This ain’t about money and glory, honey!

Posted: January 14, 2013 in Travelogues
Tags: , , , ,

I wrote this in June 2011 for Car India portal*. Some of the information has been updated.

Travel enthusiasts, helped by new age technology join forces at various forums to help each other while on the road

J.K. Saraf is 63 years old. At a time when people look forward to walks in the garden and a retired life, this sexagenarian, who lives in Pune, decided to do the unheard.

He sent his Ford Endeavour for servicing, packed enough food to last him a fortnight, then convinced his wife, daughter and three grandchildren that they were about to embark on the adventure of their lives. Then getting behind of his Ford Endy’, Saraf and his family set off for Leh! All Saraf had with him was confidence, a mobile phone and directions by a travel enthusiast to guide him through the treacherous terrain.

New age technology, has made travelling to the most inaccessible corners of the country so much easier. Mobile phones with 3G and and laptops with data connectivity have made a huge difference. Lost? Just call a friend for directions on the mobile or log on to your iPhone or android phone and check out your latitudes yourself. When did our parents have such an advantage?

But apart from mobile phones and laptops, there is a third dimension, which has made driving around the country a pleasure, and that is a travel forum. Get on to one and a first-time traveller or even the most experienced one will get the latest updates on everything he or she needs while driving from point A to B – road condition, directions, number of toll booths, toll amounts, traffic rules in each State etc etc. There are numerous travel forums that have a very strong online presence, where a huge number of automobile and two-wheeler enthusiasts congregate to get the latest information on travel routes, road conditions etc of places they intend to visit.

Rushabh Parekh who runs popular automotive forum team-bhp.com (www.team-bhp.com), which has an on-the-road section, believes it’s about sharing your experiences, so that others can benefit. Over a hundred travelogues are uploaded on his site every month and they along with travel logs are available on request to any member of the forum. Team-bhp boasts 12.5 lakh unique visitors on their forum and the increasing number is proof of the burgeoning community of travellers in the country

“The idea is to give instant and invaluable feedback to travellers in real-time, which could benefit them, whichever part of the country they are in,“ Rushabh told CAR India (www.carindia.in).

This writer remembers going on a travel forum such as this when he was planning his trip from Pune to Kanyakumari and back via Chennai and Bengaluru a few years back. He got a complete breakdown of the route, road condition, petrol pumps, restaurants and motels along the way by helpful travellers. And every bit of the information was spot-on, to the last kilometre.

For Yogesh Sarkar of BCMTouring (www.bcmtouring.com) helping travellers is a 24×7 experience. “Whether you are on a bike or a car, the basic requirements remain the same – road conditions, availability of petrol pumps, weather updates and accommodation,” he says. The basic idea is to keep each other updated about these factors while travelling around the country.

“When I travelled extensively around the country, I took the help of travel enthusiasts for my requirements, so the idea behind a travel forum was my way of paying back to the community of travel enthusiasts for all they had done for me,” he told CAR India.(www.carindia.in).

He says he realises how desperately people need information today. “Last year there were 1.5 lakh views for the condition of the road between Manali and Leh, and this year so far we have received over 70,000 views for the same route.”

He says the minute a driver or rider does a difficult section, he or she posts an update about the condition of the road, and since weather conditions in this section can change travel plans overnight, there are constant updates about this stretch.

Nithin KD, is one such frequent traveller who not only keeps himself updated on the latest developments of the road he is about to travel on but also helps others who drive around the country. Though his travelling has been curtailed due to his work, he still helps anyone who asks for information on road routes.

“I once guided a friend, who was riding a two-wheeler all the way from Shimla to Manali via my phone, giving him directions till he reached his destination. The friend would stop at regular intervals and check on the route he was taking, by talking to me,” says Nithin. Like him, there are others for whom travelling is a passion and helping other travellers a bounden duty. There are no rewards, just the satisfaction of helping another fellow traveller that drives them.

Another name that crops up frequently on travel forums is HV Kumar. His name is on almost every second travel-related discussion on the forum. Get on Facebook and type HV Kumar and you’ll be taken to his personal page, and more interestingly, to a page which goes by the title: HV Kumar – Fan, Forum & Message Board. On this page, anyone who needs information of any route around the country, affordable hotels, road taxes, condition of the roads – whether it’s the Golden Quadrilateral, National or State highways, or even the roads in a city or town- he or she will find it. His travel logs are also at your disposal if ever you need them.

A page that is updated 24×7 requires constant attention, and Kumar, who is a former merchant banker, and runs his own consulting company, still finds time to do that. The Facebook forum was started in November 2009 and at last count, the page has 4025 members and growing.

The last word on the subject must go to Saraf. He says he came to know about Kumar through a common friend of his daughter and Team-BHP. He spoke to us from his home in Pune about his trip on which he was behind the wheel throughout.

“I sent an email to HV about our proposed travel to Leh from May 25, this year. To my surprise we got a reply within 2/3 hours, giving a total route breakdown and helpful links of his previous tour experiences and what we should take along on our drive. During the travel throughout, we were constantly in touch with him and he gave us lot of information and suggestions which were really useful.”

In the end, for people like Yogesh, Kumar and the others like them, it’s not about the money or recognition.

* Reprinted with permission from Next Gen Publishing.

 

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