Do you like road trips? I do too. Having done them in a few countries the time had come to try it in home land.
My vision of road trips..a good car, lovely roads, great scenic beauty, freedom to stop when one feels like, exploring local areas and so on. Rather surprisingly, we had all of this to experience. Roads were fantastic and the red soil in large parts of Karnataka makes for a rich green tapestry.
I don’t know about you, but in my family it takes but 20 minutes of driving and all passengers are fast asleep. All seat belted in and zzzzzzz. So this is what it feels like to be alone in a crowd. The only time someone would wake up would be to enquire the time or if we were stopping to get a bite. I was feeling rather disappointed that what was meant to be this great family time was just like being on a conference call when you are muted by the moderator. If you have an opinion, well we don’t care. Feeling a bit despondent, I looked over to a car, being driven by a man, on the lane to my left. We were both waiting our respective turns to pay the toll fees. He looked at me, then saw the other passengers fast asleep and gave me a wry smile. I shrugged my shoulders to say ‘Well..”. He then gestured to his empty car back seat. Just as I was looking something moved and I realised that he had someone who was fast asleep all wrapped up in a sheet of some sort. Instantly the pride in my co passengers went up dramatically. At least they were sleeping, sitting up. Fist bump.
Talking about toll fees reminds me of the number of times we, or rather I, had to stop to pay toll fees. Common sense suggests that you want these to be as frictionless as possible. After all this is an express way. Drivers should be able to pay the fees and be on their way as soon as possible. But Nooooo. Every toll booth is at least, what seems like, a several hours stop. It is at toll booths you realise that all drivers, irrespective of driving an Audi SUV or a Tata truck is illiterate. Nothing else can explain that irrespective of how the lanes are labelled people drive up to whichever they fancy. Which is a minor problem compared to the toll fees. Firstly, the amounts vary by different sections. I guess there is an invisible logic to this. Then you have to pay amounts like INR 17, INR 62 and so on.
Not kidding. So nothing as simple as amounts like 20, 50, 100. You can imagine the time spent at each booth finding coins, fumbling with change as it falls out of the car on the street, and people scrambling trying to pick up the coins. Clearly, the toll booths have adopted that old cliche..The only constant is change.
Just in case you think I have only complaints about the trip, let me hasten to add that is not the case at all. Let me talk about one highpoint. The roads. Barring a total of some 30 kms of the over 1000 kms trip the roads are just fantastic. They are multi lane, well laid roads.Exceeding speeds of 100 would be a breeze. However, I think the people who did the roads have had a disagreement with the traffic cops. Nothing else can explain the large number of speed bumps all over the place. And most of them are in civvies so you don’t know they are there till your car is airborne on hitting one. To add to this surprise element, in many areas there is that ‘only in India’ contraption where the cops put two sets of barricades about 10 feet apart blocking a lane each. So you are hurtling down at 100 KPH, on a perfectly well laid road and suddenly you are confronted with a metal barricade blocking your lane. So you slow down, dodge this one and another one a few feet away and pick up pace again. In case you don’t get the ‘please crawl on our expressway’ message there are also speed limit signs everywhere. The speed limit? 60. 60!! I drive to office every day and the road, in the city, on which it is impossible to cross 20 kph, due to the humongous traffic, has a speed limit of 80!! Clearly there is need for the cop party to smoke the peace pipe with the highway party.
So if you like driving, I urge you to get behind that wheel, pick passengers who can stay awake, carry a bunch of change and be off.