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Old 3rd November 2014, 14:55   #61
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Default Re: A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata

Why did you choose to go through Mughal Sarai town? Did you also go through Aurangabad town ? These choices quite baffled me.
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Old 3rd November 2014, 16:52   #62
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Default Re: A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sudipto-S-Team View Post
Why did you choose to go through Mughal Sarai town? Did you also go through Aurangabad town ?
The first choice was due to implicitly trusting the GPS - which chose to route us via the original GT road (being the shortest and a highway). The reason for the second (Aurangabad) is illustrated in post 59. It's good that we chose to drive through the town, else we would have been stuck on the highway for hours! (see pics)
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Old 3rd November 2014, 17:04   #63
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Default Re: A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata

The second choice was a sensible one really. Could you find out what had caused that huge jam in Aurangabad? Last 6th October, on the day of Eid, I was travelling from Delhi to Varanasi and our vehicle was diverted through an old road that runs through the town of Firozabad (because the whole town had gathered on the highway to celebrate Eid). IF I was in a sedan my car would probably have broken down.
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Old 4th November 2014, 07:37   #64
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Default Re: A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata

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Originally Posted by Sudipto-S-Team View Post
Could you find out what had caused that huge jam in Aurangabad?
There may have been some local disturbance. The line was longest looking toward Aurangabad in both directions. Definitely not an accident, as both sides have two lanes, and a wide shoulder, leaving enough space for traffic and rescue to filter through.
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Old 24th December 2014, 11:50   #65
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Default of preparations, Trials and tribulations

Nov 9: Just over a month to go for our annual run up to Kolkata and back.
Got the wheels balanced and aligned at Khan (Tyres, Alignment & Balancing - Khan Tyre World (Sheikh Sarai, New Delhi)). For once, this is done without the aid of any computer - just by plain old sight, and a thread.

Nov 15: Hotel booking confirmed for Varanasi stay on Dec 27. The plan was to leave early on Dec 27 (hopefully no fog), and check in late evening at a non-descript hotel booked through MMT.

Kids periodical exams are scheduled to end on Dec 26 ( a day after Christmas). But school closes officially on Dec 29 - Oh why?

Dad's train tickets are booked on Dec 26 - Friday evening. He will join us there. He won't accompany us by car due to his recent surgery.

And so life goes on. Things to do for the Innova before we set off:
  • General inspection and R/R.
  • Buy an MMI single update for Rs 500/- - oh when will they release v9.1
  • Buy a dedicated inflator for the Innova's tyres - the el-cheapo chinese one keeps blowing its switch.
Dec 9:
I call MMI - they tell me v9.1 map update is not due till the 20th December. Oh bother!
I also call and book an appointment with Galaxy Toyota (Review: Galaxy Toyota @ Okhla Industrial Area, Delhi)for 23rd December.
Then I settle down to identify a good inflator. Limi seems good. Indian made. The email from them says Rs 2600/- all inclusive (yes includes S&H). There's another one that catches my eye. It's VIAIR . Delivered at home for Rs 9801. It seems a good one, but too expensive at the price. Torn now between what seems VFM and what looks like the rolls royce of inflators. I decide not to buy either - and keep looking.

Dec 10:
Work pressure increases dramatically. I look up my leave calendar. I realize that I still have about 8 privilege leaves left that lapse before the new year. So then, a few clicks of the mouse and I am officially on leave starting Dec 20! Yay! Poor kids - they don't know what it means to take days off at a whim!

Dec 13:
And then news trickles in from a rather unexpected source. "School will remain closed on Monday Dec 15 due to civic issues (read sanitation concerns). "
OK. And so, the first thing that occurs to me is - will school close early? I decide to hang on, and call the school on Monday to find out.

