Thursday, December 28, 2006


We spent Christmas in Hyderabad this year. The intention was to travel by train, but the Indian Railways habit of selling tickets on a waiting list caught us out. Often when you buy rail tickets you will be put on a waiting list rather than receiving a confirmed berth. We had booked a fair while in advance and had a low waiting list number - normally not a problem. Unfortunately we didn't check our status, and because we were travelling at a busy time of year, we didn't get our seats. A quick call to the cab company who took us to the station and we had a 4x4 and driver.

The road to Hyderabad from Pune is NH9, where the NH stands for national highway. The road is not as grand as the stretch from Pune to Mumbai, being single carriageway for most of the route. Still, the carriageway is quite wide and the road surface was in good condition. Easily accommodating the Indian habit of overtaking in the face of oncoming traffic. A typical manoeuvre goes like this: pull out, if there is oncoming traffic then flash your headlights. Unlike the UK where flashing headlights either indicate that you are giving way, or showing displeasure, here in India it means 'I'm coming right at you'. The oncoming traffic will reply by flashing their headlights, acknowledging your intent, and informing you that they're going to hold course. The horn can be used to inform the vehicle being passed that they should pull over (at minimum to the edge of the tarmac, but ideally beyond) to let you squeeze between them and the oncoming traffic. It works for the most part, but a few serious wrecks along the way show the inherent flaws in the system.

The drive down was at night so I didn't see much. I made my return during the day which let me see the scenery. The land is pretty flat, as befits a plateau. Not as scenic as the Ghats between Pune and Mumbai. Still there was plenty to see: fields of sugar cane and cotton; jungly dogs and hogs; deer and one monkey. The highlight was Naldurg Fort (17°48'56"N 76°17'4"E), near Solapur, on the Karnataka border. Unlike the forts near Pune, this one didn't belong to the Marathis, rather it was an outpost of the Nizam of Hyderabad's domain.