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Driving from London to Delhi, for travel and animals

By Azera Rahman, IANS,

New Delhi : It’s going to be quite a drive from London to Delhi. IT consultant Tushar Agarwal and his wife Pooja are set to embark on a 13,500-km road trip next month for the thrill of travel and raising funds for animals.

Tushar said the trip would be the culmination of a longstanding wish, though it would be physically, mentally and financially taxing, especially as they will be completely on their own with no back-up vehicle.

“Since childhood I have been going on road trips with my father. He has always had this dream of driving around the world. I guess his dream just passed on to me. It was some time around January last year when the idea of doing a road trip from London to Delhi hit me and now we are close to realising it,” London-based Tushar, 29, told IANS on e-mail.

The couple plans to raise money for animals by seeking monetary donations through their website (www.londondelhibyroad.com) as well as through various other agencies in the different countries they travel through.

“My wife Pooja is an avid animal lover. Since 2003 she has been sponsoring a UK animal charity for dogs and now, through this journey, she wants to play a bigger role by raising awareness on animal welfare and raising funds for Friendicoes, a Delhi-based animal charity,” he added.

While Tushar is a self-employed IT consultant, Pooja is an insurance broker. Both will take a break from work for this trip that will begin April 17 and culminate June 9.

“We designed the route using online resources such as Bing and Google maps. I approached the embassies of every country on route to get visa requirements for us and permits for our car. We have applied for a document called ‘carnet de passage’, which is like a passport for your car. This document is mandatory to enter Nepal and India in a foreign vehicle,” Tushar said.

The couple – both originally hail from Delhi – are going to cross 15 countries, which include Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Uzbekistan and Nepal. Tushar’s father, who is in Russia, is going to help them in that stretch of the trip.

“We have done our hotel bookings in as many countries as possible to ensure that we don’t have to hunt for a roof when we reach a particular country. However, we have still kept an element of surprise in China where we have not made any prior bookings,” Tushar said.

“We will be driving in China and Tibet for at least 20 days, most of which will be in very high altitudes and we may require oxygen masks in some places. I found a Chinese travel agency that specialises in obtaining permits from the Chinese government to facilitate journeys like ours. The process of obtaining permits from China takes at least three months and is very complex,” he added.

They also have a checklist of necessary things like medicines, water tank, chargers – including solar charges to save energy – for electronic devices, satellite phones, roof box, camping gear, sleeping bags, camera equipment and the like.

The couple has a profile on Facebook to keep people updated on its trip. Its blog, Tushar said, has more than 500 followers.

All said and done, the logistics of the trip have been crucial and although the couple has got a couple of sponsors, including MP Naveen Jindal, it is still looking out for more.

“Naveen Jindal is co-sponsoring us. We have also received sponsorship from the largest travel book store in the UK called Stanfords. They have given us road maps and guide books to help with the journey,” Tushar said.

“Also, one of the biggest Jeep dealerships in the UK has carried out service and maintenance on our Jeep free of cost. Besides, we are putting in all our savings to fund this journey because it is very close to our hearts. But we are looking for more sponsors to fund the trip,” he added.

Aware that their journey is bound to leave a large carbon footprint thanks to carbon emissions, the couple has offset it by donating money to plant trees in Kenya – the certificate for which has been scanned and put up on their website.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at [email protected])