Driving on the 4-lane "divided" highway (part of the new Golden Quadrilatereal project) from Agra to Kanpur we witnessed some crazy UP Bhayyas on Cycles / Tractors / 2-wheelers / Lorries / Tempos / Bullock Carts etc. on the wrong side of the highway, going the wrong direction!
They were coming at us on the right-most fast-lane of the highway! First we thought, they were too lazy to go around and do a U-turn ... But No, this seems to be a whimsical "habit" here in UP. We passed hundreds of such vehicles this way today! They just suddenly appear in front of you, in your lane, when you are speeding along at a nice 80-90 kmph. They appear stoically calm and unfazed; while we in the car were scared out of our wits!
BTW: I must mention that "Nar-Indra Guest House" opposite Main Rail Station at Varanasi, turned out to be the best "Value for Money" hotel of our entire trip! It had 24 hour running Hot-water and a Central Heating (surprised to see a budget hotel in India with central heating). It had 1-day laundry service that worked with very reasonable rates. Nar Indra room-rate was Rs.425 for Double Room ... but with single occupancy the rate came down to Rs 375. Clean fresh linen and a pretty OK restauarant. A cup of tea I ordered from my room at 5:00 AM came in 5-minutes flat!
28th Dec 07 > Day-15 : Agra to Kanpur - 304 Km
We checked out of Hotel Prakash at 7:00AM and planned to leave for Kanpur directly after seeing Agra Fort. We saw our tyre puncture, just as we left the hotel and fortunately a puncture repair shop was nearby (though this one in UP, was not as fast or efficient as the guy at Sukhi, Punjab.... in fact, even a bit rude as he refused to double-check the leak he repaired, in the water tub!). We entered Agra fort at 8:00AM and it proved to be quite a worthewhile & interesting place to see, over the next 2 hours. Some of the Agra Fort pictures are displayed below and in left margin:
After seeing the Agra Fort we had a breakfast of Puri-Alu-Thali at Sri-Ram's. We are now getting to see some really backward and dirty places of India! Agra city traffic was crazy; with autos-rickshaws grid-locking the chowks & major road junctions, with plain dumb stupidity! We finally left Agra at 10:30am, headed for Kanpur on NH-2.
We reached Kanpur at 4:00PM. Kanpur is just a night stop for us .. no sight-seeing is planned here [unless I decide to go see a School, that I attended way back in 1958-59 St. Aloysius! That was 50 years ago when I was 9 yrs old! .... BTW: I had seen a India - Australia Test Match, back in 58-59 in Green Park, Kanpur ... the one in which Jassu Patel took 9 wickets, in one innings, if my memory serves me right!! ]. We checked into Sanjay Guest House (opp Natraj Cinema in Govindnagar area) and get a double room for Rs 500 each. We relax for the rest of the day except for evening visit to a broadband cybercafe nearby.
29th Dec 07 > Day-16 : Kanpur to Varanasi - 334 Kms
We left Kanpur early at 6:30AM. We had to go a long way to go alongside the elevated NH-2 before we could get on to it. NHAI has built a 25KM long elevated highway right thru the heart of Kanpur, bye-passing most of the congested areas. Amazing engineering feat!! Excellent thinking, not to provide too many local entry/exits on the skyway; thus prevenying the local slow-moving traffic from using the NH-2 for local city trips!
After breakfast in the morning we took a cycle rickshaw and hopped off at Kashi Vishwanath or Golden Temple. This temple dedicated to Vishveswara i.e. Shiva as the Lord of the Universe. The Temple built in 1776, is located in some narrow lane of the old city, near the Ghats area. At the shoe-sho we engaged a local "Pujari" to escort as on quick guided tour inside the temple. This worked out well as the Pujari seemed yto know most his way around well there and we got a fairly good Darshan of this ancient an dimportant Hindu temple. Pictures are not allowed; took just one at the street entrance to the temple, guarded by armed security.
The Boat ride on the Ganga, past the many Ghats there, was really tranquil and worth the slow paced ride. The Boat-man gave us great running commentary of the history & other stories of the various ghats and their significance. We also saw a few funeral pyres on the Manikarni Ghat. Some pictures of the Ghats and other Boats :
After the boat ride on the Ganges, we got back to Hotel Nar-Indra for a Thali lunch in their restaurant, which was pretty good. Then at 1:30PM we left in the car for Sarnath; which is some 10Kms northeast of Varanasi. Sarnath is the place where Budhha came to after achieving Enlightenment at Bodhgaya. At Sarnath he preached his message of Middle-way to achieve Nirvana. Sarnath was at its peak in 5th century AD.
After Sarnath visit we were back in Hotel by 4:00PM. That evening I just roamed around the crowded streets of Varanasi, to soak in the atmosphere of this Holy Town. Plenty of crowd and foreignors on the streets here.
25 GIRT 33d GQ+ >
Days: 15 to 17 of GIRT tour
Agra > Kanpur > Varanasi > Sarnath > Varanasi