It's with great trepidation that we set out for Patna from Allahabad. We've driven to and in Patna before, and we know that both the roads and the traffic aren't what you'd call ideal. At least last time we checked. We've also had quite the challenge threading two Audis through a busy Allahabad the preceding evening, so rest assured, there was a lot of planning before we hit the road on this leg.
With strict instructions, the team is assembled, luggage in hand, at the boots of the cars at 5:45am sharp. Loading up the bags and gear happens almost like clockwork by now, each item with its designated place. But we're not making a beeline for the highway just yet. No, we're going to the Triveni Sangam first.
The confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers is more than just a place of great religious significance. In February, it hosted the largest gathering of people on Earth, with over 20 million on the banks in a single day. This could, supposedly, be seen from space. It's also got some spectacular vistas, and having come all the way to Allahabad, it would be silly not to take a few photographs here. Even at 6:30am, the place was teeming with devotees, and by the time we wrap up, we have a full parking lot to navigate our way out of.
We're starting to feel the climatic transition now. The temperature, although still a scalding 41 degrees, is a shade lower than the 45 of Rajasthan. It's noticeably more humid too, and it really feels like we're progressing gradually from the driest place to the wettest place in India.
The highway, NH2, starts out as a dual carriageway, but before you know it, balloons into a beautiful four-lane expressway. But the fun only lasts until Mohania, when we switch over to the much smaller NH30. This is the other transition - the big, modern highways seem to be dwindling.
We hope that, by some miracle of engineering and rapid government action, the roads into Bihar will have turned to pristine six-lane concrete behemoths. No such luck. Unfortunate as it is, just as we observed months before, you can gauge your progress into the state of Bihar by how much the roads deteriorate. It starts with isolated patches, moves on to larger clusters, and then it's hundreds of metres at a time.
There's a bit of respite at the beautifully paved and maintained Danapur army cantonment area, through which we pass at a strictly regulated 20kph. It's quite amusing watching completely chaotic traffic settle into a single-file, slow convoy in an instant, and then disrupt into chaos once again when it's over.
Before you know it, we're in the Patna we know so well. Motorists here are quite happy to be within centimetres of one another (for better space efficiency, of course), roundabouts tend to suddenly change direction from clockwise to counter clockwise, there are thousands of pedestrians around and cycle rickshaws are blissfully unaware that the rear of their vehicle is wider than its front. And yes, once again it is rush hour, and our two cars shine like LED-lit beacons in the crowd. Still, it's always good to connect with auto enthusiasts on drives like these, and as we parked at our hotel, one keen local even asked why we didn't bring an Audi A8 along with our A4 and A6. We just pointed to the traffic behind us and smiled.