Here I’m writing down my first travelogue of my first long (!) drive. I’m new to the world of driving, drove around 3000 KM only with my Punto MJD, so a 75KM * 2 is a long drive for me. Phulia – Santipur region is a textile hub in Bengal & famous for its Tant & Jamdani sarees. It is believed (obviously by wifey, sisters etc) that sarees are LOTs of cheaper in Phulia than in Kolkata. It’s a common practice around our area to buy sarees from Phulia in bulk as here there is a chance to buy it directly from the producer. Wedding of my sister is scheduled & there is a requirement to procure lots of saree. I found it’s a great opportunity for me to drive on the famous NH34 & a weekend around the places. So let’s go. [attachment=12:10qm2xmt]Map.JPG[/attachment:10qm2xmt] I started to search on the net for information about Phulia, its tant shops & road condition of NH43 for this stretch. Unfortunately not much information is available. West Bengal is not known to be a net-savvy state & it seems much behind then the national average. I could not find any online saree shop or other informative sites regarding that region. Google maps only revels a distance of around 66 KM of Phulia from my home but I was in dark about any specific shop/location after the 66 KM. Thought I’ll drive for 66KM & then ask local people if I could not get anything else. Although it’s not a good idea to ask local people in these type of situation (because you’ll certainly end-up to a broker or alike), but there was no alternative. I’m a new driver & NH34 is not actually famous as a driving pleasure. Again wifey & my 2 years old daughter will accompany us on the journey. As a result anxiety was there in me & I always tried to complete the journey within daylight. The Experience:- Date was not fixed & it all started suddenly on a Saturday morning around 9 AM when we all decide this is the day. Punto is always ready as well as its driver. Wifey jumps with the kid to prepare her, I was ordered to load an entire supermarket (from boiled then cooled water for the kid, a potty, sweet limes to knife & what not!!!) to the dickey of Punto & Punto joyfully accepted the entire load. All set, we finally started at 11:15AM. There is an incline where our street joins with NH34, it was a nightmare for me at the time of my initial driving as I’d stalled the car a few times while stopping at the incline & restarting after getting the clearance. I thought I’d passed those days. But I stall again that day – only to remind me how tensed I was & to take it easy, to free my mind. Passed around 1.3KM, at Dakbanglo More @ Barasat, stack in a traffic jam, as usual. It eats up 20 minutes but allow me to relax a bit. Here is a picture.. [attachment=11:10qm2xmt]P1050835.JPG[/attachment:10qm2xmt] Beware all Punto owner, there is a railway crossing just after at Dakbanglo More, the speed-breaker opposite Barasat evening college is in an abnormal shape. I saw it, got worried & drive through with some peculiar facial expression; and then GGRRR…….., it touched the under- guard. Again we faced similar issue at Phulia, something that every Punto owner must deal with. Barasat area is infested with all heavy traffic load of NH34 with a addition of lots of bikes, bi-cycles, cycle-rickshaw, cycle-van etc .etc. etc. After crossing 4 to 5 KM post Barasat, traffic begin to reduce, took a big breath & shifts gear.. [attachment=10:10qm2xmt]P1050836.JPG[/attachment:10qm2xmt] [attachment=9:10qm2xmt]NH34.JPG[/attachment:10qm2xmt] It was a sunny, warm early noon of October, sky was clear blue & the path ahead was full of aroma of rural Bengal. [attachment=8:10qm2xmt]P1050837.JPG[/attachment:10qm2xmt] [attachment=7:10qm2xmt]P1050842.JPG[/attachment:10qm2xmt] [attachment=6:10qm2xmt]P1050843.JPG[/attachment:10qm2xmt] Country roads… [attachment=5:10qm2xmt]P1050840.JPG[/attachment:10qm2xmt] Road condition of NH34 up to this stretch is ‘good’ with a few pot holes & lots of lots of traffic. Certainly you can’t do 120 KMPH but you can maintain an average speed of 50 to 60 KMPH. Whatever, it was better than I expected, so I was enjoying it. We saw may tempting place on the way where everybody was wishing to stop but we drive on as we were already late. Promise to wifey that someday we’ll drive this road towards North Bengal & farther. [attachment=3:10qm2xmt]P1050849.JPG[/attachment:10qm2xmt] [attachment=4:10qm2xmt]P1050845.JPG[/attachment:10qm2xmt] Played ‘Tom & Jerry’ with this Alto ahead a bit.. [attachment=2:10qm2xmt]P1050852.JPG[/attachment:10qm2xmt] My eyes was on the odo, around 60KM we crossed Ranaghat. Exactly after 66KM, it was Phulia & we saw a few saree shops beside the road. Stop at a shop with a good parking area, ladies (including my 2 years daughter!!) rushed to the shop; I step-out o the car, lit a cigarette & yes my long drive of 70 KM is complete. It takes around one and a half hours (minus 20 minutes in jam) to complete 66 KM. Next one and a half hours it was only shop hopping, they bought a good number of sarees. I did chat with some local & get to know that we can visit the nearby Bhagirathi river easily. River is one of my all time favorites we manage to convince everyone for break from the shopping. [attachment=0:10qm2xmt]P1050860.JPG[/attachment:10qm2xmt] Unfortunately, not much picture was taken of the river, it was picked from a movie that we took. [attachment=1:10qm2xmt]P1050861.JPG[/attachment:10qm2xmt] The Team. The sun was merciless at the open river bank so we decide to move on. We offer Puja at one of the temple & leave the place for more shopping. We were hungry so on the way back; stop at a road side restaurant. I’m always skeptical on the quality of food of those road side restaurants. Preferred a Dhaba but could not find one nearby. As others ware also not in a mode of eating, decide to have a little portion of food just to get going so only ordered one paratha per head & mutton curry. Once the food arrives, we found the paratha exceptionally good, prepared with very less amount of oil & served in a clean manner. The curry was also very testy. You can understand, all of us ordered for more. Get a 2 litre of Coke & all it was a very pleasant, light & testy lunch. Post lunch we stop to two more shop to buy few more saree; finally started for home at around 5:00 PM. Drove normally for around 5:15 when I noticed disappearing of daylight. After a few minutes I switched ON the headlight and my first night driving on notorious NH34 starts. Almost all vehicle use to put on their high beam & seldom dipper. It’s a horrifying experience for newbie’s like me. I found myself almost blind just after a on-coming vehicle cross me with their high-beam on. And there is always a lot of slow moving traffic on the left side of the road. Soon I found that I could not figure out either a on-coming vehicle is a mini-track, a track or a long trailer. Anyway, I found most of the track drivers’ dipper their light but busses do not bother. I’ve noticed the amazing signaling of right side indicator mostly by tracks & small cars. Later I find out ‘right side indicator’ signaling system on highways by searching on the net, but on the road I was totally confused. Finally we reach home at around 7:00 PM. Safe. Now I’m a bit more confident to venture out to the unknown. Trip Details – Total KM – 140. (66 *2 + 8km for shop hopping) Average speed – 32 KMPH Average mileage – 19.6 KMPL PS - Fighting for past three days to upload photos to complete this travelogue. I tell you it’s a pain. Regret for these super compressed images (Thumbnail). I need a tool to batch compress my images to 250K.