They drove 10,000 km across India in 27 days | india | Hindustan Times
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They drove 10,000 km across India in 27 days

india Updated: Dec 05, 2010 01:51 IST
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"Might is right is the overall description of Indian roads... put one foot on the brake pedal, the other on the accelerator, press the horn, close your eyes and drive on regardless," the Lonely Planet guidebook quoted Commodore J Adhyapak of the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai.

It also best described the cross-country car expedition the Indian Navy had initiated on November 7 to commemorate the 275 years of the Mumbai naval docks, as Rear Admiral Rahul Sherawat whizzed past the Western Ghats at Lonavla in a Toyota Landcruiser.

"It [the Landcruiser] just towers over everyone. Doesn't it?" asked Rear Admiral Sherawat, who seemed eager to hit the accelerator.

The admiral superintendent of the Mumbai Naval Dockyard was part of the nine-member team that drove in four vehicles through the last leg of the cross-country expedition, which saw naval personnel span 10,000 km.

Two members later stayed back in Goa.

Hindustan Times travelled with them for 60 km from Lonavla to Mumbai.

"The vehicle was a joy to ride, sir," said Captain Rajneesh Verma, who led the last leg of the expedition from Kochi to Mumbai. "It can touch 140 or 160 kmph with ease."

But he also warned his team not cross the 110 kmph-limit, even on empty roads. "On our roads, we really can't take a chance. An animal or person, or as other team members had experienced, a vehicle coming straight on to you is always a possibility."

An electrical engineer by trade, Captain Verma's 'Safety First' motto was valid considering the Indian Navy had planned the expedition to promote itself as an employer and a career option among youth as part of the Naval Dockyard's 275th year celebrations.

The team visited 10 schools and 12 colleges as they travelled through Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Barmer, Jaisalmer, Amritsar, Delhi, Kanpur, Bodhgaya, Kolkata, Puri, Vizag, Chennai, Pondicherry, Kanyakumari, Kochi, Ezhimala, Karwar, Goa and Lonavla.

During the expedition, the naval personnel, for a change, also shed the rather tightlipped image.

Commander V Chanti, for instance, was at his humorous best when he described the Toyota Prado he was driving.

"At first we thought, people were curious about us when we passed through a place or parked. Then we realised it's not us. People were interested in these muscular vehicles."

Also part of the journey was Lieutenant Commander Varun Mahajan and his wife Richa, also a Lieutenant Commander, who were keen to participate but had to take care of their two-year-old daughter, Rubina.

So they worked out a plan. The husband would finish one phase and return to take care of Rubina, and Richa would participate the next phase. "We thought it was doable, considering it was just a matter of two days. The ride was important and absolutely worth living for," said Lt Cdr Mahajan.

"It was exhilarating to drive through various cultures, languages, eating habits and, of course, the people," said Commander IK Thakur.

For Commander N Joshi, an avid photographer, it was a treat to travel along the coastline.

"It was amazingly beautiful to travel from Calicut to Mangalore. You just get captivated. I have been dumping all my photographs into my laptop. I need to get back and relieve those moments."

As the four vehicles entered the Naval Dockyard at 11 am on Saturday - just in time for the Navy Day celebrations - the expedition culminated, but the team seemed ready to hit the road again.