Pakistan is a heaven for drug smugglers and Quetta in Pakistan is a best way to plan your own kidnapping. Even though there is security from Zahedan (Iran) to border and then all the way to Quetta in Pakistan, you will be on knifes edge. WILL DO SOME OTHER TIME…but may be required to do if visas for China etc do not fall in place at right time.
d) From Europe to Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India via Karachi, Hyderabad, Bhawalpur and Lahore (safe if you are able to enter the border between Iran and Pakistan from down south. From what i have heard, this not allowed but i may be wrong. If this is true, the suspense continues and you are advised to update your will before you leave (assuming you would have made a will before you started planning this trip). WILL NOT LOOK AT RIGHT NOW…..may drive there if i have to enter Pakistan from Iran.
e) From Europe to Turkey, Iran and ship your car to India. This is if denied at the border to Pakistan, go to Bander-e Abbas, ship the car to India and go by road through Pakistan. Now you can wait for your car in Mumbai for next 15 days while lubricating the palms of every Tom, Dick and Harry. After all you have shipped your car to “Gods own country”, where every department has its own god, on every pre-assigned chair. No matter how well planned you are, the Gods will find something wrong somewhere. Now if you meet the right agent, you will find he is God sent and with right money, he will have your car with you in no time (hopefully if you meet the right God). ANOTHER POSIBILITY IN CASE OF EMERGENCY.
f) From Europe to Turkey, Georgia, Azeraijan, Iran to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, China and then what suits you i.e. Tibet or Pakistan AGAIN NOT BAD….rather the best of all
3) My ideal would be a combination of (f) and (c) i.e. Europe, Turkey Georgia, Azeraijan, Iran to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, China, Pakistan and then India.
4) Now either way i will need a visa for Pakistan, so that’s my first priority. After this i will like to work on visa for Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan and China. China visa and car permit can be handled by a few companies like Navo Tours etc. They are expensive but will do the job hopefully. China can be entered from Kyrgystan i.e. Kashgar and exit from Kunjirap in Pakistan. The drive from Kunjirap to Islamabad is amazing but only select a few are able to do it. There is a lake in the middle of the route and from what i have heard there is a ferry service. If the ferry service does not work or there is a land slide, you are in no man’s land. Going back is not an option as Chinese take at least 2 months to get all clearances before allowing anyone through their borders. So this is a trip where luck has to be on your side for everything to click in place.
5) If coming through Iran, getting visa is a main issue. Firstly for British it is one of the most expensive visas. Secondly their high comission was closed in 2011 and only place to get visa is Belgium, Paris (i think) and Dublin. For Iran visa a clearance number is needed from ministry of external affairs in Iran. NEED LOTS OF GOOD LUCK BESIDES YOUR HARDWORK.
6) Looks like Land Rover is not a very reliable 4×4 for the trip compared to Land Cruiser from Toyota. 90% of the people think it would be better to go with Toyota for peace of mind. So looks like i will have to change the focus of my search. The problem with Land Cruisers is, the new models come with automatic transmission which i feel would not be the same as manual. Manuals which are coming in the market are 2004 or prior. It is hard to find these cars in the used car markets with exceptionally high price if available.
Other issues:
1) Would there be any issue with diesel car w.r.t fuel availability. From what i understand, mostly no….but there are some places extra fuel will have to be carried. Please do not buy chip cards in Iran as it is easy to fill up at petro-stations in the country.
2) Besides Carnet de passage, get International driving licence, check if winter tires are required for the route.
3) In Europe reflective jacket has become a norm in the car and so is first aid kit.
4) Expenses to bear in mind for shipping car back to UK
5) Insurance has to be bought for different countries on border as you travel through them. They can be prearranged for some and a list has to be made for the same.
6) There are limitations to how long the visa is valid for some countries. So a proper plan has to be made to make sure the routes and dates are adhered too. Some countries like Turkmenistan and China expect you to have a local guide in your car. It might be a good idea to have some one in Pakistan as well on KKH highway.

6th JULY 2012

What an amazing week!!!! I have never had so many sleepless nights. There was a time when i felt guilty for relying so much on one person. I was promised and encouraged to do all the preparations for the trip but within a few days the promise had became hollow sounding words on the phone.

At the time when i announced the journey, there was excitement in the air and everyone wanted to be part of it. I was applauded for coming out with such a brilliant idea. I thought i was a descendent of Einstein, especially for the way many around me envied me, for such a brilliant thought. It amazes me how many around me want to be liberated and go travelling. I have never seen my fellow citizen being so excited in life. Having migrated from one of the common wealth countries, i always believed British have travelled all over the world. After all this had been the empire, where the sun never set and the tradition had continued through generations. Every country i ever visited, had British swarming all over the place. It was as if they carried with them, the love established with many years of interaction with the others. With recession taking its toll, many wondered what did they do wrong to be born in a country with no sun, evaporating jobs and an expensive lifestyle.

