The Biggest Artillery Base In North Asia gave a portent of things to come for the rest of the night. It was almost as though the town had been converted to some sort of obstacle course for heavy artillery all the way till Jhansi. Lousy road, full of potholes, you suddenly realize that at this rate Delhi will take time. That’s how the road is all the way to Jhansi, and the Babina Jhansi stretch took more than an hour to cover – it was past one am by the time I reached Jhansi, which was dug up all over the place. The first few km out of Jhansi are fairly good. After that, one gets the impression that Babina is in bad shape because the artillery regularly does maneuvers out there, but the Jhansi Gwalior road is where they do their actual target practice.
Sometimes you wonder whether you are really on a road or if this is one big joke. During daytime, at least there is traffic to give an idea that you are on the right track – at night, with collections of craters peeling away from main collection of craters, I would have been hopelessly lost in an hour without my GPS. Some of the craters are more than a meter deep and 5 meters across, must be damn good fun during the monsoon to guess what the depth of one might be while attempting to wade through. Very very little traffic on this road – thanks to it, National Gobarway # 1 has so little on it… the survivors, nothing else. There are places where you wonder how traffic actually manages to get through at all, what with the crests and troughs on the road having a height differential of over 6 feet in places. Anyways it has to be done, so keeping a grim eye on the road and another on the GPS, I finally came to a point about 40 odd km from Gwalior where the 4 lane road reappeared again like magic.
What’s more, Gwalior now has a nice 4 lane bypass as well so the people coming from Agra can get onto the Gwalior Jhansi mess all the faster. I’d just taken a half hour catnap, and was beginning to feel very sleepy as the dawn broke and stopped over at the first hotel I saw to nap some more, freshen up and have cup of tea to wake me up. As per my original outrun plan should have been passing through Delhi now… I was still 300+ km away and firmly in the sleep deficit zone. Anyways, the sun came up and the traffic picked up as well as I crossed Dholpur blwing any sleepiness I had into the weeds, and then Agra, which does not even have a bypass. I was at the entrance of the YEW at about 10:30 in the morning, but I was not going to make it to Noida in 2 hrs and Delhi in less than 3.
Because, for me at least, the YEW is the biggest sleeping pill there is. The only really big plus is that it has nice airconditioned places to sleep if you can sleep sitting in a chair… the food plazas. For the cost of a soft drink, I could ride out two sleep attacks with very restful half hour naps but that also meant that I reached Delhi at 2:30 in the afternoon.
Which turned out to be a very good thing, as at that point of time, Delhi has next to no traffic! I don’t remember when I last crossed Delhi so quickly – in no time I was on the Karnal road where the traffic began to pick up. I was spoilt for choice regarding potential places to sleep some more as I had decided that I’d rather do Punjab a bit after rush hour if at all possible. Some grub and another nap – all in all I’d had about 4 hrs of sleep now over that last 30 or so hours and knew that I did not want to sleep for the next few hours but cover ground fast instead. Fortunately I was not feeling sleepy any more, and that’s how it turned out. Karnal, Ambala, Chandigarh, all passed by quickly and after a little confusion regarding the signage at the point the highway has an exit for Kiratpur, it was smooth cruising on the new 4 lane highway. However, approaching Bilaspur, the road began to deteriorate, apart from becoming single lane and the road simply went from bad to worse for quite some distance, the heavy truck traffic not helping matters. However, the fast run through Punjab had helped me make good progress and by midnight, I had crossed the dam at Pundoh and was headed towards Mandi, and the road now started showing signs of improvement, becoming completely pothole free blacktop as I approached the town.