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Old 31st March 2015, 15:57   #1
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Default New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive

From the time I drove to Jamshedpur from Lucknow in early 2012, I had on my driving agendas a one-day drive from Varanasi to Kolkata. But I could not really ever materialise it. This time in January, I got a golden opportunity not only to do that but to do a full-length New Delhi – Kolkata trip itself. I had a friend’s marriage to attend in Delhi to be followed in a week’s time by another one in South 24 Parganas. Since my family was also supposed to attend the wedding functions and since it is the peak of winter and therefore trains could be delayed inordinately and can cause tiring journeys, a drive by road came to be the best option. Otherwise too, I have always had “options” for presenting a road trip to be the most viable and convenient option of all! The car is the same Ford Fiesta that took us all the way from Lucknow to Payyanur in Kerala in the last winter, Lucknow to Mysore in summer last, to Shimla via New Delhi, to Jamshedpur, to Fatehpur Sikri, to Kushinagar, to Mirzapur, to Baruasagar and Orchcha in Madhya Pradesh, not to mention smaller trips to places like Allahabad now and then, on different occasions and trips. So, unwavering trust in its abilities and it was ready after a scheduled service at Ford’s anyway.

I have been staying in Lucknow since this is the place where I work. So the trip cannot be via the usual NH 2 that takes you from New Delhi to Kolkata via Agra, Kanpur and Varanasi, about which there are many drive reports and travelogues on team-bhp. The point is that I had to start the journey from Lucknow, touch New Delhi and go upto Gurgaon, and then from there drive to Kolkata and a little further to Baruipur, and return to Lucknow. That is how it becomes a New Delhi – Kolkata trip. The route is one thing, about which a decision can be taken a little later. There was another important thing to resolve. My wife was ready to for only Delhi and back, and she recommended the Kolkata one by train which I instantly rejected as a proposition. Ensuing quarrels, and I declare that I would take some friends of mine, to pre-empty the family anxieties about solo drives. But finally, a could take a call on the entire trip. The first threat in these matters that you can face from your wife is that plans of such crazy drives will be reported to your parents. Much pursuasion, finally, it was decided that the family itself will accompany all the way, and that we will also rope in another young friend of the family, for the Lucknow – Kolkata section.

Route: This was another little issue. Starting from Lucknow, we go to New Delhi. I drove earlier also twice via Kanpur and the Yamuna Express Highway. I could have taken the same route. But this time, there were other considerations. When we return, we thought we will have the break in Lucknow only. Reasonable. And I could afford a two-day break too. So, in the New Delhi – Kolkata section, the straight option of NH 2 throughout the journey was given up instantly. The New Delhi – Kolkata journey has to be via Lucknow. Still I could have taken NH 2 excepting for that I do Kanpur – Allahabad section via Lucknow and Raebareilly. But I also happened to read in the team-bhp thread in between about the closure of Rama Devi in Kanpur the day before I started. In addition, there was the visit by the U.S President Obama to Agra, and the temporary closure of the Yamuna Express Highway. I thought why couldn’t I use this opportunity to explore NH 24 then that takes you from Lucknow to New Delhi via Shajhanapur, Moradabad and Ghaziabad. A shorter route indeed, but with bad roads for around 175 kilometers. I thought still I will take this only, this time. Let me see how I negotiate these places.

So the plan was in place.

Day 1 (21 Jan 2015): Lucknow to New Delhi / 537 kilometers

Day 2 and 3 in and around Delhi and Gurgaon

Day 4 (24 Jan 2015): New Delhi to Lucknow / do

Day 5, 6, and 7 in Lucknow

Day 8 (28 Jan 2015): Lucknow to Varanasi / 331 kilometers

Day 9 (29 Jan 2015): Varanasi to Kolkata / 704 kilometers up to Baruipur

Day 10, 11, and 12 in and around Kolkata

Day 13 (2 Feb 2015): Kolkata to Lucknow / 1034 kilometers

Day 13 schedule was an ambitious thing and I knew that it would stretch well past midnight by the time I reach Lucknow. But I had that plan at hand to have a young companion who could also drive though less experienced on highways till then.
________________________________________

The vehicle was the same that took us to Mysore. Let me post a photo of it that was taken earlier en route from Mysore to Lucknow, when it reached Penukonda in Andhra Pradesh:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20140615_155020.jpg

________________________________________

The vehicle was ready quite a few days before. As a first step, I took it for alignment check, etc. I also got its sun-film removed, because I was actually worried about the kind of experience I had with the Telangana police in Hyderabad. I did not want to repeat the same in Delhi because the sun-film is the first catch, leading to unnecessary issues. Diesel full-tank filled from the usual IOC in Lucknow and the pressure in the tyres checked:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_083012.jpg

It was exactly 8.30 in the morning that I hit the highway, directly on the NH 24 which runs as Ring Road right in front of my flat in Indira Nagar. I proceeded past the Engineering College junction and once I left the city, the fog conditions started troubling me. I was very slow and careful, requiring to stop the car at any point if necessary. It was like this:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_090758.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_090805.jpg

At 9.20, I stopped at the HP Dhaba for breakfast after Siddhauli but well before Sitapur. The road is extremely smooth and four-laned till Sitapur, with two toll booths to cross. I left the Dhaba at 9.55, and crossed Sitapur by 11. I knew that I was already heading for a delayed run, though my plan was to have lunch somewhere at Bareilly which is the half-way point. The good tiding was that the fog got cleared quickly.

