Summer Vacation – a wonderful run through NH-2 towards Ghats of Varanasi – Part I

Since after my solo drive from Gurgaon to Kolkata and back in 4 days almost 4 years ago, I would often wondered whether it was one such craziest incident ever done in my life or can I explore NH-2 once again. My first drive was indeed a very special one, but I wanted to feel it again. Going alone was never an issue, but I also wanted my wife to accompany me during the journey at least once, so that we can enjoy the road and the journey together.

But the ice never melts!

We have done Gurgaon to Amritsar (490 kms) and Allahabad (680 kms) before (we did it once in 2008 & 2010 respectively, so as some other locations several times in and around Delhi), but Koooooolkata….are you mad? It took end number of discussions, storytelling of my heroics :); the ice finally melts just four days before we start our journey on 19th morning. My son’s summer vacation starts on 21st May and 18th was the last day in school. They had a train ticket booked in Sealdah Rajdhani on 18th and I was supposed to join them within few days/before 25th, though ticket not booked.  Again, due to the strike by Air India pilots, the cost of ticket became a very costly affair. It started as a casual talk between us on 15th morning regarding the same topic when she finally agreed and asked me to cancel the train ticket. I was surprised. But, didn’t I want to hear this for the last few years? I had never pressurized her before, hence I asked her to rethink and let me know the final decision by 17th morning, just wanted to keep train option still open.

We cancelled the ticket on 17th morning and booked a Tatkaal ticket (WL) on Sealdah Duronto, just in case if we had to cancel the road trip, with a hope that ticket shouldn’t get confirmed. However, we kept it a secret from everyone at home (why to give unnecessary tension to them) and informed our parents that we would be leaving by Poorva on 19th, instead of Rajdhani on 18th, as we target to reach home on 20th evening. As expected, ticket didn’t confirm and I prepared myself for the journey.

After reaching home from office, left again to fill-up tank, check air pressure, withdrawing cash etc. etc. and then I did a mistake which I realized much later, while filling-up the tank again in Varanasi.

Though I love night driving, I promised myself no night drive this time, instead plan to spend one day at Varanasi, target to reach there before 5 p.m. to have some time to see the “Sandhya Aarati”. We went to bed around 11 p.m. and planned to leave Gurgaon by 3 O’clock.

Day 1: May 19, 2012 – Gurgaon – Agra – Kanpur – Allahabad – Varanasi – 800 Kms [9 Toll Plazas, Rs.380/-]

At 3:15 a.m. on 19th morning, the three of us left our Gurgaon home to start a long due summer vacation / a perfect summer camp for my son with all his near and dear ones and, of course, with nature. Let me also introduce the name of the partners involved in this eventful journey.

Madhumita Chatterjee (my wife – the photographer + record keeper)

Anjishnu, our  4½  year old son (made our journey much more enjoyable & comfortable)

and me

Three Ghumakkars

We crossed my office, adjacent to Sikendarpur Metro Station and reached the newly built Gurgaon – Faridabad road at Bristol Chowk in 2 minutes. There is a green sign board displaying Faridabad 24 Kms. The road is very good and it’s a very smooth run till Faridabad. We were fortunate to save Rs. 15/- J, as we know that next time, we need to add one more Toll Plaza in the list. There were only few trucks and a very few cars at that point of time. Nice to see few check- posts and police patrolling cars. They stopped us twice and let us go once they saw my son was sleeping in the back seat. As Gurgaon became famous for it’s crimes thanks (!) to few recent incidents, we just hope things will improve at the earliest. Within half an hour and after 32 Kms we reached NH-2. I tried to speed-up to reach Agra at the earliest. It was still dark outside when we crossed Ballabgarh (Haryana). After clearing Ballabgarh, I concentrated on driving, as it is still dark and everyone has fallen asleep.

By the time, we reached Mathura everyone got up and we thought to take a short break at McDonalds’. Just FYI, it is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. We resist the temptation to eat Chicken Burger in the morning and moved on after freshening up.

