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Old 14th November 2008, 00:51   #46
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Arrow Bandhavgarh On Tiger Trail...

The most exciting part of the trip.. tiger trail..........

===========
30-11-08: From hereon, we're tredding relatively new territory in terms of information. Could not get detailed info. on route from Jabalpur to Bandhavgarh, yes the maps, general directions are available, but not about road conditions, turn-offs and authentic first-hand account. I was a little apprehensive about this stretch and had kept the entire day for the 200 km odd run thro. what I have heard as rough roads.

Our booking was at Mugli resorts, Bandhavgarh; we called their Jabalpur office for directions; they said it's easy, take NH7, reach Salimnabad, turn right, ask for Chandiya Village and from there you'd easily reach Bandhavgarh, there'd be some forest road, nothing to worry, you'd enjoy the drive!!!! Looked easy enough on the telephone.

Start early @ 830, tried the track on GPS, it showed the road thro., Khatni, Umariah and Bandhavgarh, and many secondary roads. The NH 7 surface till Siyora is OK, sections rough surface, single track, lots of truck traffic; 46 kms took 1 hr and the right turn off Junction
@ Salimnabad @ 69 kms can easily be missed, but for the GPS, we would have missed it. Soon as we turned off, we ran into a full graval 5 kms section till we hit Salimnabad Rly station gate, caught for 15 minutes, 8 more KM and we reach Gharvara forest post. The next 40 kms drive was thro one of the most deserted forest roads I've ever driven, miles and miles of forest road, narrow in places, the trees swallow you up, twisty most of the way, only 2 villages for the entire 40 kms, we saw only 4 jeeps in 40 minutes, 30 kms. There are no facilities, two T junctions where you have to take a take a call and turn, no signages!!!!!!! "Grotesque" sums up my feeling of the stretch,it was scary waiting in the dead silence, waiting for someone to drive by was eerie; finallly we took directional turns with the help of the GPS compass towards Umariaya and away from Katni, calls turned out right for we asked a cow-puncher after one T turn and asked for Chandiya and ensured we're on track. Getting stuck on this stretch could be dangerous, a run in the dark equal to PSYCHO 12.

After 135 kms @ 1115 am we reach the T junction, left goes to Katni and right to Umariah; this is NH78 that goes to chhatisgarh, another horror story right now. From Katni till the border this is being made, Katni to Umariah 70 kms would take 1 Hr+ of aggressive driving, every 1-2 kms a culvert is under construction, you haveto crawl on 10 kmph here, 35 kms took about 45 mts, roads have deep run-offs and truck traffic pretty heavy. Around Chandiya Gao we search for Diesel, and end up at a BP off Umariah towards Bandhavgarh, we need not have worried, there are bunks @ Bandhavgarh. The road for the next 7 kms is full sliding gravel, fit for 2nd/3rd gear and very bumpy and dusty, for the next 22 kms, its again mostly pot holed, its better to run off the road till the check post @ Bandhavgarh where we chek in the details. We search for Mugli resorts and enter into full off-road country thro. the sides of a canal, through tracks gypseys have made on the land.

The approach to Mugli resort is all Jungly and we were scared of getting stuck on the loose mud, having to drive thro. this section and seeing the gypsey drivers negotiate off-roading, I'm surer now to coax the WOLT through tough roads. The resort was better than we expected, a/c cottage for the 3 off us with a sitting room, running hot water. The manager Suresh ensured everything went like clock-work, they are in operation for about 10 years, lots of Firangi clients and are service minded. We found that throught our 3 days of stay, they took care of out of turn requests too, individualised food where possible in the lunch and breakfast packs for the safaris, we paid up happily the hefty 23K bill for the package, 25% more during the peak season. The deal was all meals, stay, 2 safaris per day on day one and day 2, all fees included, no sharing of Gypsey except for the Fort climb up with another family; we found out later we have paid much less then many others who were looted in othe properties, some of them have paid 50K for 2 people for 4 safaris for a similar deal. Anyway, this is an expensive time to go, better to avoid during Diwali.