But after Sitapur, the road was a pain and I had to negotiate between sizeable pot-holes and I became considerably slow. I could see signs of attempts to do four-laning throughout. Land is acquired everywhere, despite being the most contentious issue. Bridges are half-made. There are some better patches but are broken here and there, so you have got to be careful too. They were like these:

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New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_121118.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_121127.jpg

But it was scenic too. My wife was telling me in between that if not for roads we would never take NH 2 and Yamuna Express Highway whenever we drive to Delhi. She is particularly fond of these very long drives. The green-field was like this too. You can see the four-laning process abandoned somewhere. This was after Sitapur:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_121103.jpg

There was a railway crossing like this where I had to stop because it was closed. No flyover:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_141226.jpg

I crossed the ROB at Shajahanpur at 1 pm exact. But it took time to cross the whole of Shajahanpur. At 2 pm, I was just 27 kilometers away from Bareilly. I thought there I was, more or less:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_142801.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_142832.jpg

But the way I covered distance was too slow. I knew that Bareilly would be too delayed if I proceeded with the lunch plan there. The Bareilly bypass was opened recently only, so did I read in team-bhp somewhere. So, there may not be any good place to eat also. So, a small place called Fatehganj came in between, and there was a decent-looking place to eat. I decided I would stop there. That is also a place where the UPSRTC drivers also stop:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_143700.jpg

My younger daughter waiting for food... She is now familiar with Dhaba arrangements and the kind of food to the extent that I stopped at the same place for tea while returning and after tea, she did ask for egg curry and rice:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_143738.jpg

The food too came quickly, typical Dhaba one:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_145500.jpg

In between I found time to click a photo of the fields from inside their hall:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_144555.jpg

This was the place and you can recognise it from the highway.

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_151410.jpg

To continue...

Last edited by Vipin Kumar : 31st March 2015 at 16:03.
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Old 31st March 2015, 19:07   #2
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Default New Delhi – Lucknow – Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive

Getting good food, I left Fatehganj at 3.20 and finally hit the eastern-end of the new Bareilly bypass exactly at 4 pm. By then, we as well as our Fiesta got used to rough roads and changing lanes everytime depending on which side of the highway was getting expanded. It was straight, new turmac and butter smooth and the Fiesta started its highwork after the long-forgotten Sitapur:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_160226.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_160310.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_160319.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_160449.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_160635.jpg

But there are still points where bridge-work is yet to be completed:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_161526.jpg

Between Bareilly and Rampur, again the whole stretch was four lane. The trees are of this kind planted in the field:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_165028.jpg

But Rampur was different, and you have to enter the town. The road becomes a little narrow:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_172314.jpg

It is all under construction:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_172540.jpg

By the time I crossed Rampur, darkness became inevitable. My wife kept on asking me whether I had any idea when I would be able to hit the outskirts of Delhi. I kept saying, no. The traffic was becoming increasingly dense. I crossed Moradabad by 6.30/7 pm, and you have the bypass. Then coffee was a requirement, the stock evening schedule, tea or coffee. There are ample places to eat on this route. One is confused because of choices. I stopped at an Udupiwala restaurant which appeared to be decent enough with facilities like washroom, etc:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_185616.jpg

I left this place at 7.15, and continued the drive via Hapur and Ghaziabad. I was again becoming slowl and I reached, I think, Ghaziabad at 8.20 or so. I had to reach Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Campus. So, after Ghaziabad, finally I reached Delhi, moving towards Sarai Kale Khan:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_220922.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150121_220827.jpg

When I reached JNU and stopped at my friend’s place, it was exactly 11 pm. So, the first day’s drive had thus come to an end officially, though I had to stay in a guest house near to JNU.
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Old 31st March 2015, 23:16   #3
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Default re: New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive

Nice travelogue Vipin
I think it will help others plan their journey on this route if you could mark the bad patches of road on a map image and put it up here. I had done it in the thread I wrote on my Sariska travelogue recently.

Also, info on toll amounts and petrol pumps will also be useful!

BTW, Whats your JNU connection? I am a former JNU student too! (You could PM me if you were to answer)
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Old 1st April 2015, 16:40   #4
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Default New Delhi - Lucknow

For the entire way, my driving consumed 14 hours and 30 minutes behind the wheel. I had filled full-tank diesel from Lucknow itself, and the toll I had to pay was Rs. 366/- which was way less than what you would pay if you take the Kanpur/Agra route.