Our first stop at McDonalds at Mathura…did you notice “I’m lovin’…”

Before Sikandra, there is a green sign board displaying “Kolkata – 1310 Kms”…so you know the distance of your destination now…we thought – a long long way to go…indeed! We have already covered 200 kms or the first block out of seven (7 x 200= 1400 kms and you are at home, so simple!) without any incidents…remember the rule…’no mistakes in first 200 kms or in first 2 or 3 hours’ while driving such a long distance…so we have passed the first hurdle…we just need the momentum going…  

Target destination – Kolkata 1310 km

“Station kakhan asbe” – (When the station will come?) asked my son innocently. We are going by car. He is a big fan of “Thomas and his Friends” and “Lightening MacQueen”, hence it was just a switch over for him from Gordon (he gave a name to Rajdhani) to his favourite Lightening MacQueen. Children are so innocent. He unpacked his bag, full of toys – mostly cars, and started playing. His mama started her usual routine to feed him and at no time, it was a war-zone like situation, just like our home. He didn’t want to eat and she never gives up. Why will she? She has all the rights to see why he won’t eat! I am quite used to such conversations on a daily basis. After almost half an hour of war, with half paratha still in her hand, she finally gave in.  We too felt hungry by the time and started our breakfast with Luchi and aloo bhaja, which we always carry whenever we go for a long drive, as you can eat while driving (at least one meal) and it will also save time.

Fed up with her son, my wife finally concentrated on photography, which I really missed during my trip last time. This time, I ensure to carry both digital, as well as handy cam to record our journey and willingly gave her the responsibility.

The sky was cloudy since morning; we thanked God for such a lovely weather. However, our wish short-lived; it changed so quickly. The sun came out after we crossed Etawah at 9 a.m., and temperature started rising almost immediately. Traveling to Kolkata by road during summer may not be ideal, when the temperature had risen to ~43 degrees in Delhi & NCR, as well as in all the neighbouring states, meant burning ourselves in scorching sun. We had to switch on AC and within few minutes the inside temperature became very comfortable. We never had the opportunity to switch-off the AC after that during the entire journey.

Excellent NH-2….still a long long way to go!

The road condition is excellent and we were maintaining an average speed of 100-110 kms, crossing one by one important town on the way. All of a sudden, there was a pin dropped silence. Were we bored so soon? We haven’t covered 1/3rd of the road. “How will we cover the rest of our journey”, I thought. But something else was cooking up inside the small cabin. Normally, whenever we go out, he keeps very quite. May be he realizes the situation and wanted to take the control!  It was such a fun for him that at times it was difficult for his mother to control him and with my support, he became very naughty. We also wanted a lively environment and he made our journey much more enjoyable & comfortable since then. We also have our share of fun. We received three packets of biscuits at different toll plazas, since they didn’t have change of five rupees. It happened in consecutive three toll plazas. We just thought to exchange them as soon as we approach the next toll plaza. They were surprised when we gave Rs.30 and a pack of biscuit, but they finally took it with a smile. We did the same trick, till the stock last and laughed…

Our journey became much more enjoyable just for him

You will find wrong-siders in most of highways, including NH-2, so are we. Do not need to waste our time trying to find out why they are driving like this. Since the visibility is very good on highways, you need to ignore such nuisances and move on, as they are always right in their own terms.

We crossed the unending (~25 Kms) Kanpur flyover around 11 a.m. While driving this section, I remember my sunrise experience over here during my first trip, but that was my first on this flyover compare to fifth this time. We felt hungry and looking for a roadside dhaba / restaurants. Finally after 9 Kms (from the flyover), we found ‘Village Street’ restaurant just adjacent to Reliance petrol pump.

