Four Malappuram-native youngsters hopped into an old Contessa car and embarked on a journey. The trip was not in any way short as the plan was to drive to Nepal after touching the nook and corner of India. In their purist of reaching Nepal, the quartet drove through Rajasthan and Gujarat, went past Wagah border and Kashmir to enter the Himalayan nation. Let’s browse through the travel diaries of the four-member team.
Start of the adrenalin-rush drive
The numbers are staggering. The young men drove close to 10,000km in 23 days to traverse 15 states besides Nepal. The vintage Contessa car started rolling from Morayur in Kerala’s Malappuram district on December 8 and returned on December 26. At a time when even the most ardent adventure enthusiasts would think twice before touring India in one of the latest swanky cars, the youngsters decided to criss-cross the country to reach Nepal in a 1998-model vintage Contessa car.
Jabir, who is crazy about vintage cars, is the proud owner of this classic automobile. Jabir always dreamt about visiting Nepal and he wished to reach the mountainous country in his 24-year-old Contessa car. When the plan was shared with others, many people were dead against the idea. No one was willing to embark on such a long journey even with a new car. But Jabir was steadfast that he will drive all the way to Nepal in his Contessa car.
True to the saying that ‘birds of the same feather flock together’, three others, who were Jabir’s close relatives and friends and had the same thought, joined hands with him to realize the long-cherished dream to visit Nepal in a car. The car was spruced up and a box was fixed on top of the car to transport luggage. Besides Jabir, the quartet included Niyaz, Younis and Ameen. When the itinerary was final, a team member even had to postpone his marriage.
The four youths decided to travel by road to Nepal riding on their experience of driving to various places in Kerala and to Bengaluru. The car sported a banner with the message - Save Vintage Cars- to voice protest against the central government’s move to scrap vehicles older than 20 years. All four are members of the Conty Club India (CCI), a grouping of Contessa car lovers.
There is no age limit for daredevilry and the Contessa car has proved that age is just a number for automobiles too during the tour to Nepal. “Though we drove for nearly 10,000km, the car never broke down or developed a snag,” says Jabir. The amazing thing is that the Contessa car travelled through 15 states with four persons on board. The quartet will vouch for the fact that their experience of driving through various states was memorable. The CCI provided accommodation and extended other support to the touring team at many touch points.
“The WhatsApp group of CCI regularly updated information about our trip and I take this opportunity to extend our gratitude to group admin Vijuvettan for coordinating everything smoothly,” adds Jabir.
The four young men started their odyssey from Morayur and reached Kashmir after passing through Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai and Rajasthan. From Kashmir they drove to Punjab and eventually to Nepal. Though most of the journey was through national highways, there was an instance when they lost their way. The route map was sketched on the car and the Contessa car with its superlative performance has proved that it is indeed a great machine though it was pretty old, he notes.
Travelled across India with broken Hindi
A little bit of broken Hindi and English helped the youngsters to converse with people in different parts of the country. “We were not at all proficient in Hindi. Once you leave Kerala and Tamil Nadu, you have to speak in Hindi to ask for directions. But we were surprised that the local people understood whatever Hindi we spoke and we understood whatever they said. This might have happened because all Indians are brothers and sisters,” quip the group members.
Though Nepal was the final destination, the long drive to the mountainous country was awesome. “The drive through roads across India gave us the opportunity to interact with different people and know about their culture. Sometimes you have to take the plunge to experience certain things,” notes Jabir.
“As we were moving around in a Contessa car, the vehicle grabbed the attention. Whenever we stopped the car, people came up with many questions about the automobile and that was a great experience for all of us. Even while driving the car, those travelling in other vehicles close by used to enquire about this vintage four-wheeler.”
At gunpoint in Kashmir
The group had an unforgettable experience in Kashmir. The youths reached Kashmir when the mercury was hovering around minus 15 degree Celsius and they were enjoying their first-ever rendezvous with extreme cold conditions. When the quartet reached Kashmir, strict restrictions were in place after a terror attack on a bus. But they were unaware of the developments, and stopped the car at picturesque places and clicked snaps.
“When we pulled over at a place and were soaking up the beauty of the vistas, three army men in a ‘Gypsy’ SUV came to us brandishing guns. They raised their voice and admonished us in Hindi. We had stopped at a place where the authorities concerned had imposed strict curbs. Moreover, we were travelling in an unfamiliar car. We spoke to them in English and they ordered us to leave the place immediately. But as we entered the car and tried to close the door, there was a problem with the door. We drove away by not closing the door properly but after we travelled for 10m, the vehicle ran out of gas. The military personnel again came to us pointing their guns as we were trying to refill fuel with the stock we were carrying. They told us to move on immediately. The personnel enquired about the car and asked about our whereabouts, may be, after seeing the condition of the car. When they came to know that we were from Kerala, they told us that there was a Keralite in a nearby military camp. They also advised us to go to a petrol bunk 10km away and fill fuel. After that we heaved a sigh of relief,” says Jabir.
Some golden moments
Though the team covered nearly 10,000km, they lost the way only once, in Gujarat. The chance to stay in the middle of the desert is one the highlights of the whole trip. “The Pakistan border was just 100km away from the place we stayed. We also visited the Golden Temple but the best moment was our visit to the Wagah border.” Every Indian should watch the national flag-lowering retreat ceremony along the Wagah border, which is situated on the Grand Trunk Road between Amritsar in India and Lahore in Pakistan,” Jabir adds. The Border Security Force (BSF) of India and Pakistan Rangers are involved in the synchronized evening ceremony in which the flags of two countries are lowered with foot-thumping manoeuvres and patriotic songs filling the air.
“The verve we got from this extraordinary tour will definitely act as a catalyst for future journeys,” concludes Jabir.