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Never-ending India: The north-east diaries

This time I traded two wheels for a motorcycle for a 5day road trip across Sikkim – a state in north-east India.

With some initial hiccups, I went through tea plantations, valleys, rough terrains and some amazing vistas.

After a gruelling day I realise that I have embarked on a journey that is as much body as it is soul.

Here’s to day 1.

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The ride. Ain’t she a beauty?!

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India, you don’t cease to amaze or end.

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Darjeeling Tea? Yeah this is where it comes from!

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Kids will play. Anywhere. Everywhere.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in india, Road Trip, travel

 

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Oh Calcutta!

I love your barren trees, your unabashed lovers, your pace or the distinct lack thereof, your impassioned chess players and all the buzz around food. And this was only the first day. The next couple of days brought out more character that the you never try to hide. And I get a feeling that you and I will be spending more time together in the not so distant future.

 

Take a walk on the Cal side of things

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Every walk of life. It exists here.

 

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It’s always easy-times in Calcutta. “Come, chill, talk!” Love it.

 

Parks and Recreation

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Oh the trees : )

 

 

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I think I saw at least 200 couple canoodling under the very trees of this park.

 

Games that Cal plays

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“You feeling lucky, punk?”

 

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Chess in Cal is team sport.

 

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Suck it New York! Our yellow Ambassadors are uber-cool.

 

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Carrom corner.

 

That’s it for day 1. See you tomorrow.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2014 in travel

 

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Spiritual Sync-Up

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This is the main ghat (pier of sorts) in Varanasi – India’s oldest living city. Everyday at 6 pm. Like clockwork. Spiritual for some. Synchronised for others :)

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2014 in india, travel, Varanasi

 

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The Big Drive Up – Hyderbad to Delhi via Mumbai and Udaipur – Road Review

Of late I had this itch to do a massive drive out. So I decided to drive all the way from Hyderabad to Delhi. With 2 pitstops, one in Mumbai and the other in Udaipur. But I will describe those in another post. This post is for describing the roads along the way. Before travelling out, I sought out this information all over the net but found no credible source or recent post. So I took it upon myself to chronicle the roads of India.

This was the condition of roads in January 2014. Of course with rains and sundry, all things can change. Having said that, all roads are metaled, even if the conditions vary from path to path. So here is the detailed path.

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My ride – Short Round : )

 

HYDERABAD-MUMBAI (690 KM)

The first day is always full of excitement and energy. But this time I was headed out on a rather longer journey. So a bit of nervousness ensued too. But time is of the essence, so shall we start?

Hyderabad, Solapur, Road

The Road to Solapur. Look prettier than it is.

 

Hyderabad to Solapur (290 KM)

As soon as you get off the Outer Ring Road (ORR in Hyderabad) after 17 blisteringly fast kms, the first 250 kilometres ahead are quite patchy with a lot of potholes and uneven stretches. It’s not possible to get over an average of 50-60 kmph at any time. For some reason, when I travelled there was a lot of indiscriminate tree felling happening, perhaps a seasonal thing. The point being, the branches from the trees are being cut down to size on the road, again slowing you down. You get momentary respite every now and then, only to be rudely brought back to the ‘injar-pinjar’ highway. When I entered Karnataka, I expected the roads to improve, having had the pleasure of driving on the HYD-BLR highway many times over. Nope. Nothing like that. It is literally going in the wrong direction here. The first true change comes when you hit Solapur in Maharashtra.

 

Solapur to Pune (250 KM)

The road improves dramatically, it becomes a 5 lane highway (yes, I know, but you know…) and you can actually get your speeds up to 90-100 kmph.

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As you leave Bombay, the ghats rise.

Pune to Mumbai (150 KM)

The fabled expressway doesn’t disappoint, but expect a lot of traffic as the two cities have a lot of people shuttling for work or otherwise. I hit this at 8 pm, so it was pitch dark, but easy to follow as I moved in a motorcade. Lucklily everybody is in a hurry.
MUMBAI TO UDAIPUR (770 KM)

This was going to be one long day of driving. And I was hoping it was nothing like the first day. Luckily it wasn’t :)

 

Mumbai to Surat (280 kms)

As you exit Mumbai (takes about an hour) the roads widen up, the ghats rise up and you have quite a brilliant drive. As soon as you come to the main junction where the sign tells you to go right for Ahmedabad, just outside Ghorbund, is where the highway experience starts. It’s a proper 6 laner and everybody (trucks) follow the lane rules, which makes driving a pleasure. The roads are great, well maintained, and you can drive without worry. This lasts all the way till Surat.

 

Surat to Vadodra (175 kms)

The roads continue to be generally good, and remain a 6 lane highway. Occasional roadwork slows you down in patches but nothing massive. Still a clean drive.

 

Vadodra to Ahmedabad (115 kms)

Oh. Em. Gee. The expressway is just brilliant. 4 laner. It’s 80 kms or so long – and the first 35km and the last 20 kms are absolutely silk! Rules are followed. It’s absolutely clean. Awesome. Although you want this stretch to last longer, it gets over soon – like all good things.

 

Ahmedabad to Rajasthan border (130 kms)

You’re pushed back to the olden days, with a 20-30 km 2 lane stretch after the Ahmedabad ring road. It’s quite annoying because the traffic rules go back to hell. But once you’re past city limits, the highway comes back with 4 lanes and a divider (something that we must learn to appreciate in India). The road remains fairly clear and uneventful till you hit the Rajasthan border.

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Yes, this is Rajasthan. Much more than a sandy patch!

Rajasthan border to Udaipur (130 kms)

The topography changes and it’s a really charming drive from the Rajasthan border on. The Aravallis rise up and the weather cools a bit. Mind you, I am travelling in January, so it’s perfect. Can’t promise the same in June. It’s a 4 laner and fairly clean.

But there’s this one patch where a particularly Rajasthan highway feature shows up – road grooves. Basically the asphalt has sunk, for various reasons and it’s pretty much like HotTracks where you car settles into the track. So be careful while braking – especially at high speeds, because my Thar would drift and go somewhat out of control. The first time it happened I was lost and checked my tyres. I soon realised the problem and had to drive carefully for 20-30 kms before the road restored to normal.

 

UDAIPUR TO DELHI (660 KM)

The last leg of the drive. I was mentally a bit tired, and kinda looking forward to the end of this day.

Udaipur to Ajmer (310 kms)

The roads from Udaipur to Ajmer are fairly clear as a fairly good 4 laner. You will pass through some smaller villages or town which will drop your average a bit, but other than that you’ll hit the higher speeds easily.

 

Ajmer to Jaipur (130 kms)

This is the part of the journey that you will thoroughly enjoy and you can let the engine rip as you get a 6 lane highway that’s fresh and well maintained. This part just whizzed by. Only to be brought to the last and irritating…

 

Jaipur to Delhi (250 kms)

I would call this the ‘Truck Alley’ on ‘Diversion 77’. Being a major trade route, you will unknowingly become a part of the convoy of trucks travelling down. And that would be ok, because generally on the highways trucks are disciplined.

However the Jaipur-Delhi route is full of diversions, thanks to progress and construction of bridges, which will slow you down. And then this stretch is also generally full of holiday makers returning to Delhi. And we all know how car drivers are on the highway. And as you get closer to Delhi/Gurgaon, the traffic keeps getting deteriorating. And when you come to a grinding halt, you know you’re at the city limits – somewhere stupidity begins.

Sigh. And the journey ends.

 

 

 
 

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Colours-a-go-go!

 

India is full of colour. The land. The people. The fashion. The festivals. The moods. Even the daily struggle of riding a state transport bus is a colourful affair. If you can handle its “too-muchness”, as Rushdie once put it, India can be a discovery at the turn of every corner or the unfolding of every highway.

And the road goes on and on.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Hyderabad, india, travel

 

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“There’s still space for one!”

 

In India, there’s a saying, “It doesn’t matter if there isn’t space in the house, there should always be space in the heart.” Oh, and there’s also 1.2 billion people. Take your pick!

In the meantime, welcome to Hyderabad – India’s alternative hi-tech city. The operative word being alternative!

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in Hyderabad, india, travel

 

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Stairway to…

Spotted this shadowy character, chillin’ in the middle of Dharavi. Hangin’ out, lookin’ cool. Hustling people as they went by. “Hey you wanna see what’s on top? Come on! Just a peek.” Our guide advised us against it. And a passerby gave me a funny look as I angled myself to get a nice picture of the manual StairMaster.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Dharavi, india, Mumbai, travel

 

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