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Old 14th January 2014, 12:45   #16
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Default The steel/industrial belt of West Bengal

The steel/industrial belt of West Bengal stretches for about 60 km on the NH2/Grand Trunk road starting from Panagarh in the South East to Asansol in the North West and going through Durgapur and Raniganj.
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-map.jpg

Panagarh (a.k.a 'graveyard of vehicles in West Bengal') , is a small Bazaar town bisected by the undivided single lane GT Road. It's not too difficult to see why it has earned itself this nickname. As one proceeds through this town, salvage/spare parts shops of every description abound. From shops specialising in bike spares, to shops specialising in tata/maruti suzuki, to shops specializing in trucks (yes including shaktiman army trucks!) , to shops specializing in tractors and other farm equipment.
The front yard of each shop is choc-a-bloc with salvage vehicles each of which are in various degrees of dis-assembly. But quite unlike the organized warehouses of the West, the nonchalant way in which these vehicles encroach on the narrow thoroughfare makes for careful going.
Space is at a premium, so these shops jostle for space on GT Road with street hawkers, and in the morning the ubiquitious haat.
It's quite a sight to see fresh farm produce being hawked a few paces away from an indica minus its wheels and an engine.
Here's a video of Panagarh , as the Innova carefully lifted her skirt and waded through around 8:30 AM.


The Panagarh stretch took us about 20 minutes to complete. I would say we were exceptionally lucky, as the crowds had not gathered on the streets yet. Had we been an hour later, we could have easily spent more than an hour negotiating this narrow stretch of ~ 5 km.

Durgapur is the typical steel town characteristic of a modern Industrial India. You know you are in Durgapur, because of the hard to miss blast furnaces towering above all other structures and visible from miles in every direction.
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Traffic was not too slow here, and we zipped through by 8:45 AM, encountering light truck traffic on the way.

Raniganj is primarily a coal mining town, and much of its output goes towards fuelling the needs of steel plants and other industries in the region. Related businesses have sprung up as well over the years and the signs are there for everyone to see, as one passes through.
This makes for slow going during most times of the day. Trucks, cranes , bicycles, pedestrians and other slow moving traffic jostle for space on the two-lane GT road leading through town.
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Near every crossing, watch out for these barriers. In the morning when speeds are a little higher, you may inadvertently end up performing the elk test
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We passed Raniganj at around 9:10 AM, and as traffic was light sailed through without much ado.


Asansol town is not on the highway per se or to put it another way, NHAI have built the GT Road around this important railway, coal and steel industry hub. As there was no occasion to reduce speeds on this stretch, we passed through this milestone at 9:20 AM.

Now, we were a few short kms away from Kulti (the Bengal-Jharkhand border). We would soon be crossing the Barakar river, and passing the turn towards Maithon dam (built on the infamous Damodar river)

It was at this time, that a thought struck us.
As most of Jharkhand and Bihar do not have much to offer by way of restaurants enroute GT Road, we had to stop for an early lunch at the first available opportunity. We had to stop either at Gobindpur's Khalsa hotel (previously reviewed by SS-Traveller) or any eatery before/after the Dhanbad crossing. We crossed our fingers and prayed we would find options.
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Old 14th January 2014, 13:46   #17
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Default Re: A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata

Joy, that's a marathon drive that you have undertaken. Glad to read out your experience in detail. Glued!
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Old 14th January 2014, 16:15   #18
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Default Entering Jharkhand

At this point my father woke up and asked rather pointedly... 'Thinking about lunch - at 9:30 AM? - Don't you have anything on your mind, other than food?'
But what to do ? As repeated experiences (Predator conquers NH2 - Kolkata to Delhi EDIT: Now once again!)of others on this forum have shown, NH2 on JH and BR are not the best places in the world to offer a lunch that can satisfy the 'discerning' taste-buds of the urban adventurer.
So we waited with bated breath...as we crossed the state line into Jharkhand. The clock read 9:45 AM.
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Shortly after, at around 10:00 AM, we found a small restaurant/bar "Unique Bar/Restaurant" - and the best part was it was OPEN. Knowing it would have a decent toilet and possibly half decent food, we stopped , we entered, and ordered some parathas, veg sandwiches. They were surprisingly good -maybe because it had been over 3 hours since we had our last meal. We spent about half-an-hour, eating up, and taking our bio-breaks. Although I clicked some photos of the place, sadly those are not available. At 10:30 sharp, we hit the road again.

