With a heavy heart, we were leaving Kolkata city. The city was huge in terms of its size and we probably had very little time to explore. At least we got to cover their major festival.
We started early around 5:30 am and were now travelling west side towards the city of Varanasi. The distance was huge as hence the early start. We hoped that the roads would be good as we were going to take the “Grand Trunk Road” towards Varanasi.
Some info on the ‘Grand Trunk Road’
The Grand Trunk Road is one of Asia’s oldest and longest major roads — founded around 3rd century BCE by the Mauryan Empire of ancient India. For more than two millennia, it has linked the Indian subcontinent with Central Asia. It runs from Chittagong, Bangladesh west to Howrah, West Bengal in India, then across Northern India through Delhi, passing from Amritsar. From there, the road continues towards Lahore and Peshawar in Pakistan, finally terminating in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The route spanning the Grand Trunk (GT) road existed during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya, extending from the mouth of the Ganges to the north-western frontier of the Empire. The predecessor of the modern road was rebuilt by Sher Shah Suri, who renovated and extended the ancient Mauryan route in the 16th century. The road was considerably upgraded in the British period between 1833 and 1860.
It coincides with current N1 (Chittagong to Dhaka), N4 & N405 (Dhaka to Sirajganj), N507 (Sirajganj to Natore) and N6 (Natore to Rajshai towards Purnea in India) in Bangladesh; NH 12 (Rajshahi to Purnea), NH 27 (Purnea to Patna), NH 19 (Patna to Agra), NH 44 (Agra to Jalandhar via New Delhi, Sonipat, Ambala and Ludhiana) and NH 3 (Jalandhar to Attari, Amritsar towards Lahore in Pakistan) in India; N-5 (Lahore, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Jhelum, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Khyber Pass towards Jalalabad in Afghanistan) in Pakistan and AH1 (Torkham-Jalalabad to Kabul) in Afghanistan.
We stopped at the ‘Vidyasagar Setu’ bridge to take a photo. The sun had already come up and the atmosphere was all fogged up.
It took us time to get out of the city and out of Howrah. We took the help of Google Maps to get us of the city and it took the shortest route which passed through narrow lanes of the city. Though it was early morning, there was traffic which really slowed us down. We really wanted to hit the highway as soon as possible.
No sooner we were back on the highway again than we decided to have tea. It was cold and Tea was really needed.
We were driving for like 3 hrs till now and the time was around 9:30 am. We were really hungry and badly need to stop for breakfast. All along the route we were searching for a decent hotel so that we could stop and have something to eat but didn’t find one. We were just zipping through cities and were not able to make our mind to stop. I was riding at the last. Finally, I decided to overtake the 2 and take the lead for sourcing a hotel.
Finally, out of necessity and dying hunger we forced our-self to stop.
We had to wait for a considerable amount of time before the breakfast was served as they had just opened. So, everything was being made right from the scratch.
So after that we entered into Jharkhand state. And the roads started to give up slowly. Jharkhand is a mining state and we were able to witness it first hand. We were able to see many coal mines along the way.
We had to drive very cautiously and stay focused by the way the other people were driving. People were driving on wrong sides and cutting the lanes in between and even crossing without giving any proper indication. We were super alert!
Soon, we entered Bihar. Our 3rd state crossing for the day. This route was special. We were crossing 4 states in a day. A unique thing on this leg.
While driving on Bihar roads, we could see people sitting and riding atop the bus. That was some serious stunt pulled off these men and we were really awestruck and left wondering as to how these people managed when the driver brakes.
We continued on along with our journey without taking a break. We skipped our lunch too and we had still long way to cover.
By the time we entered Uttar Pradesh, it was almost the end of the day. We could see the sun about to go down the horizon. And so, we thought of taking our last tea break. The last 20-30 kms were really shitty and we doubted as to what they were doing in terms of providing basic infrastructure.
We stopped right after we crossed Sasaram in UP. We still had a good 120 kms to go before ending the day.
We were able to cover half the distance when there was still some light left. The rest went into night driving. Finally, we diverted from the main highway and headed towards the city. It was long 20 kms drive in full traffic. Shocked to see many people thronging on the roads. The festival time was still there and hence the crowd. We had to carefully drive our vehicles considering the luggage mounted on the backs as to not hit someone. After all, we were in UP!
After much troubles, we were able to successfully evade the traffic and the roads eased up. We planned to stay right at the heart of the city centre so that it would be easy for us to explore the next day. After a good amount of search on the net, we zeroed on one hotel named, “Nar-Indra’, which was close to the railway station. CSK sir knew about this hotel as he had been to Varanasi before.
CSK sir went inside to check the hotel before I arrived at the location. His first impression was not good. He didn’t seem to like the rooms being shown to us. But, it was also late evening and finally the owner agreed to reduce the price and also try to give us a better room. We got a room on the top most floor.
We got settled down after the staff boys helped us to take our luggage right up-to the room. We put on the AC as it was quite hot. The last 15 kms were all sweaty as we battled through heavy traffic with slow speed.
It was only after a quick cold bath that I felt refreshed and my energy level rose. After everyone were done with freshening up activities, we went down to have a good dinner. It was little late but we managed to get some food.
Tomorrow we were going to stay in the city itself and do some exploring. We made a slight change in plan and instead of spending a complete day in the city itself we decided to ride down to Lucknow in the second half.