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Old 13th October 2011, 14:23   #1
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Default Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh

I am sharing our experiences of a long and fascinating road trip we did in MP, UP and Southern Rajasthan recently. We were on road for 15 days exploring Heritage sites, Monuments, Culture, Spirituality and of course variety of cuisines. It was a memorable experience for us. Now it is your turn to join us. I hope you like the journey as much as we loved it.

For me it was a sort of nostalgic trip as i was posted in MP and UP while in Army. This trip was also a sort of reunion with some old pals after 25 years!!

It all started with a our curiosity to visit Banaras - that's what locals in UP still call the city - which we have been planning for last three years. Then we decided to club it with other places around it like Khajuraho, Bandhavgarh etc

We normally take a vacation in the last week of Sept as it happens to be our anniversary week. We made elaborate plans in the last three years to visit Banaras and somehow or the other, we couldn't make it. We were ready to kick off last year but Ayodhya verdict and possible repercussions out of it held us back.

I thank Team BHPians who just rock and inspire to do these kind of trips.

No amount of thanks to H V Kumar is big - and i don't want to make it formal - who was tracking us on Google latitude. HVK was also involved in planning and vetted and corrected some of the routes. We also met him in Bombay. Thank you sir!!

I was amazed by GQ travel accounts by Ashok (Roamingrao) and P Kumar(PKumar) and Unni. Reading and re-reading them inspired confidence and also in planning the Calcutta - Bangalore stretch.

Some quick facts to start with

Date - 24 Sep 2011 to 09 Oct 2011

Total distance covered - 6752 KMs

Passengers on Travel - Yours truly and Wife with me driving through out.

Highlights of the trip

1. No breakdowns. No flat tyres.

2. Quick darshan in Shirdi

3. Sunrise cruise in Banaras, Sun set at Orchha

4. Magical Mandu, Magnificent Khajuraho

5. Sights of Udaipur palace at Night from Amet Haveli

6. Coconut Patties, Ghamandi Lassi, Bhuuta Ki Khees and Dahi vada in Indore; Suleimani chai, Poha & Jalebi in Bhopal, Blue lassi, Poori Chole & jalebi, mita chaat, Banarasi paan in Banaras, Gujarati dinner in Agashye

7. Excellent roads - Dewas-Bhopal, Jhansi - Udaipur, Baroda - Ahmedabad, Pune - Mumbai

8. The maze of gullies in Banaras and meeting with Aghora

9. Nawabi Lucknow and Mayavati ki Lucknow!!

10. Maheshwari sarees, Banaras sarees, Mirzapur carpets, Lucknow chicken work

Lowlights

1. Bad roads - NH 86 between Sanchi and Sagar (virtually no road at all), Diversions on NH 3 after Dhule, Bye pass under construction in Kanpur to connect NH 1

2. The Paradise Hotel in Sagar where we werre bedbugged!!

3. Driving in towns of MP and UP - Where road discipline is unheard of

4. Traffic in Banaras - Driving is beliving in Banaras!

5. Cleanliness at Prayag

I am attaching some snapshots of the trip for a starter!

The Magic of Mandu after Monsoon

Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh-dsc03315.jpg

The famous Gamandi Lassi of Indore!

Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh-dsc03347.jpg

12 Century Bhojeshwara temple in Bhojpur with Tallest Shiva Linga in the world

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The Main stupa at Sanchi - 3rd century BC
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Magnificent Kandari Mahadeva temple at Khajuraho

Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh-dsc_0208-1.jpg

Silhouettes of Chattris @ sunset in Orchha

Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh-dsc_0163-1.jpg

Udaipur @ Night

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A sadhu doing Yoga at Sunrise in Banaras
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Dashashvamedha ghat in Banaras @ Sunrise
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The Mahastupa in Sarnath - 5th Century
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Moti Masjid in Bhopal
Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh-bhopal1.jpg


Planning

I think it was in mid june when my wife called me from her office on a afternoon.

"I have to take "Mandy" of 10 days this year"

"What??"

"Mandy"

What do you mean by "Mandy"????

"Mandatory leave, Let us plan to go to Varanasi this time in September last week. No excuses "

"OK, let me start working on it".

I love such instructions. Normally i do all the initial planning and will be finally approved by her. Isn't it same with everyone!!

It is now my turn to talk to my boss in the USA and get the green signal.

Our road trip to Chattisgarh and Kanha in March this year had given us confidence of doing long road drives. http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...arh-kanha.html (Meanders in Madhya Bharat – Chattisgarh & Kanha) Hence the mode of travel was a foregone conclusion. Even my parents are used to our wanderlust and consented as well!!

Route Plan

I love planning these trips as it gives me a chance to play around with places. Since we had lot of time on hand, it gave me flexibility to include many places. This is how we started

Version 1

Bangalore - Hyderabad - Pench - Jabalpur - Bandhavgarh - Khajuraho - Lucknow (via Ayodhya) - Varanasi (Via Bodh Gaya) - Calcutta - Puri - Vijayawada - Bangalore

Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh-road-trip-google-ver-1.jpg

I give a call to Abheek (abheekg) - our tiger guy - in Nagpur to check on Pench. A fantastic guy, he confirms that the park will not open before 15 Oct. He also says that all national Parks in MP will open only after 15 Oct. What a damper to start with. I am back to planning board now that we are not doing national parks. I need to look for places to fill in those days.

