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Old 7th January 2011, 22:07   #1
akp
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Default Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi

It had been six months since our last trip. Due to various factors, could not manage even a weekend trip anywhere during the period. With the Christmas/NewYear break coming up, we were desperate to go somewhere and I was desperate for a long drive. But partly due to the uncertainty around the date of my wife's return from an office trip, we could not make a concrete plan or make hotel bookings. Then we thought we would decide on some place at the last moment and set off.

With a few days to go, got a phone call from a friend of mine - they are organizing a re-union in Kolkata, the plan is to go to a village resort and spend a day or two with families there. Tentative booking at the resort was already done, but they needed the exact numbers, so they needed a definite reply in a couple of days' time. I knew there were also two other reunions being planned with two different sets of classmates at around the same time. Some of these people, if I meet, I would be meeting after 25 years or so. I was naturally excited. At the same time, was reluctant to let go of this year-end break for a long drive, because I don't know when will the next opportunity come. Immediately the thought of driving down to Kolkata crossed my mind. But wasn't sure whether wife and daughter would agree to such a long drive. Brought it up before them, and surprise, surprise, they both agreed. Not a moment more to lose, lest they change their mind. Immediately called back this friend and also the other two groups to confirm our participation.

Now the route. All Delhi-Kolkata threads in tbhp eventually lead to SS-Traveller, so looked up his posts. All the necessary route info were there. Varanasi seemed to be the right place to stop during the onward drive. Until you have done this route once, you are bound to have serious apprehensions about Bihar and Jharkhand. We were no exceptions. So the idea was to start from Varanasi early morning and cross over to WB by midday. Delhi-Varanasi (820km) was going to be my longest drive in a single day, so decided to stay for an extra day there, just in case I reach there too tired. That would also enable us to look around Varanasi and Sarnath at a leisurely pace. For the return journey, plan was to stop at Allahabad. Also, wanted to visit a relative in Durgapur. So here was the plan:

Dec 26: early morning start, reach Varanasi
(booked a hotel in Sarnath, about 8/10 km from Varanasi rail station; more on that later)
Dec 27: Sarnath and Varanasi (and Chunar fort if possible)
Dec 28: Varanasi to Kolkata
Dec 29: Get together I: part a: dinner
Dec 30-31 : Get together I: part b: stay at a village resort
Jan 1: Morning/Afternoon: Get together II
Jan 1: Evening: Get together III
Jan 2: Kolkata-Durgapur
Jan 3: Durgapur-Allahabad
Jan 4: Allahabad-Delhi

Jan 5: Join back work.


Here is a preview:
Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi-ktrip2scaled.jpg
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Old 8th January 2011, 14:01   #2
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Default Day 1 (Dec 26):

Planned to start early, around 3/3:30 AM so that we cross Agra by 6, before all the congestion starts. After that, the entire stretch (Agra-Varanasi) would be empty and we should be able to reach Varanasi by early afternoon. Loaded all the luggage into the car so that all we have to do in the morning is to get in and drive off. Did not get too much sleep, as I was pretty axcited about the drive ahead. Got up early but had trouble waking the other two up. Normally I am the late riser, but roles somehow get reversed during our trips. Anyway, we were up and ready by 3:30, but were in for a bit of shock when we opened the door. There was a dense cover of fog outside. There had been no fog till a couple of days back; the previous morning, there was a bit of fog, but not this much. I was hoping it would stay the same today also. But this was different. We just hoped and prayed it would not create too much problem (though the indications were to the contrary), and started at 3:45.

Just before setting off. Look at the thick cover of fog on the right. If this is the situation inside a residential block, imagine what would be the situation on the open roads.

Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi-20101226034433_1019.jpg

As expected, once we hit the road, the visibility drops drastically. It drops even further once we hit the highway. The next two hours were a struggle. In such situations, it usually makes a huge difference if you are able to follow another vehicle rather than having to go on your own. But there were scarcely any vehicle other than trucks, often with no tail light or even reflectors. Even when we found other cars, everyone was trying to follow the others, so it was a funny situation. Occassionally we found some car or truck to follow, but these were local traffic and soon disappeared into some side roads. Realized that it was really becoming a lottery, not getting hit by someone or not hitting someone. Stopped at a dhaba, had a hot cup of tea, and just waited for some hint of daylight. In three hours, we had covered less than 100 km. After a half hour break, felt fresh enough to have a go again, even though there was no sign yet of the fog cover to lift.

It is 8:30 and we are yet to reach Agra:

Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi-20101226082051_cimg4072.jpg

Did not even realize when we crossed Mathura McDonalds and the Mathura refinery.
It is 9:45 now and it is starting to clear up.

Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi-20101226094654_cimg4079.jpg

Finally around 10:15, the fog finally lifts.

Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi-20101226102503_cimg4085.jpg

But we have only crossed Agra. Still a long way to go.

(Contd.)
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Old 8th January 2011, 14:11   #3
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Default Re: Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi

Good start and snaps.. This is one of the routes I am interested in..
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Old 9th January 2011, 09:11   #4
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Default Re: Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi

Nice start akp. I had a Orissa - Kolkata trip planned Jan 1st week but ended up in Rajasthan. Just came back yesterday. I am hooked to your log for my impending trip.
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Old 9th January 2011, 11:55   #5
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Default Re: Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi

Quote:
Originally Posted by coolclouds View Post
Good start and snaps.. This is one of the routes I am interested in.
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Originally Posted by v&v View Post
Nice start akp.
Thanks.

Quote:
I had a Orissa - Kolkata trip planned Jan 1st week but ended up in Rajasthan. Just came back yesterday.
Where in Rajasthan? Had it not been for the reunions, we would probably have landed up in Rajasthan too. This is the best time to visit most places in Rajasthan.
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Old 9th January 2011, 12:24   #6
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Default Re: Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi

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Originally Posted by akp View Post
Thanks.


Where in Rajasthan? Had it not been for the reunions, we would probably have landed up in Rajasthan too. This is the best time to visit most places in Rajasthan.
True, Days are warm and no need of sweaters. Went to Sambhar lake, Ajmer, Pushkar, Jodhpur - Osian, Jaisalmer - Sam and returned via bikener. We have now covered almost all of Rajasthan . Started a Tlog for the same.

Last edited by v&v : 9th January 2011 at 12:25.
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Old 9th January 2011, 19:22   #7
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Default Day 1, Dec 26 (contd)

Once you cross Agra, you have left the most congested parts behind. There are a few small towns that you pass through, but they are not too bad and the road surface gets progressively better. After Shikohabad, it is just a superb concrete surface with not too much traffic.
Few more pictures of the roads - just to show how good they are in this section.
Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi-20101226102642_cimg4089.jpg
Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi-20101226110400_1024.jpg
Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi-20101226164924_cimg4099.jpg

We filled petrol around the 340 km mark, there are enough petrol pumps at regular intervals, so no worry there. Nearing Kanpur, we take the elevated bypass. Another 150 odd kilometers of superb roads and the newly opened Allahabad bypass starts. This is a 80 km long stretch that completely bypasses the city. Actually the construction of the bypass is not yet complete - there are some parts where traffic is diverted through one side of the divider. This is probably the reason they have not started collecting toll yet. Once the construction is complete, and both sides of the divider become operational for the entire stretch, you will start paying toll. Its another matter that you will still have traffic in both directions plying on both sides of the divider. God knows... well, I think God must also be equally confused as to how to stop this menace on Indian roads. Here is an example of `two roads side by side' that you find throughout the entire stretch - UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, WB - it is everywhere, no exception.

Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi-20110104114154cimg4245.jpg

This picture was taken during our return journey, somewhere between Kanpur and Agra.

