We wanted an early start to try to avoid as much of the hectic and crazy traffic as we could. So we were up early…no breakfast, bikes packed and taken carefully out of the narrow little doorway up to the street level from our secure underground parking. We were on the road with Aad (Art) and Mike by 6.50 am…..traffic was already crazy in Varanasi.
Our GPS took us on the shortest route via NH29 and then NH84 -basically straight East, sometimes along the Ganga (Ganges) and it took eight hours total to cover approx 260km, including 1 X 50 minute lunch stop, 2 X quick refuelling stops and 2 X 10 minute drink stops. The first drink stop had us totally surrounded by locals ….so although I bought things to eat (coconut biscuits 10INR and 2 packs of chips10INR) and drink (1L Water and a 600ml Pepsi 60INR total) there… we moved on a bit further down the road to actually consume them….we still drew attention and a crowd, but much less marked! Lunch was interesting…choice was NIL…basically one pot of what looked like grasshoppers….Vince ordered some….I passed. In fact he ended up with a Thali (including the “grasshopper” dish) and Aad (Art) ordered fried rice….not what actually came….2 incongruous curry dishes… along with some chapattis…. it cost us a total of 1000IRN – which we paid equally between us. They guys couldn’t speak much English but they were apt at taking photos….including of us eating…….this is what fame must be like….no boundaries or privacy anywhere!
The roads were a mix of rural and town/village, and the villages were very heavily congested and at times dangerous for us. Shoulder-to-shoulder riding in the villages with a bit of argy-bargy mixed in for good luck…it even tried Vince’s saintly patience more than once! At times we were riding on the road shoulder to get around long lines of vehicles caught up in the congestion. Road surfaces were generally sealed, although not always – and freshly sealed in many places – but that makes no difference to the standard of driving here in India….so far I have to say they are the “worst drivers in the world”….that we have experienced. Sometimes, the roads were so bad that it was difficult to find the area around the pot holes, at others it was just dirt and rock…..the frequent speed bumps and pot holes around the place also caused a few problems…..I guess I don’t really need that spine anyway….and after I find myself either airborne or thumped and shuddered up my spine, the spare tyres we are carrying belt into my back for extra good measure….who needs a Chiropractor? I was hot, sweaty and very uncomfortable…..this is a honeymoon right?
The pollution in India is off the scale and we find ourselves constantly coughing and our eyes stinging! The smells are very unique and I don’t think Chanel or Estee Lauder will be wanting to “bottle” the fragrance anytime soon…..there is rotting rubbish EVERYWHERE, that the animals eat….including the sacred cows! India is a very unsanitary and dirty and I feel sorry for the many starving, mangey dogs I’ve seen.
Along the way, we saw the usual cows, buffalos, goats and chickens… some monkeys, a flock of sheep (unusual)…there were a few donkeys who had either their front feet or opposing legs tied together (maybe to stop them wandering) but they didn’t look very happy about it. The highlight was my first look at an Elephant having a drink by the roadside. The downside was seeing a calf foetus that had been expelled onto the road….there has been a lot of road kill we have seen in the past few days since leaving Agra……but this was something different.
I have to admit that, despite my best efforts, I am finding it difficult to warm to India….and last night I was looking through my photos for an article I am writing for a sports company on adventure travel in Pakistan…..and it was so beautiful….especially in the Northern Area…..I miss Pakistan! Hey, maybe the best of India is yet to come………?
Footnote from Vince:
The riding here in India is absolutely manic – no denying it – but I’d sooner be riding in India then spending a day in the office, and that’s a fact 🙂