I believe that there is no better way to see and experience the beach, the snow clad mountains, or the plains than from behind a automobile, be it a two or a four wheeler. With every glance of a long weekend, you know the time has come to pack your bags and head off in one or the other direction. Sometimes it is the destination that matters, but most of the times it is the journey that makes the drive worth it. The sheer sensation when you feel the cool breeze turn into chilly winds as you ride up the hills, or the experience of breathing fresh air that you can never find in cities is unmatchable. Needless to say, the best way to experience rain is get out of your vehicle and get drenched.
My idea of a perfect road trip has three components – the vehicle, the company you have and the where and how of reaching your destination.
If I recall my most memorable trips, it has been because of the people I have for company. The fun I had with my colleagues at Jim Corbett Park in 2006, then with a different set of colleagues at Mashobra in 2008 was unforgettable. My recent trip to Paris with my wife also ranks high up because of the wonderful company I had. It is the company which decides how many memories you will carry back and how you will remember a trip after a few years. My idea of a perfect company could be two – One with a group of friends/family and another with your partner/spouse. One could be about adventure, fun and leg pulling while the other can be about romantic walks and quite evenings. While one can be crazy, the other can be mesmerizing. While one can be loud, the other can be serene. While one can help you feel the thrill of living each moment, the other can remind you of the beauty that is love and to enjoy the various serendipitous moments it might offer.
The Destination and the Journey
The second most important component to any trip is the where and how to reach there. Precisely, where is the destination that one is heading to, and how are you going to reach there? Sometimes it is the destination that builds the whole excitement, like Paris yet at other times it is the journey and the path you take to your destination which builds up all the excitement. My perfect journey would be from Delhi to Leh by road. One could take the route from Srinagar while going and return via Manali, experiencing the best of the Kashmir and Himachal. The drive through some of the most beautiful and scenic mountain ranges, and the thrill of seeing cliffs on one side is a sight not to be missed. The fresh air, the clean and cold water flowing in the form of rivers and small rivulets which turn into waterfalls at every fall will make you imagine the scene even while reading this. The stopping at various photo points, interacting with locals and knowing their culture all adds to the experience of the journey. The Himalayas let us soak and absorb its beauty into our soul, and not just our external senses, and that is what makes a trip to Leh from Delhi the perfect road trip ever.
After you have finalized on the destination, the route and the people whom you are traveling with, the last (but not the least) important component of a great journey is deciding on your vehicle. The above two components have a big say in deciding what kind of vehicle you choose. There is a altogether different kind of fun in going together in a bus (with a group) or in a small hatchback or sedan if it is just the two of you. My ideal vehicle would be a SUV which can be multi-purpose and can serve as a private space for the two of you while also as the perfect vehicle for a group. For my dream trip to Leh, a Mahindra Scorpio (which I have had the pleasure to drive on many occasions) would be just the perfect choice. It can navigate the plains with potholes as well as the climb up the mountains on tricky surfaces with equal ease. Apart from the versatility of the Scorpio, the height of the driver gives you a commanding view of the landscape and the road.
Apart from these components, there are other stuff like a navigation device, extra pair of batteries for mobiles and cameras, maps, local currency in cash and the knowledge of the local language goes a long way in eliminating and reducing any discomfort or hiccup we might encounter on the way. To sum it up, nothing could be better than a trip to Leh on a SUV with either your friends or your partner (or both) for company.