Minimum maintenance, travel at your own risk

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The roads in India are a major barrier to development.  On the way from the airport the first morning (about 4AM), I learned that there are wonderful highways here, but they don’t really get you to where you have to go.  They just end, in dirt/gravel roads which would make the infamous roads of Bike and Build look like the Autobahn.  The potholes here look like they were made by Durandal runway cratering missiles, and they’ll do a number on your car if you’re not careful.  there are speed humps in the middle of the highway, so people can cross.  a four lane highway with level crossings makes no sense–a bridge over wouldn’t be that hard, relatively speaking, and in some places they have tunnels for pedestrians and presumably animals…

Cows (holy to hindus) do indeed roam free.  in Bangalore they just sit in the road and do what they will.  in the rural areas, there are many more of them, and they even graze on the highway median, under the supervision of their owners.  Nothing like a herd of cows blocking the highway.  or even men at work sweeping.  sweeping!

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road rules are somewhere between flaunted and nonexistent.  In Bangalore it’s a free-for-all, with auto-rickshaws, scooters, motorcycles and cars jockeying for position, avoiding the potholes and trying to make the few lights.  where there are no traffic signals or policemen, there are no apparent rules.  In rural areas, there are streams of obviously overloaded trucks, plus auto-rickshaws, etc. all going at it on even more potholed roads.  And there are tractors and animals.  Not everyone seems to understand that you’re supposed to go with traffic on the highway–we had a few close calls with tractors and cars going the wrong way on the highway.  And as opposed to the West where people going the wrong way is either a drunken mistake or an exhibition of psychopathology, the tractor driver didn’t look to perturbed when we went zipping by at 100km/h.

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our driver, Kumar, is ready for the world rally championship.  dealing with the bad roads, traffic, and animals, he drove at speeds any sane person besides Walter Rohrl would consider excessive.  Actually I think even a WRC winner would consider the speed Kumar was driving to be somewhere north of "insano".  the Kumar-Mobile, below.

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Last night we watched The Hunting Party, a film about journalistic impartiality.  I had my own brush with that, stopping to take pictures of a road crew in rural India composed of young girls.  For a pittance, they scrub the road and move rocks with their bare hands.  that’s right, scrub with brushes like I would use to scrub the tile in the bathroom. 

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I didn’t really know what to say or do, besides crouching down to their level to snap photos and get back to our van before the boss man got angry.  I don’t know how much they get paid, but it can’t be much–and it’s backbreaking labor with primitive tools.  Seeing this kind of poverty is hard, but that’s party of the reason I came to India–to see it as it is.

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One thought on “Minimum maintenance, travel at your own risk

  1. Dave – These pictures and stories are great. Makes me long for my days in Asia. I’m quite jealous of your adventures. Have a great rest of the trip and be weary of the street foodErin

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