We were having a very high hope and ordered Rice/Dal/Butter Chicken/Butter Nun/Aloo-ka-Paratha/Dahi & Salad. There was scheduled power cut during that time in Kanpur, hence, AC was not working. The inside temperature was very hot, but, once we opened all the windows, there was a slight relief. We were either too hungry or the food was very good, since nothing was left while we were leaving. The only caution if you are travelling with kids and/or not in love with hot chilies, order carefully. One needs to be extremely lucky in Highway. However, when you are really hungry and didn’t have any option what else would you do…fortunately, we love spicy food and enjoyed, except my son…but anyway he hardly eats anything…though he proved us wrong next day…so never underestimate kids’ mood. It was a very early lunch break for all of us, but our day also started at 3 in the morning.

Lunch break at Kanpur (Village Street)….and waiting….finally

We have started again from Kanpur (exactly 12:30 p.m.) and continued our journey. As we were approaching Allahabad by-pass (614 kms), I didn’t want to take any risk till we reach Varanasi and filled-up the tank with 600 rupees. Twice I had to take the right turn to pass through Allahabad city to reach Varanasi and I was eagerly waiting to drive through the by-pass…heard that it’s superb….no doubt it is, but the entire NH-2 is just like that only. The plus point is that it reduces the travel time drastically from the earlier route. We were again lucky to save few more rupees here, since toll plaza not yet operational. Both of them went to sleep (!) for some time, after filming the famous by-pass and I concentrated on the road to reach our final destination for the day. Varanasi was still ~170 kms from there.

By 3:30 pm, as we were very close to Varanasi city, I thought to get the car horn checked & repaired, as it stopped functioning since Agra and whatever we heard about the traffic in Varanasi, we were a bit concerned.  In Arnal, I parked my car near a grocery shop in a service lane to enquire about any car mechanic. By our sheer luck, he directed me to the next shop…with a big signboard “Horn Specialist”. The person took extra care to fix the problem. We wanted to take a photograph, but battery was exhausted by now after continuous clicking since morning. In my next visit, I will definitely meet him not only to say thanks, but also to take a picture.

We didn’t find any problem to locate the direction of Varanasi – it is clearly visible if you are cautious. You need to leave NH-2 and take a left turn towards Varanasi and drive for another close to 13-15 kms to reach the Railway station. On the way, we found some signboards, pointing towards right, to reach various Ghats & Temples, but we decided to go to Railway station first and look for a Hotel. Yes, the road near Railway station is very congested, but we are used to this kind of roads, even in Delhi, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad. Suggest anyone to take Gurgaon Sadar Bazar or Goshala Phatak in Ghaziabad area in peak hours or even the road near Sikenderpur Metro Station in Gurgaon is worst at times. With the help of an auto rickshaw driver, we reached “Raj Mahal Hotel” in Gurubagh, Luxa Road, close to Dasaswamedh Ghat. Just before Railway Station, we took a right turn & drove approx. 2 kms. to reach the hotel.The hotel is decent and rooms are clean. We were happy as it provides safe parking space. The room rent was Rs.1,000/- for AC Room, including car parking charges (Rs.50/-). We were tired but we also didn’t want to miss Sandhya Aarati and Kasi Vishwanath Temple. We took bath one by one as soon as reach the hotel and charged the battery for some time to take some photographs. We took a rickshaw and then walked for 5 minutes to reach Dasaswamedh Ghat. The Sandhya Aarati took our breathe away. We have never seen such a live performance – they were at their artistic best. Finally around 8 p.m., the journey took its toll and my son couldn’t stand anymore and we decided to return to the hotel, with a promise to come back again and spend a few days to explore the city once again.

Sandhya Arti at Varanasi

We had ordered food in the hotel and decided to call it a day after dinner. We have covered exactly 800 kms today, crossed 9 Toll plazas (Rs.380/-) on the way. Now, it’s time to sleep…see you soon in our next few posts…

36 Comments

  • First of all Warm Welcome to Ghumakkar family Amitva jee ,

    Wonderful post with a very good description. You are very passionate about driving . Your post reflects that.And good review. Finally it was fine that you managed to see Ganga Aarti and Lord Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Next time definitely visit full Varanasi . Its a very great city.