A little bit about Bandhavgarh WLS, most people go here ensured of a tiger sighting, (myth No.1). 440 Sq.Km of park has the highest tiger concentration per sq.KM compared to 940 sq.km of Kanha, mostly sal, bamboo, grasslands with streams. The low lying Talav area, perenially watered by Charan Ganga is about 25 sq. KM, from where the main entry is made has historically given the most sightings, that too in April/May months when water bodies dry up all over Bandhavgarh, tigers stroll down near water bodies and stay put for long hours offering photo ops. All photographers and serious animal lovers flock here in summer, sure of a sighting, stifling heat can be intimidating, only the most committed spend more than 2 days. The guides say original count of 45 tigers in Talav has come down to 35 or so, many of them have escaped out of the reserve and are seen on and off in other areas, even on the roads!!!!!! During peak seasons, the touristy crowd is more, they don't have the patience of serious animal lovers, any sighting is a bonus, from the din I saw its a surprise you expect to see any animal. So if you are planning to come is December to see a tiger, forget it, historically lowest sightings during December due to the noise from parties, a tiger is not a party animal. Also avoid all tourist seasons, if you want to enjoy the drive thro the forest and want to see other animals, its fair game, you'd get plenty of that type of excitement.

A male tiger marks about 15-20 sq. km peremeter, allows 3-4 females and cubs in the area, Talav is reported to have 1 male called B2, 3 females and 3/4 cubs, quiet grown up now. It's only in the summer, this rule is broken where the peremetre shrinks, each male stakes out a waterhole with his clan. Effectively, other than summer, you have 20 sq. km of forest and about 7-8 tigers to chase; the odds of sighting one in such a tick jungle shrinks.

This Diwali season on, the forest officials have restricted entry thro Talav Gate to 45 (last December they had let in 150 !!!!) opened up a new 25 sq.km, 10 km down called Magdi gate and one more, so they are operating 3 gates now. Your best change of seeing more animals is in Talav, animals are used to people there, Magdi and the new one are vergin, animals bolt at the slightest sound but are wild and jungly. One has to register at the Talav Gate, take a conpulsory guide and only gypseys are allowed, this season on they have started allowing diesel 4X4, latest registered vehicles, I think 2007 regn. onwards, you need prior permission, vehicle will be inspected and emission checked; we saw 2 of Taj's huge Tata truck like 4x4 diesels doing rounds including up in the difficult fort road.

The gates open @ 0630am; we are ready at the reception at 6, breakfast is packed and ready, you need to be rigged with warm cloths including gloves, temp was around 7 down, we were prepared. Safari time is 0630 to 1030 and 0230 to 530, best chance of sighting is early in and late in the evenings, as the sun goes up your chances of sighting a tiger goes down, lazy cats
stay out in the cool shades. We reach Talav Gate and had a disappointment in waiting, the first 45 gypsey permits thro. Talav are over, we got the Magdi section. We drive the 10 kms to the gate and take entry and have the first Sambar sighting on our left, this one was wild, nose aflare, ears cocked and looking straight at the gpsey, when we started moving, it took 3-4 bounding leaps, covered 300 meters of ground in 10 seconds, took a running 6 feet leap over the track and disappeared, that one bolt was worth the ride. We saw deers, sambars and a wild boar but no tigers, the guide said they sighted one yesterday but only a flash. We reached the spot where the elephants are held, in the middle of the junge, if the tigier is sighted then one can hire an elephant for Rs.100/- per person, elephants can go very near to the tiers and can treverse where gypseys cannot. They were making huge Rotis for the elephants, elephants eating rotis indeed, that was news to us; seeing elephant food we were hungry and finished our b'kfast there. In Madgi sector there were about 15 gypseys at the elephant place. We finished the ride by about 1030 and realized fully, sighting a tiger is going to be like a lottery and resolved to enjoy the jungle ride and not expect too much. We had lunch, relaxed in our rooms for a while, had lunch @ 130 pm and waited for the Gypsey to pick us up for the next safari at 230pm.

We got entry thro the Talav gate, our expectations were not high, we have seen so many gypseys, logically tigers should be stupid to show up. Each run inside is about 40-50 kms, half way points are for breakfast or stop overs at the elephant place, and then the run back. The track is rough, hilly, rocky, streams and a mixed fare, 4X4 not necessary on 80% of the place. We saw the usual deer, sambar, birds, old pugmarks on the tracks and waited for the call in many places. Everyone kills thier engine and wait for 'the call', sounds other animals make when they spot a tiger, the guides and drivers are supposed to recognize the call, I wonder if they do!!!!! There were many false Calls, nothing appeared.

