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Old 1st January 2014, 22:27   #1
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I was supposed to go to Leh this October. Enjoy the mountains and the snow. But the plan got dropped (though it is on the agenda for 2014), and I ended up doing another wildlife trip with a bunch of old friends. After having packed off my wife and daughter to Kolkata for the pujas (hope she is not reading this) so that I could enjoy bachelorhood for a couple of weeks.

Route: Bangalore - Hyderabad - Nagpur (picked up friends who flew down from Mumbai) - Nagzira - Tadoba (beginning of the season) - Pachmarhi - Satpura National Park - Nagpur - Bangalore

Destination rationale:
* Nagzira: ended up going there because we couldn't find booking in Pachmarhi, our first choice.
* Tadoba: tigers beckoned (had got too greedy after my 2012 roadtrip to Tadoba and brilliant tiger sightings). Was the wrong season though - October - just after the park opens - is not best for wildlife sightings
* Pachmarhi: Have visited this place many times in my childhood and even during my MBA days. Had fond memories. Still has the old world cantonment charm. And is surrounded by forests.
* Other Satpura National Park (SNP) destinations: visited Churna and Madhai, stayed in the forest rest houses. I love the Satpuras - the rolling hills, ravines, the open forests

Preparation
* 60K servicing of my vehicle and the normal checkups before a roadtrip. Nothing much needed to be done - advantage of driving a reliable tough 4WD vehicle. Tyres - that had done 55K+ kms were my main concern. But there wasn't a single issue with the vehicle - like before, it tackled the high speed highway drives and forest offroading with aplomb.
* Last minute accommodation bookings. LOTS of calling and follow ups to book the FRHs
* Bought juices, bananas, biscuits, water and couple of Red Bulls for the overnight drive
* Daily checking of the Telengana situation to plan Andhra crossing

Day 1 drive
I had to drive to Nagpur during the night to avoid the anti-Telengana agitation. NH7 till Hyderabad is fantastic, and for once I managed to get adequate rest before a roadtrip. So the night drive was uneventful. During such a long drive I typically break down the journey into stages, and doing so made the 1300km drive (Bangalore - Nagpur was solo) manageable:
1. Stage 1: my house to hitting NH7 at Devanahalli. Left my house at 7.30PM, reached NH7 at Devenahalli around 9 PM.
2. Stage 2: Devanahalli - Andhra border (wanted to check the situation and leave myself with adequate buffer time - to take alternate routes - if the road were blocked).
3. Andhra border - Telegana border (around Mahbubnagar, if I remember). Could relax after I passed this stretch - no more potential stoppages.
4. Telangana border - Hyd Outer Ring Road. I believe I reached Hyderabad around 3 - 3:30 AM. For a few hundred kms a white Swift with a Team BHP sticker kept me company. Don't know who the member is.
5. Reach NH7 leading towards Nagpur after bypassing Hyd. Take a short 45 - 60 min nap when it becomes necessary. I took this break at a biggish fuel pump station around 100kms after Hyderabad. Rolled down the passenger window a couple of inches, put Odomos all over myself, reclined the seat and snoozed away.
6. Cross the bad stretch after Adilabad. It was a pain - too many trucks around, which slowed me down. The roads were bad, but that wasn't an issue. Noticed quite a few ruffian-type elements around the border...maybe they were out on their morning walks.
7. Hinganghat - Nagpur. Maintained good pace. Picked up my friends inside Nagpur city around 10.30 AM.
8. Nagpur - Nagzira. Going East through Nagpur was a pain. Bad roads, worse traffic. I needed to fill Diesel, and the first few pumps had run out of Diesel. Things became better after we neared Bhandara. Reached our Nagzira resort - Muba - around 3 PM. We lost some time in Nagpur because we were stocking up supplies for our trip.

A few photos:

First, here's wishing farewell to 2013. It's been somewhat of a thorny year, so this sunset photo taken outside Pachmarhi is apt.
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Driving to Churna forest rest house in Satpura National Park. It was a 40 kms late afternoon/ evening drive through the forest.
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A hovering Black-shouldered Kite in Tadoba
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A leopard in Satpura National Park. Shot in bad light, cropped.
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Bee eaters, Tadoba
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A tigress on a kill. Tadoba.
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A chameleon crossing a hill road. Around Pachmarhi. Scraped my elbows lying down on the road to get this shot.
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Leader of a Langur troupe
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Sunset on Irai Lake. Tadoba buffer zone
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Maya, Lady of the (Tadoba) Lake
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Nagzira - continued...

