Like many people, Mohammed Jabir too was cooped up at home for days on end following the spread of coronavirus and the resultant lockdown. The young animator had been going on a journey twice a year, especially to the Himalayas, since 2017 but the pandemic had poured cold water on his travel plans. As the call of the Himalayas was getting louder, Kerala-native Jabir had a strong urge to hit the road again but the epidemic was a cause of concern for the enthusiastic traveller. And that’s when the idea of ‘Work@travel’ germinated in the mind of Jabir who hails from Kalamassery in Ernakulam district.
Jabir’s best buddy Kader Khan, whose hometown is also Kalamassery, and Thiruvananthapuram resident Rashid joined hands with the young man to get the ball rolling. Rashid, who is a journalist, has a lot of travel experience under his belt, and despite his hectic work schedule in Bengaluru, Jabir has also undertaken many solo trips in the past four years.
The search for a safe and sound travel, that too in the time of Covid-19 pandemic, took the trio to the ‘Traveller’ vehicle as it was apt for sightseeing, working onboard and maintaining social distancing. Jabir’s family members, including his wife Fathima, endorsed the idea.
House on wheels
First they bought a used ‘Force Traveller’ and Jabir, who is a father of two children, and Kader, who is an automobile mechanic, designed the vehicle interior with diligence. The seats were removed and all facilities essential for a house including bench-style bed, table, work stations, Wi-Fi connectivity, small refrigerator, cooking gas, wash basin, storage area, wardrobe and portable toilet, among others were put in place. Special batteries would provide requisite power to the refurbished vehicle. And the original interiors of the ‘Traveller’, if needed, can be restored after the journey ends, and the trio shelled out nearly Rs one lakh to spruce up the vehicle.
No fixed itinerary
The trio hit the road for Himachal Pradesh from Kochi on January 2. As there was no stopover, they covered close to 300km per day, and when a person takes the wheel the other would be busy finishing official assignments. The house on wheels would be pulled over at a secure place during night and the next day’s journey would start only after Kader, who is planning to open an automobile workshop in future, thoroughly checks the vehicle’s condition. Essential supplies for two to three months are also stocked up and food is prepared inside the vehicle. As all three travellers are addicted to tea, they make it a point to have refreshing tea from wayside eateries whenever time permits.
Drive through snow
Driving through Himachal Pradesh was a great experience for the troika. The tyre air pressure should be reduced and the Kerala style of driving can only invite trouble in this north Indian state in the Himalayas. And while driving in Himachal Pradesh watch out for black ice, which is a thin coating of ice on the roads. As the black ice could be found in the morning and during night, the triumvirate avoided driving during these periods. While coming down a steep road, it is better to apply gear friction along with brake to control the vehicle.
After reaching Himachal Pradesh, they acquainted with Kozhikode-native Babs Sagar, who is a doctor, traveller and farming enthusiast rolled into one. Babs, who has been living in Himachal Pradesh for the past 22 years, also doubled up as a tour guide for the three friends.
The last Indian village
“The drive along the Indo-Tibetan border was exceptional and we spent a night at Chitkul, the last village in India, where the mercury dipped to below zero. After that we traversed through Kunnu and Seran villages. The road to the centuries-old Charang monastery was built a year ago and importantly the roads were very dangerous and one wrong move can lead to disaster,” says Jabir.
The trio can go to any remote village as they have a house on wheels at their disposal. No worries about where to stay and what to eat. It is a tension-free expedition and they are planning to visit as many as places in the next two to three months.