One must have heard about road trips across the length and breadth of India covering culturally diverse states and disparate natural terrains. But how many of those involve one’s pets as co-travellers?
Priyanka Jena and Tanveer Taj did just that with their Golden Retriever, Frodo and Labrador, Cruise. Starting from Mumbai in December last year, they travelled to more than 20 states in India in a four-month span.
From the snows of Manali to the beaches of Tarkali, Taj and Jena experienced the country in all its wondrous glory with their furry babies. Their travels have been chronicled on social media through the handle, Wheels and Tails. Excerpts from an interview with Taj:
Why did you decide to take a road trip with Frodo and Cruise?
Both Priyanka and I are adrenaline junkies. And just like us, our dogs are seasoned travellers and have been travelling with us since they were puppies. Since we live in such a beautifully diverse country, we wanted to do one big trip to experience all the terrains that India had to offer and there was no way we could keep the dogs from missing out on all the fun. We left Mumbai on 7 December last year and successfully completed the trip in four months, covering more than 10,000 kms across 20 states.
How did you keep Frodo and Cruise’s specific needs in mind when planning the trip?
Although both the dogs have been travelling since they were puppies, this was the first time they were doing a trip this long. We partnered with Ruffwear India and they helped us with dog adventure gear like lifejackets, snow jackets, collapsible camping bowls, dog beds et al. We also carried a huge medical kit with all possible medicines and first aid equipment in case of emergencies. Apart from this, the car itself was modified completely to make it more comfortable for the dogs. We got rid of the seating at the back and created a cosy spot with mattresses and lots of doggy toys.
How much of a pet-friendly country are we?
Do tell about the places where it was easiest and also, most difficult to get around with them. We live in a country where animals are an integral part of our daily lives. So overall it wasn’t that difficult. We realised that in villages, people are friendlier and more open to pets being around, but in cities and towns, people are not fine with the idea of sharing space with animals. So, we consciously avoided the cities as much as possible and only went to the rural side of India. If I had to rate based on our experience, I’d say Meghalaya was the most pet-friendly state and Uttar Pradesh the least.
Please share moments when things didn’t go according to plan. How did Frodo and Cruise react in such situations?
One of the biggest challenges we faced was finding pet-friendly stays. We quickly realised that we had to plan well in advance for accommodations. It’s not something you just manage along the way. We had to research, make calls and arrange for a stay before we left for the day. We faced problems with places, which were marked “pet-friendly” online but would refuse entry once we would turn up at the place. In Vizag, we had to stay at one of our Instagram follower’s house because we couldn’t find any pet-friendly accommodation in the area. But the worst experience was near Lucknow, where we had booked a room on the highway, which was supposed to be “pet-friendly” but once we reached they didn’t let us enter the property. Eventually, we managed to convince another hotel in the area to let us stay till morning.
What did you learn about Frodo and Cruise and also about yourselves during the trip?
We were not sure initially how the dogs would react to such a long trip. But we realised that Frodo and Cruise were so adaptable, they would quickly settle in a new place every second day. We also discovered that they’re super sensitive, so if Priyanka or I would ever get into an argument, they would immediately try to bring our tension down. This trip has definitely brought us closer and made us a stronger team. We all better understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I think we have seen the best and worst of each other but we love and accept all of it!
What is your abiding memory from those four months on the road?
The most memorable moment definitely has to be the time we experienced snow with the dogs. It was the first time Frodo and Cruise had seen something like it, and the confusion was so evident on their faces!
Would you recommend people to travel with their pets in India?
Of course! Everyone should take a trip like this with their pets. We live in such a beautiful country, everyone (including your pet) must make the most of it. And the more pets travel, the more open-minded people will become with the idea.
Are you planning more such trips in future?
We keep doing short trips across the Western Indian coastline with our dogs, because none of us can stay in the city for too long — it makes us cranky. Apart from that, we’re planning another big trip. We’ll be announcing details of that on our social media soon.