From Kathmandu to Peshawar by Beetle (and all for a good cause)
In the heady old days before war and conflict and other things got in the way, South Asia was paradise for cross-border travelers, making their way in beaten-down VW vans all the way from Kabul to India and beyond. Nowadays such journeys are rare.
But earlier today, a couple of intrepid travelers set off from Kathmandu, heading first to India and then to Pakistan, all with the intention of raising money for spinal injury research and proving that such a journey through the countries of South Asia can still be made in 2011.
The Nepali journalist, writer and civil-rights activist Kanak Mani Dixit and his wife Shanta Dixit, an educator, were waved off from Kathmandu by the country’s president, Dr Ram Baran Yadav. The pair are driving a 1973 VW Beetle and will head to first to Lucknow in India, then to Delhi, Agra, Amritsar and then cross the border to Lahore in Pakistan and drive up to Islamabad and Peshawar. Much of the journey will see the pair driving along the legendary Grand Trunk Road, first developed by Emperor Sher Shah Suri in the 16th century.
I caught up with Mr Dixit by phone yesterday morning, a couple of hours after they had set off. They were parked by the side of the road at the time (no phoning while driving for these two) and he said he was inspired by the journeys both he and others made during the 1970s in South Asia.
“In my college days, when I came to study in Delhi, I always took the land route. And at that time, there were also all these trippers heading from Europe to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, into India and then to Nepal,” he explained. “They’d get to Nepal, fall in love with the place, and then after they’d been trekking, they’d sell their vehicles and fly back home.”
Mr Dixit who previously made a similar journey to Dhaka, in Bangladesh in both 2002 and 2005, added: “Things have changed. Afghanistan was invaded; there were the Russians, now there are ISAF forces. Relations between India and Pakistan were always up and down…but now there is a border that you can see from space. But we are trying to prove a point it’s still possible to travel across South Asia’s borders.”
The pair will stop off on route at spinal injury treatment centres, raising awareness of the issue of spinal injuries and trying to raise $110,000 for the Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre in Nepal, which has faced a sudden need to expand its services. At the moment it has just 39 and needs to add another 10. Mr Dixit and his wife became board members of the centre after he survived a spinal injury, incurred during a trekking accident in 2001.
For more details, to follow their progress and to make a donation, you can check out the pair’s Facebook page or the website of the spinal treatment centre. You can also watch a video in which Mr Dixit, editor of the fine magazine Himal SouthAsian, talks about the jouurney.Tagged in: #spinal injury, asia, India, Nepal, Pakistan
Recent Posts on The Foreign Desk
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter