Driving vacation on Indian roads

Posted: March 15, 2007 in driving, highway, vacation

I have driven a lot in the USA, for work and for fun. I quite love vacations by road, where you can stop at small towns, and seep in the scenery, as you drive along. However I could never imagine doing so, given my perception of Indian roads, also based on the roads that we experience in the city.

So when a few weeks back, a friend mentioned the vacation that he took with his family, by driving to Rajasthan and back (from Mumbai), I got very curious. He raved about the excellent roads, most of which were part of the Golden Quadrilateral project. Somehow his narration of his holiday stayed in my mind, and I was keen to do a similar holiday by road, in India.

The opportunity came earlier than I would have expected.

Early March is a small vacation for our kids, and we try to take time out, during the period, to take advantage of the “off-season”. This time, along with three other friends’ families, we decided to drive down to a beach resort which is about 10-11 hours drive away from Mumbai.

I will talk about the place per se, in another post, but just to share the driving experience here. It was nice. The road itself was excellent all along. Right to the point where it goes off the National or State Highways, and into the small beach location. The road condition was good, the traffic was nominal, and all in all, it was fun to drive. The National Highway, for most parts, was a 4-lane one, i.e. two coming and two going. Several parts of it had a divider in between. So this part was quite cool. The state highways were two lane (one on each side) but in good condition, and hence easy to drive on.

The only challenges that we faced were:
a. On the return trip, coming back to Mumbai, we kind of took it easy, to get started and took a longish lunch break too. By the time we were still 2-3 hours to Mumbai, it was pitch dark. No lights on the roads. Lots of heavy vehicle traffic, most of them trucks. Very challenging to drive. Not the recommended thing to do, as per me. But we did and managed to get back safely. But doing again, I would avoid driving on the highway at night. Oh, the highway also passes through several small towns / villages on the way, where there is a presence of people around the highway. They often wear dark clothes, and make their appearance close to the edge of the road, quite all of a sudden. That is also something to be concerned about, as it can easily lead to accidents.

b. The similar thing happened once during the trip, when from the resort, we went for a one-day driving trip to Goa and back. Then too, the return was delayed, and we drove a decent 1-2 hours in the dark. There, there was no traffic. So we did not have the truck problem. But it was an internal state highway, and very dark and isolated. Again not the best place to be driving through, at night.

c. The worst possible risks encountered on these highways, were on account of occasional and sudden tresspassing by animals, on the road! Mostly cattle. They don’t listen to your horns, so you have no choice, but to come to a screeching halt, when they suddenly make their appearance on the road. Watch out for the animals, then.

All in all, its an inspiration, and I would not mind doing such vacations, once in a while.

Oh, by the way, it turns out cheaper compared to most other travel options, especially if you are 4 persons in the car (which means, you compare 4 air tickets to one car ride, etc.). Even if you rent a car in India, it comes with a driver, and turns out much more expensive than driving your own one. So that is one more reason to consider driving vacations.

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