Tag Archives: motoring

Long Way Across India: Our Route

Route-planning for our Classic India Adventure

This week, in addition to wrangling filming kit for our India trip, I’ve been sizing up the route we’ll be taking across this vast country. There’s nothing quite like poring over maps to get the adventurous juices flowing!

Our journey will take us through more than 1,000km of South India, across three of the country’s most spectacular regions – Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. We’ll be skirting inland lagoons and lakes, traversing reserves teeming with tigers, and tackling the steep jungle ascents of the Western Ghat mountain range. Descriptions of our route conjure up magical images – elephants, monkeys and bears, beautiful wetlands and backwaters, ancient monuments and temples, gorgeous sweeping mountain vistas, and hot, dusty plains. Even the place names have a mystique about them – Bandipur, Mudumallai, Kodaikanal, Masinagudi, Ooty…

South India - UNICEF route

Our intended route through South India

South India’s going to be a really exciting and unpredictable place to travel through, especially in the way we have chosen – using classic motorbikes and cars synonymous with travel in India. We’ve already been warned about the changeable weather, unforeseen roadblocks and numerous other obstacles that may force us to veer off our intended route. Throw in erratic road rules and towns and villages teeming with chaotic activity – people and animals everywhere! – and it’s certainly going to be an expedition that will require all our stamina and sense of humour.

Thinking about filming, I’m excited at the prospect of shooting in such a diverse and colourful country. It looks like there’ll be no shortage of extraordinary places to capture on film – not to mention the exploits of our intrepid team as we encounter daily adventures. I’m also looking forward to visiting the UNICEF project in Mysore – a chance to see how the money we’ve fundraised is being used to help kids in need.

As Charley says: “There’ll be long days on the road and we’ll be pushed to our limits on some sections. But we’ll have lots of time to take in the fantastic journey and experience all India has to offer.”

Yup Charley, I can’t wait to be on the road tackling everything India has to throw at us – bring it on!

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Ambassadors & Royal Enfields

With preps and fundraising for our UNICEF India Adventure well underway, this weekend I’ve been reading up about the cars and bikes we’ll be using on our epic 1,000-km roadtrip. As both a car and bike enthusiast, one of the key drawcards of this particular adventure was the chance to be part of a rally of classic motorbikes and motor cars – and by all accounts, the Enfields and Ambassadors are as classic as they come.

Cruising India astride a Royal Enfield Bullet

Some of the team, including Charley and Marc, will be riding 350cc Royal Enfield Bullets. Originally launched in the UK in 1949, the Bullet came to be used by the Indian government from 1955 as a bike for its police and army to patrol its country’s rugged border areas. Now based in Chennai, Royal Enfield is the oldest motorbike brand in the world still in production. The Bullet’s excellent pedigree bodes well for some of the more challenging parts of our route across Southern India – and for Charley, it will certainly be a very different kind of ride from his more customary 1200 Beemer GS!

The trusty Ambassador on the road in India

The rest of the team will be driving 1950s-style Hindustan Ambassadors. Originally based on the British Morris Oxford III model (1948), the “Ambi” (as it’s fondly known) is now considered a quintessentially Indian car, dubbed “the king of Indian roads”. Although they look quite sturdy, their engines are only apparently capable of 37 horsepower and their handling is generally thought to be “temperamental” at best – so it’ll be interesting to see how they fare in some of the mountainous and unpredictable terrain we’ll encounter in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
                                                                                                          Reading up about these brilliant cars and bikes, I can’t wait to be on the road in India to see how these classic vehicles – not to mention their riders/drivers – hold up! It seems pretty inevitable that we’re going to have some challenges along the way, given the ever-changing terrain and the unique handling styles needed for these cars and bikes – but hey, that’s all part of the adventure!
                                                                                                                             

Gearing Up For India

Filming the UNICEF Sahara Trek in 2010

As you’ll know from my last post, I had a great time in London and I’ve returned to Melbourne with lots of excitement about our India Adventure. This has been tempered by the inevitable anecdotes from people about how crazy the roads are in India – not to mention tales of near-misses or crashes in cars and on bikes that seem to be par for the course in that part of the world. So I’m approaching our roadtrip with a healthy mix of anticipation and trepidation – well it is an adventure, after all!

After get-togethers with Charley and UNICEF in the UK, I’ve realised there’s actually quite a lot of prep – not to mention fundraising! – to do in the next few months. So I’m making the most of a long weekend here in Oz to start hatching plans for wrangling gear for the trip and getting support from companies who may be able to help me out with the things that we need.

Right now I’m compiling a kit list – potential equipment, including camera (video and stills), tripods, GoProsⓇ and so on for filming and otherwise documenting the adventure. During my rendezvous with Charley, we compared notes about various filming techniques and ideas – including using Spot Tracker GPS or similar on the trip, so that people can follow our journey as it unfolds on the ground in India.

It’s always a trade-off between taking enough gear to properly cover the event and not getting bogged down with stacks of fancy kit. I’ll be stowing it all in the back of an old Ambassador, which isn’t renowned for its huge luggage space, so I’ll need to be clever about what I end up taking.

Setting up for a shot of Team UNICEF tackling a steep ridge in Morocco (as my trusty porter Mohamed looks on!)

Plus, there are particular challenges on this trip that didn’t come up when I filmed our last UNICEF adventure in the Sahara Desert. On that trip, with everyone trekking on foot within a relatively short distance, it wasn’t too tricky to film – I could see the entire group and catch up with particular individuals and happenings at any given moment. This time, we’ll be a convoy of cars and motorbikes potentially strung out over a fair distance (albeit contained by a leader vehicle, sweepers, support crew etc) – and, of course, moving vehicles always require particular tricks and techniques when it comes to filming. I just need to make sure I’ve got a plan of action and the kit to cover it all, so I don’t miss all the good stuff!

So, lots to plan – but it’s all good. Half the fun of any adventure is the preparation, eh? 🙂

Doing The Dakar

Desert signpost, Morocco

My whole life, I’ve wanted to take part in a motoring rally across Africa. From an early age, I remember seeing footage of the legendary Dakar Rally and marvelling at the sheer adventure and excitement of it.

The Dakar today is an incredible feat of endurance for bikers and motorists from all over the world – you only have to watch Charley Boorman’s excellent Race To Dakar documentary series to see that. But the Dakar is phenomenally expensive to take part in and the preparation for it takes months, if not years.

While I’m pretty sure I’ll never do the REAL Dakar (though I never say never…!), I’m still intent on doing something like it – and soon! Right now, I’m looking at The Dakar Challenge: http://www.dakarchallenge.co.uk/challenge/timbuktu+challenge/ which is billed as the “alternative Dakar” for those who want a tough challenge but also to have adventures along the way. And there are heaps of other Africa-based motoring events that have caught my eye. Which one to choose??

I’ll need to find a co-driver: a like-minded person (male or female) who buzzes at the thought of a challenging motoring adventure across the wilds of Africa. That’s assuming it’s a car rally, of course – now that I’m a fully-fledged biker, I can’t help wondering now if two wheels is the way to go…

So, watch this space. Life’s too short to put off dreams: and I fully intend to fulfill this one as soon as I can.

Taken part in a rally across Africa? Can you recommend a good one? I’d love to hear about it – just post a comment below!

Jeanie’s previous adventures on four wheels and two:

https://jeaniedavison.com/2011/02/11/lesotho-4wd-adventure/

https://jeaniedavison.com/2010/06/23/australian-desert-adventure/

https://jeaniedavison.com/motorcycling/