Dec 14:
An SMS on Sunday afternoon reads - "school will continue to remain closed on Tuesday Dec 16 as well. Exams that are affected due to closure, will be rescheduled. Exams that are scheduled to happen before school closes officially for the winter break - will be given on the scheduled dates. "

OK. So the first thing out of the window is any hope of an extended winter break. Dash it all - the damn closure seems deadly serious. Now I start praying the school opens soon. For all I know , they may do away with the winter break altogether just to accommodate the exams for the poor kids. Everyone in the family joins in. We start praying fervently to the powers that be (Delhi Jal Board) that they send someone capable enough to quickly sort out the school's woes.


Dec 16:
The extent of the issue is revealed to all. TOI Page 4 carries the problem in all it's gory detail. Apparently sewage has spread all over the school grounds.

Face palm time.

It's going to be at least a week before they allow the kids back again.
The prayers are joined with renewed fervor.

Dec 19:
Another SMS reads - school will reopen on Saturday Dec 20. The new exam schedule will be published soon on the school's website.

I eagerly await the planning outcome. A lot is riding on a simple flick of the principal's pen.


And then Calamity. There's no other way to describe a calamity.
Oh wait there is! Both Palms on Face and Eyes Closed time!

The school in it's infinite wisdom decides to postpone exams to after the winter break (Jan) ... all but one exam. That one exam will be given on Dec 29!


I spend an hour writing a letter imploring the Class teacher to give this one exam to the kids any day of the week of Dec 22 or postpone it like the rest of the exams.
I end the missive - beseeching her to look outside the window and see the effects of one of Delhi's harshest winters. I tug at her heartstrings. The picture of David Copperfield, swims in my eyes!


Dec 20:
I get a call. It's the Class teacher's superior speaking. She says, "We received your letter. I talked to your ward - and he told me that you are planning to go to Kolkata by car. Is that why you want the school to change the schedule?"

I am quickly disarmed.

She says very sternly, on no account will the school's published time table change. You can go when you like. I get the message.

I cancel the reservation at the nondescript hotel in Varanasi. To cheer ourselves up, I book rooms in the much better Radisson on Dec 30. Prices seem about okay - but it is a non-refundible offer.

Dec 22:
I get another call when I least expect it. It's from the same 'teacher superior' . In a sweet tone, she tells me , how other parents had written about the 'inconvenience' of school exams on the 29th. And how, considering the wave of parental indignation, they have finally relented and postponed that one exam to after Jan 25.

I thank her , but from the bottom of my heart - all I want to do is do this -> .

So now, I need to get the hotel booking changed (again!).

Then comes the next shock. The MMT website won't allow me to change the dates of the Varanasi hotel reservation. Frantic calls, emails and 24 hours later, I am informed that a change in dates has been managed - luckily at no extra charge. I need to await their email for confirmation.

Dec 23:
The email from MMT confirming our stay in Varanasi on the 28th arrives! Things are definitely looking up.

To keep spirits high, I take the Innova to Galaxy Toyota (Review: Galaxy Toyota @ Okhla Industrial Area, Delhi). The General Inspection is done in my presence.
The car goes up on the lift. The mechanic and I inspect it for any tell tale leaks. All seals seem good. The wheels are pushed and pulled - no play. That's a good sign!
The rear wheels come off. The brake drums are scraped clean. The front wheels come off. The pads are still new. No need to replace them now.
The headlights are adjusted.
Brake oil, coolant and the all important windshield washer detergent is topped up.
The car's all set.


Dec 24 (today).
Fog sets into the city early in the morning- and probably will continue to do so for the rest of the week. Now that the last working day would be Saturday, why not stay over in Agra on the 27th?

So a hotel is booked in Agra for the 27th - again on MMT. A token booking amount of Rs 5/- ensures at least we will have a roof over our heads , and an early start for Varanasi on the 28th.


Next on the list:
Call MMI to find out ETA of v9.1 It is after all Dec 24 and the website keeps showing v9.0

I still don't have a decent inflator. I must do something about that.

Hold on a sec... I am spending a bit of Saturday in Agra. Must research about the authentic Mughlai food experiences before I reach!

There is a silver lining so , life goes on...