The next two days, I was in Delhi and had to drive to Gurgaon. It was all raining almost both the days. On my way, I stopped near the Chattarpur Metro station for a while:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150122_144448.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150122_144240.jpg

When I reached the IFFCO Chowk metro station:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150122_151216.jpg

A picture from the JNU campus:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150123_125603.jpg

In front of the Delhi Ford workshop:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150123_165107.jpg

My trip from Delhi to Kolkata started on the 24th of Januray. That day, I was to drive up to Lucknow only. The route was obviously the same, and on such questions, I am never ready for any change. The time that I would take also would be the same, at least I thought, because I could drive at leisure and did not want to give any hope to my family whether we would reach earlier. The only issue before me was whether I would be able to start in time, because we were about to sleep late the previous night.

Nonetheless, we were ready by 9 am, and I could start from where we stayed near JNU at 9.15:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_091653.jpg

The roads were already getting busy inside Delhi, and it was obvious that it would take time to reach Ghaziabad:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_094323.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_094424.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_094434.jpg

At Moolchand underpass and further:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_094507.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_094530.jpg

The turn to Ghaziabad comes across at Sarai Kale, but the traffic light too:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_095324.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_095449.jpg

After crossing Ghaziabad too (it actually took nearly two hours), the road refused to be empty. I began to feel that I required tea, and my daughter chips and what all fancy items... I found a smaller place that would not take much time also, because all the time I was thinking of negotiating the bad patches that lie from Bareilly to Sitapur, around 175 kilometers, that too probably in darkness. And I was also thinking of when I would reach after all that long drive.

The little tea-stall:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_121257.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_121349.jpg

After that you come across this long stretch where they sell furniture. Initially we thought it was cane furniture. When we were driving to Delhi also, we came across this in the night and my wife had decided that we would stop there on our way back. Hence the stop:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_125528.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_125646.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_125727.jpg

The car on the highway-side:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_125817.jpg

Immediately after that, there was this bridge to cross:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_130142.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_130203.jpg

The journey continued. It was getting well beyond the reasonable lunch-time. Lucknow was not getting nearer any fast:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_130354.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_130357.jpg

Somewhere at the Moradabad bypass:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_141153.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_141158.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_141208.jpg

By 3.10, I was reaching Rampur. The four-lane was no to be seen:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_150534.jpg

When I was about to come out of Rampur after coming through the railway station and bus-stand there, I decided that we would stop for a late lunch, at Country Club:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_150540.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_154213.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_150833.jpg

It turned out to be a cool place too.
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Old 1st April 2015, 17:49   #5
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Default Re: New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive

That's a nice travelogue you got going there Vipin. Lovely pictures too. Keep going and add more details on the state of the roads, costs and reliable petrol bunks on the various routes.
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Old 8th April 2015, 17:04   #6
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Default Re: New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive

By the time I left Rampur, it was already about four in the evening, and I began to feel that I could not actually make much headway at all. It even started looking as though it could be beyond one in the night when I reach Lucknow. There was also no point in hurrying up precisely because you were not going to get good road beyond Bareilly bypass which was anyway nearing.

But once you come out of Rampur, for some more time, you would again join the four-laned NH 24:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_154755.jpg

Back to the broadened highway. My speed was a little more now, with very straight roads:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_155809.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_155817.jpg

What they write sometimes on toll booths on this route is an English of its own kind:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_162554.jpg

The highway is again very straight and you enter the Bareilly bypass, with green fields on both sides:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_163710.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_163713.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_163921.jpg

These things were somehow beautiful and quite irresistible to the extent that they required us to stop for a while and enjoy. Let it be delayed, I too thought so:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_163905.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_163912.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_164012.jpg

Yet, after leaving from this place, I thought there should be no such "scenic" stoppage any more and that I must focus on some kind of non-stop driving. So I began my work, but in a kilometer's distance, there it was. A long traffic block. I did not take any time to make it out. An instant U-turn, so that I could get onto the other side of the highway, albeit it would be the wrong side. There was a Bolero and a Desire along. After getting on to the other lane, I allowed them to go ahead so that I could drive behind the Bolero, a safer though selfish option!

The block was pretty long, and I did not regret my decision at all:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_165443.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_165446.jpg

But soon again there was a merger with the other side because of an incomplete bridge-work. I had to come to the other side and there it was more messy. The local folk as well as the traffic police were at work, but quite inefficiently or helplessly. I was literally in the middle of the mess:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_170146.jpg

By then the time was 5.40. I was yet to reach the south-eastern end of the Bareilly bypass. The policemen were giving clearance to the vehicle caught in the mess to go straight into some local road. When my turn came, I just turned on the right indicator and the police rushed to me asking me where I wanted to go. The moment I said Lucknow, they cleared my right-side, and showed all urgency to treat me with priority. I could get on to the highway itself and proceed. So, back to the legitimate side:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_172236.jpg