The resort was nice, but not as good or wild as I thought it would be. The room interiors were nice though, looking like a log cabin. Google for Muba Resorts Nagzira to get a feel. There were many Giant Wood Spiders hanging from branches. There was a small lake in the middle of the resort, and there were walkways all around. The forest was right below the room balcony.

Rain and sunshine. Road through Nagzira buffer zone.
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Bathing lady @ Tadoba Lake
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Pachmarhi Tourist Bungalow. Old world charm.
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We had reached a few days before Nagzira opened, so we couldn't do any safaris. After quick lunch and a shower, we decided to go for a drive. The resort was in the buffer zone, and we had passed through a few kms of forests on our way. I was hoping to see some wildlife, but luck didn't favour us. Wrong season - October is perhaps the worst time for seeing carnivores due to heavy undergrowth and ready availability of water. It started raining while the sun was still out, so we stopped under a tree on a narrow forest road just to feel the atmosphere. The sunset was nice. I missed a shot of a large flock of birds flying across the setting sun - I was talking to someone and looking at the wrong direction for those few seconds.

The ubiquitous Wood Spiders
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Another view of the chameleon since lots of folks seem to like it
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Stork outside Moharli Tourist Complex.
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In the evening we did what guys do, and played cards. Not very seriously - I used to play competitive bridge, and that was serious. This was just about having a good time. Kept my ears open for animal sounds, but the forest seemed dead apart from insect calls. Not a single alarm call. Dinner was pretty ordinary. Went out for another drive, but didn't see anything apart from many nightjars sitting on the road.

Peacock closeup during the golden hours of sunset. Madhai, Satpura National Park
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Snake in Nagzira - it was peeping out from a bush.
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Sunset at Nagzira
Central Indian Forests: 4000 km roadtrip in a 4WD Fortuner-dsc_1022.jpg

Next day we went for a jungle walk with a resort guide. Saw a nice looking snake - a foot long. I forget its name, perhaps someone can identify it. In the afternoon we drove to Navegaon dam to see the sunset. That evening we decided that we had had enough of Nagzira, and that it was better to head to Tadoba one day earlier. Just one route would be open the next day - it was before 16th Oct when Tadoba would officially open - but that was ok with 2 of my friends who wanted to spend a night in Moharli before heading back to Mumbai.

Duotone image of a gorgeous tigress
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Inquisitive owl near Madhai. Rishi Sharma who is a member here helped me spot this owl. He is now the manager of a lovely resort (Forsyth Lodge) near Madhai.
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Cheetal stag backlit by the rising sun
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Last edited by GTO : 3rd January 2014 at 14:39. Reason: Adding your newer updates to the opening post itself :)
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Old 1st January 2014, 22:52   #2
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Default re: Central Indian Forests: 4000 km roadtrip in a 4WD Fortuner

I really love the snaps and like I always have mentioned you definitely are a skilled snapper. Good to know that Dunlops have supported your drive at this age. Needless to say that Fortuner is built like a tank and hence no dramas of any kind. I remember replacing clutch plates of my 2.2 Safari Dicor at 35K kms and brake pads at 40K kms.
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Old 1st January 2014, 23:18   #3
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Default re: Central Indian Forests: 4000 km roadtrip in a 4WD Fortuner

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Quote:
Originally Posted by nilanjanray View Post
I had to drive to Nagpur during the night to avoid the anti-Telengana agitation. NH7 till Hyderabad is fantastic, and for once I managed to get adequate rest before a roadtrip. So the night drive was uneventful. During such a long drive I typically break down the journey into stages, and doing so made the 1300km drive (Bangalore - Nagpur was solo) manageable:
Wow. that was cool. I did the same stretch Blr-Hud-Ngpr during my Kumbh drive last March. started off Bangalore early Morning and was at Nagpur for dinner.

Nilanjan, I must congratulate on your photographic skills. absolutely fantastic.