It was 0430 pm, nearing the end of our run when we spotted fresh pug marks on the track going to the watering hole claled Sita Mandap, we lost the track on the rocks and got 2 calls, waited with baited breath to see nothing. Just when we were about to give up, 5 pm and returning back, got one loud call of a Sambar (may he be blessed and not become cat meat) and rolled slowly towards the sound, 2 other gypseys were parked 500 meters away on the track, with us was one more and we were about 4 cars to sopt this big male called B2 walking 200 meters away from us, the engines were killed and everyone was waiting with racing hearts. B2 turned parallel to the track, walked thro the bamboos, rubbed his legs on them for 5 seconds and continued. The people were so excited, they were whispering all around, B2 paused irritated and quickened his pace, came out into the open ground now, stood and gave a fleeting glance to the gypseys and decided not to cross the road, I think. If we had been more patient and silent he would have given Darshan for 3-4 minutes more and crossed. The drivers started the car, it was nearing gate closing time and they had to rush the next 10 kms, penalty for missing deadlines heavy. B2 walked for 50mtrs more, smelled up a tree and disappeared into the junge.

There it was, all over in 3 minutes, what every body wants to see, what drives people 1000's of kms / from all over the world to see, a bounty offered on a platter when we least expected it. We were truly lucky, we checked at the gate on all 4 safaris and with the guides, about 5% people actually had sightings this season, we were the few chosen ones, whatever comes next is a bonus. End of a very satisfying day, sense of fulfillment, we have seen a B52!!! What a high, we showed the photos to the huge crowd that flocked around our digicam and still cam, the foresters encouraged us to show it, that was one hell of a high, showing our prize, we could see many green eyes !!!!!!!!!!!!

The next day early morning safari was the usual, we entered thro Talav gate and reached the half way point had breakfast. 3 gypseys had sighted a female far off, the Mahots came back from the jungle said the tigress "Kill Mara" and that's the end of the story. When the tiger kills, nobody is allowed to go disturb them, only wait nearby to see if they emerge. The guide said a tiger will keep near its kill for 2 days, come out to drink water and sighting would be difficult. The day was spent on false calls near the kill site.

We fixed the fort ride @ 2 PM, this time the gypsey had to be 4X4, MPFI and relatively new, the road dangerous and slippery. In fact we had to wait near Talav gate till Mr.Pandey, the new DFO, came and joined in to the party, he sat in one of the gypseys which needed clearance for this track, he wanted to see the skill of the driver, only 5 gypseys are allowed per day on this track. Our driver was a vetran, we were 2 gypseys from Mugli, another family form Pune, 12 of us and lunch packed up on the car. The steep winding climb need experience, stopping in any of those climbs or loosing momentum a disaster, for sure the car would slide back and anything can happen. On many uturns and steep climbs the 4X4 had wheel spin and burned rubber, but bit on. Even on my popular rally days, back with the carb gyppseys, we had not done terrain like this, full marks on for the Gypsey, there's no other vehicle which could have bit into those roads with grace like this one, this one is the king of the mountains.

The Fort has a functontional temple, some valley view points and more ruined temples. We had lunch up there and were told not to wander alone to take snaps, a tigress lives up there with 2 cubs and has been know to attack people. That was enough... I used the zoom and ensured to be within hollering distance to humans!!!! The ride back was equally slippery, more dangerous, slipped down twice, but clever use of gear and brake brought us back safe. On the way back, we saw a flash crossing our path into the thickets, the driver and the guide stopped and said it's a leopard, all I could see was a haze of dust thro the bamboo trail, my son said he saw it clearly and so did another passenger, happened too fast.

The evening safari was another forest ride, no sightings though a couple of calls around the kill site excited people, there were a lot of disappointed people that day. We told the driver to take us up another track towards the "Sesha shaya" a very old statue and from where Charan Ganga flows into Talav forest. That was worth the 45 mts of detour, the spot up the hillock and seeing Seshashaya was great. End of tiger trail, next day we head off towards Khajurao in search of temples, erotic statues and waterless falls.

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MP: Temples,Hills, Marble Rocks, Water falls, Tigers, Erotic Statues and.....-dsc05600.jpg  


Last edited by ramkya1 : 14th November 2008 at 01:09.
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Old 14th November 2008, 01:18   #47
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Arrow Tiger pics............