Choices?

a) Pachmarhi

b) Bhopal

Version 2

I rework the route and decide that we can go to Pachmarhi from Hyderabad and then to Bhopal and beyond. The new route looked like this

Bangalore - Hyderabad - Pachmarhi - Bhopal - Khajuraho - Lucknow - Varanasi - Calcutta - Puri - Vijayawada - Bangalore

Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh-roadtrip-google-map-ver-2.jpg

We start looking for accomadation in all these places and call them up for reservations. Some of the hotels are on "must stay" list of ours and we knew that we have to book at least two months in advance not to get disappointed. This was true of Hotel Ganges View, a fantastic hotel in Banaras (more about it later).

Now, another problem erupts - TELENGANA AGITATION.

The agitation was peaking and with no signs of any resolution, we were is a dilemma whether we should go via Hyderabad. In fact, the complete stretch of road after you leave Anantapur till Maharashtra border on NH 7 goes through Telengana.

Is it worth taking a risk and get stuck in the beginning of the trip which will ruin the whole plan?

I was not prepared to take the risk. Speaking to some of my friends in Police/Army in Hyderabad confirmed my doubts.

Dump Hyderabad. What next??

I go back and rework the route. We all experience EUREKA moments. This was the one for me. I tell my wife that we go via Pune. It will also give us a chance to visit Shirdi on the way. My wife is overjoyed as she is a staunch devotee of Sai Baba.

I rework the route. Pachmarhi is dropped and Mandu is added instead. I tell my wife we can go to Maheshwar as well.

"Isn't it the same place which is known for Maheshwari sarees"
"Yes" comes my reply.
"I will shop for sarees there"
"Yeah, you should" (can anyone say No to his wife!!)

The plan is now firmed up and the Version 3 (Final version) of the plan looked like this

Bangalore - Pune - Dhar - Indore - Bhopal - Khajuraho - Lucknow - Varanasi - Calcutta - Puri - Vijayawada - Bangalore

Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh-google-map-ver-3.jpg

I call up HVK and he gives a thumbs up and the ball starts rolling.

You must be wondering as to how did Udaipur and Orchha figure in this whole plan? I will come to that as we progress on our journey .

We finalised the itenarary which looked like this

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Our initial plan was to stay in Maheshwar in the Fort Palace hotel which looked lovely and had also read good reviews. When i called up the hotel, i was shocked to hear the prices and had to drop the option. We had to switch to another hidden gem in Dhar in Malwa plateau - Jhira Bagh Palace.

Alipura palace was another nice place we discovered and thought it will be a good option instead of staying in regular hotels in Khajuraho. We chose, BNR in Puri which is a charming heritage hotel of Indian Railways - BNR meaning Bengal Nagpur Railway - now operated by a private operator.

With itenarary finalised, the planning was in full swing.

Last edited by Fauji : 24th October 2011 at 11:36.
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Old 17th October 2011, 16:31   #2
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Readying the Vehicle

Now that the route plan was finalised and the hotels booked, the next act was to ready the vehicle for the trip.

To tell you frankly, i have never done such an elaborate preparation of the vehicle for my road trips like i did this time. Even when we went to Chhattisgarh in March this year, i took the car after service and drove off.

I looked at the thread on "A Guide on Essentials for Long drive" and the excellent spread sheet collated by Carfanatic007. This worked like a check list and was very useful apart from some tips from the Guru of Highways, HVK in the same thread.

The first in the list were wheels. I took the car to Madhu's and got a top up of Nitrogen, rotation, balancing and wheel alignment done.

Wheels done, I took the car to my reliable workshop of SKS Automobiles on Hosur road fifteen days before the D-day. These guys are damn good and the team is extremely friendly and do a good job.

I tell them that i am going for long road trip and want a thorough servicing of the vehicle. Eyebrows rise when they hear that we are driving all the way to Banaras. I tell them that i don't mind leaving the car for another day if they need to do a good job. They are happy with my suggestion and i take the car after a good service including changing of oil.

I start building up the other accessories as per the check list. I did not want to leave anything to chance. At some point of time i start wondering at the details i was looking at and whether i am overdoing things. I put all the accessories in a small travel bag. This time i also purchased a compressor.

I took the car again two days before the D-day to Madhu's to get the top up of Nitrogen. Pressure tested and diesel topped up, the Scorpio is raring to go.

Luggage

This trip being a long one, we decide that we take two suitcases - one for each and an additional huge travel bag to carry stuff which we invariably buy on the trip.

Then there is the camera bag - DSLRs are huge -, laptop bag and an extra haversack as well. The last one is the Ice box with beverages.

We buy a crate of water bottles and keep it in the car so that we don't have to go in search of water bottles on the road. In the hind sight this was a good idea as the places we were driving through were still hot and we did not have to go in search of water whenever we wanted one.