I had the opportunity to pass through Bandhavgarh NP while returning from Allahabad in the same trip. Amazing drive through the night, we were like one of a handful no of car passing the forest that night, but not much sightings unfortunately.

Could you please (time permitting to you of course) put up the route map using Google maps for a better reader experience to us?

Looking forward for the remaining travelogue. Thanks a lot.

Last edited by GTO : 2nd January 2014 at 15:11.
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Old 2nd January 2014, 09:31   #4
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Default re: Central Indian Forests: 4000 km roadtrip in a 4WD Fortuner

Great pics Nilanjan.
Had seen these pics posted by you elsewhere few weeks back and was awaiting the travelogue. Remember you posting in DSLR thread about plan of getting D7100, are these pics taken with new gear ?
Lens 70-300?
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Old 2nd January 2014, 09:40   #5
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Default re: Central Indian Forests: 4000 km roadtrip in a 4WD Fortuner

The chameleon shot takes the cake! Wonderful.
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Old 2nd January 2014, 11:38   #6
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Default re: Central Indian Forests: 4000 km roadtrip in a 4WD Fortuner

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ahmed View Post
I really love the snaps and like I always have mentioned you definitely are a skilled snapper. Good to know that Dunlops have supported your drive at this age. Needless to say that Fortuner is built like a tank and hence no dramas of any kind. I remember replacing clutch plates of my 2.2 Safari Dicor at 35K kms and brake pads at 40K kms.
Thanks Ahmed. I did replace the clutch plates once after my Himalayas trip last year. With new A/T tyres the vehicle should become more capable - nowadays I am a bit apprehensive over sharpy rocky stretches since the tyres are worn out. But even with old Dunlops the Fortuner did rather well going through trails that hadn't been fixed after the monsoons - and through 'no trail' areas.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashkamath View Post
Wow. that was cool. I did the same stretch Blr-Hud-Ngpr during my Kumbh drive last March. started off Blr early Morning and was at Ngpr for dinner.
Nilanjan, I must congratulate on your photographic skills. absolutely fantastic.

I had the opportunity to pass through Bandhavgarh NP while returning frm Allahabad in the same trip. Amazing drive through the night, we were like one of a handful no of car passing the forest that night, but not much sightings unfortunately.

Could you please (time permitting to you of course) put up the route map using Google maps for a better reader experience to us?

Looking forward for the remaining travelogue. Tnx a lot.
Thanks. Will put up a Google Maps screenshot later. I traveled through the same (through Bandhavgarh) stretch last year when I Was coming back from my Uttarakhand trip. Allahabad - Rewa - Bandhavgarh - Shahura - Jabalpur. Beautiful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gansan View Post
The chameleon shot takes the cake! Wonderful.
Thanks. I had to stop vehicles on both sides (to prevent this fella from getting run over) and get down on the ground - much to the amusement of other drivers and my friend. Imagine a vehicle coming to a stop, a guy popping out waving his hands to stop the other cars, then promptly diving to the ground and lying prone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mpksuhas View Post
Great pics Nilanjan.
Had seen these pics posted by you elsewhere few weeks back and was awaiting the travelogue. Remember you posting in DSLR thread about plan of getting D7100, are these pics taken with new gear ?
Lens 70-300?
Yes, I had posted them on FB. Lots of photos, have processed just a few. Most were taken with the D7100 and 70-300mm VR. I should have put 'do a familiarization crash course with the D7100' in the Preparations section - I got the camera a couple of days before my trip, and had to get comfortable with the autofocus and some other controls that were different from the D90. When shooting wildlife one needs to be ready for that fleeting moment.
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Old 2nd January 2014, 11:45   #7
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Default re: Central Indian Forests: 4000 km roadtrip in a 4WD Fortuner

I love the chameleon shot! His/her expression is like "now what??!!"!

Awaiting the rest of the drive posts.

Cheers,
Vikram
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Old 2nd January 2014, 11:46   #8
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Default re: Central Indian Forests: 4000 km roadtrip in a 4WD Fortuner

Nilanjan, Super...as always! You have a that finger under complete control to press the camera button for the right moment.