The way to Dhanbad was surprisingly clear of traffic. Innova flew at 100 kmph on arrow straight roads.
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After the traffic in West Bengal, it was so calm, that my father had no trouble catching his fair share of forty winks.
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We passed by Toplink Toyota's Dhanbad office - and I made a mental note of the location - in case we are ever to repeat this trip on this car.
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Shortly after at 11:00 AM we approached the Dhanbad crossing.
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We were extolling the virtues of a traffic free GT road, when all of a sudden, within a short kilometer we witnessed all hell breaking loose on it.
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It wasn't that we did not expect it - we did, because we had witnessed this not too long ago on our onward trip. We just needed a picker-up after the rather abrupt change in scenery.
At that moment, we noticed the words of wisdom displayed on this truck. It brought smiles all around, and our woes were forgotten... 'Bhagwan sab ka bhala kare , shuru ham se kare' - 'May God bless everyone, starting with us'
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As if in answer to this call to the heavens, the roads opened up a little...
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... but I continued to maintain an alert demeanor.
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We had entered Jharkhand! It was 11:15 AM. Stretching before us was 400 km of erstwhile and present day Bihar, and we thought, we might , we just might be able to make it to Allahabad in U.P. (~500 km away) by the time we broke journey!
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Old 14th January 2014, 18:29   #19
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Default Driving in Jharkhand!

Jharkhand, arose as a new state of the Indian union in September 2000. Born out of southern Bihar, and notwithstanding decades of neglect and political upheaval; the condition of its 200 km long lifeline NH2 , speaks volumes of it's ambitions for the future.
The remainder of our journey through Jharkhand would take us through Topchanchi, Dumri, Bagodar, Barhi, Chauparan and onto Bhalua Chatti (on the Jharkhand-Bihar border).
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Once past populated stretches, roads in Jharkhand are a joy to drive on!
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And yet, ever so often, one is reminded , that this is still India - a country where the bovine-kind have the right of way!
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The Arms Bazaar at Topchanchi
Shortly after passing by Topchanchi, a sign of the times we live in , caught our eye.
We had expected this - on our onward journey - we had noticed this, but had not stopped as we wanted to reach our destination in time.
This time however we slowed down, and stopped - so curious were we.
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On display, was every manner of bludgeon, sword, axe or other sharp instrument designed to take life!
Matter of factly we asked this man what this was for - and the laconic reply "for protection". Not surprising, considering the troubled times the denizens of the state live in!
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A sword for example was available for Rs 650/- though at a hint of bargaining, he dropped the price to Rs 500/-. A gupti (short-sword camouflaged like a walking stick) was available for Rs 800/- We did not stop to ask the rest of the prices, but we did manage to click a couple more photos - before he got suspicious.
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We moved on. A few kilometers further on, my faith in auto accessory aficionados was renewed when I saw this sight...
Brilliant white Wheel hub caps on sale ...
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So not all of Topchanchi are into weapons of destruction - a few actually love their vehicles enough to give the wheels a facelift...Not sure if that love extends to stopping to smell flowers along the way, but we did not stop to verify!
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Old 14th January 2014, 18:59   #20
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Default Re: A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata

Dear Joybowmik,

Excellent narration and very informative travelogue about the road conditions from Delhi to W Bengal and back. I hope now you will undertake many more car journeys, now that you have got the experience.

Do keep up the car travelogues active with further trips.

Regards

Saji
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Old 14th January 2014, 20:02   #21
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Default Continuing the Drive through Jharkhand!

For those who are interested to explore this Arms Bazaar, there is a topographical landmark, that is sure to mark its position. It's an almost perfect conical hill...I wonder what forces of nature have played to bring this about - but to the casual traveler, it is quite a sight to behold - a conical hill suddenly arising out of miles of rolling plain!
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I checked Google Earth on my return to Delhi - but could not identify it by name. It's definitely not the famous Shikharji a.k.a Parasnath Hill - but quite close to it.



Stopping ever so often to click photographs of sundry things that were of interest to us , had made us way too complacent about the journey, and in fact we had lost track of time!

The clock however was inching forward, regardless of whether we were doing a 100 kmph or stopped to negotiate prices of swords! At the Arms Bazaar it read 11:30 AM! And we were not even half-way through Jharkhand!

Normally, at this turn of events, I would speed up - but at the time, I had no specific plan - in fact I was in no hurry whatsoever.

So I gamely kept going.... stay tuned!
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Old 14th January 2014, 22:16   #22
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Default Continuing the Drive through Jharkhand!

