What happens when three women throw caution to the wind and set off on a road trip across 24 countries? The experience can be summed up in one word - EPIC, as we discovered in our conversation with Meenakshi Arvind.
"People still think that India is wallowing in poverty and all of India is impecunious and impoverished. And this trip is something I did for putting my hometown in the headlines as well."
On this trip, it was imperative to pick the right vehicle for the 70-day long journey. The trio went through all the options and finally, the Tata Hexa was established as the ideal choice for the strenuous voyage. The Hexa’s four ‘Super Drive Modes’ - Auto, Comfort, Dynamic and Rough Road - helped them triumph over unfamiliar terrain and punishing weather conditions to drive through countries like Myanmar, Thailand, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Belarus, and Poland, just to name a few. The awesome ride was customized specially for this legendary trip with accessories like a roof platform, a canopy, luggage bags, high lift jack, shovel, jerry can, a navigation unit and a wireless charger.
With their travel essentials loaded up into the Tata Hexa, Meenakshi Arvind, Mookambika Rathinam and Priya Rajpal set out from Coimbatore to London, across 24 countries in roughly 70 days. The idea behind the expedition was to celebrate 70 years of Indian independence and to create a positive image of Indian women.
"Although Volvo offered me their XC90 and ISUZU as well, I’m very happy to have taken the Hexa".
However, a trip like that is bound to have more than its fair share of adventures. For instance, while exiting China, one wrong turn sent the trio 1,000 km in the wrong direction, 13,000 ft above sea level and into a raging blizzard! Luckily, the Tata Hexa hardly struggled, even in the sub zero temperatures and steep inclines. Says Meenakshi Aravind, "We had a lot of mountainous terrain and high altitude driving till we reached Kazakhstan and the hill descent control of the Hexa really helped. I could feel it kick in when I was driving downhill."
"We and the car got photographed a lot. Once we were in Europe, quite a few people recognised the Tata brand."
The right hand drive vehicle turned quite a few heads and the prominent decal across its side made it a star attraction in every country. So which of these countries provided the best driving experience? We asked Meenakshi. "China had amazing roads, the best that I have seen so far in my life," she said. "It was the ultimate driving experience with bridges and tunnels that ran over beautiful mountains. We did not have a patch of bad road anywhere in China."
Now that the way has been paved, a cross-continent road trip is bound to be on every road lover’s bucket list, including Meenakshi. "I am looking at a world trip and this being the first leg of that trip. There have been many offers already from many car companies, but I would definitely like to work with Tata Motors again," says the traveller.
"Make sure you pump the right kind of fuel into the tank, familiarise yourselves to what diesel/petrol is called in each country."
What guidance would the pioneer give to the aspirers? Meenakshi’s advice is simple - follow the rules, research a lot and learn the local lingo for ‘fuel’. "Please don't be aggressive on the roads. Especially if someone hasn't driven abroad, be extra careful," she adds. As for aspiring women travellers sceptical about their safety, she says that as long as you take basic precautions like not venturing out late at night and always watching your back, it is completely safe out there. "We did not have any trouble from anyone. People have been generally nice and helpful throughout," she says.
They say travelling leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller. So have these daredevil ladies inspired you to get on the road and chart your own adventure tale? Let us know in the comments!