Miscellaneous

a) Map - I always carry "Map my India" India road atlas on my road trips. This time I found it inadequate, especially while driving in cities. It will be better to use state road maps published by Eicher.

b) Books

Lonely Planet - India (2009 edition)

Highway on my plate - wanted to explore the local cuisine

Architecture of Indian subcontinent by Takeo Kamiya (An amazing book)

Print outs of articles on Bhopal, Banaras, Indore, Lucknow and Calcutta published in Outlook Traveller

c) Medicines - Since we travel quite a bit, we have a set medical kit.

d) Additional pair of footwear

e) This time i also carried my Army ID card - i generally don't take - and it was extremely useful.

f) Printouts of Hotel confirmation

We also carried additional memory cards to make sure we don’t run out of memory to store the pictures. Two cameras Nikon D3100 with Nikkor Zoom lens and Sony cyber shot. The Point – and - shoot camera is useful to take pictures in markets etc while the Nikon was useful for special pictures.

We left a copy of the itinerary with my parents and couple of friends. I also added HVK on to Google latitude so that he knows where I am.

My mom had prepared Rave Unde (Sooji Laddu) and Chakkuli for munching on the way. We also picked the famous sweet-salt biscuits of Varrier bakery in Rajajinagar – Bangalore’s own Kayani Bakery – enough for us to last for fifteen days. The idea was to follow in the footsteps of HVK of munching biscuits/banana instead of spending time in lunch so that we could reach destination faster.

Day 1 - 24 Sep 2011 – A smooth ride to Pune, Benne dose in Davanagere!

Total Distance - 900 KMs
Departure time -5.30 AM
Arrival time - 7 PM
Road condition - Excellent
Breaks -Forty Minutes in Davanagere and twenty minutes in Kolhapur
Max speed - 130 KMPH (I never crossed this limit throughout the trip)
Best stretches - Tumkur - Chitradurga, Davanagere - Hubli, Dharwad - Kolhapur

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My wife could return from office only at 11 PM after handing over the charge. She generally returns home by this time - working more than me!! - and plans for coming early did not work. We had completed packing all the stuff two days earlier. The idea of sleeping early and getting up early did not happen and we could get sleep for four hours as we got up at 4 to get ready to leave at 5.30 AM.

It was still dark as the Scorpio moved towards NICE road. Staying close to NICE road is advantageous and within five mins we were at Bannerughatta road entry of NICE road. We had seen long queue in front of the toll gate early in the morning on earlier occasions and were expecting a repeat. I was surprised to see no crowd and could pass through it quickly.

The NICE road looked lovely and the previous day’s rain had brought freshness. It was slightly misty and the sun was trying to come out in the horizon. I was expecting a beautiful sunrise but the clouds played spoilsport. The second toll gate on NH 4 - where NICE joins NH - also sprang a surprise with easy pass-through. From now on, it was a blissful ride till we reached our pre-determined breakfast stop @ Sri Kottureshwara Benne Dose Hotel in Davanagere for "Davanagere Benne Dose".

I find this place is very convenient. You don't have to enter city proper at all. As you enter Davanagere Bye pass, drive slow, look for a board which says “User fee road ends" at a distance. You should now become alert to find a White board on the other side of the road and a median. (Easier to make out while coming from Mumbai side as this board has names of "Vidyanagar and Davanagere" written on it). Take right turn and drive straight for two KMs and you will reach the entrance of BDT Dental college opposite of which is the hotel.

Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh-benne.jpg

The Benne Dose - butter dosa - is out of the world. Cooked on wood-fire - yes it is - you should see to believe the amount of butter which is thrown on the dosa to make it crisp and tasty. We snapped up two plates of dosa each - which would sustain us till the evening.

From Davanagere to Kolhapur was a great drive as usual. Monsoon had turned the place green. The stretch between Dharwad and Hubli looked lovely and so was the green expanse as you enter Belgaum. Hidkal dam on Malaprabha river near Belgaum was full and the back waters looked lovely as we left Belgaum.

When we reached Kolhapur, we wanted to go to the famous Missal Pav stall near Shivaji University - recommended in "Highway on Plate". But the fact that we had to enter the city deterred us having had a bad experience of driving in Kolhapur ten months back. The Missal Pav here is supposed to be the best. Anyway, we will try next time. We stopped over for a bio cum coffee break at CCD in Kolhapur strategically located on the highway.

As we left Kolhapur, we started feeling traffic hassles of driving in Maharashtra. Two wheelers increase dramatically and truckers don’t leave right side of the road. I had to manoeuvre through the traffic as we moved towards Satara. The traffic increased after Satara and we slowed down considerably. We reached Katraj tunnel around 6 PM.

Our hotel was in Hinjewadi on the highway as we wanted to avoid the city. I wish i had read the thread on "Hinjewadi traffic issues" by Puneites. We took an hour and half to reach our hotel. Heavy peak hour traffic and reckless driving - rich kids as someone from Pune in the forum mentioned - made driving miserable. We also got lost - thanks to my google map loaded in Blackberry - and had to waste atleast fifteen minutes searching the hotel.