Around 12 PM we came across this example of a Premier Padmini of unknown vintage, still managing to pull its weight - and then some!
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Traffic continued to be light ....
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....and we kept going at 100 kmph till two somber sights stopped us in our tracks. The first one was :
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and the second was too horrific to capture on film. The sight of an old man and his young relative, lying on the road in a pool of blood, with a few people standing around in shock! The offending truck driver who had likely caused the accident had parked to one side, but it was evident there was nothing anyone could do!

A few kilometers on, the sight of this station wagon brought a smile to the lips. Our Jugaad culture at its best... and whoever thought up 'center of gravity' obviously was not from these parts
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We continued on our way - the roads arrow straight and smooth, inviting, nay tempting to press the accelerator a little bit more. Driving heaven!

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Shortly after, at 12:45 PM we reached Barhi
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distinguished by Cobra Hill which overlooks an encampment of our forces involved in insurgency operations in these parts.
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We were at the time just about to enter Jongol Mohol (deep jungles) which straddle the Jharkhand-Bihar border. The small hamlet of Chouparan flashed by in an instant... and then before we knew it, we were driving through the deep jungles.


..to be continued...

Last edited by joybhowmik : 14th January 2014 at 22:35. Reason: signing off for today...I promise to write up more tomorrow!
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Old 15th January 2014, 15:32   #23
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Default Jongol Mohol (The Deep Jungle) and then Bihar!

Fantastic roads greeted us , as we moved through the jungles.
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Very smooth tarmac and next to no traffic. Ordinarily it is no cause for concern, but given the troubled situation in the region, we were constantly looking around to spot any possibility of trouble.
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As we were passing by we encountered several shops in a nondescript hamlet, selling containers of different sizes - a sign that the region suffers from severe potable water scarcity in all seasons.
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And then before we knew it, we had crossed the state line into Bihar. It was a little past 1:40 PM, so we decided to take a quick rest stop at this small dhaba - the Apna Line Hotel, Dobhi, Bihar.
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Unfortunately there were no rest-rooms for the ladies, so we stopped again at this Hotel Royal India
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which is shortly after the turn-off to Bodh Gaya
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- and while we were waiting at the hotel, clicked a snap of these excavators trundling along
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Shortly after we were waiting in queue at the Sawkala Toll - this marks the integrated check point between Bihar and Jharkhand. The clock read 2:15 PM
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dscn3817.jpg
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Old 15th January 2014, 18:02   #24
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Default Driving through Bihar

Driving through Bihar on 200 km of GT Road/NH2 is more featureless than most people would think, save for one exception Dehri-On-Sone. Yes, there are important turnoffs marked towards heritage spots, but that requires one to leave the highway, and entrust oneself to non NHAI roads for a considerable time and distance.
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-map.jpg

Luckily the NH-2 bypasses both the major cities en-route : Aurangabad and Sasaram - which makes it easier to zip along.

The route from Bhalua-Chatti (stateline on JH side) to Dehri was in various stages of disrepair
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Just before the bridge on the Sone with the clock at 3:00 PM , and Allahabad over 270 km away, we had our first doubts if we would make it to Allahabad - as night would fall quickly....
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...and then the road deteriorated rapidly....
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..but that did not take away from the beauty of the bridge...
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- had the river run dry due to 'progress'?
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Finally the road condition improved slightly-
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and we stopped for a quick break and fuel, just after the Bridge in Dehri town.
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The time was 3:00 PM , we had to pick up the pace. We definitely had to reach Varanasi, even if we could not stretch it to Allahabad!

To reach Varanasi, we had to first cross the dreaded U.P. - Bihar check-post/toll.
Forewarned is forearmed. At 4:50 PM, with the sun-setting fast, we encountered the first sign that the checkpost was a kilometer away.
With no compunction, and with complete solidarity towards our Bhaiyyas of UP and Bihar, who showed us the way, we too gladly navigated opposing traffic to quickly reach the dedicated car lane at the Mohania toll.
A couple of horses kept us company as we crossed.
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We had been on the move non-stop for close to 11 hours. Though no one complained, it was time we stopped. So Varanasi was to be the break journey point, as it had been during our onward journey.
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dscn3837.jpg
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Old 15th January 2014, 18:32   #25
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Default Varanasi - and rest

Once we had decided that it was Varanasi, and not Allahabad that would be the more practical night-halt, we looked out for this point- the intersection of GT road and NH2 (from Delhi side).
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It took us the better part of an hour to reach the spot , due to rain, night fall, and heavy, slow and often unruly traffic.

Once there, we took the right turn under NH2, and merged onto GT road. We kept going straight on GT road for close to 12 km, till we reached the Cantt Station.