It was slowly becoming dark, and the trees on the green fields were also looking good. Again stopping? No, of course. But those places were really beautiful, resembling some East Russian pictures perhaps, giving me an excellent evening ride. It was nonetheless Bareilly bypass:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_172243.jpg

I continued through an evening that was fast disappearing. What was just impending was a very bad stretch till I manage to reach a distant Sitapur. Yet the last patches of the highway in its fully developed form:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_172339.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_172904.jpg

At 6 I could cross the board thanking you for taking the Moradabad - Bareilly Express Highway and get on to a patch that takes your time:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_173507.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_175137.jpg

Fatehganj comes across, and so does the place I thought I should have tea. The very same location:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150124_183802.jpg

I left this place at 7.25. There was a Nissan Micra also. Talking to the guys I understood they were coming from Moradabad and going to Lucknow. They were confident of reaching Lucknow by 10.30, an improbable proposition for me, I thought. May be others are efficient. In between, a friend of my wife rang up to find where we had reached and saying Fatehganj, she wondered whether Vipin was driving a bullock cart or car itself! I said, nonetheless I would reach Lucknow by 11.45.

Luckily somehow, the road was free of tractors and trucks and I could maintain a consistent 70 kmph throughout since then. I left behind the Micra, a Delhi registered Aria, a Gorakhpur registered Duster and several other vehicles that were there before and behind mine many times. Some potholes, of course, I could not avoid, but the robust suspension of the Fiesta stood the tests. It crossed 55000 kms mark in between:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150126_193617.jpg

Finally Sitapur town came at 10. I had a brief pee stop after the town. The highway became butter smooth and the Fiesta was back to its form. But I kept it steady at 85 kmph restricting it to the fourth gear... I was rather enjoying the ride. One after the other, the vehicles that I left behind flew ahead, understandably on getting such a speed-way after a long time. Still in a triffic block near the IIM turn in Lucknow, I went ahead of most of them taking the left side-lane. I reached home at 11.15 pm, after what turned out to be one memorable drive. Bareilly to Sitapur is the bad patch altogether and a little bit of trouble in negotiating Rampur town area. Rest of it is all smooth with four lanes and a scenic route. What also delays you perhaps on this route is the dense traffic once you cross Rampur towards Delhi. I hope my thread covers almost every possible section on this route between New Delhi and Lucknow so that it helps future travellers.

Till I proceed to Varanasi/Kolkata further...

Last edited by Vipin Kumar : 8th April 2015 at 17:07.
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Old 8th April 2015, 17:47   #7
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Default Re: New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive

It's great that you took this route but this needs to be avoided. The roads are in the same pathetic conditions for the last 8-10 years. They are not able to finish (four laning) it completely.

I went to Allahabad & Varanasi in April 2013 via YE and came back via NH24 as advised by some locals in outskirts of Lucknow. They told us the highway is now four lane with a small patch under construction. It was a night drive and I really regretted this decision because of time taken and potholes on this route. And this route is not very safe for the night drives with family.

Cheers!
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Old 9th April 2015, 13:25   #8
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Default Lucknow - Varanasi via Allahabad

On 28 January 2015, I and my family continued our journey towards Kolkata. This time, a young companion with some driving experience in Kerala joined us. Unfortunately I developed some problem with my throat. I thought that will be spoiling the fun for me.

Again with full-tank diesel filled from the same COCO IOC in Lucknow and tyre pressure checked, we were ready to leave by 8 in the morning. I took the Amar Shaheed Path from the Indira Nagar side so that it connects us directly with the Raebareilly Road. I did not want to try NH 56 that takes you to Varanasi from Lucknow since there are reports of very bad, uneven and unorganized road conditions this way. My route, I thought, should be via Raebareilly and Allahabad bypass to Varanasi and then an overnight stay at Varanasi. It is a long drive in which we required this overnight stay, and considerations were there for many other places like Dhanbad and Durgapur. But then again the fun of doing a day-long Varanasi – Kolkata drive could not be forsaken. So the stop has to be there in Varanasi.

Starting at 8, I could reach Raebareilly at 9.20, mainly helped by the new four-lane highway. It is a breeze except for small towns like Bachchrawan on the way. At night, you need to be more careful because there can be huge cows and bulls on the road and you will come across them very suddenly only. Otherwise the road is superfine with a toll-booth now open. When I drove, it was not yet functional there.

