Route taken (Mostly Mumbai-Agra highway) :
Mumbai->Nashik->Malegaon->Dhule->Sendhwa->Indore->Dewas->Biaora->Shivpuri->Jhansi->Orai->Kalpi->Kanpur. This was the same route as one shown by Google Maps by default.
Vehicle used : Skoda Octavia MY2019.
Day 1 (Mumbai to Indore):
Toll collected : Rs 740
Driving time : approx 9h
Breaks : approx 1h
Started from home in Mumbai at 0456h in the dark, so as to keep sufficient margin in order to reach Indore by dusk in case of any checkpoints or other delays (there were none). Drove over an hour in darkness waving in and out of truck traffic through potholed roads in Mumbai, Thane and a little beyond, with constant glare of high beams from traffic on the opposite side of the median. In hindsight, would avoid this due to multiple factors – high beam glare, unable to avoid bad potholes as well as most importantly – lack of sleep (see Notes -1). Reached Nashik in just under 3 hours. The latter stage of the bypass is under construction so exiting the city took a while, driving through potholed service roads next to the under construction flyover, with fair amount of city traffic for company. Post this the drive was fairly uneventful till MP. Possibly had the worst pothole hit a 100km or so before MP with a nice thud with the suspension bottoming out at a speed of about 80-100kmph. Another gripe through Maharashtra was the speed bumps/rumble strips at every U turn, which were mostly without any road signs announcing their presence so requiring me to break within a 50m or so, usually not able to slow down sufficiently when at triple digit speeds. That and the potholes.
Entering MP was a pleasant surprise. Scientifically designed U turns (yay to no speed bumps), always announced by signage. And the roads were either newly laid and even otherwise well maintained with proper signage and pothole free, at worst minor patches. Refueled a little before Indore with 50km range left. Entered Indore by 1500h and reached the hotel (Mariott) by 1515h. Overall took less than 1 hour of breaks for roadside nature calls (no public loos given the infection threat) and streching/snacking. The hotel had proper protocols in place and had advertised contact free checkin but govt regulation required me to submit our ID and the card used for booking. Took the half-board staycation package and stayed indoors for the next 1.5 days. Got our meals delivered to the room after some insisting. Overall, took just a bit over 10h for this leg which was good as we were expecting 12h-14h based on earlier experiences of Google Maps ETAs. I guess bare minimum breaks and low traffic helped.
Day 2 :
Spent in R&R helped by great food in room service, escaping the rigours of ‘Atma Nirbhar’ daily life during the pandemic.
Day 3 :
Toll collected : Rs 910
Driving time : approx 10h
Breaks : approx 1h
Started from the hotel at dawn, 0610h. Got out of the city in 10-15 mins and reached Dewas soon after. This appears to be a sort of satellite industrial town which has developed enough to require a bypass, but our navigation overlords from Mountain View did not suggest any, so I left it at that. Spent some 20 minutes going through the semi-urban traffic on somewhat satisfactory roads, finally entering the toll road. As per the earlier posts in this thread, the Indore-Dewas-Guna-Shivpuri-Jhansi stretch was not advised due to sans-median single lane roads, I only considered this route upon insistence of our aforementioned navigation overlords and some HUMINT gathered over several phone calls. And boy was I in for some surprise! The Dewas-Guna stretch looked like a brand-new highway, 4 laned the entire way with buttery smooth surface. The only way I realized I was well into the triple zone was with the incessant beeping which I could not figure out how to modify even after reading the entire manual.
start of rant
But of course, when the supreme overlord giveth some, insert appropriate pronoun cannot help taketh something else away. The triple zone could be only ventured upon on clear line of sight as the Toll Road operators for reasons of economy (or ideological) decided to plant the medians with the choicest greens, resulting in the motorists having to share this otherwise fantastic stretch of tarmac with the morning buffet rush of certain motherly animals, who were either queued up partaking the aforesaid greens upon or next to the median, or enjoying a postprandial stroll or liedown upon the aforesaid tarmac, possibly indulging in some literal chewing of the cud, at times leaving barely half a lane for the originally intended use of the tarmac. I personally would have preferred sitting upon the aforesaid greens, either on the median, or on either side of the tarmac, but then again, I don’t sit upon the leftovers after a hearty meal do I, silly me! One could only slow down to a crawl, pay due respects and get a move on, avoiding any display of political incorrectness to avoid getting physically corrected later, this being aforesaid motherly animal’s belt after all.