Now some real pictures of the tiger sightings..... some of them are a little shakey, 2 of them very clear...... here goes......
Attached Thumbnails
MP: Temples,Hills, Marble Rocks, Water falls, Tigers, Erotic Statues and.....-dsc05609.jpg  

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MP: Temples,Hills, Marble Rocks, Water falls, Tigers, Erotic Statues and.....-dsc05688.jpg  


Last edited by ramkya1 : 14th November 2008 at 01:33.
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Old 14th November 2008, 04:16   #48
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Extremely nice travelogue. Keep them coming.
Its really an adventure travelling through the heart of India.
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Old 14th November 2008, 08:53   #49
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laavlies it is. Gotto plan it sometime next year as well. Any idea with elections looming (in 2010?) would the roads be better?
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Old 14th November 2008, 09:15   #50
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It takes courage to drive through that road on your own. We went from Jabbalpur to Bandhavgarh in a hired taxi and even the local taxi driver took completely wrong diversions. Finally we ended up reaching a place called Paan Umariah while all along we though we were going to Umariah and a hilarious verbal duel ensued between our driver and the locals of Paan Umariah. The Paan Umariahns had no clue about Umariah, which is the district headquarter. Anyway, finally we reached Bandhavgarh late in the night.
We had also stayed in Moghli but our experience was quite the reverse of what you found. I think the resort was too full of people and the service boys had no clue as to how to take care of all the guests. In Bandhavgarh I think the MPTDC one is the best, in terms of location.
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Old 14th November 2008, 09:46   #51
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The story is becoming better and better, and after being charged up by the Tiger, we are all excited to see Kajuraho.

Wouldn't it have been a better idea to stick to NH7 till Katni and taken NH78 from there instead of the earlier detour?

NH78 is perpetually in a bad shape, was like this even in 2005 when I went on that road, happily it is superb once you cross over from MP into CG, but deteriorates again when you are in JH.

What is the state of facilities for minor car repairs and tyre puncture fixes on the Jabalpur-Bandhavgarh route?
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Old 14th November 2008, 10:18   #52
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Ramkya...Awesome Travelogue and very patient one.The pics you have taken are really Breath taking.
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Old 14th November 2008, 10:41   #53
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My answers in BOLD, I have omitted lots of details for fear of making this into an epic, please ask all questions:

Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
The story is becoming better and better, and after being charged up by the Tiger, we are all excited to see Kajuraho.

Thank you, your intell was very useful in many places.

Wouldn't it have been a better idea to stick to NH7 till Katni and taken NH78 from there instead of the earlier detour?

How much more worse can the road get than the one we went thro from Indore to Panchmarhi? We were emboldended by the ability of WOLT to take us safe thro everything, were not worried about roads anymore. For anything other than SUV, Katni-Umariah is THE OPTION, but that section is also under repair, 70 kms, would take 1 hr +, but with good facilities. The road we took is a must if you have 2/3 cars or a good SUV, its a crime to miss this IMO.

NH78 is perpetually in a bad shape, was like this even in 2005 when I went on that road, happily it is superb once you cross over from MP into CG, but deteriorates again when you are in JH.

Heard that from Katni NH78 for 100 kms (70 km to Umariah) into the next state, road is very bad, being made.

What is the state of facilities for minor car repairs and tyre puncture fixes on the Jabalpur-Bandhavgarh route?

Good. Puncture shops in many places, there are villages every 15-20 kms, though small, not desolate, saw basic facilities everywhere and jeep traffic ferrying people is on, they are usually very helpful.


=======

phamilyman,

laavlies it is. Gotto plan it sometime next year as well. Any idea with elections looming (in 2010?) would the roads be better?

You can bet on it, EVERYONE is talking about improvement, its visible, new roads are being opened up, most toll roads are good; post-elections, I reckon, in 12-24 months, MP would become a great driving destination.

====

Hillram and others, thank you for your encouraging posts, this is what keeps travalogues going and motivates to write lengthy one. Without a line of appreciation inclination to write dies down, its not easy plugging on without somebody acknowledging that this is useful and making sense. Thanks a ton.