Although there were many options for stay, we were too tired to haggle for a roof over our heads. We kept it simple and headed to Plaza Inn where we had stayed on our onward trip, and at Rs 950/- per room settled into passably clean lodging.

The time was 6:45 PM
After rest for an hour and dinner, at around 9:00 PM we decided on a quick visit of Dashashwamedh Ghat and Kashi Vishwanath temple. However luck was not with us, as it started to rain. We curtailed our visit to Vishwanath temple only. Sadly, they don't allow cameras in here, so there are no pictures to share.

The only other highpoint of this short visit was the quintessential Banarasi Paan, which was enjoyed in the 'Banarasi' way - i.e. allowing the flavours to hit the palate in dribs and drabs

We reached back to the hotel at 11:30 PM. Sadly, though we wanted to extend our stay by a day at this city, it was not to be. We absolutely had to reach Delhi the next day or latest by the 11th.

So we tucked in for the night, after setting our alarms for 6 AM.
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Old 15th January 2014, 19:49   #26
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Default Re: Varanasi - and rest

Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
..but that did not take away from the beauty of the bridge...
Attachment 1191280
This was the old bridge, which carried traffic both ways. The eastbound bridge was built around 2004-05.
Quote:
- had the river run dry due to 'progress'?
Attachment 1191278
Sone behaves more as a seasonal river than a perennial one. In peak summer, you wouldn't even see the amount of water you see now. Many years ago, I've crossed the Sone over a fair weather causeway while driving from Robertsganj to Daltonganj and Ranchi.
Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
...this point- the intersection of GT road and NH2 (from Delhi side).
Attachment 1191318
You went further west and then turned back towards Varanasi? That turnoff on the map seems to be the one well after crossing the Ganga Bridge where you pay Rs.50 (IIRC) toll. This link shows the best route to take into Benaras city when approaching from the Kolkata side: http://goo.gl/maps/SZnuK.
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Old 15th January 2014, 20:56   #27
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Default Re: Varanasi - and rest

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
You went further west and then turned back towards Varanasi? That turnoff on the map seems to be the one well after crossing the Ganga Bridge where you pay Rs.50 (IIRC) toll. This link shows the best route to take into Benaras city when approaching from the Kolkata side: http://goo.gl/maps/SZnuK.
Rightly observed - the detour was with a reason. At the outset, I was a bit apprehensive of the proverbial dense cycle-rickshaw traffic engulfing Innova in case I took the well-travelled route. Everyone else going towards Varanasi, got off the highway at the spot indicated by your route. The route I took was longer, under construction, less lighted, but importantly (for me) had sparse traffic almost all the way up to the bridge before the Cantt. station. To each his poison!
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Old 15th January 2014, 22:33   #28
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Default Day 2- Chalo Dilli!

The next morning, our alarms woke up at 6 AM, did their job and went back to sleep. We woke up at 6:45 AM - and thought the alarms had not gone off!

As the sun was not yet up, it was some task to drag everyone off the bed, and get ready. My sixth sense told me , the day was not going to be pretty - and why should it - we had plans to cover 800 km , it was near to 7 o'clock, and all of us were still in night-wear.
Panic buttons pressed, and marching orders having been issued, I quickly hustled downstairs to the underground parking to check on Innova's tyre pressures. Not a psi less - not a psi more - awesome considering we had done over 640 km in the last 24 hours.
While down there, I clicked this snap of the parking for posterity and other T-BHPians...
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After myriad calls to the kitchen to get our cups of tea, milk etc delivered, we quickly loaded Innova and at 8 AM sharp rolled out of the hotel.
The first 12 km until the highway, rolled by quickly, and when we merged onto NH2 at 8:30, I had already framed the day's driving segments thus:
1) (A - B) Varanasi exit - Allahabad bypass - approximately 75 km
2) (B - C) Allahabad bypass itself - approximately 80 km
3) (C - D) End of Allahabad bypass to Start of Kanpur Bypass - approximately 150 km
4) (D - E) Kanpur Bypass itself - approximately 20 km
5) (E - F) End of Kanpur Bypass to Etawah - approximately 140 km
6) (F - G) Etawah to YEW - approximately 110 km
7) (G - H) The Yamuna ExpressWay (YEW for short) - approximately 170 km
8) (H - I) The GNOIDA expressway - approximately 25 km
9) (I - J) The home stretch itself - approximately 20 km

A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-map1.jpg
Of these 9 stages :
a) stage 5 (E-F) was likely to cause a delay due to highway widening work and flyover construction, and our plans for a lunch stop just after Kanpur bypass
b) stage 6 (F-G) was likely to cause delay due to lack of bypasses, congested towns and the dreaded speed-breakers
c) and worst of all, if we did get delayed, then, we would really need to watch it in stage 7 (G-H) due to the dreaded North India Fog. In fact, wifey did mention, that we should target to reach Agra latest by 5:30 PM, and if any later - we should stop over for the night. But the optimist in me thought - well what can go wrong on the final home stretch of YEW - surely there's no harm in pushing on and reaching home - just so I can sleep on my own bed for a change.