Hotel Sadanand Residency is decent no frill kind of hotel. We freshened up, ordered for some snacks, opened the chilled bottles we had carried. It was a welcome session after a long drive. We were to do similar distance the next day.

So sleeping early and getting up early was the mission. But, "Just Dance" show on Star Plus - it was Semi Finals - ensured that we didn't hit the bed before 10.30 PM only to get up at 5 the next day!

Last edited by Fauji : 24th October 2011 at 10:00.
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Old 19th October 2011, 11:28   #3
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Day 2 - 25 Sep 2011 - Blessings and Bad roads!! (Pune - Shirdi - Manmad - Dhule -Maheshwar - Dhar)

Total Distance - 600 KMs
Departure time -6.30 AM
Arrival time - 9.30 PM
Road condition - Mixed
Breaks -Two hours in Shirdi. Half hour in Maheshwar.
Max speed - 130 KMPH (I never crossed this limit throughout the trip)
Best stretches - Yeola - Malegaon, Malegaon - Dhule, Sendhwa - Gujri

Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh-dhule.jpg

After good sleep, we got up early and wanted to get out of Pune before the traffic picks up on the road. We were able to leave the hotel by 6.30 AM. The hotel guys had arranged to clean the car at night. But the heavy overnight mist had drenched the car and I had to wipe the wind screen again in the morning.

HVK had recommended us to take the university road and then straight on to Nagar road and then to Shirdi. Being Sunday, there wasn’t much traffic in the morning. Even morning joggers were very few and reluctant to get up from their beds. Pune looked nice early in the morning with tree lined roads. We could easily get onto Ahmed Nagar road – some parts of which is still getting done up.

Leaving early, we hoped to reach Shirdi in three hours and that wasn’t to be. Traffic increased dramatically on the highway – trucks to Industries in Pune –Nagar belt who latch on to the right side of the road , pilgrims going to Shirdi on weekend and two wheelers – all delaying the drive.

Maneuvering the traffic and crossing Nagar took time. We heave a sigh of relief as we leave behind Nagar. But our joy is short-lived as we reach Rahuri beyond which the road is bad with many potholes – some of them quite deep – which reduce our speed drastically. We reached Shirdi at 10.30 AM and went to our regular parking slot in front of Gate No 4.

I had stuck “ARMY” sticker on the car after lot of deliberation and after hearing the views of fellow BHPians on a thread. I have never done this on any cars so far. After reading HVK’s story of getting detained by cops during his trip to Gwalior a year back, I felt this may be useful. The first instance of its utility was in Shirdi.

I park the car and the attendant comes close.

“Saab, aap fauji hai”

“haan”

“saab, apke liye, special entrance hai, usme jayiye, zaldi darshan hojayega”

“Sach?” I couldn't believe my ears as we were expecting to spend at least two hours in the queue being Sunday and I had never used this privilege in the last three visits.

“Haan, saab. Aap ka ID dikhayiye aur special entrance me jayiye”

" "

For the first time I was using my Fauji privilege in my life. Fortunately, I was carrying my ID.

We took Puja materials and joined the special darshan queue meant for NRIs – I don’t know why NRIs should get this benefit -, Faujis, Senior citizens etc. I showed my ID and bought the special darshan ticket by paying Rs 100 each.

We were ushered in from the special darshan gate and were also fortunate to enter the temple before 11.30 as the darshan gets closed during Aarthi around 12 Noon. We had good darshan of Baba and my wife was thrilled. We came out of the temple around 11.30.

Since we had not had any breakfast and had survived on Varrier biscuits and tea, “our stomachs were on E”. We decide to have early lunch in Shirdi and then proceed.

“Why not have Italian lunch”, my wife asks

“What? Italian in Shirdi??”

“Yeah, you remember there is Little Italy in Sun-N-Sand hotel we stayed last time?”

You have to grant to our wives to remember these kind of stuff!!

“OK” I agree (Can I say NO??)

We go to the hotel – a familiar place having stayed twice there – and get the chef to cook for us as we are the first customers. Food was excellent and now we start our long journey to Dhar.

We leave Shirdi around 12.30 PM and proceed towards Manmad. We check the road condition to Manmad in the hotel and the guys say it is good (I have not understood what they mean by “Good”). I take it with a pinch of salt and my fears come true as we leave Shirdi behind. Till Yeola toll gate, the road is bad after which it turns out to be good.

The monsoon has transformed these places lovely. We drive with green hills flanked on either sides at a distance. There is a rail track running parallel and we notice a goods train passing by. The bogies are painted in blue – thanks to railways to get rid of dull rusty colors – it presents a lovely scene with the hill in background. We stop and click.

The train and the hill

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The hills of are different hues and shapes. Suddenly we see this unusual hill at a distance. It is stunning and looks like a huge Buddhist stupa. I am not sure what is this named. Even the locals were not of much help.

Is this a Hill or an ancient Stupa?

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It turns out to be a pleasant drive as we reach Manmad and then to Malegaon. At Malegaon, we join NH 3 at the bye pass.