Immediately after crossing the Allahabad bypass, you hit some crowded localities and some not so good surfaces. No potholes, but unevenness caused by heavy trucks going over shoddy surfaces, resulting in the road surface looking like ^^. During our return journey, we realized that the problem was more pronounced on the other side of the divider, all the way from here till where the Varanasi bypass ends. By now it was starting to get dark. For entering Varanasi city, there is a left turn under a flyover at around the "Varanasi 15km" milepost after which you hit the old GT Road. We reach Varanasi Cantt station, which is about 14 km ahead on this road, without much trouble. We had made our booking in a hotel in Sarnath, which was another 8/10 km away - and the roads for this part turned out to be much worse. If you continue on GT road for another 3 km, you reach Varanasi City rail station. GT road between the two rail stations is in real bad shape. Right after the City station, there is a left turn for Sarnath. Take this and go for another 5 km, you will reach Ashapur crossing. Continue straight and Sarnath is another 1 km ahead. We had made our booking in The Golden Buddha, a family run hotel. We made our booking in a hurry, without much information on the hotel and the choice turned out to be a not so good one. Just before reaching the hotel, when we called the owner for directions, we were asked to have dinner on the way as the staff apparently had gone on leave. During our entire stay, we never met the owner although he was staying in the same building and in the same floor as us. The hotel restaurant, although exists according to the hotel brochure, was nonexistent. Even a cup of tea was not available. There was just one caretaker and we had a hard time getting hot water supply in the bathroom, and getting the plug points in the room to work. Thankfully, the owner directed us to a pretty decent restaurant, where we had a good meal before finally landing up at the hotel.

Next day, morning we would explore Sarnath, if we are through early, we might hire a car to Chunar Fort, and in the evening it would be a visit to the streets and ghats in Varanasi.

(to be contd)
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Old 9th January 2011, 19:33   #8
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Default Re: Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi

The travelogue finally begins. Good.

The Allahabad - Varanasi stretch has deteriorated over the last couple of years, and I had mentioned about it earlier...
Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
The NH2 between the Ganga bridge near Benaras to about 50 km before Allahabad, is in bad shape (especially the west-bound carriageway). The road surface has become grooved where the trucks run, the tar has rolled, and it has left a nasty hump running along the road between two grooves. Low GC cars have a tough time here - if one keeps the tyres in the grooves, the risk of bottoming out is high, while if one tries to ride the hump, that's equally bad because it's not smooth. Overtaking manoeuvres become difficult. Some of the sections are under repair, resulting in traffic being forced to use east-bound carriageway only.

Surprise situation: Toll gate near Allahabad 77km mile marker.
The road is so bad, I am irritated enough to tick the guy off when he asked for the Rs.45 toll fee. The fellow doesn't relent. I tell him it's not justified for him to charge so much for such a poor quality of road. Jokingly tell him, saare log discount de rahein hai, tum bhi discount doh. And guess what? He promptly asks for Rs.20, doesn't issue a toll receipt, and lets me go. No wonder the roads are in the condition that they are, given that the toll money doesn't find its way to the company that built, maintains and operates this section.
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Old 9th January 2011, 19:51   #9
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Default Re: Year end trip: Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
The NH2 between the Ganga bridge near Benaras to about 50 km before Allahabad, is in bad shape (especially the west-bound carriageway). The road surface has become grooved where the trucks run, the tar has rolled, and it has left a nasty hump running along the road between two grooves. Low GC cars have a tough time here - if one keeps the tyres in the grooves, the risk of bottoming out is high, while if one tries to ride the hump, that's equally bad because it's not smooth. Overtaking manoeuvres become difficult. Some of the sections are under repair, resulting in traffic being forced to use east-bound carriageway only.
This time, there was no diversion or repair work going on, but by the look of it, they have done some `repair work' in some of the parts. But the repair work has been quite shoddy as well. It looks as if they have taken a giant sand-paper and scrubbed those humps off, making the whole surface look (and feel) awful.
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