Road trips in India and especially in the Northern state of Uttar Pradesh are not very exciting mainly because of the road conditions. We have been doing quite a few road trips in this region – some of them have been really good and some an experience worth forgetting.
Our fondness of travelling and exploring new locations by road prompted us (2 adults and one child aged 10) to undertake another road trip (this time from Lucknow to Jaipur and back).
Lucknow – Agra – Jaipur (NH 19/AH 1 –NH21)
A small stretch in Lucknow was problematic because of Metro construction work – the part where the Shaheed Path meets the Kanpur road. This is a stretch till the Airport. Beyond that the road was smooth but traffic was erratic till Sarojini Nagar. Beyond that the road (a toll road) was decent – it was not very smooth and was bumpy in some areas (for a toll road, this is an unwanted feature). The toll plaza comes just before the Nawabganj bird sanctuary. Only one issue – currently the amount of toll which is charged and the condition of the road is complete mismatch.
Earlier on this road there used to be major blockage area in Unnao, because for the last 10-12 years a flyover was being constructed. Thankfully this flyover has been completed and the traffic congestion has been reduced to minimal. The flyover has been recently opened but it had some major construction issues and some repair work was going on which reduced the speed.
There was mild traffic on the road ahead till Ganga Pul (bridge). Major repair work was going on Ganga Pul (Bridge) also. Earlier the moment you crossed the Ganga Pul one used to get struck up in the traffic congestion in the Jajmau – Ramadevi block, and had to take a left from Ramadevi crossing towards Chakeri, drive around 2-3 kms and climb on the elevated road (from NH2 side). Again thankfully the elevated part of the highway has been completed and the moment we crossed Ganga Pul, we took the elevated stretch.
The best part of the highway NH19 had started. This elevated road helps you to cross the Kanpur city at ease without getting struck up in any traffic jams. The elevated section is till Kalpi road crossing / Panki area. From here also we experienced smooth partial access controlled highway (6 lanes highway till Etwaha).
There is a toll plaza at Barra (just after BPCL’s Singh filling station). If you are looking at a CNG filling station, on this road you would find the first CNG station – HP’s Dutt brothers filling station, it’s a daughter station with HPCL’s petrol pump. Our first stopover – didn’t take much time here.
We stopped for a tea/snack break after Akbarpur police station. (we had our own arrangements for that and thus saved time on searching for good dhabas, which are rare in this section). The road was really smooth. Just before reaching Etawah we saw directions towards the Lion/Deer Safari.
There are multiple toll plazas in this area – we paid the highest toll on this section – i.e. Rs. 125.00 for single side. The condition of road is really good and one doesn’t mind paying tolls.
Post Etwaha the 6 lane highway becomes the normal 4 lane highway. It is still a toll road but the condition of the road earlier and now is different. After Etwaha the road is not that smooth. There is repair work being undertaken on the side going towards Agra and on the other side work is going on to increase the width of the road.
At Kathphori (near Reliance Petrol Pump) there was some construction work going for an elevated road/flyover.
There is a toll plaza in Gurau.
In Firozabad, we got struck up in the traffic again (near the bus station (the bus station road, and Jain temple crossing). The highway unlike in other cities on this section (Tundla, Shikohabad etc.) here passes through the main city centre and this problem can be easily anticipated. We saw some bikers almost like gypsies – mobile truck decorators with Rajasthan number. These bikers travel on the highway on these route (especially in Rajasthan) with their mobile shops- beautifully decorated bikes with the stuff the decorative accessories – probably travelling till Firozabad to purchase decorative items (for trucks) made out of glass.
There is a CNG station of Gail (on the other side) just after OM Master dhabha. We were technically still in the Firozabad city. This was our second stop over. This is a mother station – and surprisingly the price of the CNG was much much lower than anywhere in this route (even lower than what we pay in Lucknow). A few meters away there was a Food Plaza with Sagar Ratna Restaurant.
From Firozabad to Agra, we did the stretch in decent time. After Etmadpur, one can see the clover leaves (entry points for Agra Delhi Express way) near Sharma ji Ka Dhaba. We got struck up again at Yamuna bridge (after Etmadpur). This is the entry point for Agra city, surprisingly nothing had changed (we had travelled to Agra by road, earlier in 2009 and had got struck in the traffic jam at the same point). The road direction signs were confusing here, our GPS signal was creating problem, so we decided to ask for directions for connecting highway to Jaipur (via Fatehpur Sikri) from traffic police personnel. The police personnel gave us wrong direction and we turned on the Jeoni Mandi road in place of taking the straight road (NH 19) till Guru Ka Taal gurudwara and then climbing the Guru Ka Taal Flyover to enter into Agra City, from there reaching the Hari Parwat crossing and moving ahead on MG road and then further on the road leading towards Fatehpur Sikri.