Last edited by Fauji : 24th October 2011 at 10:03.
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Old 20th October 2011, 16:14   #4
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We are happy to see nice 4L NH 3 as we leave behind Malegaon. Again our joy is short-lived. The road is good till Dhule after which starts our misery of maneuvering numerous diversions till Sendhwa. It kills speed.

As we near Palasner, we see a pile up of vehicles. The road is single lane, other one being kutcha road under widening. A long line of trucks - must be more than a KMs - in front of me. I tell my wife that it will take at least an hour to get out of this mess as they are not moving at all. I wait for some time. I remember P Kumar’s adventure of going behind an ambulance to beat the jam in Ichapuram during his GQ drive. The advice is to follow the local vehicle to get out of the mess.

I notice an innova with local registration taking the Kutcha road. I tell my wife that this is our chance let us follow the guy. She consents and I am after him. He drives quite fast on the road and thanks to Scorpio, I keep pace with him. We come and join the line at the place where the bottle neck is. He pushes the car into the lane and I follow suit. I have to grant it to truck drivers that they do oblige the carwallahs in all this. We join the line and go at snail pace for another ten minutes and cross Palasner.

Now we are on Toll road and breeze to Dhamnod. It is evening and I tell my wife that Maheshwar is close by.

“Why don’t we see Narmada Aarthi and then go to Dhar” she asks

“It will take at least an hour and half and I am game”

“Let us do it”

We take a detour and go to Maheshwar. We ask local for directions and confirm timing. They confirm that the aarti happens around 6.30 PM. Fortunately, the road from Dhamnod to Maheshwar is excellent and I drive fast to make it in time. The road goes through the town. the navratri fervour is alreday high and we notice stalls selling Durga idols - like stalls selling Ganesha idols in Bangalore. This was a big surprise to me as i always thought that Durga pujs is popular only in Bengal.

Stalls Selling Durga idols
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We cross the small barrage on Narmada as the setting sun sprinkle brilliant colours in the sky.

Sunset over Narmada

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From the main Chouraha, the road to ghat is very narrow and I am generally scared to take the beast into these small roads. With prayers on my lips, i get in. We reach the ghat at 6.30 PM and park my vehicle. My wife has already seen boards’ advertising “Maheshwari sarees”. She is thrilled. I hold her back saying that we will come next day for shopping.

There seems to be no signs of any aarti at ghat. Weekend picnickers from nearby villages are still hanging around. I go to the temple and ask the Pujari about the Aarti. He says the Aarti will be at 8 PM. He also confirms that the Narmada Aarti is not the same like Ganga Aarti in Banaras. What a disappointment.

We depart and hit the highway. After driving for ten KMs, we see the signage for DHAR and we enter. It is now misery all the way to Dhar. The distance is small. The road is bad with potholes and is broken throughout except for small good patches in between. It is night and it is a ghat road with huge truck traffic. We thank that we are in a Scorpio and not in a car with low GC.

There is no other option unless we go all the way to Mhow and take the road from there. We take two and half hours to cover a distance of 50 KMs from Gujri to Dhar.

We reach Jhira Bagh Palace at 9.30 PM.

It does not have any flamboyance of a palace as such but looks like a big bungalow. Situated in a huge estate, we understand that it was a guest house built by Maharaja of Dhar for his English guests. Restored with lot of care and love, it has retained the feel of old world with modern amenities. It is not garish with different paraphernalia of Maharajahs we usually see in the palaces – Bison’s head, tiger skins, deer’s antlers etc. It is Spartan and elegantly decorated.

The rooms are huge with a large sitting area and bed. Each room is decorated with a theme. We stayed in “Colonial room” . The suites are elegant and have themes like “Gujarat”, “Jaipur” etc. The largest suite is “Victorian suite” and you will feel as if you are staying in a house!! Food was very good and homely. They grow their vegetables organically in the huge estate.

Living room of Gujarat suite

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The bedroom - Victoria suite
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The Fire place - Victoria suite
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The Huge jaipur suite

Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh-dsc_0022.jpg

Living room - Victorian suite
Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh-dsc_0024.jpg

The Inner courtyard
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The peacock in the garden
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Yours truly, wifey and the beast in front of the Palace
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The Lobby of the Palace
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We get up next day lazily. Infact the peacock calls wake us up. The estate is a treasure trove of birds and there were many peacocks as well. Good value for money for anyone who wants to explore Malwa region of MP. It is better to stay in these places than in the characterless hotels in city. We meet Mr. Suryawanshi, the man who own the place and who has restored the palace with lot of love and care after taking it over from last Maharaja of Dhar.

It is hot sunny day. Winter is very far way. Breakfast done, we start the day to explore Mandu, Maheshwar and Omkareshwar.

Last edited by Fauji : 24th October 2011 at 10:08.
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Old 21st October 2011, 17:06   #5
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Day 3 - 26 Sep 2011 - Magical Mandu and Marvellous Maheshwar (Dhar - Mandu - Maheshwar - Indore)

Total Distance - 210 KMs
Departure time -10.30 AM (Dhar)
Arrival time - 6.30 PM (Indore)
Road condition - Very good expect for few Kms on Mandu ghat and before Dhamnod.
Breaks -Only for sight seeing in Mandu and Maheswar. No lunch break.
Max speed - 130 KMPH (I never crossed this limit throughout the trip)
Best stretches - Dhamnod - Rau (NH 3), Dhamnod - Maheshwar

This Google map does not show the road we took from Mandu to Maheshwar via Dharmapur

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This was to be a leiseurely day as we planned to cover Mandu, Maheshwar and Omkareshwar. We left the palace after breakfast and were on the road at 10.30 AM.

Before we started, I had a detailed discussion with Mr. Suryawanshi on the route to be taken to Maheshwar from Mandu. I did not want to drive on the same road we did on the previous day, though it is supposed to be very picturesque after rains. He suggested taking another road from Mandu, the road which goes down the hill from the other side joining the Highway. He said except for two – three KMs of bad stretch, rest is fine. That was good information and it is easier to manage three KMs of bad road than 60 KMs.

We also keep Omkareshwar "Tentative" depending on the time we get aftre Maheshwar which should also leave us to explore the famous food streets of Indore!

The palace being on the highway and on the outskirts of Dhar helped. We did not have to go through the town. The road from palace to Mandu was surprisingly good as this must be the route taken by most tourists coming from Indore.

After fifteen KMs we see a sort of picnic spot with some locals. I could see a huge gorge. I asked the local guy and he said it is called “SUSIDE POINT”. I get down to see what it is all about. I get zapped to see fantastic valley and a nice waterfall. I ask my wife to get out of the car and get her Nikon. The valley looks beautiful and the gorge really deep. There wasn’t much of water in falls – must be a beautiful sight when it rains – but still looked charming. I can now understand why the locals call this SUSIDE POINT!!

VAlley view @ suside point

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The water falls @ Suside point

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As we climbed to Mandu, we could see the whole place turn green. I have pleasant memories of Mandu when I visited after rains in year 1986 while posted in MHOW. I always loved to go to the place after rains as it turns magical. Greenery is soothing and with broken fort walls and gates thrown in between it gives a magical look.

Mandu or MANDAVA as it was known in medieval times was the largest fortified city in the country those days. Mandu is a huge, crumbling collection of old buildings from the 15th and 16th centuries, sitting on top of a large, flat mountain, surrounded on all sides by steep sloping sides and rugged hairpin roads. It is steeped in atmosphere and history.

Without giving too much of history – which one can get from Wiki – the place today is well preserved by Archeological survey of India. In fact ASI has published an excellent monograph on the place. One can comfortably spend a day exploring the various monuments in the place. The place still retains its rustic rural charm and is not crowded unlike many of our monuments.

We take a guide as soon as we reached the town. Though the town is well signaged, I always feel it is good to have a guide with you so that do don’t have to struggle for directions. Also important is to set expectation clear to guides how much time you can spare to see the place. Guides are garrulous and we need to keep a check on them.

Our first stop is at the Echo point. There are two buildings opposite to each other very far from the road at the dge of the hill. . Echo Point is named so because, situated next to a steep hill, the scenic place gets this name from the natural echo phenomenon here.

You stand on the road at a designated point and shout and it gets echoed in it building on the right!! We shout and it works….like the way it does in Golconda or Bijapur. More than the echo part, we loved the setting of these mausoleums in the middle of greenery.

The mausoleaum @ Echo point

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We drive along the road watching many ruins at distance. Then this vast expanse of water set amidst greenery – Sagar Talab. The good monsoon has filled the tank to the brim. It looks lovely and the tank is also used for boating and we could see some honeymooning couples paddling away in the waters!!

The serene Sagar talab

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Roopmati pavilion look imposing from a distance. Built on the highest point of Mandu, with "Open to sky cupolas" it has excellent views of the valley in all directions. Rani Roopmati, the consort of Baz Bahadur lived here and balladeers of Malwa have many stories of romance between them. It is a simple construction with cupolas in the corners.

Roopmati Pavillion from a distance

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Roopmati Pavillion
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Esatern cupola - Roopmati pavillion
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Archway in the pavillion
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Valley views from the pavillion
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What was interesting was the concept of rain water harvesting which was in place during those days. Rain water collected was directed through different channels and collected in the tank.

Rainwater storage tank in the pavillion - notice reflections of archway in water
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Baz Bahadur palace looks beautiful from the top of the pavilion.
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We get down and drive to Baz Bahadur palace. The palace in its heydays must be grand but what remains now looks simple and nice. There is a central pool and one can see steps leading to water from all sides. This is the place from where Baz bahadur used to conduct his activities. There is couryard inside the palace which were used for song and dance programmes. Large rooms in the palace were meant for private concerts.

Arches at the entrance of Baz Bahadur palace
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The Tank in the palace
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On the way to the main attraction of Mandu, Jahaj Mahal, we stop at the Rewa kund which supplied water to Roopmati pavilion which also had quarters possibly for Baz Bahadur's troops on its banks.

Rewa Kund

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We reach Jahaj Mahal. The first look of the place looks magical. With the water bodies full, you feel as if the Mahal is floating in the water. Built in the design of a huge ship, with water bodies around this is the “Main attraction” of Mandu. You have to give it to our kings and queens of yesteryears for their amazing vision in building these structures. Building in the middle of water bodies naturally kept the palace cool in the scorching summer heat.

Jahaj Mahal
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Water bodies around Jahaj Mahal
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Front Elevation of Jahaj Mahal
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Side elevation of Jahaj Mahal
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Tortoise shaped bath in Jahaj Mahal

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Water channels designed to get the water supply to bath and fountains
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The ruins of the palace as seen from the top of Jahaj mahal

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Eastren elevation of Jahaj mahal

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Water body as seen from the top of Jahaj mahal
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Panoramic view of Palace ruins

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Except for Jahaj Mahal and Hindola Mahal – built like a Jhoola or Swing – other parts of palace is in ruins but looks beautiful after the rains.

Hindola Mahal

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Inside Hindola Mahal

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Last edited by Fauji : 24th October 2011 at 10:31.
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Old 21st October 2011, 17:09   #6
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Finely sculptured balcony In Hindola Mahal
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On the way back, we visit the Jami Masjid. A beautiful mosque with an interesting architecture. Unlike many mosques in India, this does not have any minarets and have domes like those in the Middle East countries. The symmetry of architectural elements makes this mosque elegant.

The elegant Jami Masjid - Notice the domes

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Interior architecture of masjid

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Eastern corner of Masjid

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We miss out Hoshang Shah’s tomb and make a quick round of Ashrafi Mahal or Tower of victory. Another interesting story is that the sultan used to make his fat queens walk up the Mahal many times everyday to make them slim. Since the steps of the Mahal are slightly inclined, they had to put in extra effort which made them sweat. Interesting story indeed by our guide. So the original “Stepper” we all use in Gyms was invented in Mandu!!!

The Ashrafi Mahal - Notice the inclined steps

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As we get into the car, i notice these huge fruits not seen anywhere before. I ask the guide what it is. He says it is Mandu Imli found in the forests!! I dare not experiment with it.

Mandu Imli

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We now bid good bye to Mandu though there is many more monuments to see. We now head to Maheshwar through a different road via Dharmapur as directed by Mr. Suryawanshi and confirmed by our guide. Surprisingly, it is a newly laid cement road and goes on the edge of the hill providing us beautiful vistas of the valley. The last two KMs of the ghat road are bad but manageable after which we go through small village roads – excellent condition – to reach highway.

This is where the Google maps fail us and local knowledge comes to help. These village roads are not seen on google map at all.

Valley views as we go down the hill

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For us Mandu was a refreshing change. Mandu in a way resembles Hampi without its boulders and fine temples. The ruins spread across large area requires many days for some one really serious in exploration. A minimum half day or atleast one day will help cover all the places.

Mandu is extremely beautiful during rains and immediately after the rains. The Malwa plateau is blessed with lot of greenery which is fortunately still intact. For those who want to stay in Mandu, there are two resorts by MP tourism. Summers will be really hot and the landscape turns brown. Staying for a night either in mandu or Dhar will also give a chance to see beautiful sunset from the Sunset point.

Last edited by Fauji : 24th October 2011 at 11:33.
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Old 24th October 2011, 11:43   #7
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Thread moved to right section. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 25th October 2011, 11:46   #8
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That was an awesome trip and awesome log. You have nicely constructed the logue - will be a good reference for anyone wanting to visit any of the spots named.

Waiting for the rest.
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Old 25th October 2011, 12:12   #9
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Default Maheshwar - A Quaint temple town - Exploring Temples, Fort, River and sarees

We reach Maheshwar around 3 PM. It is hot afternoon as I maneuver the narrow lines of Maheshwar town. A small laid back and clean town, life seems very easy here. We park the Scorpio and walk to the bank of Narmada.

As we enter the gates of Ahilya fort, we could see the waters of Narmada at a distance.

First view of narmada as we climb down the steps
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We have to climb down the steps to reach the Narmada Ghat. The temple complex is small and there is no rush on Monday afternoon. We ask for REHWA Society who has pioneered the resurgence of Maheshwari sarees. The society is doing amazing work in this sector. Here is the link for more details.

Rehwa

The show room and the looms are at the beginning of the steps to Ghats. Brinda wants to see the sarees first and then go down to the ghat. We enter and spend an hour selecting sarees, stoles and dress material.

Maheshwari sarees are elegant cotton handloom sarees. Some also have silk thread woven in between. The designs are pleasing to the eye and sarees look nice. Brinda is floored by beautiful stoles. We then go around the weaving area to see and understand how the dyeing and weaving of sarees is done. We select the sarees and keep it with them and walk down the steps to the ghat.

Maheshwari sarees
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Cotton yarn dyed and left for drying
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The weaving area
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The Ahilya fort was built by Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Holkar dynasty in 18th century. It is a small fort complex which has a palace – now converted into an expensive heritage hotel – and temples. Link to Palace hotel.

