Sunday, 8 April, 2007

Motoring to Mettraas...

Am just back from a road trip to Chennai (or Madras for the more archaic amongst us) from here in Bangalore. I've been itching to do an inter-city trip for the last couple of months now, just to test out my new pride and joy on four wheels on a flat-out highway. So I created an opportunity to do this by making a trip down to visit some friends there. And in many ways it's been a very interesting one!

In the past, I've usually done the run to Madras by train if I've traveled during the day (which is quite rare), and sometimes by bus overnight. And it's even been a few years since I've done that. So I'm really getting a look at the new-fangled NH4 only now, so to speak. And I do believe that the NHAI has done some phenomenal work, and I come away highly impressed! Consider this - from just after Electronic City on Hosur Road, it's a piece of cake to hit Sriperumbudur (20 km before Chennai) in a shade under four hours, with a mini break thrown in, no sweat. And it can usually be done much faster. Basically this time beats Shatabdi, which is probably the fastest train connection between the two cities as of now.

Traffic is a bit of a bitch till about Bommasandra on Hosur Rd while leaving Bangalore. After that, the run through to Krishnagiri is a real pleasure - the road switches between four and six lanes, with more or less smooth traffic, unless you have the misfortune of being stuck behind a couple of trucks taking up the two available lanes in parallel, one trying to overtake the other.....s l o w l y!!! This is a bit of a hilly terrain, which means most trucks can go only as fast (??) as, say 15 kph, and (here's where the '4th standard math problem' begins) -

"If truck A is traveling at 12 kph and truck B is traveling in the same direction at 15 kph on a parallel lane, how long will it take B to overtake A so that the rest of the frikking traffic can make a bloody move on?"
It can get quite frustrating - I just escape into an alternate reality where I'm a time-traveling Animal Planet correspondent who is shooting a documentary on the primordial mating dance of a couple of generally placid vegetarian dinosaurs (because that's exactly what this would look, sound and maybe even smell like!).

Still, this leg has its points - on a clear day, it's a magnificent sight in many places with all the rock formations and the neat tarmac strip of the highway winding its way around the hills.

--- Update - Monday, April 9, '07 ---

Just got this other priceless pic from Madhu (he snapped it from his phone) - a bit of philosophy to ponder over at 20 kph...

The text reads - "Life is Drama, Man is Actor"!!! :-)

--- End of Update ---

After Krishnagiri through to Sriperumbudur is a dream run, punctuated by toll booths (an excellent idea! - there are four toll points, with a fifth still coming up at the Chennai end. We did the math and it worked out to about 50 ps per km. Totally worth it), and not much traffic (well, we timed it that way I guess) - just the occasional comic relief provided by something like this (see below)...

...Fevicol, anyone? :-)

What also struck me was the quality of the roads - it comes close to anything I've seen internationally. The signage is good, there is surprisingly minimal to no debris on the roads (except the occasional road-kill), the road surface is absolutely clear and smooth, there are
railings in many places on the shoulders of the road to prevent people and animals trying to cross at random points, and the dividers actually have flowering plants in 'em! How cool is that! I'm more than willing to shell out good money to drive on well-maintained roads like these (and like my friend put it, not just on the highways but in the city as well. Why not, if you think about it). Good job, NHAI!

The thing you gotta watch out for is the absolutely mind-bending habit of the folks in the villages and towns on the wayside to drive on occasion in YOUR LANE, IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION, DIRECTLY INTO YOUR PATH!! It's a surreal feeling to be tootling along at 110 kph to suddenly find a smiling motorcyclist in the middle of your windshield coming right at you. The real reason why he's doing that is of course the fact that he thinks it's too much trouble to go down a couple of km out of his intended direction to take a U-turn at the break in the divider. The surrealism hits you when you notice that HE IS BUSY LOOKING AT HIS REARVIEW MIRROR AND COMBING HIS HAIR while coming right at you!! It's as if, for him, you don't exist! You know, it's an encouraging feeling to note the general feeling of prosperity and opportunity, and a growing sense of self-importance of the folks in the villages and towns which were fairly sleepy non-descript places a couple of decades ago, and I really wish them all well, BUT SOMEBODY'S GOTTA TEACH THEM HOW TO DRIVE!! :-)

All in all, though, this is a very do-able drive, and, given a good car, some great music to chill to, the company of friends and the easy banter that comes with it, it all actually adds up to a nice
stress-buster! And for a group of 4-6 people, with diesel and tolls, it's probably the next cheapest and fastest traveling option compared only to air travel! Strongly recommended!

1 comment:

Grandebelf said...

The mobile camera is pretty nice.. nice photos