As it was Dusshera day, we found many processions (not the Ramlila processions but others where people were taking the images of Goddess Durga – not related to Durga Puja but Jagran etc.). The traffic police was not managing the traffic properly, they were least bothered about the trouble people were having due to the processions. We were diverted again and again into small lanes. Finally we could reach Sanjay Palace area and then proceeded towards MG Road and then Fatehpur Sikri Road. The traffic personnel in the city were not helpful. It took us an hour to cross this stretch.
The road condition was pathetic – huge pot holes, narrow and bumpy (Except the area which comes under the Air Force station) till we reached the toll road. The toll road was decent. The toll plaza comes just before Gangur Resort. The last hour in Agra city had tired us, we were irritated and were looking forward to stop at Sher – E – Punjab for lunch at Fatehpur Sikri area.
Sher-E-Punjab Hotel and Restaurant is on the highway itself (on the opposite side). They had decent parking space where a well mannered security guard was helping the vehicles to be parked. The restaurant is divided in two sections – Non AC section and AC section for families – don’t expect too much in terms of an ambience. It was like a decent dhabha. They had separate wash rooms – clean and decently maintained. They don’t serve non-vegetarian items during Navratras and even on Dusshera. We opted for their speciality of the day – Butter Paneer Masala along with Dahi Badas, trust me you the food was really good – especially the Dahi Badas.
Post lunch, we continued our journey towards Jaipur. We were now recharged. The road was good. Slightly bumpy in some areas before we crossed into Rajasthan. The entry point into Rajasthan is really beautiful. An open Rajuptana gate like structure welcomed us to Rajasthan.
Yes the best part of the journey had started. This section till Jaipur has multiple tolls but the toll charges are much less compared to what we had paid in Uttar Pradesh (toll charges::distance for which the toll was charged). Superb road conditions, better driving sense among drivers of different vehicles on this road –no one trying to cross the road in between and the best best part – no dogs, no cows or any other animal running across the road. The road was clean really clean in this section. There was lot of greenery in this section.
The first major city which comes on this section is Bharatpur (in around half and hour from Fatehpur Sikri , just 25 kms). The Keoaldev National Park (Bharatpur bird sanctuary) falls on road, the entry gate was on our side of the road. There was no traffic congestion in this section, many hotels and resorts.
The first toll plaza on this section was at Ludhawai (Ludhwai Toll Plaza), just after Tej hotel dhabha.
The next toll plaza was the Amoli Toll plaza after Halena village. Another important destination on this section is Salasar – Mehndipur (popular for Mehndipur Balaji Temple). The traffic in this section was decently managed – no congestion. We could see small hillocks (the Aravali ranges) all along the section.
At Sikandara (not the Agra Sikandara), we saw many stone sculpting stores on the highway. There is a toll plaza post Sikandara.
Next destination was Dausa. Again no traffic congestion, lovely view.
The toll plaza at Mahua (Rajadhonk toll plaza – near Amplus Solar Installation) announced our entry to Jaipur. The main city is still at quite a distance. We were now among small hillocks and then saw a sign – Ghat Ka Ghuni tunnel. An architectural marvel on the highway – crossed the tunnel we were in the main city.
From here locating our destination (Bani Park area) was easy – due to ongoing Metro work there were some diversions – near the Ramniwas bagh and then on MI road, but the traffic police personnel were really very helpful and clear in helping with the directions.
The traffic also being managed nicely, there were no major obstructions in any area. People were following red lights and traffic police guidelines. Our accommodation was just behind the collectorate.
The excellent road conditions enabled our 10 hour journey (including the obstructions and our stops) to be less tiring. A unique feature on the highway section (NH21) in Rajasthan was toilet complexes at regular intervals which were decently maintained. The NH21 section was full of colours, villagers especially ladies dressed up in beautiful golden yellow/yellow ochre odhnis and shades of indigo/purple/red in lehngas, ample greenery and the shades of browns of the Aravali hillocks.
We have already planned to do this stretch again, very soon post the inauguration of Lucknow Agra Express way which would reduce our travelling time from Lucknow to Agra. While returning back we were among the few lucky ones who could do a very small stretch on Agra Lucknow Expressway though we had to take a small detour from the toll plaza into a village and to come back on NH 19, in Etmadpur. But because of that we could avoid all the traffic in Agra and also the traffic congestion on the Yamuna bridge before Etmadpur.