Raebareilly was our stop for breakfast. You have pretty good facilities right on the highway. If you go past this place, then you hardly come across any decent place till you have just an average one in Unchahar. I stopped at the Suyash Restaurant:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150128_094246.jpg

When we left this place, it was 10.10. We were in no hurry since we needed to reach only Varanasi that day. But once you go past Raebareilly, the good roads are gone. The conventional highway, with all broken patch takes you for quite some distance then. It is like this:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150128_105958.jpg

But suddenly you have smooth patches too. It is not all that bad to drive in this way:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150128_114205.jpg

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The green fields around. We stopped for a while again:

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But after Kunda Pratapgarh, you are back to the same bad highway until you reach the NH 2 bypass point that helps you travel to Varanasi without going to Allahabad city side:

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Finally I hit that point where I entered NH 2 first time coming from New Delhi towards Kolkata. If you go straight, you reach Civil Lines in Allahabad. We have to take the left turn:

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There is a toll booth too. You have to pay Rs 80 there to go up to a point called Handia, the other end of the bypass. As soon as you are on the highway, you come across the first milestone indicating distance all the way to Kolkata:

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Milestones are important though they display kilometers! The name of the object hasn't changed. Nor did its appearance -- the shape, the colour combo... nothing. In the Mangalore Central railway station, on platform number one, near the foot overbridge, there is a milestone preserved and maintained by making a small boundary so that no one steps in there. Today also, it shows miles! That is, 550 miles from Madras Central Railway Station, something that remains from 1907 when the railhead reached Mangalore through the south and north Malabar regions in the days of Madras Presidency. That was a different story, totally unconnected...

You move ahead, an excellent highway beckons you here. But it is all concrete surface and your road noise increases:

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Again very colourful fields all around:

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If I had taken NH 2 from Delhi...

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Tea was a requirement soon, but you are tired of forbidden choices on the highway (see the board... in winter?)! Insist on tea, I thought:

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The journey continues, with stops here and there:

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A way-side Mandir. Closer to Varanasi, another stop:

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Finally enter Varanasi. Lunch was quite delayed. Turn to the old GT Road, you have these places to eat:

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Now, the most difficult task of all... negotiating the much maligned Varanasi and settle somewhere in a hotel. I proceeded despite the fact that the time was well around 5.15 in the evening. Surprisingly it was not that difficult though it required you to slow down considerably. You have to stop and look around and proceed sometimes as we used to do it so earlier in unmanned level crossings:

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Varanasi railway station -- the entrance gate:

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Just somewhere in this place, I managed a hotel room. It was just to stay that night and it suited us. A decent room. We had a plan to go around in the evening, but by taking the local traffic there.

Last edited by Vipin Kumar : 9th April 2015 at 13:36.
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Old 10th April 2015, 16:18   #9
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Default Varanasi - Kolkata

Without a round within Varanasi would make the stay and the trip incomplete, I thought. That is at least what I have felt from many trip reports posted by our spirited drivers and travelers on team-bhp. So, I made a consensus with my family members, excepting with my younger daughter because I knew she would say yes to most of these things anyway. I also told this to my friend who also appeared readily spirited. But we also decided, no car. Vikram, the great seven seater though its drivers usually stuff more than 10 people in a vehicle, would be our option, or else simple auto-rikshaws. So, after a cup of hot tea, we set out towards the Kashi Viswanath Temple. Photography was not allowed. We can at best photograph the extra-ordinarily congested streets. The life through these streets there, I have read in many accounts, can be best understood by people over there and not by outsiders who arbitrarily “recommend” changes and modernization. What we wanted to see, precisely, was the way people of Benaras organize their own lives. This was there for us, more than any devotional purpose. It was but dark too:

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Just outside the Kashi Viswanath temple, I came across a party office, a party that too had managed to win the Varanasi constituency once where India’s prime minister also won from this time:

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The pathway inside… walking towards the temple:

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The security inside the entry points to the temple was really solid and I thought the staff designated to do it were doing their duty. I had my car’s key in my pocket and they sent me back to deposit it at the entry counter saying that it is a remote key and cannot be therefore allowed inside.

Once back to the place where we stayed, we had dinner, and quickly announced the schedule of my ambitious drive to Kolkata next morning. Everyone agreed also. Get up at 5 in the morning, and set out at 6.15. I wanted to cross Barhi by 12 latest. To have lunch at Khalsa Hotel in Gobindpur in Dhanbad. I wanted to enter Kolkata by 8.30 or maximum by 9 in the night, and I thought it is very much manageable having a proper national highway throughout and having only around 700 kilometers (though I had to drive up to Rajpur-Sonarpur and beyond to Baruipur). I had done in the last summer a drive of 792 kilometers in 14 hours in all from Lucknow to Seoni via Jhansi/Sagar/Narsinghpur and Lakhnadon. That was giving me confidence too, though the stories of Panagarh were not that good to hear.
Everyone agreed. So sleep. I kept the alarm.

An alarm that I failed to hear and wake up! No one else did too! By the time I took a look at my watch, it was 6.30! We were out to take the car at 8.15. Two hours late. To add to the woes, it was drizzling too …

But getting out of Varanasi in the morning itself took its sweet time. There was no block though. Somehow. I had to get into the main road and take a U-turn after this:

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Negotiating Varanasi again, but to the other side:

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It was all garbage dumping ground…

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Approaching the mammoth bridge over the Ganges:

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The domed small structure that we saw… and the surroundings:

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Entering the long bridge:

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On the bridge… I drove slowly so that we could see it properly.

