465km. 7 hours (inc 1 x 20 minute drink stop + 1 x refuelling stop). 1 bump.
Today was intended to be a stretch goal and it pretty much worked out that way. Looking at our maps yesterday Kanpur – at a distance of 280km east of Agra – seemed to be a reasonable goal for the day, but I wanted to put in a big day on the bike and do some big miles, so Allahabad at 460km from Agra seemed like the place to aim for. I’d tracked down what looked like a decent guest house in Allahabad- the Kunjpur Guest House – 2,300INR/night for two nights and featuring our number one requirement – secure parking for the bike.
We were up at 6:45am and ready to go by 7:30am. Aad and Mike are staying in Agra another day so Mike can see the doctor about his poisonous spider bite, and Claire and Emiel were having a late start to the day, so by 7:50am we were waving goodbye to our hosts Anil and Sanjdha.
Yesterday I’d shifted one ram mount for the GoPro from the left hand side crash bars high up near the tank to a spot near the right hand cylinder head to get some low-down video and the GoPro was running when we left the guest house, and whilst I got some photos that showed the potential of that new location the camera stopped operating soon after we got on the road and so unfortunately we didn’t capture any video of our ride, which was about 90% easy-going (if you can describe riding on India’s highways as ‘easy’, and 10% freaking manic – half of which was like trying to ride through Perth’s annual Christmas Pageant. More on that later.
Our early start helped us get through Agra’s streets without any great hassles, but I was a bit cautious when passing factory we’d seen a couple of days ago that’s now been over-run with monkeys, and sure enough a monkey shot across the street just behind us as we rode past.
We needed to refuel to get to Allahabad so I planned for a refuelling stop somewhere between 100-120km into the ride, and somewhere within that range we pulled over at a deserted petrol station to fill up. Within seconds we had a small crowd gathering around us, so we were pleased to get the 18 litres of fuel onboard and get back onto the four-lane highway.
Most of the scenery consisted of rural settings – flat, cultivated land with a smattering of farm buildings here and there. The highway was generally separated from the towns and villages we passed through by the service roads that ran parallel to the highway and which kept the local traffic off the main road. These towns and villages were a shambolic collection of old buildings, tent-villages and humpties, all with cows and water buffaloes and goats and dogs wandering around in the dust and the rubbish on the sides of the road.
In Auriya there was no such service road system and the highway entered the town, with the highway branching left and the GPS telling me to continue down the right-hand fork to stay on the NH2. I peeled off right and within a short distance we entered a very narrow and congested road that was overflowing with people and bicycles and trolley carts loaded with brightly-coloured bangles for sale. I clipped one trolley with a pannier whilst dodging oncoming traffic and that gave the kid sitting on the empty trolley a bit of a start, but I wasn’t going to stop and chat about it so we pushed on deeper and deeper into the mass of people and obstacles. I was hoping to get some good video footage of the shoulder-to-shoulder riding conditions we were in as it was quite insane, but once again and again when I most wanted to get some footage the GoPro has cracked the sads and stopped working. Bad GoPro 🙁
The roadside opened up a fraction and we found ourselves riding through a market place dedicated purely to the buying and selling of colourful bangles. The street was lined with trolleys packed high with bangles, in every colour imaginable. We bounced along the rough dusty track that the road had deteriorated into, squeezing between the bangle buyers and sellers, and dodging the scooters and motorbikes riding straight for us.
The little road eventually rejoined the highway and we got back up to a decent riding speed and chipped away through the miles towards Allahabad. About 40km out of our destination the GPS again told us to veer right, and again the road narrowed and became congested, this time with trucks and buses and cars and erratic tuk-tuks. Our GPS route took us towards the High Court which must have just adjourned for the day as the road outside was full of penguins carrying briefcases and riding two-up on scooters back to their offices. We turned north and quickly entered a quiet residential area, and soon afterwards pulled up at where our guest house was marked on the GPS, but we couldn’t see it. A man on the side of the road offered us his help and was able to point out the Kunjpur Guest House just 100m further down the quiet road, so we were both grateful that we’d found our accommodation after the gruelling ride through the town.
The guest house was a three storey mansion, with balconies overlooking the immaculate gardens out the front, surrounded by a high wall and gates that separated us from the street. Our room on the first floor overlooked the gardens, and from our balcony we could look down onto the bike parked below.
We showered and then went downstairs for a late lunch – a delicious thali. We met our host – Dr Nigam, and Sharmila – the lady who has just started to manage the guest house for Dr Nigam. We sat with Sharmila over lunch and chatted about our ride and our experiences, and she offered us a copy of ‘The Stoning of Sharia” – a movie she had watched recently and which she’d found quite forceful.
The late afternoon was spent trying to research accommodation options in Varanasi and look for touristic things to do in Allahabad as we are here for another night and we are both keen to explore this town and learn more about it.india is fascinating – the more you dig the more you uncover about the place and its people.
We had a late dinner and then it was bed time as I was exhausted from the day. We did try and watch the latest edition of “On Any Sunday” – kindly offered to us by Mike a few days ago – but the volume was so low we couldn’t hear the commentary, so we’ll try and sort that out another time.