It all started with an innocuous thought between a few of friends – Gaurav Sahai, Bibin Abraham and myself – sharing drinks sitting across the Arabian sea. Thinking of an apt way to commemorate the 275th anniversary of Naval Dockyard Mumbai, we thought of driving to all the major bases and command organisations of the Indian Navy. Well that plan extrapolated – and how!
The Naval Dockyard, Mumbai was established in 1735 to cater to the demands of the then nascent ship building industry of India. The Yard has since grown in leaps and bounds, serving the nation right from the two World Wars, to supporting the cutting edge warships and submarines today. It boasts of having built the oldest ship afloat presently, the HMS Trincomalee, and has the proud distinction of being the premium technical defence establishment and one of the oldest in the whole of Asia.
So, to commemorate the occasion in a befitting way (and in the bargain live a long cherished dream), our small team of four led by Commodore SK Tewari set about planning the road trip, which now aimed at encompassing a good deal of our vast country. The hunt for sponsors took us from dear old Maruti-Suzuki to the mighty Volkswagen group.
With mixed reactions from various manufacturers, we hit luck by getting in touch with Overdrive mag – the leading automobile print journal in the country. Team Overdrive were extremely positive in helping us organise this drive (with several other ideas in addition) and got us in touch with Toyota. The Japanese are world leaders in four-wheeler production and their enthusiasm and commitment shown towards our event left us in little doubt about the main partners for the expedition.
is a synonym with off-roading and the first image that comes to mind are white liveried UN vehicles thrashing across the battlegrounds of the middle east and Africa. So it was delight to know that the company were to provide us with the flagship LC200, Landcruiser Prado, Fortuner and Innova for the duration of the expedition.
Then started the hunt for fuel sponsors, and thankfully this was much easier, for the Navy is a major customer of the Indian Oil Corporation. The management at IOC were approached and consented to cater to the car’s thirst (which knowing the beasts, would be tremendous).
The toughest phase though was planning and finalising the route. Everyone had suggestions and pre-conceived notions. While some wanted to skip the desert in Rajasthan, others were not too keen to drive through some parts in the Bihar-Jharkand belt. Though one thing we all were keen was to drive to Khardung La; alas that was not to be as the dates of our expedition fell during the beginning of winters (we were to flag off from the historic Lion gate of the Naval Dockyard on 07 Nov).
Finally we decided on a route consisting of four legs, first being from Mumbai to Amritsar via Koteshwar – the westernmost point of mainland India – and Jaisalmer. Second leg took us through the enigmatic states of UP and Bihar uptill Kolkata. The return journey had us navigating the scenic eastern and western coasts, touching Pondicherry, Kanyakumari, Kochi and Goa. Each car was driven by a set of three officers from the Naval Dockyard with a core team of Bibin, self and PP Singh doing the complete circuit. The remaining officers changed after the completion of each leg, so as to provide the opportunity to a wider pool of personnel.
The expedition finally culminated on 04 Dec, which is “Navy day” celebrated to commemorate the decisive Naval victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war. Overall, it was an epic journey for all participants which taught us a lot about our diverse country, all the while involving a bit of fun with some extremely impressive machinery. The cars were simply mind-blowing in their ability to handle any terrain thrown at them, with even the Innova managing to rough it out to quite some extent.
Toyota’s fabled dependability and renowned customer support were certainly a boon to the expedition. Yes, there were hiccups as would be expected with such a long trip, but they were insignificant in the broader picture. Now I cannot wait to repeat such a trip, this time probably incorporating the extreme north and the eastern region of our country. I’m sure someone would need to celebrate the 276th anniversary of the Yard too!
ps: and hey if you liked this trip, check it out & vote on Cleartrip here