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After the bridge too, it was all a mess since it rained also. Whether it was road or something else… seeing the surface there… :

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We crossed Mughalsarai very soon and were looking for the point where we could join the four-lane. Finally when we did so, it was already beyond 9 and we were looking for a place to have tea. But before that there was a road block to encounter…

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Breakfast. This appeared to be a decent place again:

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This was in Mohania. We reached this place at 10 in the morning and could proceed from here at 10.45. We were getting further delayed.
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Old 14th April 2015, 13:39   #10
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Default Varanasi - Kolkata

We left Mohania breakfast point at 10.45. The rain was there all along, slowing down my pace:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150129_110516.jpg

You have to cross one of those Soma Isolux Tollway gates at Mohania soon. After that also I drove for some more time, but because of the weather and a bad throat I had developed, I thought I was feeling too droopy. It was increasingly becoming unsafe to continue with me at the wheel. I stopped. My young friend offered to take the steering, for which I was more than ready.

So, he started the drive and I was in the front passenger seat. Quite confident driving, through the little raining… the road was good, and we were approaching another Soma Isolux toll plaza:

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In less than an hour’s time from there, we had to cross that small hill range. May be because of the rain, it appeared good and peculiar from a close range:

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Rain and wet roads and green fields… good to enjoy if you have lot of time:

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I remember crossing Dehri-On-Sone by 11.20 when I drove to Jamshedpur from Varanasi nearly three years back. I wanted to get it past before 10 itself this time, the destination being beyond Kolkata. But it took time, as I also did not want to tell my friend to hurry up. As such it kept going at a very steady and decent speed. In some places around Dehri, road was not that even also, thanks to heavy truck traffic. Finally we were crossing Dehri, one of the longest bridges on a highway here, but it was already 12.20:

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The condition of the road immediately after Dehri:

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Still Kolkata itself was 530 kilometers away, and Aurangabad was yet to come. I know the flyover that takes me fast across Aurangabad:

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I had reached Barhi at 1.25 when I drove to Jamshedpur. Here at 1.40, Barhi was another 69 kms. I was wondering, when I drove to Jamshedpur, I was doing it in this route first time. Now at least I am aware of things… Still:

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Dhanbad, which was to be my lunch stop, was nearly 200 kms too! We thought, anyway, let us not immediately consider a lunch stop. As such rain was also continuing. I got the car stopped in a place called Sherghati in between for buying some medicines. After that, we were soon negotiating the Chaouparan and Barrakchatti areas:

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At 2.45, finally, we managed to enter the beautiful Jhumri-Tilaiya regions. One needs lot of time and a super camera... The sign here is that of the Rasoiya-Dhamna Toll in Barhi:

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For the crew change. I thought I could drive. He was on the wheel for more than two hundred kilometers. Around Barhi. The Fiesta became dirty like anything outside:

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Lunch was becoming a must by 3.30, and I was crossing just Bagodar, a small town in Jharkhand. I saw a place called Basant Bahar which turned out to be an excellent place for food and surprisingly cheap too, as most of the dhabas in Jharkhand have been. At. 3.45, we were there:

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I and my friend, because we hail from Kerala, liked the rice they served in particular because of its sizeable size! For my wife, Jharkhand is her home state anyway! My daughters are comfortable with anything, south, north or east… We just forgot everything in the course of consumption… When we were back to awareness that we must move and that it would be too much in the night when we reach our destination and that we are yet to cross places like Dhanbad and Asanasol, it was 4.35. We started then…

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Another beautiful place before Dhanbad. It was worth a stop…

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It was also becoming dark…

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I reached Govindpur in outer Dhanbad at 6 and stopped at Khalsa briefly for a cup of tea. Kolkata was yet a 250 kms away from there... Proceeded from there towards Asanasol and Durgapur. It was all dark, and due to road broadening work, I was getting further slowed on the way. Moreover, there were also points where I had to encounter traffic blocks. I reached Durgapur at 8.30 and stopped at an IOC station just before the Junction Mall. It was a long way from Lucknow and my diesel tank was getting emptied. I left Durgapur at 8.45, but quickly came to encounter a major traffic snarl at Panagarh. My valuable 45 minutes were gone… and there they were, trucks of all kinds running parallel. You have to just tail-gate them till the time you get a little space to overtake… That process had its own character and ways of maneuvering, testing the limits of one abilities…

I could manage to reach Barddhaman only at 10.20 and Palsit Toll Plaza at 10.55. Singur, in between…:

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Again I stopped for a short while somewhere for washing my face… Dankuni came at 12.15 in the night and I chose to take the Second Vivekananda bridge paying the toll… Neatly three hours late from what I counted… Entering Kolkata at 12.40, it was a breeze through the streets of the city… Shyambazar and Ultadanga and then to EM Bypass… The road from Kamalgazi to Rajpur and Baruipur was also totally empty and I felt I was driving in one of those roads in Kerala there… After the last point of the bypass, the dynamic of driving is a different kind. We stopped at the place where we had to stay, at 1.40 finally, after what became a very long and difficult drive... the fun of which was much marred by rain all along and by many traffic snarls right from the morning... I had even thought of calling it a day once I reached Durgapur but eventually gave it up and went ahead.