Will wait for more details of the trip log and shall explore the pictures link, you have provided.
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Old 2nd January 2014, 15:22   #9
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Default Re: Central Indian Forests: 4000 km roadtrip in a 4WD Fortuner

Fantastic set of photographs. Leopard, BS kite and sunset frames are superb. This travelogue will be interesting. Do they allow all 4WD in Tadoba NP? Corbett NP allows as far as I know. Rating 5 stars.

Last edited by himadrimondal : 2nd January 2014 at 15:24.
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Old 2nd January 2014, 19:30   #10
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Default Re: Central Indian Forests: 4000 km roadtrip in a 4WD Fortuner

Nilanjan, fantastic photos, great shots of tiger and leopard needless to say of the chameleon-the best, worth all the effort that you put in to shoot and save the creature. Single drive all the way to Nagpur, wow.
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Old 2nd January 2014, 19:43   #11
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Default Re: Central Indian Forests: 4000 km roadtrip in a 4WD Fortuner

Nilanjan

Nice travelogue and beautiful images.

I think you are also member of INW if I'm not wrong.

Let's meet sometime when you are in Bangalore.

Regards

Rakesh Gupta
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Old 2nd January 2014, 20:09   #12
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Default Re: Central Indian Forests: 4000 km roadtrip in a 4WD Fortuner

Good, absorbent & sharp pictures. Made me feel I spilled my coffee of way through. Means need More.
Your tamed beast doesn't look out of place.
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Old 2nd January 2014, 21:49   #13
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Default Nagzira

Quote:
Originally Posted by himadrimondal View Post
Fantastic set of photographs. Leopard, BS kite and sunset frames are superb. This travelogue will be interesting. Do they allow all 4WD in Tadoba NP? Corbett NP allows as far as I know. Rating 5 stars.
Thanks. Tadoba does allow private vehicles to enter, but I didn't want to do safaris in my own vehicle since view and flexibility would have been limited. Corbett doesn't allow any more AFAIK, but one can go to inside Sitabani etc. I had a lovely time in Sitabani last year - the WIP travelogue is here on Team BHP.

Quote:
Originally Posted by majumon View Post
Nilanjan, fantastic photos, great shots of tiger and leopard needless to say of the chameleon-the best, worth all the effort that you put in to shoot and save the creature. Single drive all the way to Nagpur, wow.
Thanks. That's not the only time I scraped my elbows.

I have done Bangalore - Nagpur or equivalent drives a few times now, so wasn't much of an issue. Had gone to Pench/Kanha/Bandhavgarh a couple of years back - that is the first time I drove from Bangalore to Pench in a single day.

Quote:
Originally Posted by micrographics View Post
Nilanjan

Nice travelogue and beautiful images.

I think you are also member of INW if I'm not wrong.
Thanks. I am a member of INW, but have posted just 3-4 photos there, and am not an active member.

Quote:
Originally Posted by narendra.vw View Post
Good, absorbent & sharp pictures. Made me feel I spilled my coffee of way through. Means need More.
Your tamed beast doesn't look out of place.
Here's another cup below. Btw that beast has been to quite a few forests in the last few years - many many trips to the Nilgiri Biosphere forests, and to Pench, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Tadoba, Corbett, Dandeli, Bhadra etc. It's nickname is Bison because of the colour and because I saw a herd of 50+ Indian Gaurs the first time I did a forest trip with it.

Last edited by GTO : 3rd January 2014 at 14:41. Reason: Adding latest updates & pics to the opening post itself :)
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Old 2nd January 2014, 22:25   #14
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Default Re: Central Indian Forests: 4000 km roadtrip in a 4WD Fortuner

Leopard and Chameleon shots are the best! Very colourful and well framed pics.

Sunset at Nagzira is like a canvas painting.

Would love to know the itinerary and the route followed.

Last edited by TaureanBull : 2nd January 2014 at 22:30.
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Old 3rd January 2014, 09:43   #15
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Default Re: Central Indian Forests: 4000 km roadtrip in a 4WD Fortuner

Some fantastic shots Nilanjan. You are truly enjoying your Nikon & Fortuner.

Last edited by GTO : 3rd January 2014 at 14:42. Reason: Please don't use acronyms (e.g. T-Fort) when referring to cars. Thanks
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