Last edited by joybhowmik : 24th December 2014 at 11:56.
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Old 26th December 2014, 22:12   #66
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Default Re: A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata

Update @ 10:10 PM Dec 26
The bags are packed
The cameras are charging
The GPS is loaded



Planned start - 10 AM tomorrow.

Yes, the school relented and declared holidays from tomorrow!

WB - here we come bringing with us the cold wave from Delhi!
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Old 8th January 2015, 21:04   #67
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Default To Kolkata, In and About

The start from home at 10 AM was a beleaguered one.

At the time of our departure our family laptop was busily encoding a children's movie to the Pioneer's MP4 format, when it became evident that it would take the process at least another couple hours to complete. Waiting for the process to finish would delay us considerably, and so a decision was made to allow it to finish while on the way.
So, I hooked up the car inverter to the laptop, and that was powered by the 12 V power outlet. It escaped my attention that the same 12 V socket was also powering the car mini fridge. The moment I turned the key, a minor disaster ensued - with the power outlet fuse blowing.
Our journey of a few thousand km thus began with a minor diversion to the offices of our FNG electrician Babu.
Luckily the Innova's spare short-leg fuses saved the day.
Then a minor stop at the diesel bunk opposite NRI colony, and off we went-heading towards Mahamaya flyover - through the recently opened underpass at Okhla.
While passing by Galaxy Toyota, I thought of replenishing the spares , but then again that would delay us further. So made a mental note to pick up the same on one of the many trips to Kolkata when I reach there.
Our planned stop for the day was at Agra , and the journey was without incident.


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Fog warning nearly eclipsed by the Fog enveloping it

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Fog on YEW at 11:40 AM

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The Mad traffic of Agra

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Traffic Management 101 - Danda-i-shtyle

We checked in to Hotel Shree Residency , which is adjacent to Shree talkies and right on the old GT road - so it was a doddle to find. We had made bookings in advance on MMT, so the check in process was a breeze.
The hotel is a two-star property, and appeared to have been recently constructed. However, the property is ill-maintained, and very soon will join the ranks of similar nondescript hotels on Fatehabad road.
Finding a decent Parking is a bit of a nightmare. Although the hotel has a basement parking, it shares this with Shree Talkies (its sister establishment). Shree Talkies runs three shows a day, 365 days a year of the latest bollywood flick. What's supposed to be an enclosed Parking space for the exclusive use of hotel guests, unfortunately is ceded to the rabble riding in on their two-wheelers to catch the movies! Food is strictly vegetarian fare.

So if you are the non-vegetarian type , hit the road and go to Sadar Bazar where you will find the awesome Jahanpanah Restaurant (27.161256, 78.011493). It's a small food lovers paradise, so do call ahead (0562-2227722 , 99179-99170) for reservations. There's adequate parking available so don't fret and just go enjoy a superb meal at very reasonable prices.
I can personally recommend the Ulte Tave Ka Paratha, to be had with the melt in your mouth Galauti , Kakori and Seekh kababs. For the main course, I recommend the Chicken Jahanpanah with its superlative thick gravy and accompanied with butter Nans. I truly regret overeating and not having any space left over for dessert. A mistake I will not repeat when I visit next.

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Jahanpanah restaurant Facade

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Yummy Food


We also visited the Agra Fort. This had been on our Agra sight seeing list at least for the past 10 years. But everytime we brought family & guests to visit Agra , somehow the beauty of the Taj captivated us so much - that we invariably never found time to visit the Fort.

The Agra Fort is steeped in history. Contrary to widely held views the Fort has been around even before Islamic influence in India. It was during the Mughal rein that the Fort was significantly refurbished and extended.

Before you enter the Fort, be sure to purchase tickets for the Sound and Light show. Tickets for the English and Hindi version are available @ Rs 50. The Hindi version begins exactly at sunset and lasts for an hour, and the English version follows immediately after.
Therefore time your visit to the Agra Fort to allow for an hour of sight-seeing before you sit back to enjoy the Sound and Light Show. Seating arrangements are limited , therefore , be sure to take your seat at least half-hour before the show starts to avoid having to sit on the stone steps.
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Sound and Light Show Tickets

The tickets to the monument can be purchased immediately before the main entrance. I don't recommend skipping the line at the behest of touts masquerading as guides. If you wish to get detailed information about the various sites at the monument, you would do well to download Audiocompass before you visit.

