Friday, 11 May 2012


After the nice cold air-conditioned rooms in Varanasi we reluctantly headed out of the city to get to Allahabad. There's a fort in Allahabad and some tombs, but not much else of interest to tourists, but it was conveniently one third of the way to Khajuraho, the next third being a stop in Chitakroot.

At the Hotel in Varanasi I asked for directions to get to Allahabad. I could see on the map that there were two major highways heading west but we needed to go south through the city to get on the correct one. The people at the hotel said to go north but none of the roads on the GPS seemed to join up with with correct highway in the south to Allahabad. I made the executive decision to head south where the GPS had told us to go. And then we hit our first problem.

The road went through a military area, the guard at the gate didn't want to let us pass, but when asking which way to go to Allahabad he pointed down the way we weren't allowed to go. Eventually he directed us to a sign that said we must show ID to pass through the military area but we needed the help of a passer by to translate for us. There was lots of discussion about which way to actually go but when we showed passports all was good and we were allowed to go through. But then at the other end of this small military area we ran into a railway crossing. The gates were automatic, and while no one on a motorbike was going through everyone who was walking or cycling just ducked under the barrier and crossed over. There were only two trains through here but it was closed for at least 10 minutes. As soon as the gate started lifting there was a mad rush by all the bikes to be the first one across. And then once we got past that railway, we found ourselves trapped yet again by another railway line. This time the wait was closer to 5 minutes in the hot sun. I was dying in all my gear. Again once the gate opened there was a mad scramble across the tracks (and me, frustrated with the slow speeds on a bike that could go much faster). Once we were through the railways it was another 10km or so of mad Varanasi traffic to less mad traffic towards the main highways. I'm of the opinion that Varinasi has the worst traffic we've hit so far, other opinions may differ.

The road was bumpy and bad for a long time, but then an overpass came into view which was part of the national highway 2. Of course there was a detour so we couldn't go under it to turn right and head down the highway, instead we had to go up the exit ramp for eastbound traffic and then dash across to the other side of the highway. Luckily traffic was light, and less nuts and less bikes on this highway. It was very smooth outside of towns and we were able to sit at speeds closer to 80km/h for a while. Every now and then there was a town on the road it turned to crap momentarily. And then it turned to crap completely around 50km out of Allahabad. We did manage to cover distance a lot quicker than we had been doing elsewhere though.

We got to Allahabad around 2pm and went to check out the fort on the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna about 5pm from the city.

Inside the Akbar fort is a tree from which people used to jump from to kill themselves to end the cycle of rebirth. This was stopped long ago by someone though (I forget what the sign said). We were talking to some locals outside and they said they only wanted a one rupee donation to enter, so we went in to take a look.

Of course once you get in there's some guy wanted to bless you or whatever with his broom and put the dot on your forehead (I don't know the technical terms yet...). He wanted 10 rupees of course, possibly the colour of the skin jacked up the price.

This is that tree. Behind it is the working military area, we were told not to take photos after that.
Below the tree is a temple. Since I was there I decided to go down and look, and wouldn't you know it, 10 rupee donation to go down (where did the guys outside get 1 rupee from?). Once inside there are statues of all the important Hindu gods and in front of each is someone willing to bless/something you for that god. And of course, each one wants a donation for doing so. There was a guy who had seen us at the gate and he was down here at the first statue, he started doing his thing much to my objection and then finally he said that the gods have said I must donate 100 rupees. I refused to pay him because he had a tray of 10's and 1's all on display, there were no 100's in sight. I believe the gods had told him to apply the white skin tax for their blessing and I refused to donate to a god that would do that. I think drew coughed up some money eventually but then we walked around all the statues avoiding any more blessings/taxes and then got out of there, myself feeling rather annoyed that they would do that just because we're foreigners.

Tree growing out of the fort wall. Taken after we were told not to take photos.

Parked right outside the fort.
We were sitting there for a bit just researching hotel options and then a family walked past holding a pantsless baby. They spotted us and handed the pantsless baby to me to get a photo of him with the white guy.

We found a Hotel Tepso after battling the traffic in the city, they had OK rooms with loud airconditioning and a loud fan, and a wet bathroom. They also had unsecured wifi which we made use of. All for only 900rupees a night ($18).

We unpacked and then set out towards the tombs of Khusro Barg. The weirdest part about walking through this city was the lack of touts no one cared that we were there. Very refreshing, that would all change soon though.

The path to the main gate.

Some kids (possibly homeless) had followed us off the street into the park that surrounds Khusro Barg, a few passer bys had told them off, but they kept at it, just slightly further away. Once we got inside the main gate around the tombs we heard a lot of kids yelling and then suddenly we were mobbed by about 30 kids. they all wanted to be in a photo, but it was very annoying to try and take a photo of one of the buildings and have them run into the shot. They followed us everywhere in the park, all the adults turning to look at what all the fuss was about but there were only two or three people to tell them off. I think they were just as interested in us as the kids but just couldn't be bothered following us around. Some of the uni-student aged people came over to practice English, but I think they understood our frustration and mostly kept a distance after we gave short one word answers. Our rent-a-crowd persisted for about an hour, slowly decreasing in numbers as all the families starting leaving after sunset. Some of them backed off after I went to hit one for touching my bag too...

Pretty much the only photo I got that wasn't filled with kids.

Drew battling the kids.
After that nonsense we headed back towards the train station to try find someone to take us to Dominos (we have to try it while we're here!). We found a rickshaw and it was slow progress but we made it. Pizza! I missed you again (it's been like weeks!).

We skipped this place. 

KITTY PARTIES! These aren't for cats though, they're a once a month gossiping party for Indian women.

The next morning we tried to find a tuk tuk driver to take us to a park which was were the British Raj had ended. And wouldn't you know it, you can never find a tuk tuk when you need one. Eventually one turned up and said it would be 300rupees, but that was too much so we left him. Then he dropped it to 250. Still too much for me. Finally we got him down to 200, but we had to go back to the hotel first. He was very persistent with his following so obviously 200 rupees was a massive fair for him still.

This is the park we ended up at:

No idea what it says. It's not been well kept either if the park is supposed to be significant.

No idea what this says. Who can translate?

The only English sign in the park.

The replica of the symbol of India (I think).

Another view.
After reading some more about this ending of the British Raj it sounds like it was actually Chandra Shekhar Azad Park where it ended and not this one. I'm not sure which it actually is because information is limited here.

The new bridge next to this park.
After all this it was midday before we got back to the Hotel, and since I was feeling like crap we stayed another day to abuse the very rare hotel wireless. In the afternoon we went down to the All Saints Cathedral.

The largest church in Asia (source unverified!)


Power connectivity inside the church.
And then finally it was time to find some beer.

Which we found here.
The next morning it was off to Chitakroot which I'm yet to get at the photos of. But here's a selection of clips of leaving Allahabad. This is pretty typical of the cities we've been through so far. Varinasi was a bit worse with the crazy road directions though.

The kind of landscape we were riding through for the rest of the day.

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