Despite being on National Highways we spent two days on bone shaking, bike wrecking roads, since arriving in Uttar Pradesh, on a par with the worst we’ve experienced so far.
Lorries weaved across the roads at pitifully slow speeds to avoid being the next victim at the already over crowded tyre and suspension repair shops that line these villages. On the good stretches, that were far outweighed by the bucking bronco sections, my optimism about our ETA rose, only to plummet as the next morass of potholes emerged out of the dust cloud. On arriving at Mirzapur we asked the hotel manager what the road to Varanasi was like. With dismay we listened to, ‘Another 15 km of broken tarmac and pot holes but after that it’s alright.’
Varanasi, our next destination, was only 52km the Garmin displayed. We could manage that even on lousy roads but as we came to set off the locals stepped in to direct us. With a few arm waves, head wobbles and the words ’65km’, it was job done, our route was sorted, except it was in the opposite direction to the Garmin’s.
Keen to please our hosts, we set off as directed; I tried to combine electronic and ‘verbal’ instructions. Gid, a few road turns later, pointed out that we were heading south despite our efforts to travel north. At that point I gave up trying to merge the two and stated, ‘OK, are you up for a Garmin route? I can’t see where it meets up with the main road.’ Truth be known, it didn’t!
Our route trundled along some single lane dirt roads, cobbled roads, tarmac roads but nothing as bad as the National Highway. We were right ‘in the middle’ of rural India passing through tiny villages with lots of people excited or curious to see us. Many communities were engaged in activities long since mechanised in England turning the clock back as we watched man power at work.
We were both excited by the route and appreciated that we could never have navigated it from our maps but Gid was most concerned. ‘Can we cross the river? Are you sure we can cross the river?’ he kept probing. Both Google and Garmin showed a route across the river. But was it true? On this road? A bridge, or a ford maybe? Thankfully, as we got nearer to the river we turned onto a bigger road allaying Gid’s fears. At least this looked big enough to have a bridge and, suddenly, sweeping round one last bend, there it was.
From our high vantage point we looked down across the half mile, pontoon and beams, covered with sheets of metal, bridge. On approaching the toll ticket barrier we were beckoned on with beaming smiles; cars and tuctucs have to pay and struggle across as best they can but we were free to go.
The approach from both sides was through sand with two lanes of 10 x 3 metal sheets providing a firm surface. This was fine until cars needed to pass or …. oh no – a three wheeled tuctuc where lots of people were frequently out pushing or digging out the front wheel.
We made our way across, stopping to take photos as we went, absorbing another terrific sight and spectacular event in India.