Man these roads are crap

Trip Start Oct 22, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of India  ,
Saturday, November 5, 2005

After watching India beat Sri Lanka in the one dayer our taxi arrived to take us to Varanasi. It looked good, new clean and very roomy compared to the buses and trains. Out of habit we reached for the seatbelts but alas nothing to clip them into despite searching high and low. Regardless we hit the road in good spirits as the afternoon turned to night. Cruising along at 100km/hr for the first time in India we thought we would make good headway. We chatted about our trip so far and then settled in for a snooze. After a short while the road turned to potholes but still we remained cheerful. Awaking with an almighty start as Rick's head hit the roof the driver pulled the car to the side of the road. In the pitch black we all piled out to inspect the now very flat front tyre. The trusty wind up torch came in handy as we set about changing over to the somewhat bald spare. Alas we were soon on our way again and 5 mins up the road was a tyre repair man. After an unscheduled 45 minute stop we piled back in and set off again down the bumpy road.

As we were settling off to sleep again there was a sudden jolt as we hit another pothole guessed it....another flat (the same tyre!) Out came the torch and another 20 mins unscheduled stop followed. The driver had bought along a "helper". He had the fun task of changing the tyres, fetching the chai (tea), handing the driver the beetle nut (stimulant), wiping the window, get the petrol and other important tasks. He also took the roomy front passenger seat. After 4 hours we had managed to get a little bit of sleep and Rick had a few bumps on his head. He spent most of the ride lying down to avoid anymore (also Megan's lap was a comfy pillow).

As the sun began to rise we could not contain our excitement at supposedly being close to our destination - Varanasi. Surely we were close as we had been driving for 12 hours. But no, our driver began talking animatedly to himself, waving his hands around, then pulled over for directions. Turning around he headed back the way we had come and drove for half an hour before again pulling over, asking for further directions and turning around again. We had no idea where we were or how far from the end of this bumpy ride. After much mumbling and we think swearing we finally found the turn off and made it to Varanasi. The roads in India are not very well maintained. You normally drive on them at around 40km/hr and it takes ages to get anywhere. The highway we were on at one stage had sections that were brand new, followed every kilometer or so, by mounds of dirt that we had to weave around. It was mayhem as trucks, cars and bikes pushed their way through.

As the taxi driver was clearly misplaced we got him to drop us off at the nearest landmark - the Radisson hotel. We jumped into a rickshaw to the main Ghat and made our way (with the help of a local) through the winding streets to Puja guesthouse for some much needed shut eye. Puja was not in our LP guide book but looked pretty good for 250 Rupees a night. After some sleep and a shower (Rick slept through everything, while Megan was kept awake with the kids playing outside our room) we went down to one of the Ghats to see the nightly ceremony. People were everywhere watching the ceremony. Afterwards we decided to walk back via the small, windy lane ways that make old Varanasi town. Basically we got severely lost, doubling back on our selves many times. Out of frustration we stopped for dinner, then somehow stumbled across our guest house. Time for some much needed sleep.

Setting the alarm for 5:15AM we met up with another Australian couple from Brisbane, Heath and Lyn, for an early morning boat trip down the famous Ganges River as the sun rose. It was a truly magnificent site watching all the colorfully dressed people bathing themselves in the water. The river has a huge significance to their religion and they bathe in it, drink it and burn their dead on the muddy banks (yes all in the same river, side by side). The river is so polluted tests have found there is 1.5 million ecoli bacteria per 100 mil - normally it should be less than 500 to be safe. Unfortunately the two hour boat ride came to an end (the poor guy rowing was getting sore arms!) and we walked up to a local restaurant for breakfast. Our first Lassi in India was yummy.

A quick trip to the train station to book an onward ticket with the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the Varanasi sun. We also wandered down to the cremation Ghat to fulfill a morbid curiosity. An interesting way to go. We accidently wandered into the family only section and were told off. Apologising we moved on, with mixed emotions.
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