Travel enthusiasts, helped by new age technology, join forces at various forums to help each other while on the road
When Dwarakanath and his friends set out for Ladakh on their two-wheelers, In June 2008, they were going great guns till they reached Rohtang Pass. At that point, the clutch plates of one of the bikes gave way, and they had no clue how and where they could get it fixed. They called friends and fellow riders who asked them to retrace their steps to Manali, where they would find find mechanics who could fix the problem.
New age technology, has made riding 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 rider 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.
Nithin KD, is one such frequent rider 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 riders a bounden duty. There are no rewards, just the satisfaction of helping another fellow rider that drives them.
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 told Bike India (www.bikeindia.in). 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 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.” The minute a 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.
Around the same time when Dwarakanath and his friends were riding through Jammu & Kashmir, the Amarnath land dispute also erupted. They immediately got in touch with friends who kept them in the loop of events unfolding across the valley. He says he too has helped numerous two-wheeler riders who called him for help in an emergency.
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 Bike India (www.bikeindia.in).
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.
In the end, for people like Yogesh, Kumar and the others like them, it’s not about the money or recognition.