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War of the Worlds

sunny 31 °C

When it comes to ‘flat’ the great Canadian Prairies have nothing on the northern plains of India. Apart from the Himalayas, we’ve traveled over two thousand kilometers across a landscape where the only features have been the bumps in the road – but, oh boy, have we experienced some remarkable bumps. We would have photos if we could ever have held the camera still enough, and if the perpetual smog of dust and pollution allowed. This is a driver's eye view of the road ahead...
And this is a quiet road without buses or trucks...
We are now recovering in Lucknow after a two day journey that should have taken seven hours. It began when the promised three- hour taxi ride from our Himalayan retreat to the nearest railway took six hours because of the state of the roads which, in any Western country, would have been barricaded and condemned as impassable. Net result - we missed our train by two hours. Entire sections of mountain road had been washed away, (god knows when), leaving narrow rocky ledges to drive on, and we by-passed one village on a goat track. After stopping to fix a puncture we eventually reached the plain where we were told the roads were better – they lied. Nothing here in India is better; nothing is maintained. The buildings, vehicles, roads and railways are all in an unbelievable state of degradation. It is impossible to adequately describe the squalid conditions in which people live – and the roads! Here's a pothole - we've hit worse...
Several worlds collide on the roads here. Modern cars and motorbikes fight with clapped out buses and overloaded trucks that are at least 50 years old. Beat-up old bangers and rickety auto-rickshaws skirmish with medieval bullock carts, pack-horses and donkey carts, while tricycle rickshaws and bicycles squeeze pedestrians into the garbage-strewn gutters. And then there are the animals: stray cows, bullocks, goats, monkeys, and dogs weave amongst the traffic, and small children scrape up the cow shit and form it into pancakes which are dried into fuel for cooking. Here's an auto-rickshaw you wouldn't want to ride in...
The roads are littered with smashed and abandoned vehicles and entire roadside villages have grown up to keep the clapped-out trucks and buses from certain death – but no one repairs the roads. There are short stretches of sanity, but a few hundred yards of newly tarmac’d road quickly disintegrates into the most appallingly potholed track. The Germans tried to build a new highway here but it all fell apart when the Indian contractors chopped off every corner and skimped on every ingredient.
The roads are bad; very bad, but the driving is worse. Might is right here. Truck and bus drivers know that lesser mortals will always give way to their heaps of junk, so, with an ear-shattering horn blast they forge ahead, often on the wrong side of the road, and expect everyone to move. No one obeys any traffic law, and drivers do whatever it takes to make their way. Timid drivers or passengers would be well-advised to stay home.
Jim says, “Am I glad that I listened to Sheila and didn’t buy a car for our travels through India.”

Posted by Hawkson 17:55 Archived in India Tagged driving

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I conclude that all nervous passengers had best stay home. It takes guts to travel these roads under any conditons. And it makes you wonder how anyone gets home alive.

It makes the Deerfoot(the road I don't drive on in calgary) look like child's play.I had better stop being a wimp.

Good luck!
Love, Trudy

by trudy

Love the description of worlds colliding!! Please be safe and try to ride in first class buses (if such a thing exists!!) I hadn't read for awhile so it was most enjoyable to catch up. Sounds wild though and I kind of appreciate my quiet little life here on Gabriola where the argument continues on increasing ferry fares and whether we need low-cost housing.....

by Joyce

I just love the colours in all these photos. What a palette. You really swing through extremes of luxury and squalor in your days. Quite dizzying I bet. Keep the prose and photos coming.

by Tom

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