29 August 2019 – Road Trip to Bangalore
Bangalore in the state of Karnataka is the high tech mecca of India. Last week, Varghese drove us to Bangalore so that I could take delivery of our new house battery. The next post will talk more about this battery, while this post deals with the road trip.
We left the boat at 0730, for the start of a 3-day 550km road trip, including two overnights in Bangalore. A 550km road trip in Canada might take 5 hours, or even less, but in India – its a major production, because most of the roads are unsuitable for high speeds. Until we went on this 12.5 hour road trip (each way), we had never been in a moving vehicle faster than 60 km/hr. That may be why India, with its poor roads and reckless drivers – doesn’t suffer many traffic fatalities. Also, it seemed that we needed to stop every 20 km to pay a toll, a small cost, but it took time. Our drive originated in the state of Kerala (population 33M), passed through the state of Tamil Nadu (population 72M) and ended at Bengaluru (Bangalore) in the state of Karnataka (population 61M). Bangalore, by the way, is the birthplace of the famous WWI invention “the Bangalore torpedo”. A Bangalore torpedo is an explosive charge placed within one or several connected tubes. It is used by combat engineers to clear obstacles that would otherwise require them to approach directly, possibly under fire, usually lots of barbed or concertina wire.
This is the route we took, and the states we passed through.
Along the way, we left the lush tropical green environment of Kerala (which they refer to as “Gods Own Country”) and were surprised to see some mountains in the interior. There is a lot to see here, but we were just passing through.
This is probably the best road in all of India, and its a shame you have to stop every 10 minutes to pay a toll. There is not a pothole in sight – and its a divided highway.
At a restaurant alongside the highway, we stopped to have lunch. Most Indian people eat with their hands, they don’t use a knife/fork/spoon. They wash their hands religiously before and after every meal. This gave me an opportunity to photograph Varghese eating with his hands. My Dentist told me that even he eats rice and noodles with his hands and it gives him a verification of the meal temperature.
Although India, in our experience, is an incredibly dirty and rubbish strewn country, there are signs that it is changing. As we entered the state of Tamil Nadu, there was a huge roadside sign advising of the new rules with regards to single-use plastics. The times are “a changing”.
This roadside view illustrates the typical agricultural land that we passed through. Although India has more than 1.2 billion people, there is a lot of green space and incredibly large tracts of seemingly wild land as well.
In the city of Bangalore, we found construction everywhere. The roads were jam packed with traffic of all sorts and there were a lot of detours. In all of India, the driver of a motorbike is obligated to wear a helmet, but most of the states don’t require a passenger to wear one. Here are some enterprising guys that are not only meeting the helmet obligation but also trialling a unique back safety harness!
Cows are sacred in much of India. What we didn’t realize was the impact this presents in the cities. Although we have been in the state of Kerala for 5 months, we’ve never seen a cow on the street. On this trip to Bangalore, we saw plenty of un-owned, “wild” cows just wandering around. This presents a hazard to drivers, as well as pedestrians as they struggle to avoid stepping in cow droppings! The cows wander around, munching on grass and even stopping alongside to eat “treats” left out by the human population, specifically for their benefit.
We did visit with UltraLife India (subject of the next blog) and picked up the battery, all according to plan. On the way back, we drove a similar route (there are several alternatives) and finally ate a traditional Indian breakfast with masala dosa. This dish is a variation of the popular South Indian food dosa, which has its origins in Tuluva Mangalorean cuisine. It is made from rice, lentils, potato, methi, and curry leaves, and served with chutneys and sambar. It was kind of like an omelette rolled up in a thin pancake, very delicious.
We had a great breakfast.
These next photos fall under the category “strange things you see along the road”, or at least “strange to us”.
Here is a truck transporting what appears to be farm labourers.
Let there be no doubt, this commuter bus is full, so full that that about 6 guys are hanging on by a thread.
Nearly every bus and truck is adorned with English writing, all advising nearby drivers to SOUND HORN. I don’t know why because I doubt very much that many of the drivers actually speak English, but then consider this. India has 22 official languages. The total number of mother tongues spoken in India is 1,652. However, only around 150 languages have a sizeable speaking population. So, what about English? British colonial legacy has resulted in English being a language for government, business and education. English, along with Hindi, is one of the two languages permitted in the Constitution of India for business in Parliament. Despite the fact that Hindi has official Government patronage and serves as a lingua franca over large parts of India, there was considerable opposition to the use of Hindi in the southern states of India, and English has emerged as a de facto lingua franca over much of India. I have seen people’s driver’s licenses and notifications from Government and business, and its all in English. Despite the fact that only 10% of the population (the educated population I might add) speaks English, this has emerged as their “common” written language.
This truck is obviously carrying some dangerous cargo, perhaps explosives. It says “DON’T KISS ME – – – I AM ON FIRE”.
Finally, as we passed through one of the multitude of toll booth checkpoints, I began to notice the ubiquitous employment of street sweepers, invariably women. This is one of the lowliest and most common occupations in India. There are hardly any trash bins to be found, but its always possible to see someone who is actually paid to pick up trash. I wonder if all these street sweepers might take offence to a nation-wide self-imposed clean-up, thereby making their occupation obsolete?