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Near Ticket Counter

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The massive edifice of the Entrance Gate

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A turret adjacent to the Entrance

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Jahangir Palace

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Beautiful arches of Jahangir Palace

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A robust carved door at the entrance to Jahangir Palace

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Inside the Jahangir Palace

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A Fountain inside the Jahangir Palace

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View of the Taj from the Fort

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The Opulent Diwan-e-Khaas or The Hall of Private Audience

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The Regal Diwan-e-Aam or The Hall of Public Audience

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The regal Throne sat here

Last edited by joybhowmik : 8th January 2015 at 21:17. Reason: Corrected the hyperlinks
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Old 8th January 2015, 22:47   #68
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Default To Kolkata, In and About

The next morning, we started from the hotel at 7 AM. The dreaded fog had enveloped the highway. Visibility was reduced to around 100 meters, but still drivable. So we started, and followed a pilot vehicle.


The effect of the fog was there for us to see - we passed by two accidents in rapid succession.

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Accident 1
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Accident 2

Fog or not , the world went about its business.
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Bangle seller at Firozabad.

The NH2 stretch between Etawah to Kanpur had several diversions , but these were notably fewer in number than what we encountered in June. Progress is always a positive sign!

Our usual lunch spot of Sengars came up just after 12 PM. Considering the fogged out conditions, I was not unhappy with the progress.

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Sengars Facade
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Digging into Chinese Tid-Bits


Shortly after leaving Sengars, and before reaching the Kanpur bye-pass, we were flagged down by some cops.
It quickly became apparent that all is not well in U.P. The caretakers of the law, use every pretext to rob the common man - often by threatening dire consequences - like confiscation of a vehicle for no fault, or even rape of its passengers. In U.P. the erstwhile Ram Rajya has now become a Haram Rajya. What else can one expect? After paying the mandated Rs 5000/- obeisance to the cops, we continued with battered spirits but intact bodies (and car).
Next time I enter the state, I really must stick one of these on the car to avoid being treated like the common man:
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The route from Kanpur to Varanasi was as before with one notable mention. There's construction going on at both ends of the Allahabad bye-pass, and this made the traffic back-up about half a kilometer when we passed by.

We reached our hotel - the Radisson Varanasi just before 7 PM. It was a relief to reach here in one piece. So we celebrated a bit at the Great Kebab Factory in the premises.

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A Welcome Bed

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The Main Hall - all decked up for the season

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The ornate fountain in the lobby


Our start the morning after for the direct run to Chinsurah, was considerably delayed. Partly due to fog, and partly due to the choice at the buffet breakfast. After meting out justice and dispatching a few savories our journey continued at 9 AM

Mohania toll-plaza was dispatched in a jiffy at 10 sharp. The traffic is much better now. We were now in Bihar. After a while, we encountered a traffic back-up just after Dehri-On-Sone bridge. A section of the eastbound NH2 lane had been closed to vehicular traffic by surveyors - potential for lane expansion?

We crossed over into Jharkhand a little after 1:30 PM. Lunch was a simple vegetarian affair at one of the small eateries near Chouparan.

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A wide load somewhere between Dhanbad and Maithon

We entered Bengal at 5 PM. The crossover point after Maithon continues to resemble a lunar landscape.

And then came the torturous 120 km of NH2 between Asansol and Darjeeling More, made even more so by construction work, that has shrunk the road width.
Darjeeling More and Panagarh reflected their true colours, and we finally put them behind after half an hour of playing hop-skotch with trucks that hogged the tarmac and refused to go beyond 5 kmph.

Then a well deserved rest stop at Shaktigarh where amongst other things one must try the Jhalmuri and the Bengali Singara (Samosa)

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We reached our destination just before 9 PM , ending 12 hours of travel.

