A tough, tiring day on the #28States28Plates drive
After hearing fairly horrifying stories about the route from Silliguri to Kolkata, we decided to start the day early. We were in the cars by 5am and Google Maps on the (wireless) Apple CarPlay had listed our ETA as 6:30pm. We proceeded to head out of Siliguri before most of the town was awake. But could a road connecting two major towns really be that bad?
Well, in parts it has become far better than it was a few years ago. The notorious town of Islampur now has a bypass, and so does the equally infamous town of Malda. Both these bypasses easily save about 30 minutes of travel time, and a few hours at the psychiatrist. Even so, the route soon took us off the main highway near the district of Majhok and took us through some of the tinitiest of villages, running along the Bangladesh border. There’s little in the way of order here, or law — we were actually extorted by a few youngsters who were sitting across the road, but just Rs 20 was enough to see both cars get through. We stopped for breakfast near Bhabanipur and ate some pooris and daal. But this was to be our last stop for a while. The village road had now become a dirt trail and with rain pouring down, it was slowly turning to slush. The Kigers charged on though and made it all the way back to the National Highway, nearly an hour later, without breaking a sweat. The highway itself isn’t much better — filled with potholes that can swallow a car whole and riddled with unruly public transport ranging from buses to dreadfully slow e-rickshaws. It really is a nightmare and we highly recommend tackling as much as you can while the sun is up. For us, as the sun went down we were still a couple of hours away from Kolkata and that’s where the really bad patch started.
The road had more potholes than smooth patches of tarmac and with pretty much no lighting anywhere except the blinding high beams of oncoming traffic, it was inevitable that we were going to hit a few potholes. And we hit them hard. A fair few could have easily caused suspension damage to cars that weren’t made to tackle the rough stuff. But honestly, to our surprise, the Kigers kept going like clockwork. Not an extra rattle, not an additional squeak was audible after we’d crossed the bad patch. The long journey had definitely taken a toll, on us though. But thankfully, the good folks at the Lemon Tree Premier in Kolkata had booked us into the lavish Presidential Suite for the night. The suite is massive and even has its own dining area. So, judging by the tiredness in our eyes, the chef cooked us some delicious local dishes including the Bhitki Pathori (fish wrapped in leaf), Potol Bhaja (fried pointed gourd) and traditional mutton curry. After we’d filled up our stomachs, we had traditional Bengali sweets like Rasgulla to top it all off. The drive was tiring to say the least, but the Lemon Tree Premier Kolkata really evened it all out with fantastic hospitality. Tomorrow we head southward from Kolkata to Bhubaneswar.