Nightmare on the NH8
Jaipur Travel Blog› entry 17 of 23 › view all entries
Pushkar's a holy city and we were well blessed by our Brahmin priest. We also went over to nearby Ajmer which houses India's major Moslem shrine, the Dargah. It's the last resting place of a 12th century sufi saint, Chishti. There, after a donation written up in a big ledger, a corner of the great silk cover that's on his tomb was brushed on our heads as a blessing. We were also invited to eat rose petals that had lain on the tomb, but surreptiously put them in our pockets instead. We went on to admire the mosque with its fine buildings, all added to by India's moghul rulers.
So we felt pretty holy as we set of for Jaipur on National Highway 8. What a nightmare! At first, through Ajmer, it was the normal Indian town traffic of cars, lorries, buses, motor bikes, autorickshaws, scooters, cyclists, bullock carts, camel carts, hand carts, pedestrians, cows and goats, all mingling together, and occasionally being whistled at ineffectually by a policeman. But everything moves in its desired direction. Then we came to a toll booth, and the road became a 6 lane highway, well engineered and well maintained. But it was undoubtedly the most frightening bit of road we've used. Everything drove fast. Indian drivers seem to think that the brake is only for stopping, not for slowing down to avoid a hazard. Large lorries hugged the outside lane, so we and all other cars weaved in and out to overtake. Occasionally a car, bullock cart or lorry came down the slow lane the wrong way, taking a short cut. At small towns, fencing had been pulled away and pedestrians wandered across the road. Buses didn't use the thoughtfully provided lay-bys, but just stopped, straddling the slow and middle lane, to let off their passengers on the main road. At two or three apparently random points, with little warning, police barriers blocked a couple of lanes, but the traffic just took the chicane created at pretty much full speed. So it was a relief to arrive in the outskirts of Jaipur, and return to the normal chaotic, but slow, town traffic. On the journey, we'd not only thought of our Pushkar and Ajmer blessings, but also of turning prayer wheels in Ladakh and bowing before the holy book in Amritsar - and oh, hugging St James in Compostela a couple of yeras back, too!!