After a well deserved vacation at Kolkata, which by the way included a short trip to the beach at Mandarmoni, we packed our bags - and are now counting the hours down to our return trip tomorrow.

Last edited by joybhowmik : 8th January 2015 at 22:52.
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Old 8th January 2015, 23:14   #69
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Default Re: A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata

Great start .. please do keep posted route that you took with road conditions / suggestions to help guys like me , planning for a trip to Kolkatta early next month .

Edit -just read this

Quote:
After paying the mandated Rs 5000/- obeisance to the cops, we continued with battered spirits but intact bodies
What happened - why so much ?

Last edited by Turbanator : 8th January 2015 at 23:18.
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Old 8th January 2015, 23:57   #70
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Default Re: A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata

We were also flagged down on the bypass . The police said it was a routine check. Inspected all papers and then let us go as everything was in order. There was a 2nd checkpoint a few kms down the road. We were flagged down again. On informing that we had already undergone the check, they let us through.

They seemed to be stopping only out of state cars.

Last edited by Technocrat : 9th January 2015 at 22:18. Reason: typo corrected on request, thanks
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Old 9th January 2015, 11:25   #71
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Yes they were stopping out of state vehicles. My fault was by luggage had an unopened bottle of BP for personal use.

Anyway now @ Ashoka Resort near Giridhi on the way to Varanasi. Some yummy chowmein serves for brunch.
Luckily roads in WB were mostly devoid of traffic so we have made good progress
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Old 9th January 2015, 12:00   #72
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Default Re: A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata

Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
My fault was by luggage had an unopened bottle of BP for personal use.
BP? Liqour? Is that illegal to carry?

They didn't check my boot though.
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Old 9th January 2015, 18:45   #73
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AFAIK if in reasonable quantities such as 1 or 2 SKU is not illegal. So long as one has not used the product and driven. But one does not argue on points of law when driving an out of state car in a lawless state.

Reached Varanasi Hotel Varuna near Sigra thana. Now need to check out zomato for locality specific delicacies!
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Old 11th January 2015, 12:42   #74
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Default Re: A humble beginning: Driving from Delhi to Kolkata

Quote:
Hoping the return journey continues to enthrall ...

I leave you with the excel we used to plan our first epic journey in India.
Quote:
Update @ 10:10 PM Dec 26
The bags are packed
The cameras are charging
The GPS is loaded
Hope you have returned back safely , can you update Excel sheet that you made last time with your present experiences / road conditions . Anything to avoid or take care on this route .
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Old 12th January 2015, 11:41   #75
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Turbanator View Post
Hope you have returned back safely , can you update Excel sheet that you made last time with your present experiences / road conditions . Anything to avoid or take care on this route .
Yes I have returned yesterday afternoon. Due to likelihood of fog on YEW, we had stopped over at Agra. Another reason was to savour the delicacies once again at Hotel Jahanpanah, Agra and the simply awesome Phirnee.

The run upto Agra was overall good. Varabasi to Handia was done in about an hour with stops to pick up fruits from the roadside mandi. Thereafter the Allahabad byepass was a breeze. Subsequently we did get some congestion at some of the small towns between Fatehpur and Kanpur.
Immediately after Kanpur byepass (going towards Delhi) , slow down to pass diversions that dot the road all the way to Etawah. Though these are far fewer than what I encountered same time last year or even in June. Many sites previously under construction have been completed, so one can easily average 60 kmph between Kanpur to Agra, notwithstanding the quagmires at Shikhohabad, Firozabad and Tundla.
Post Auraiya and all the way to etawah byepass, the 6 lanes are a joy to drive The other good thing that the NHAI has done at these sites is ensured completion of at least one carriageway side. By alternating the diversions between upstream and downstream traffic, they have played fair.
Between today and Jan 31st, I suggest taking the YEW anytime between 11AM to 3 PM if planning a trip on it. Its the safest time slot to drive in. If travelling at an earlier or later hour, you would do well to follow the traffic advisories issued by the authority:
1) limit speed to visibility conditions
2) keep all lights on including the hazard lights.
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