Last edited by Vipin Kumar : 14th April 2015 at 13:53.
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Default New Delhi–Lucknow–Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive

In the next few days I had to quite some driving in Kolkata. In my earlier visits, travelling many times by town buses and yellow ambassadors, I had developed a frightening picture about the road and driving conditions in Kolkata. This time, anyway, I myself was to be steering through the city. One thing important is that you really need to know the traffic system there and the timing for entry into several roads. But one thing I was quick enough to realize was that the traffic police in Kolkata was really helpful and guided me correctly on many occasions. There was no urge anywhere in them to stop an outside vehicle and cause trouble by asking for papers… my experiences in Hyderabad were really opposite to this. They were just catching you on anything, as they were in search of some petty things. They would start with Supreme Court rulings and finally reduce the judicial proclamations to a hundred bugs! Kolkata was exactly opposite to this. There may be problems, but I thought at least a person with a car from outside did not have to face all that at all.

Let me post my impressions of driving in Kolkata with a few random pictures. To begin with, the yellow ambassadors find the city one of their lasting abodes, in such large number in one city, perhaps going to be the only city too... impossible to miss them there and therefore we must begin with that:

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The city seems to be getting painted in blue and white... political... yet there were the red flags too... the city will always remain political... the streets near Jadavpur I was driving through...

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How can one miss these buses, with the unchanging body styles, while in Kolkata?

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The South City Mall... I entered this place for a couple of meetings with people...

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Parked in the South City Mall... it remained there for five hours, being a secured place...

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I left that place only after 8 and got into the night traffic but still the peak hours... yet it kept moving and driving through the streets of Kolkata was a comfortable matter, may be because all these areas are in the south...?

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Processions of all kinds... one does not miss these in any form when it comes to this city... from Ramakrishna Mission's establishments in Narendrapur where we had to wait for sometime for this to move...

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Other moments and views of the city from the vehicle... crowded streets, relaxed ones, the tram-way... I wanted to just take my daughters around, especially the elder one begins to remember, and a shopping at Esplanade which I had agreed for at the cost of a trip to Diamond Harbour...

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Approaching the Victoria Memorial... and its views:

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Parking in some public places was a hassle... in particular to find a place in Esplanade. Next day early morning, that is after three days there, I had the plan to do the last leg of this trip... from Kolkata to Lucknow... the full round. Getting ready.
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Default Kolkata-Dhanbad-Lucknow

The return trip… both of us decided that we will not stop anywhere for a stay and drive. Possible with two people to drive alternatively… But I wanted to cross Benaras within a decent time, preferably by 8 in the night. That too via the bypass, without entering the city. I wanted no delay to be caused this time and was ready to start at 5.30. My wife and friend had arranged a person to get the car washed in the night itself, without my knowledge. I saw the car fresh and clean when I went to start. At 5.30 in the morning, we left Baruipur. When I entered the EM Bypass, daylight was just about to come up…

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The bypass was empty and my plan was to drive it straight through to the Second Vivenkananda Bridge and reach Dankuni… Very quickly, I touched the northern end of the EM Bypass…

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We wanted newspapers and a cup of tea... an ideal place came just close to Kestopur...

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And the sunrise... standing in the rising sun-light with a cup of tea... the newspaper boys around... the noise begins of the life in the city...

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The Kestopur-Baguiati flyover was yet to be open, but finally looks to be complete and ready to save people from missing their flights...

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Catching the approach to the Toll Bridge, which is more correctly known as Nivedita Setu... the last part of Kolkata that we had to traverse through:

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On the approach to the Nivedita Bridge, the surface was extremely smooth. It was a pleasure to drive through...

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The sign posts were clearly guiding us towards NH 6 and NH 2 whichever you want to take to reach your destination:

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Too many flyovers going this way and that way...

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On the Setu... its architectural mood seems to be in consonance with the hanging structures...

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In this direction, you pay the toll after using the bridge:

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Now on the empty NH 2, entering the Hooghly district, and with the absence of those trucks in the morning (were we missing them?), I thought I will make full advantage of that vacant stretch... but there were traffic policemen doing their work meticulously...

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The Dankuni Toll Plaza comes, without any waiting line... by then, it was 7.25 in the morning:

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A brief stop at a point where Durgapur is miles away... I thought I would get diesel from the same IOC place...

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The highway tarmac was good and clean and the landscape had many plants to grow... the plantains you come across in these areas...

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_073719.jpg

May be because of the making of this expressway, there were also places where you have no trees around... it just looks any highway side too.

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_080148.jpg

but the smooth surface suffices... you can really accelerate on these highways, with zero road noise, which was what I really did there...

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_075310.jpg

Last edited by Vipin Kumar : 16th April 2015 at 13:24.
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Old 16th April 2015, 15:24   #13
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Default Kolkata-Dhanbad-Lucknow

I was able to cover a good distance and the irresistible places keep coming... here was Shaktigarh and the langcha bhubans... We were here by 8.20 and had a good breakfast itself. You can buy other things too...