    Thanks for sharing this on Ghumakkar and waiting for next one.

  • Thank you Vishal…yeah, I am still in the process of editing the next few posts…unfortunately, we missed Kashi Vishwanath Temple this time…but, we will definitely visit Varanasi again, may be during this winter.

  • lakshay says:

    great post with very good information. its my dream for a gq drive this year, your post is very helpful for one part . thanx

  • Tx. It’s nice to know that you are planning for the gq…India has really changed a lot…and you can see the development…however, there is no room to be complacent…still a long way to go and give our children a better place to live…I am sure that it will be a great experience for you once you complete this…I will share about the Toll Plazas (NH-2) in my next post…so, you will have a fair idea about the same at least for NH-2…

  • Dear Mr. Amitava Chatterjee,

    Wonderful, marvellous pictures, nice description. Here in Canada on Highway max speed is 110 km/hr now same in India, but 9 Toll which waste lot of time. GPS is good option when you drive, now it is available in Phone in India. Thanks a lot I will wait for your next post.
    Regards,

    • Dear Surinder,

      Tx. it is so nice of you to love the description. Yes, may be within next few years RFID will be implemented at all Toll Plazas…right now, it is in testing phase at some section – though I am not sure, but once I heard about the same to be tested on NH-8. However, no idea whether it has started or not….

      Regards,

      Note: Please call me ‘Amitava’ only…

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Great debut, Amitava. Welcome to the ghumakkar family and hope to see more posts from you.

    Sad that you could not visit the Kashi Vishwanath temple. I understand that after having driven a lot, you were tired. Yet….

    Also, it is heartwarming to see the Ghumakkar sticker on your car’s windscreen.

    • Tx, Narayan

      It’s nice to see you visiting this post…by now I am quite familiar with all of you, though this was my first post – but, I am following this site for more than two years from now…

      Yeah… we couldn’t…sometimes, we had to listen to our child and whatever we want doesn’t matter anymore…unknowingly he became a part of this and enjoyed throughout the journey… may be it will give me a change to visit Varanasi once again for a longer period of time and share with you again here…

      So, you noticed that…

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    detailed , informative post !

    looking forward to see some more post from you.

    • Tx Mahesh…there is actually much you can write (I may be wrong though) when you are driving (only) such a long distance…hence it’s only a description of how we spent our days…I tried my best to write as it happened on that eventful day…even whenever I read it again & close my eyes, I can visualize each & every moment…and I loved to do that again & again…

      I read almost all your posts…and it’s an honour to receive comments from you,

      Regards,

  • Subodh says:

    Dhamakedar Entry Amitava … great post with a superlative narration .. I guess your son has enjoyed the journey most . How old, sorry , young is he .. looking forward for the rest of the post in this series..

    • Tx Subodh…I am glad to receive such wonderful words from all of you…it encourages me to spend few more hours at home to complete the series…let’s hope for the same.

      Yeah…he enjoyed a lot…may be it (the energy level!) was passed on from me :) …he is 4 years & 8 months to be precise…

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Welcome aboard as an Author, Amitava. Road journeys are my favorite. When I did this few years back, there was no bypass at Allahabad and I have heard and read so much about it that I really want to drive down again.

    The home situations is similar here :-). Looking fwd to part 2 and also to learn about the mistake. Best Wishes. Write next part soon.

    • Nice to receive your feedback…Thank you once again…

      I am glad…would you like to know the reason…few years back, while surfing to get information on NH-2, accidentally I landed to the following link : http://www.ghumakkar.com/2008/06/29/delhi-%E2%80%93-patna-road-review/

      It was exactly what I was looking for, as I was planning for a road trip sometime in my life through NH-2…that time, I didn’t know personally anyone who had done it before…it was just a kick for me…in true sense of word ‘Ghumakkar’ , I am just like that only…gradually I became addict to your site…and then after few months on 24th October, 2008 I just hit the road…(You read this before – however, with your permission, I would like to invite all ‘Ghumakkarians’ to go through my first trip –> http://www.amitava.in/travelogue.asp – you may find it interesting)

      Nice to know the home situations…what else we can actually do…a very hectic day, first to clean up the mess of two weeks, pick-up…office…and then thought to reply you all….

      Hope to complete the rest by Sunday…till then bye, take care

  • Mayank Khanduri says:

    Great going Amitava,
    It was nice to read such journey to kolkatta. I am excited to read the next excerpts. I would like to know , which car you were driving and what is the average you have. I want to plan such long joureny but things never materialized.

    • Tx Mayank…I am yet to finish…I covered everything in my next posts….I think, you will find it interesting at the end…life doesn’t always require a suit & tie….and life doesn’t always require extensive planning…just go for it…you will be happy at the end…Take care

  • Archana says:

    Dear Amitava,

    A warm welcome to you!! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us :)

    I loved the way you have collaged few photos to give us more and effective pictures! Great job.

    I have never been to Varanasi.. I have heard from a few of my friends (from Europe) who have made special plans to visit Varanasi ALONE in their trip to India.. I feel a bit ashamed to say to them that I, being an Indian, havent seen Varanasi myself. because of several such instances, my plan to visit Varanasi is getting a higher priority :)

    Good post and great work!!

    Cheers!

    • Dear Archana,

      Apologies for the delay and Tx for your feedback. So, you liked the collage photographs…great.
      This was my first trip in Benaras or Varanasi – ohho no, it was not a trip but a stop-over…but I like the Aarti very much…I have seen Sandhya Aarati at Haridwar but that is nowhere near to Varanasi, believe me…would love to visit the place again…Saranath…Ghats…Temples…BHU…and many places to see.

      I think this is one of the oldest city in the world. Yes, you will find many foreigners in Varanasi.

      I wish you good luck and will wait for your post…

      Regards,

  • rakesh kushwaha says:

    fabulous journey you have done…i think u have done with your ALTO car..on 10th of may i have also covered a 700 km distance(Allahabad) from delhi with my wife in alto..really life is nothing but a long journey….. thanks a lot to you for posting such a fantastic kolkata journey…waiting for your next post(from varanasi to kolkata…)

    • Tx Rakesh….

      I am sure you too enjoyed the road till Allahabad…we also went there once (only till Allahabad) in 2008…it was during winter season…due to densed fog from Palwal to Mathura, we were delayed by couple of hours in the morning and then a long jam in Kanpur Flyover due to a major accident…we were stuck over there for nearly two hours…couldn’t move an inch…when did you came back?

      Regards,

      • rakesh kushwaha says:

        Dear Amitava sir..

        i came back on 16th of may.. i enjoyed a lot as far as highway driving is concerned …by the way my next trip is my home town tatanagar and i will do it with my alto..but date is yet to be finalize…during my journey i found only one good restaurant(McDonald)..near mathura.

  • Debasish Dey says:

    Mr. Chatterjee ,

    A very very nice and well written travelogue,
    I enjoyed reading it throughly .

    By the way did you notice any hotel
    to stay , right on NH2 , near Varanasi ?
    or you must go into the city to find one ?

    Cheers

    • Dear Dedasish,

      Tx. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any good hotel on the Highway, while coming back from Kolkata alone on June 4th.
      I suggest you to go to city, which is not very far from the highway. However, someone in this site may be of any help on this.

      When are you planning for the road trip and destination?

      Regards,

      • Debasish Dey says:

        Yes , I thought so, actually I was trying to avoid to enter city’s
        chaotic roads.

        Any news about Agra – Delhi Taj expressway , is it open now ? it was
        supposed to be opened on july 1 , any info pls ?

        Next trip I am planning for yes Kolkata – Rajasthan – Gujarat on
        coming winter .

