A few years ago, Bharulata Kamble was recovering from an accident that had nearly killed her. A truck had smashed into her car and she was dragged half-a-kilometre further, before the driver, who was on his phone, realised there was a vehicle with a woman stuck underneath his lorry. Kamble was pregnant at that time, and her second child was born premature. The incident had left a deep emotional scar. “I came to suffer from severe post traumatic stress. My back and neck had received serious injuries. I thought I was the one at fault and then a deep fear of travelling in cars started to set it. I couldn't sit inside one,” says Kamble.
For four years, she spent most of her time inside her home in London. “I couldn’t get out. People around me recommended therapy and I had no choice but to take up their advice.” Early this month, Kamble became the world record holder for the longest solo drive of the Arctic Circle — 2,792 km covered in four days. It's one of the loneliest road trips on the planet and a flat can leave you stranded in temperatures so low, it can freeze the fuel in the tank. Her journey started from the UK and, after driving through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland, arrived at the outer edge of the Circle after 8,492 km, at a town called Rovaneimi.
“It’s certainly lonely. It will be hundreds of kilometres before you pass another motorist, or even a human being. It's cold, windy, slippery and while I was driving, I had the Barents sea on the right and huge mountains on the left. I fought to keep control — it was either valley or water," says Kamble. The drive was her attempt at her life back in order. "The therapist asked me one question: what were my dreams before the accident. Ever since I bought my car (a BMW X3), I had been thinking of a long drive. The accident had left me stuck inside my house but slowly I started to make progress. My husband and I would drive one way up a street and the next day, it would be a longer distance. Later, when I was ready I told him about this record I had in mind and he agreed. There were people who didn't want me to go but my husband was absolutely certain that I do this. He gave me some money, decided to handle the house while I'm away and continues to do so... as I finish my journey across 32 countries.”
Which brings us to the second part of Kamble's journey. She is due to arrive in India towards the end of November and for her chat with DC, she had stopped for a break in Poland. “So it’s Russia, Belarus, Kyrgystan... etc. I will drive through the Silk Route and enter India. Over the course of my trip I have received so many messages from so many around the world. When I reached the Arctic Circle monument, in Nordkapp (which is the end of Europe), I was told it was a no-car zone. I was desperate to get a photograph of my car there and I showed the authorities all the letters and endorsements I had received and they finally allowed me to go pose for the picture — with my car. I sang the Indian national anthem, I played the British national anthem from a tape and I spent a while at the site remembering how I had gotten there. "The accident still causes me pain. If have to change a tyre, I have to first pop a painkiller and wait for 15 minutes before I can start. My legs hurt and I have trouble standing long hours. But it has been worth it. I got back what I had before the accident — I became me again.”