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ABOUT THIS BLOG

In the summer of 2009, Nicolas Rapp decided to take a break from his Art Director job at The Associated Press to attempt a one-year overland travel around the world in a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser. He was back in New York in February 2011 after traveling 15 months and 37,000 miles.

Visited countries

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THE ROUTE

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  • Discovering ancient India

    Posted on October 2nd, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    Our traveler found some peace on a Goa beach.

    Our traveler found some peace on a Goa beach.

    I leave Mumbai at the beginning of the afternoon. The city is a labyrinth, but I am lucky and after an hour and an half I am out of the peninsula and on my way south. The state of Goa, famous for its beach, lays 400 miles south of Mumbai.

    It is very green as I drive south, thanks to the monsoon.

    It is very green as I drive south, thanks to the monsoon.

    The first two days of driving are difficult. There’s a lot of traffic the first day and I have to stop to sleep after covering only 110 miles. I stay on the parking lot of a restaurant where I had diner the previous night. The following day, I drive all I can but because of a combination of poor signage and a bad map, I cannot find the places I want to see and can only keep driving south missing my targets.

    Early afternoon is usually hot…

    Early afternoon is usually hot…

    The map of India I got is supposed to be the best one available, but is filled with mistakes, omissions and road that don’t exist. I don’t have the maps of the country in my GPS either. It was the cases in most of the places, but in location like Africa – for example – there are not that many roads and you can’t really get lost. In India, there are a lot of roads everywhere, with no signs at the intersections. I figure that the best way to navigate is to ask people whenever possible.

    ... but monsoon means rain in late afternoon.

    ... but monsoon means rain in late afternoon.

    Later, after leaving behind Maharashtra state, the situation improves a bit, and there are more signs. And in English this time.
    Every evening, it is possible to see that the monsoon period is not totally finished. There are usually heavy rains, and one can see the muddy waters flowing down the high rivers.

    A full river as I approach Goa.

    A full river as I approach Goa.

    The second night I am looking for a beach to camp. I am close to Panaji, the state capital of Goa. After turning around for what seems an eternity, I decide to stop for the night in Calangute. It is not a very charming place. It is one of these beaches accessible by cement steps with a waterfront crammed with restaurants and shops. At this point I feel a little bit pessimistic and begin to wonder where the marvelous beaches you always hear about are. F_town A typical town, once of many I cross as I drive south.
    I strike a deal with a hotel and they let me sleep in their parking lot for US$2. It is still not the high season, and most places are empty except from local tourists wandering around on this Sunday night.

    All the kids are wearing uniforms to go to school. As in many countries I visited.

    All the kids are wearing uniforms to go to school. As in many countries I visited.

    In the morning, I decide to continue south, and go pass Panaji, as the beaches in the south of the state have the reputation to be less developed and quieter. In the afternoon, I reach Agonda beach and find the paradise. I am able to park on the beach which reminds me of good times in Central America.

    Back being a gipsy on the beach.

    Back being a gipsy on the beach.

    I am not alone there, as there’s another truck belonging to a Swiss family. Even better, as no mater where you are, you always feel safer when you are not alone. I stay there two days, watching the ballet of the fishermen incessantly going out and bringing back nets full of fish. I read and enjoy the perfect temperature of the sea.

    Only me and the cows on the beach.

    Only me and the cows on the beach.

    At night, it is raining and there’s some wind. I wake up one night as the tent is folding on me. I can escape by the back door and stabilize the situation.
    But I am ready to get some more miles behind, so after this short break, I am back on the road. This time I am going east. The next time I will see the sea, it will be the Bay of Bengal, and it will take a while.

    Gate of one of the town on my way to Hampi.

    Gate of one of the town on my way to Hampi.

    Meanwhile I gain altitude as I reach the inland plateau, and after eight hours of driving I arrive in the ancient city of Hampi.
    There, I ask the government hotel (KSTDC Mayura Bhuvaneshwari) to let me sleep on the parking lot. They agree for US$1 a night, but there’s no shower. I explain to them that French people don’t need any, and I go to sleep.

    Elephant stables in Hampi.

    Elephant stables in Hampi.

    Or try too. India is very intense, and wherever you stop, you soon have a group of ten people asking questions, opening the doors of the vehicle, looking around. They can stay around for a long time and watch you have diner, read or wash your clothes. Late evening, I am finally able to go upstairs and go to sleep.

    Scary encounter as I walk through Hampi.

    Scary encounter as I walk through Hampi.

    The Lotus Mahal.

    The Lotus Mahal.

    Snake!

    Snake!

    I wake up early morning as I have a long day in front of me. I decided to visit the large ruins by foot which is something like an eight-mile walk. It is hot and humid and the end of the visit is quite painful. But it is very impressive. You have to pay attention to snakes when walking around as they seem to be everywhere.

    Virupaksha Temple.

    Virupaksha Temple.

    Hampi was once the capital of the huge Vijayanagar Empire, the center of the largest Hindu center in South India. The landscape is astonishing as well, with enormous boulders dotting the landscape as if a giant would have put them here as a game.

    Vittala Temple.

    Vittala Temple.

    Sad to say, but I wish there would have been more time between my visit to Hampi and my visit of Persepolis. The latest have been so impressive, it is difficult to not draw a comparison.
    At the end of the day, I am cooked, and waiting for sunburns to appear. The following day I will take the direction of Hyderabad on my way east toward New York City.

    Farmers working the fields.

    Farmers working the fields.

  • Leaving Mumbai, due south

    Posted on September 25th, 2010 Nicolas No comments

    The container available for pickup.

    The container available for pickup.


    It is now time for me to leave Mumbai. After another week of work to be able to pick up my car at the port, I was finally able to do so at the last minute on Friday. Another thousand dollars is gone, but if this is the price of freedom, it’s worth it. Details for people interested in shipping their vehicle at the end of this port.
    Following Ganesh.

    Following Ganesh.

    We went out a bunch with Vikas last week and had good time in the city. The Ganesh festival I mentioned in my previous entry reached its apogee on the 22, and we were out to see that.
    I had good time here, and I can’t thank Vikas enough for letting me stay at his place. It would have been very difficult to stay in a YMCA for three weeks…
    Vikas from the New York Times shooting pictures at night.

    Vikas from the New York Times shooting pictures at night.


    I was thinking about leaving on Saturday, but the work I had to do on the truck took longer than expected. The connectors from the battery I bought were different from the one I used previously, so I had to adapt that, and the draining bolt from the oil pan was not usable anymore, forcing me with the help from locals to take the pan out and fix it.
    Vikas picture, poverty in India.

    Vikas picture, poverty in India.


    But now I am ready to go, and will leave Sunday morning. Groceries are in the fridge, and nothing can stop me. The only annoying thing is my Indian visa will allow me only one month in the country, which will force me to put some miles behind. Coming next is Goa. Back on the road!

    Information for travelers:
    Trying to clear yourself your vehicle in India seems virtually impossible. Some people succeed but it can take you a long time if you are not familiar with the process. As in Iran, I would advise to use an agent. I had a good experience with Aubrey D’Souza (Contact info at the end of this post). In general, I would recommend to not send a vehicle from or to India. It is very expensive, and the service was poor). But as we know, there was no other choice in my case. Total costs of the shipping including Iran spending amounts to around $1,500.

    J P INTERNATIONAL
    VAJU KOTAK MARG,
    NEXT TO DEVEN MOTORS,
    BALLARD ESTATE, MUMBAI 400 001.
    TEL: 022 66333261/66333263
    MOBILE: 9821240603
    E-MAIL: jpintl [AT] rediffmail.com