end of rant
Things went slightly haywire after Guna, with the only encountered sufficiently long sans-median stretch of highway which lasted about 15km and 25-30mins with fair number of trucks in either direction (there was one more stretch, when leaving the Mumbai-Agra highway for Kanpur, soon after Jhansi but that was quite short). Elsewhere on the interwebs I was warned to avoid the Shivpuri bypass due to some lunar-crater scale potholes. However, someone else on the same part of interwebs covered the same stretch just a couple of weeks ago on a fully laden City (having driven one for years I was well aware of its lack of ability on such stretches), I was a bit more confident of overcoming it. That and the navigation overlords insisting that the alternate route through town would take 37mins more for a 7km extra journey. Eventually it was do-able, and the really bad part was barely a few hundred mts, but its upto you to choose your poison depending upon your vehicle, your vehicle’s class, its general sense of well-being and your general sense of affection towards it, not to forget, giving this bypass a wide pass after any kind of rain in the recent past unless you are of the adventurous kind, driving a vehicle capable of such bouts of ill-advised adventure, and driving without any passenger(s) who does/do not quite have the same zeal for adventure.
Having passed this barely passable bypass, I was advised to be careful on the subsequent stretch of 100km pre and post Jhansi (essentially Bundelkhand), to avoid stopping for breaks/fuel if possible and certainly avoid it at night. It certainly was a bit on the desolate side, with dense foliage on either side of the road not giving much idea of what laid beyond. Anyways, this was around noon, and I managed to pass Jhansi soon after 1300h, finally leaving the Mumbai-Agra highway and getting on the highway to Kanpur after a minor sans-median interconnecting stretch between toll roads. Also, there was a fair stretch of continuous potholed road soon after Jhansi, looking as if someone ploughed the road with his tractor after a bout of moonshine enabled merrymaking. And soon after that, an impatient trucker possibly heading for such a bout appeared to have driven through a not freshly (but not yet stale) laid stretch of road, leaving grooves deep enough to enforce lane discipline on otherwise wayward two wheel motorists, but thankfully not deep enough to enforce any such discipline on their 4 wheeled compatriots. Passed Orai without event, unfortunately Kalpi insisted upon a longer stay, enforced by an under construction bypass flyover which left barely single laned space, on what could barely be called a road, with dense rural UP traffic for company, with the foot traffic easily bypassing the vehicular traffic passing the not quite there yet bypass. This must have taken a good 20-30 mins.
Rest of the journey to our destination in Kanpur was uneventful, passing through the industrial areas outside Kanpur so a fair amount of traffic however this appeared to be a signal free bypass and one could maintain good speed in between the pockets of traffic. We must have entered Kanpur about 1700h and reached our destination about 1720h.
Having bought this car only end Jan, and it having been driven only a little over 1500km due to a timely taken vacation in the forests and hills of Uttarakhand beginning march, this was the first drive where I even went above 80kmph (as evident by the first encounter of the initial speed warning), it was a pleasant departure from earlier highway trips on our previous car (City), which did not inspire much confidence in the triple zone, not to forget the dreaded rubberbanding effect of the CVT when overtaking. Also this trip was far longer than any I have attempted in India so far (longest being trips to Mahabaleshwar) but the car made it comfortable and enjoyable, and inspiring me and the missus to go on longer trips in the future once we get through whatever we are trying to get through but not quite being able to get through so far.
Apologies for overindulgent keyboard use at times. Blame it on the fresh memory and current reading list.
-1 I had to wake up at 0330h to prep everything. If one is used to sleeping at 2300h and waking between 0600h-0700h, not possible to change habit all of a sudden, which resulted in a bad night of sleep. For sleep-ignorant folk would recommend to read Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, an eye opening book. See Bill Gates review – https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/Why-We-Sleep