India from the Inside - a Tour Through Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh
On the Road to Bikaner, Rajasthan
We left Mandawa early for Bikaner - the next stop on my tour. Surjit had warned of the bad roads as we left, but nothing could have prepared me for the absolute chaos and traffic we encountered during the first hour. He said "construction problem" but it was more like "destruction".
The roads were packed (as usual) with bullock and donkey carts, over-laden tractors from the nearby farms, scooters, motorbikes jammed precariously with riders, (I counted a family of five, the baby balanced on the gas tank between his father's legs for carrying the most passengers), lorries, Tuk Tuks and tourist cars and vans from Delhi. All honking, squeezing and pushing to make their way along a barely navigable road. Washed out in areas from the monsoon, we drove slowly around the potholes and debris covering the pavement, the dust enveloping the car as we went. In one part, the road narrowed to a single lane for both oncoming and forward traffic and we had to dodge the masses - hair raising for me as I watched from the back seat.
At another point, the road gave out suddenly and the asphalt disappeared into a pile of sand and mud. Surjit was calm throughout and carefully chose when to pass to avoid any accidents. He muttered "nonsense" every time we were stalled but his quick maneuvering kept us going and and we pushed on. "Should we stop"? I asked once we were through the worst of it and on the main highway. I wanted to wash and needed a toilet and something to drink after all the dust and bouncing over the ruts and dirt.
"Yes, I will find a place". "Not a tourist place please", I pleaded. We had a bad experience at one of the popular roadside stops when we were on our way to Mandawa from Delhi. Beautiful from the outside, the inner courtyard and lawn was sad and dirty. A small, miserly buffet stood at one end - watery curry, dried out rotis and a few other unmentionable items thick with flies and staffed by disinterested help. I had only wanted coffee but had to pay for a meal - and an overpriced one at that. There was a "tourist trap" gift shop off to the side that I browsed through, filled with the usual trinkets and clothes and a proprietor who followed me around like the flies outside.
The bathroom however was splendid. Huge and clean with a handsome attendant that passed out toilet paper to you on the way in. He carefully ripped off a few sheets and pressed them in my hand. The best part of the place and I gladly gave him a tip on the way out....