Ahilya Fort

The place is quite desolated on sunny afternoon but for few hawkers and boatmen.

The afternoon sun caressing the river - Baneshwar temple is at the edge of the river and one can see few boats

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There are shikara kind of boats who charge you Rs 100 per person for thirty minutes ride on the river. We hop into one of them. Narmada is wide and full. Rains have brought in fresh waters as we can see form the colour of river. Odd fisherman is busy in fishing in the river.

The best way to enjoy the sight of Maheshwar is by a boat ride. As we leave the bank, the ghat and the complete fort complex look lovely from the distance with Narmada in fore ground.

The fort and temple complex a seen from the boat - The white structure perched on the fort is the palace hotel
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The temple complex and Narmada ghat as seen from boat
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We move towards Baneshwar temple located in the middle of the river.

Baneshwar temple as seen from the boat
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Closer look at the temple
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On our return we see hordes of people congregating on the ghats. I ask the boatman why so many people and if there is any festival the next day. He says that the next day is Mahalaya Amavasya – the first day of Navaratri – which is a revered day for which people from neighbouring towns have started congregating. They have brought complete stuff including tents. Religion and faith still thrives in a big way in Rural India. That is one thing we learnt throughout the trip.

People congregating for Navratri
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A typical ghat on the river
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Sculptures of different dieties on the ghats
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The temple complex also has some fine sculpture. I enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. There is no one inside except Lord Maheshwar and me. The Pujari must be having a siesta.

The beautiful sculptured panels in the temple

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The entrance arch to the temple from the river

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Lord Maheshwar

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Another temple inside the complex

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We did quick visit to the palace - a very small portion is open to public. We could see this memorial for Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar in the palace.

Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar Memorial

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It is already 5 PM and we decide not to go to Omkareshwar lest we will not have time to explore the food streets of Indore. We leave Maheshwar and drive to Indore. The tolled highway after Dhamnod is excellent till we reach Rau, after which we experience slow moving traffic on narrow and bad roads. There seems to be no road discipline as everyone wants to drive past first. We enter Indore city and ask locals for directions. Locating hotel is not difficult but horrendous and undisciplined traffic – no one cares for traffic lights here – takes toll on our time. We reach hotel by 7.30 PM

Lemon tree hotel in Indore is possibly one of the best in the chain. Very spacious rooms and excellent food seems to be its USP. We freshen up fast and get ready for the culinary adventure of Indore kind!!
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Old 25th October 2011, 12:23   #10
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Fantastic TL - Fauji! I have driven to MP quite a few times for occasions and the tourist circuit always seems to be the next trip, but never happens. Your TL will provide the required impulse.

You also picked the right time for MP. First half of the year, it's a very dry seemingly barren landscape.

Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures and keep 'em coming!
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Old 25th October 2011, 12:40   #11
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WOW... Great travelogue Fauji. Fantastic snaps and coverage. Eager to know more. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 25th October 2011, 13:08   #12
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Cool, this is surely a diversified travelogue! Great sights and narration. And tips on the food joints are always useful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fauji View Post
...
Is this a Hill or an ancient Stupa?...
I saw this rock formation atop the hill when our train to Goa stopped in the middle of nowhere and gave us great views all around, way back in 2001. IIRC, it looks a lot like a thumb. In fact, it resembles the gesture of thumbs up. And that's what other passengers in the train had mentioned too. We'd thought that it's a nice piece of nature's artwork via wind erosion but some folks around told that they think it's man made.

Last edited by lordofgondor : 25th October 2011 at 13:09.
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Old 25th October 2011, 13:08   #13
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Good trip and a lovely thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fauji View Post
This trip was also a sort of reunion with some old pals after 25 years!!
Wow, isn't that the best part of a trip for a man...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Fauji View Post
NH 86 between Sanchi and Sagar (virtually no road at all)
Really, all mapmyindia stuff is quite pointless in India unless they can track the actual surface conditions! I found this on my Tamilnadu trip in a harsh way.


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Originally Posted by Fauji View Post
Driving is beliving in Banaras!
He he he

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Originally Posted by Fauji View Post
the mode of travel was a foregone conclusion. Even my parents are used to our wanderlust and consented as well!!
Perfect, Sir ji.


Cheers!
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Old 25th October 2011, 14:44   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fauji View Post
I love planning these trips as it gives me a chance to play around with places. Since we had lot of time on hand, it gave me flexibility to include many places.
With itenarary finalised, the planning was in full swing.
Sir Ji,
Hats off to your meticulous planning. The way you have planned your trip with complete details is amazing. IMHO, this will be the key for any successful long drive. I will keep these points in mind for reference.

Btw, pictures are amazing. Thanks for sharing
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Old 25th October 2011, 19:28   #15
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Default Re: Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh

Wonderful, Awesome, Thanks for sharing !
Excellent trip, travelogue enriched with great level of detail, narration, pictures - "Poorna Saar Ad Bidhe !".
I was wondering why there were not many posts from you during Sep / Oct and now found the answer.
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