As we left the hotel we headed straight for the ATM signposted at the entrance to the bird park. As I stood outside a guy in a bike helmet walked past me to the door of the booth. I was annoyed enough to tap him on the shoulder and ask what he was playing at. “In India no Queue“. I had suspected as much already. The ATM didn’t work with our card anyway and didn’t bother to give any error message either.
We were unsure if we should take the minor road out of Balwatphur to avoid the traffic chaos of Agra or stick to the main road and go through it all again (for the third time). In the end we tried the minor road. The going was slow with poorly surfaced roads about 60% of the way but also some lovely smooth tarmac roads. The views in the less populated places were beautiful with green and yellow fields and a slightly less mad pace of life. I was at a loss to explain why people leave the country to go to the city, thinking they will find a better life. Perhaps its hard in the country too if you don‘t own land. It seems that those who do succeed end up leaving the country altogether adding to the brain drain here.
Unfortunately the poor roads continued onto the NH3 main road towards Jhansi. Not only that but they got worse in parts too. Roadworks and diversions meant we ended up travelling through an army town and got told off for parking in the wrong place when we tried to ask directions. The road around Gwallior was particularly painful, being choked up with traffic and one guy so high on something that he didn’t react to my horns blaring as he stood in the middle of the road. In the midst of all this they still insist on putting high speed ramps everywhere though I don‘t imagine the traffic to ever be fast enough for them to be any use.
We passed Gwallior and decided not to look for the hotels there. The one on the ringroad were either full or not interested in having us. We stopped at another place that turned out to be a restaurant and initially said yes to letting us put the tent up and then no immediately after. There seems to be a culture here of answering yes whenever you don‘t actually know or even understand the question. They suggested we would find the suresh hotel 10km up the road (it was in fact 25km) and seemed to be more interesting in gawping at the bikes than helping any further.
Perhaps we were too used to Iran and to some extent Pakistan, with people tripping over themselves to offer a place to stay and being unfailingly honest. Here the hotel guy in the last place tried to charge me an extra 20% when I used their internet for “downloading“. I suspect it would have been even more had the letter “e“ worked properly on the keyboard.
Still, eventually we reached Dabra. We had about 1300 rupees to our name and had not seen a cash machine for 200km nor a hotel for a good 60km either. We pulled into a petrol station and tried to figure out if our Visa card would work before filling Helens nearly empty bike. The sun had set and driving was getting real interesting as we passed a tractor that had shed its load in the middle of the main street. Helen resourcefully spoke to the petrol station manager, figuring he would have a better chance of speaking good English. She was right and we were relieved when he explained the hotel was 1km up the road with an ATM beside.
We left the refuelling til we had more money and crept along in the dark, finding the hotel where he said it was. It was a bit rough but cheap and had enclosed parking. To our surprise the ATM also worked and we were able to eat too, It had been like Jacobabad all over again and we were both tired but relieved.