        Cheers

        • I haven’t noticed to be fair while reaching from Gurgaon.
          I also thought the same while coming back, as I was driving alone. But, since it was dark and couldn’t see any hotel for night stay alongside NH-2.

          The Taj Expressway is yet to open. I saw the barricades placed at the entrance itself before Agra. However, it must be opened much before winter, when you are planning your trip.

          Have you done it before or will it be your first? All the best

  • Manish khamesra says:

    Dear Amitava

    Welcome Aboard. I really enjoyed the reverse gear you put the toll people in by giving them the biscuits as change :-), interesting was that they also took it in the stride.

    Our generation will never forget the continuous struggle that happen to feed the kids and those of previous generation will keep on wondering (and many of times will give us suggestions/blame us) on why the next generation is so picky about the food.

    Sometimes we over expect from kids, its good that when kids get tired we also get time to take rest :-), otherwise probably overenthusiasm and endless desire to see and learn much more may tire us out too.

    • Tx Manish…we too…if we didn’t do that – we would have received one more packet from them…next time, if you face similar kind of situation, may be you can give it a try – I am sure you will remember me that time…

      you are absolutely right in both the points…the next day’s drive wouldn’t have been that easy if we didn’t sleep at night…

      and regarding eating habbit of kids, (my personal view) let them eat whenever they feel like to it…following a routine is good & required, but at times, children don’t always follow the rules set by us and we (in our case it’s not me) can only presume that they might be hungry and need to eat…most of times we don’t care whether they want or not…they can’t express themselves most of the times…

      Once again Thank you,

  • Welcome Amitava on Ghumakkar. I started reading your story and then I could not stop in middle. Very good narration. As already said by Archana, the pictures arranged in a collage are giving good overall effect to the post.

    Waiting for the next part.

    • Tx Deependra for liking the post, as well as the collage pictures.
      Your current series “Hundred in Gangtok” is very nice – unfortunately, I just glance through and not read completely to enjoy reading – since now everyone is back, many pending work as well as my own write-up occupied me completely during the last few days…

      Now, I will be submitting my next part, hopefully, by tonight – will read Hundred of Gangtok once again…

      Take care,

  • Kamal Nigam says:

    Dear Ghumakkars,

    Warm greetings

    I plan to travel via road from Delhi to Varanasi in March 2013 via NH-2. I have in couple of threads that entry from NH-2 to varanasi is not very well marked. So seek guidance from yu.

    Further I plan to drive down to Lucknow from Varanasi. Google map shows 2-3 roads. Can you advise on which road should be preferred ? I would be driving during the day only and would hav emy family with me so please advise accordingly.

    Thanks

    Kamal Nigam

  • Nandan Jha says:

    @ Kamal – I heard that it is not as difficult now. Probably more signages now. Since it would be a day drive, you should be fine. You should look for a place called ‘Mohan Sarai’. The left turn is close to that area. Just ask around.

    I have never driven on this road but NH 56 (via Jaunpur, Sultanpur, both big towns) looks like a good way. It is shorter by an hour as well.

  • Amitava Chatterjee says:

    Hi Kamal, Sorry for the delayed response.
    Since you know the road till Kanpur, I will try to give distance of few landmarks.

    1. Kanpur to Allahabad By-pass is ~ 115 KM
    2. The point from where you need to leave NH-2 is ~ 165-170 KM from Allahabad By-pass. You will see many signages inbetween giving direction of Varanasi.
    3. When you will approach the 1st Flyover (2. ~ 165-170 KM from Allahabad By-pass, clearly visible), take the service lane, drive for another ~ 500 Mtr and take the left turn towards Varanasi city. It will be another 20 KM drive from there.

    As Nandan mentioned, I also don’t have any idea about NH 56, but heard about Allahabad – Raebareli route is also good, however, it may be ~ 45-50 KM longer than NH-56 (drive through Allahabad by-pass may cover up the time)

    Wishing you a very happy and safe journey

  • Kamal Nigam says:

    Thanks Nandan & Amitava, for your inputs and wishes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *