Australian couple charts out road trip to the region

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Manipur,IMPHAL, March 9: They came, they saw and they would come calling again.  Aussie adventurer Lang Kidby with his better half Beverly, is on a recce trip to Imphal after driving down from Kolkotta in a Maruti Gypsy via the National Highway-37. “Terrible conditions,” exclaimed Kidby to reporters on the condition of the Highway at a press meet held at Hotel Classic today afternoon.

Their recce trip is a precursor to the one which will start from London in November 2013 and which is set to pass through Imphal by January 2014.The journey will finally conclude at Australia after passing through several South Asian countries. The interesting part of their adventure is that they will be driving a restored 1925 BEAN motor car through their entire journey which will cover about 14,000 kilometers and take about two month’s time. They will be driving the vintage automobile for 6 weeks.

When inquired about the motive of their journey, Kidby said that he and another Aussie friend, Warren Brown were inspired by Francis Birtles. Francis, an Australian adventurer in 1927 had set out from London to be the first person to drive a car from England to Australia. He drove through Europe, Turkey, Iran and Baluchistan and finally arrived at Calcutta (now Kolkata) on January 1928. There , he met a young Canadian and invited him to join the trip. The duo drove from Calcutta to Imphal and from Moreh, drove into Burma. Kidby said that the BEAN car was the first vehicle to drive from India to Burma.

Referring to the adventurer’s travelogue, Kidby said that in 1928, there were no roads through the Naga Hills and the two men had to make their own track along footpaths used by tribal people. “It takes only about 3 hour to drive from Imphal to Moreh but Birtles and Stollery took over a month,”Kidby said. They had to cut a road through the thick foliage and had to build bridges to cross rivers and make their way uphill using ropes. Many times the car slipped and was just saved from plunging into the ravines, he said.

Recounting history, Kidby further mentioned that after weeks of hardships and on the brink of exhaustion, the two were affected with malaria.The local hill people gave them food and they were almost starving when they came out of the hills into Moreh. The people of the town were surprised as they had seen an automobile for the first time.

They continued to Rangoon and were treated in a hospital. Afterwards they shipped the car to Australia and drove into Sidney.

The adventure will be emulated by Kidby and Brown in a restored BEAN car. They will drive without any help or support vehicles and their trip will be recorded and later telecast on National Geographic and Discovery Channel.

They hope that the event will bring awareness to the public of what early pioneers accomplished and to ensure children learn about their history.

The BEAN car has a 2500 cc engine under the hood and pumps out a maximum 40 horse power. The tank has a 100 litre capacity and burns 5 litre to the kilometer. The budget of the entire trip is speculated to cost about 50,000 US dollars.

Kidby (66) is an ex-army pilot and Warren Brown (45) is a journalist. The trip is managed by Kidby’s wife, Beverly. The visiting couple echoed that the maiden trip to Manipur is fascinating and there is enormous potential for attracting tourist from other countries to the state.

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