Now being part of the country where holiday is a norm. The blood running through my veins is loyal to the country, with my sovereignty with the queen. So i have no choice but to live my dream. A dream which took shape almost 3 years ago, when i announced to my wife “Eureka its time to drive from UK to India”. My wife who was in the middle of making a curry stopped and starred. The eyes said it all, “its time to slow down on that Scottish whiskey even if it reads 12 years old”.

I was persistent for next a few weeks and things started taking shape in my mind, which reflected in everything i did. That was when my wife decided, it was time to announce the best news of my life “we are having a kid”. My travelling dreams came tumbling down but “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall”. I started working on a different trip which was called “the trip of parenthood”. From then on i could see nothing beyond my nose. It was only after my second child was born, i realised, “i have not properly integrated into the British system”. I asked myself “Am i still an Indian who believes in hoarding cash for the rainy day, in a country where it rains all the time?”. I decided it was time to take the dip with a trip .

Finally i announced my plans to my fellow conspirator, who was more than happy to dip in. He said he was too busy to do the ground work, but will stand by me at every step of the day. With his promise and my wife’s support i started giving shape to, what was meant to be a dream journey. Having done most off the ground work, i asked him for his co-operation to mount the final assault and get our visas and financials sorted. That’s when i heard the first crackling sound and within a few minutes i became from a two member team to a solo rider. I would have given my years earning to find out what went wrong. With so much of adrenaline rush, to the calms of the desert, there had to be a bigger conspiracy to de-thrown me from my dream journey. Anyways that’s when i realised “life was much more than highs and lows of the mountains i wish to cover”. “An unsolved misery which keeps a person on his toes and to never take things for granted”.

Now to conclude and define my current situation, I have decided to become a sardar. This is to do what i am happy to do, without looking over my shoulder for support. After all its when the clock strikes 12, does my power comes to the fore. I will need a good nights sleep to rest my brains and start fresh again. I am very determined to fight out this war on cancer, with this amazing journey of two continents. Good night!!

1st JULY 2012

  1. As of this 1st weekend of July i suddenly know the plan to make a trip will be a reality very soon. I have 3 months to sort out everything regarding the trip, from finalizing the exact route, cities to cover, stops, no of nights etc. Since i have done Europe before, it feels much simpler to handle. For other parts i need to first get a visa i.e. Iran/Pakistan and India. Have spoken to some friends for all the support i need in Iran and Pakistan.
  2. Have also started looking at different 4×4 that i can choose for the journey. I did join some forums and also went in person to some garages and consensus seems to be that Land Rover Discovery should be the best option (as above). I have been asked to stick to GS model of this land rover as it has all the essentials i would need. Any model above this will a few more electronic extras but that would also make it hard to resolve in case of a break down. The engine and the built up is the same.
  3. Also made a list of a few things i would need to do and take on the journey i.e. Proper service of the vehicle with oil pump check, timing belt check, anti-puncture liquid for tire, extra spare tire, a good quality jack, extra head light bulbs, spare fuel can, full owners manual and basic repairing instructions. Will be speaking to my doctor in a day or two to top up my Tetanus, Typhoid and Diphtheria essentials. Will also speak about Hepatitis A and malaria supply in case required.
  4. Have started making a list of essentials chargers i would need for mobiles, cameras and video cameras. Also need spare batteries for cameras and video recording devices. Will be ordering a mike which can be used to do recording for documentaries on the way.
  5. Other essentials would be portable appliances to cook food, portable fridge and tent with sleeping bag (just in case), some dry fruits (can top up in Iran), biscuits, chocolates and instant noodles etc.
  6. Have to look into car insurance in Europe, separate car insurance for Iran, Pakistan and India. I have been told these can be done in advance to be delivered at the point of entry into the country (will have to look into that). I also have to top up my personal insurance for peace of mind.


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6 Comments
  1. Shriram permalink

    Faith is like Wi-Fi. It’s invisible, but it has the power to connect you to what you need! When you don’t give up, YOU CANNOT FAIL

  2. GOOD LUCK MATE! This is a dream trip for me! (though mine would be London >>> Azad Kashmir via Iran and Baluchistan region. I’m planning on going in 2014 along with 3 friends and so this is vast help in regards to information etc. Please name the companies that helped you get the visa’s etc so they can be of good use!

    Having been on roadtrips before, including 4,000 mile trips across europe to Romania etc at age 20, (now 21) I’ve got to do UK>>>KASHMIR within the next 3 years! I will follow this blog very closely.

    Wish you ALL the best. You give me goosebumps reading through this blog. Very proud of you.

    Fahim Chaudhry.

    • Fahim please be in touch at the end of the trip. I will pass on all the information that you would need to make your trip!

  3. Some friends are worth the praise!!!!

  4. bkaur permalink

    just saw some praise of ur friends gurmel ……….

  5. bkaur permalink

    finally u have a rethink about route! i was worried about iran.option no ””f””’ is best.as ur choice too.i was thinking to say that but just logged on to site n saw ur update of 8th july.so no worries now……..u get green from me….lol……..

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