More on this day's experiences tomorrow!
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Old 16th January 2014, 12:36   #29
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Default Driving through U.P.

The 75 km stretch of GT road from the Varanasi Exit to Allahabad Bypass, is toll-free, and passes through two small towns Aurai and Handia. We managed to avoid the congestion at both these towns, perhaps because it was still not yet 10 AM. Although the road is a divided highway, this is an accident prone area, primarily because pedestrians and animals are prone to crossing it often without looking left and right.

We reached the Allahabad bypass at about 9:55 AM, and immediately after paying the toll, were on the lookout for a place to stop and eat breakfast.
Sadly, the bypass (Delhi bound side) has no such amenity, not even a chai stand.
There was light fog, but visibility was not much affected,
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and in places the highway tempts one to floor the accelerator,
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but a word of caution is advised -watch out for these culverts,
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these are well-marked by yellow-black stripes;
but just in case you happen to miss that, you know you are in for a thud , when you see the tarmac colour change briefly ....
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before you get on the culvert itself!
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The way to handle these sections, is to slow down the moment you can see the yellow/black stripes, and then accelerate to cruising speed once you are past them. Some culverts are well-aligned with the remainder of the highway, thus lulling you into a false sense of security. The last thing you want is a broken strut or shock, because you inadvertently launched the car into the air!
The other thing to watch out for is stray animals suddenly getting on the tarmac while you are doing 100+. But then there are enough threads on the forum and on the internet to advise you on this eventuality.
In fact, I had a run-in with an eagle, that was flying low, when the leading edge of my windscreen surprised it! Instinctively I ducked at that very instant, but luckily no damage was done.
Help, when available will take its own sweet time getting to you.. so you've been warned - fellow motorist !

Eventually, at 10:40 AM at the end of the bypass, we spotted some small shops selling chai and pakodas, and stopped for a much delayed breakfast.
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dsc_0120.jpg


And here's the state of the front bumper at the stop- notice the number of stains left behind by dead insects, not to mention the number plate which got it's corner chipped off somewhere between Dehri on Sone and this spot.
In fact this was the only visible damage during the entire trip-and quite possibly inflicted by a stone or other object when negotiating the under-construction GT road at Varanasi
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dsc_0121.jpg

Last edited by joybhowmik : 16th January 2014 at 12:38.
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Old 16th January 2014, 14:26   #30
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Default Allahabad to Kanpur

The 150 km toll-free, Allahabad to Kanpur stretch had sparse truck traffic, and the condition of the road itself was very good. We were rejuvenated after the breakfast, so spirits were high.
At around 12 PM we reached Fatehpur , midway between the two cities,
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dscn3879.jpg
and at this milepost, ab Dilli door nahin !
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dscn3878.jpg
the roads were fantastic,
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dscn3880.jpg
but marred by stray incidents of wrong side traffic,
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dscn3881.jpg
despite points where one could reverse direction;
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dscn3886.jpg
watch out for the speed-breakers on the now-defunct toll-plazas,
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dscn3883.jpg
and parked trucks, being passed by slow trucks .
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dscn3889.jpg

We stopped for some fuel and a short rest break , a short distance from Kanpur bypass,
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dscn3890.jpg
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dscn3891.jpg
As we approached the Kanpur Bypass at 1:00 PM, we saw quite a lot of opposing traffic on our lane! ... and a few minutes later the reason was evident....
a tow truck trying hard to upright a toppled oil tanker onto its feet!
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-img_3547.jpg

Miraculously, we had a trouble free run on the rest of the Kanpur bypass. Getting off it, the NH2 had been turned into a war-zone of sorts! There was a lot of construction activity going on, and the result was that for most of the stretch immediately after the bypass we were driving on 'diversion' stretches.

It was with relief, that we pulled over to Sengar's resort (near Rania, U.P., 26.41283,80.09778) for lunch at 1:45 PM.
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dscn3892.jpg
Everyone needed some much needed respite from the stop and go traffic that had kept us company all the way from Kanpur Bypass!
A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata-dscn3893.jpg

Last edited by joybhowmik : 16th January 2014 at 14:53.
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