On August 15, Delhi-based niche travel agency Adventures Overland, known for organizing cross border road trips, announced the world’s longest bus journey that will kick off in May 2021. Passengers who join the first hop on, hop off bus journey from Delhi to London will traverse 18 countries and 20,000 km in 70 days.
The company’s founders Sanjay Madan and Tushar Agarwal are serial globetrotters who have driven across the world and have 15 Limca Book of Records and one Guinness World Record to their credit. Apart from taking a road trip around the world, they have successfully organised three Road to London expeditions since 2017.
Madan and Agarwal highlight five life-altering experiences from their Delhi to London journeys:
A majestic sight in Bagan, Myanmar
“The shortest route to London is to drive via Pakistan and Afghanistan but it is not safe so we go through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and China. In Myanmar, there is an ancient town called Bagan, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are 4,446 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries of which 3,822 temples and pagodas survive today. You can take a hot air balloon ride to get bird’s eye view of the entire expanse. It is so majestic and beautiful that one cannot believe their eyes. It is so close to our country and most people don’t even know about it.”
China’s unmatched infrastructure
“When we talk about China, most people think of sprawling modern cities like Shanghai and Beijing. But we go through the Western parts of China, which are very remote and unexplored. The infrastructure in China in the remote and less developed parts is so great that people who undertake the drive with us are amazed. You can drive at a speed of 120 km/ hour on roads that are 12,000 ft above the sea level, which is higher than Ladakh. They have made highways cutting through mountains and bridges over valleys for hundreds and hundreds of kilometres. It is hard to see this kind of infrastructure in countries like Germany and America. People who have completed the India-London journey with us say that China has the best road infrastructure.”
Uzbekistan’s warm welcome
“People generally create a perception of a place just by hearing or reading things in the media. Many people think that the Stan countries are not safe, but the reality in Uzbekistan is quite different. On this entire route, Uzbekistan is the friendliest country. The locals are crazy about Indian people. So much so that if you are standing in an immigration queue and if a local sees that an Indian is standing at the end of the line they will tell you to come and stand in front. When you go to tourist places such as Registan square, people will come to you and ask for selfies only because you are an Indian. They are crazy about Bollywood films and Raj Kapoor and Mithun Chakraborty are household names in Uzbekistan.”
“Once we were driving through Uzbekistan and we were stopped by the police on a road. When I told them that we are from India he started dancing to the song Jimmy, Jimmy, Aaja and then let us go.“
“Kyrgyzstan is a place that is really tucked away in the mountains in Central Asia. It is like a confluence between China and Central Asia. People look oriental but they follow the Arabic culture. The places that you see in Kyrgyzstan are dreamlike. There are many glaciers in the mountains. When we drive through this stretch, we are completely surrounded by a blanket of snow in all directions. For hours and hours, you can drive without seeing any civilization. We have driven through 85-90 countries in the world, I can say that the Pamir Highway in Kyrgyzstan is the most beautiful highway I have driven through in my life. It is that one road that keeps pulling me towards Kyrgyzstan. For people who love the outdoors, the mountains and nature, Kyrgyzstan is going to be a lovely treat.”
It is the people who make the journey
“While passing from underdeveloped countries like Laos, Kazakhstan or parts of Kyrgyzstan, we meet so many people in remote parts of the country who live in small huts and they are so happy and content. We may have the money and expensive cars, but instead of you giving something to them, they give something to you that you will always remember. It might be a bottle of water, a snack or even directions to where the next town is but you will end up receiving more from these people.”
“When I come back from these journeys, I always come back enriched and feel more humbled by these experiences on the road. That’s why they say travel is a form of education,” concludes Agarwal.
More about the Bus to London
In a short span of 10 days since the announcement, they have received 30,000 registrations on their website. The inquiries are pouring in not just from India but also from the UK, Australia, Africa and the USA.
The 70-day journey is divided into four legs. The first leg is India to Bangok. The second starts in Chengdu in China to Kashgar in China. The third leg is in Central Asia. It starts at Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan and goes through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and ends in Moscow, Russia. The fourth is the Europe leg which is from Moscow to London.
“The trip is 70 days long and we are aware that a lot of people won’t be able to take so many days off from work/business. We have broken this journey into 4 parts. You can fly to one destination, join the bus and get off at another destination. That’s why we call it a hop on hop off bus service,” shares Agarwal.
The bus is currently gearing up for the journey. A 45-seater bus is being converted into a comfier 20-seater with plenty of privacy for each traveller, private lockers, WiFi, mobile phone charging points, a mini pantry and a business class seat with multiple seat adjustment options and more legroom.
Agarwal adds that those who sign up for the journey need to be mentally fit. “When you go on a road journey, things don’t always go as per the plan. There are roadblocks, or breakdowns or other issues on the road. We need people who will come together as a team to come out of any problems.”
The passengers will not sleep in the bus but at reputed hotels along the way.
The bus will halt for one month in London and will make the journey back with a different set of passengers.
While the journey is scheduled for May 2021, Adventures Overland has not started taking any confirmed bookings for the bus due to the pandemic. They hope the pandemic will be under control soon.
“We need at least 2-3 months to apply for all visas and permits for the participants as well as for the bus. Even if travel restrictions are lifted as late as January or February 2021, we will have enough time to prepare for all the necessary paperwork. Only once we have a green signal from all the countries including India will we set off on the journey,” shares Agarwal.