-------



Last edited by ramkya1 : 14th November 2008 at 10:50.
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Old 14th November 2008, 13:04   #54
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Nice, very nice.
Something about MP.
Recently my parents travelled to Indore to attend some social function. On their way, there were roads looking great on Maps, but in reality they were almost non existent. Very very bad roads.
I pity Baleno now.
The car had puncture, I dont remember where, but dad changed the wheel, and after traveling for around half and hour, dad saw a tyrewallah and stopped for repair.
Now the tyre wallah was eating head. He first of all was very slow in working. He started speaking " It happens this way only here. The theives plant nails, etc for the car's to get punctured and then they come, and steal every valuable and money ". Now my father did not instantly realiaze about the punture. After the air leak had started, he must have travelled around 5kms and then they came to know something is wrong with the car.

So just to tell you, be aware on MP roads. My father also his way twice, mostly due to poor markings.

A few question/s:
1) Were you carrying GPS ?
2) Is your Scorpio 4X4 or 4X2 ? Are cars allowed to go ( like Baleno ) to ceratin places you have mentioned or just any petrol 4 X 4 with guide ?
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Old 14th November 2008, 13:37   #55
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Hi Ramky,

Wonderful travelogue filled with very useful info! I had very little clue of most of the places you mentioned, which made me keep referring to maps every now and then - helped improve my geography! :-)

The tiger-sighting episode was narrated very well - was with you right through!

Keep it coming...
Cheers,
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Old 14th November 2008, 18:07   #56
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My answers in Bold, I emphatize with anyone travelling Gujarat to MP on road, would be agonizing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aaggoswami View Post

Nice, very nice.

Thank you.

Something about MP.
Recently my parents travelled to Indore to attend some social function. On their way, there were roads looking great on Maps, but in reality they were almost non existent. Very very bad roads.
I pity Baleno now.

I know the feeling, Indore roads on a Baleno would be the ultimate torture.

The car had puncture, I dont remember where, but dad changed the wheel, and after traveling for around half and hour, dad saw a tyrewallah and stopped for repair.
Now the tyre wallah was eating head. He first of all was very slow in working. He started speaking " It happens this way only here. The theives plant nails, etc for the car's to get punctured and then they come, and steal every valuable and money ". Now my father did not instantly realiaze about the punture. After the air leak had started, he must have travelled around 5kms and then they came to know something is wrong with the car.

So just to tell you, be aware on MP roads. My father also his way twice, mostly due to poor markings.

A few question/s:
1) Were you carrying GPS ?

Yes, Destinator 6 with India One maps, pretty satisfied with the details, though it can improve.

2) Is your Scorpio 4X4 or 4X2 ? Are cars allowed to go ( like Baleno ) to ceratin places you have mentioned or just any petrol 4 X 4 with guide ?

4X2. Inside the forest areas, only petrol gypseys, mostly 2X4 and specified areas 4X4, no other cars.
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Old 14th November 2008, 18:39   #57
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Arrow Url Of Tiger Video @ Youtube

Managed to upload the tiger encounter video, short but enough to get the idea.



=====
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Old 14th November 2008, 18:46   #58
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Ramky, this travelogue is intimidatingly fantastic!! cheers:



BTW, Gypsys come in only one variant: 4WD.
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Old 14th November 2008, 19:29   #59
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anupmathur View Post
Ramky, this travelogue is intimidatingly fantastic!! cheers:

BTW, Gypsys come in only one variant: 4WD.
Anupji,

Thanks for the correction, yes the Gypsey is available only in 4WD.

My confusion was between Gypsy King, MPFI 1.3 L and the old 1L carb verson. I think King is available post 2000 and is more powerful, 80 BHP (?) forest officials allow only these on the difficult roads and up the fort.

The other verson 1L, carb, seen a lot there is not allowed in some sections. Many of them running at Bandhavgarh still have DL registration and are bought from there.

For those planning to drive from Delhi to Bandhavgarh: the MPFi-1.3L, Gypsy we used was bought and driven from Delhi to Bandhavgarh by 2 drivers, started at 7 AM and reached at 7 PM, almost non stop.

======
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Old 15th November 2008, 08:36   #60
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Ramkya
I am really enjoying your travels. I would love to see the pics of the Seshasayee and the Charanganga source. I found that area very serene and peaceful in the middle of the jungle.
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