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_085823.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_085911.jpg

It was 9.10 when we left this place. I made no concession in taking advantage of the sections afterwards, the bypass in Barddhaman and all those places one after the other. The sonar-bangla(?) and the highway...

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_101333.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_101316.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_101321.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_101338.jpg

We were making progress fast and could hit the eastern side of Durgapur well at 10.15. Through the areas of Durgapur, I also felt, good going... the Junction...

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_115735.jpg

But then there was some block... Gradually it seemed to be a rally... We felt so, because the volunteers were doing their work by assisting the traffic to divert and move...

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_115335.jpg

And that was true...

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_120329.jpg

People active... but for me it was delaying also... that bus ahead was a UP-65 registered one, assumed to be going to Varanasi... very soon, we were properly stuck, now for anytime...

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_120636.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_120645.jpg

In between... Learn from the valuable message, should be from a first-hand experience!

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_122826.jpg

Traversing on the other side for quite sometime, at snail pace, we were back on our lane... another view of the rally:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_123525.jpg

Finally the front-line leaders... it was already 12.45 and I was crossing just Durgapur:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_123549.jpg

I could not get on to the other side and take diesel from that IOC station. But it was required too. At five minutes past one, I was in Raniganj, and straight to the IOC pump... with a full-tank from Raniganj, I would run up to Lucknow:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_130303.jpg

The public works department is active... when we reached Asansol...

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_131945.jpg

There was not much to think... we were already two and half hours late. We were in Jharkhand. And lunch, there was again Khalsa Hotel in Govindpur in Dhanbad where we were at 2.30:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_150410.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_150455.jpg

There is a useful sign-and-distance chart too...

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_150346.jpg

Leaving Khalsa at 3.15 we kept our pace reasonably well. The highway was straight and clear...

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_154943.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_154952.jpg

The places were scenic, it was Jharkhand... :

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_161653.jpg

What could also be something like an ORVM shot:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_161232.jpg

Then there were those small shops on the roadside where people were selling axes, knives, swords and all kinds of weapons of mass destruction... My wife asked for a stop and so did my friend... then who can stop the allied forces... so another stop for me, but that was interesting and a scenic place too:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_161714.jpg

They bought two swords... I wanted another thing called gupt! It was a concealed knife, but I finally gave up my temptation... there we were for around fifteen minutes.

Proceeding further, Bagodar comes across soon. You have to come through the town itself:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_165908.jpg

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_165949.jpg

Throughout Jharkhand, the places are good to see. I wish it were rainy season... but weren't the rains enough while going to Kolkata... the highway in the evening...

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_171733.jpg

Barhi comes at 5.50 in the evening... see the delay that was caused en route! The Rasoiya-Dhamna gates...

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_175132.jpg

Tea was an immediate requirement. Somewhere in Chauparan, a small place would do... it was already dark...

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_182149_lls.jpg

I was prepared to take it to Varanasi without anymore stop anywhere... I was only worried about the conditions of road. It was a continuous move after that and you get so many trucks just outside Varanasi in that hour... I covered almost the full-length of the bypass and stopped for dinner. If it was delayed further, there may not be any food at all. At 10.30, I hit Varanasi and stopped for food:

New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive-20150202_232152_lls.jpg

We left that place at 11.30 with my friend driving the vehicle. He did so till the Allahabad bypass, that is Handia, where we again came across what appeared to be a mega road block. It was 12.15, and we decided for taking the vehicle towards the city... But before the city we got that road going to Phulpur which we knew would again take us to another point in that bypass. We got it confirmed from a policeman also. Another hour delayed in that whole process... It was then all night driving and involves its own risks. One should not be ideally repeating it... We had a stop for tea much before Kunda Pratapgarh. Then it was a no stop run again... excepting for the railway crossing in Unchahar... From Raebareilly, I took it again and managed to reach Lucknow at 6.30 in the morning... In fact we were expecting to reach by 2 am or so...

It became another memorable road trip for all of us...

Last edited by Vipin Kumar : 16th April 2015 at 15:37.
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Old 20th April 2015, 18:30   #14
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Default Re: New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive

Great travelogue Vipin! Experience amply supported with pictures

How was the road between Handia and Varanasi? Last I been on that road was in 2012.
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Old 21st April 2015, 18:50   #15
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Default Re: New Delhi –> Lucknow –> Kolkata: A Long Awaited Drive

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlokSriva View Post
Great travelogue Vipin! Experience amply supported with pictures

How was the road between Handia and Varanasi? Last I been on that road was in 2012.
Thanks Alok. The photos could have been better if I had carried a camera. These are just from my mobile phone camera.

The road between Handia and Varanasi is fairly in good condition. I did not come across any problem. But once you are on the Varanasi bypass, it is a little uneven and can affect your speed.

Vipin.
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