I was pleasantly surprised last weekend to see three motorhomes (alternately called camper vans or RVs as in Recreational Vehicles) parked together in the traffic island along K. Dubhash Marg in Kala Ghoda, Mumbai. The number-plates and the profusion of stickers on the back of the vans, more so on one of the two Fiat Ducato Campers, evidently marking countries traveled through, indicated of foreign tourists touring India by road.
It's unlikely that they collected the stickers along the way at each port of call on their overland journey through countries before driving into India, it’d be too much of a hassle to locate one in each country that one is passing through.
It’s more likely they’d purchased the stickers before starting out on their travel, possibly sticking each one on the back as they crossed international borders.
The two Fiat Ducato camper vans were joined by a Mercedes Vito F, or so I think as the logo identifying the Mercedes camper van model was not immediately readable, at least not from the acute angle on the left. The raised V (the larger of the four letters) obscured the rest, particularly the adjacent (smaller) letter, rendering the logo in the kind of flourish that some logo designers will only too happily relish creating as a tribute to one of their inexplicable doodling moments fuelled by cigarette deprivation, or worse for want of spirit fuelled inspiration. Among differently-sized letters raised on a surface, the smaller letter adjacent to the larger one will be obscured when viewed at an angle.
The blue Fiat Ducato was seemingly spared the dust coating the light coloured Fiat Ducato parked adjacent was subjected to on its India travel. When travelling around India by road, it helps to be painted in dark colours if only so the dust will not make itself immediately apparent on the surface, small consolation actually.
A muggy winter day in Mumbai is as good a day as any to be up and about. However the light on the street did not mirror the unusually blue skies overhead, heightened in no small measure by the occasional white cloud sailing free. Post-monsoons, approaching winter, is a good time to travel to India. In the US, the occupants of the three motorhomes would be known as Snowbirders, for escaping the harsh winters of their native countries for the relatively warmer climes nearer the equator, not unlike migratory birds.
While I was interested in having a look inside I contented myself with the exteriors. Considering how difficult it can be to avail of railway reservations to and from major destinations in India (if not booked in advance), in addition to hotel fares on the upswing during the holiday (nee traveling) season in India, the winters, it actually makes eminent sense to get a camper van with amenities that’ll allow a sleep-in on the road every once in a while.
The Mercedes Vito F at Kala Ghoda was smaller in comparison to the two Fiat Ducato motorhomes parked alongside. Contraptions fitted to the back of the van and the roof possibly made space for luggage, or maybe beds. I couldn’t tell for sure. Travellers are known to carry bicycles strapped behind, or even motorcycles.
The lighter coloured Fiat Ducato appeared to be fitted with a retractable roof that motorhomes will sometimes be equipped with to accommodate a roof bed and provide for standing room. Where hydraulic controls are absent, the roof is operated manually, elevated when needed, and covered on the sides by canvas fitted with fly-screen vents.
The Fiat Ducato has a major share of the motorhome market in Europe. The chassis is made available in various lengths, as also height, to suit customer requirements for space to accommodate their travel requirements when converting the caravan base into living quarters. The two Fiat Ducato motorhomes I saw were of similar size and would comfortably fit four in each.
It bears thought why motorhomes cannot similarly succeed in India considering the conveniences it can offer on the road even if we were to discount the fact that such travel will likely mean skipping the India of public travel and related experiences.
If the Indian traveler is prepared to put up with the few inconveniences of the road as opposed to the conveniences of a hotel, namely facilities to wash up in the mornings, he could benefit from being able to sleep out in the open, under the stars as he travels across India. It also bears mentioning that for the concept to take off, towns and cities will need to plan for washroom facilities at the very least for Camper Van/Motorhome travellers without having to book into hotels to avail of them, assuming it's difficult to tank up on water along the way or manage waste disposal.
If that were to happen I’d expect each state in the Indian Union to issue a state logo reflective of the state that the traveler could then stick on the back of the motorhome, collecting stickers along the way at each crossing of state borders. Imagine how much better the mass of stickers would reflect India than if it were to be indicated by only the flag.
Note: Of the two Fiat Ducato motorhomes parked alongside, one prominently advertised Adria Space, the entity that designs motorhomes to suit customer requirements, fitting the design to the Fiat Ducato chassis, like is possible to do with models by Auto manufacturers in the Motorhomes / Campers market.
While I could not see the interiors, the Adria Space page highlights the custom-made interiors they offer to customers. As you’ll see, it’s not made for the backpacker experience. India backpackers will be advised to do it the old and more fulfilling way.
Note: Motorhome / RV Living options in India are limited. If custom-built in India as some Western travellers have, using the Mazda chassis, or bus-frames at local manufacturing facilities, they'll likely offer up their motorhomes / RVs for sale in India before returning, finding it economical to sell it than incur import duties if they were to ferry it back.
Mark, an American, got a motorhome / RV custom-built in Goa, and is now offering it up for sale.
1. Explore the Fiat Ducato Camper