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Old 17th November 2020, 20:30   #1
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Default Forests, hills & more! Our road-trip to Madhya Pradesh from Kolkata

My tiger luck was bad. Out of 20+ safari's in India's different national parks, tiger sighting was just limited to a couple of safari's. So this year I thought, why not take another chance and give a shot to Kanha & Bandhavgarh. Afterall jungle is not only about tigers, its the flora & fauna combined which makes the experience beautiful.

In Feb, I planned to visit Kanha & Bandhavgarh during May end or June first week. I shard the plan with my core group and Bhpian Arindamxeta instantly agreed to join me. So we payed the advance and the bookings were done.

But as we all know, due to Covid-19, all over India was under strict lock-down during that period and we had to drop the plan. We were sad. The hotel guys promised that, they will adjust the money whenever we plan to visit.

From September on-wards tourist places started to reopen and I got an info that jungles in MP will open from 1st October. I and Arindam da had a talk and we decided to take a chance in first week of November. We were frustrated and we wanted to hit the road badly.
By listening to our plan Bhpian avrendu and Bhpian Sayata showed interest to join us, but later on Bhpian avrendu did another trip to Andhra Pradesh and Bhpian Sayata & his brother joined us for the trip. Just a couple of days prior to the trip, another good friend of us Mr. Debarshi Chakraborty expressed his interest to join us & he was a part of the trip.

So 3 cars were confirmed for the trip. My Duster Awd, Arindam da’s Nexon & Sayata's Ecosport.

As meeting and discussing the plan wont be a good option during the pandemic, we mostly relied upon late night conference calls among us to plan the trip.

After a lot of brainstorming our final Itinerary was -

30th October- 7pm start from Kolkata
31st October- Reach Ambikapur by noon
1st November - Ambikapur to Jabalpur
2nd November - Jabalpur Sightseeing
3rd November - Jabalpur to Kanha & do afternoon Safari at Kanha
4th November - Morning Safari at Kanha and explore the surroundings in afternoon
5th November - Morning Safari at Kanha & drive to Bandhavgarh
6th November- Morning safari at Bandhavgarh & explore the surroundings in afternoon
7th November- Morning Safari at Bandhavgarh & take rest for the rest of the day
8th November - Bandhavgarh to Amarkantak & explore Amarkantak
9th November- Amarkantak to Sambalpur
10th November - Visit Hirakud Dam in morning & drive back to Kolkata

An introduction to our team-

Team Nexon - Bhpian Arindamxeta with his wife, son & daughter

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Team Ecosport - Bhpian Sayata, Bhpian AviC93 & Mr. Debarshi Chakraborty

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Team Duster AWD - Me & my wife

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Few teaser pics from the trip-

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And a couple of teaser videos-





Things we carried for the trip-

For us-

Medicines
Thermometer
Pulse oxymeter
Loads of sanitizers and surface disinfectants
Lots of 3ply and N95 masks

For the cars-

Jump start cable
Tow rope
extra fluids like coolant, engine oil, brake oil.
Few sealants
Tool kit

Few people whose help was immense and I would like to thank are- Mr. Arijit Sarkar, Mr. Soumitra Bhattacherjee, Mr. Iman Bhattacherjee, DBhpian Saket, DBhpian Leoshashi, Bhpian SoumoBakshi & Bhpian Drivetrain.

Index-

Jabalpur

Kanha

Bandhavgarh

Amarkantak

Hotel reviews

Last edited by BlackPearl : 25th November 2020 at 17:17. Reason: Edited. Thanks.
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Old 17th November 2020, 21:41   #2
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Default re: Forests, hills & more! Our road-trip to Madhya Pradesh from Kolkata

Day 1 (Kolkata to Ambikapur, 15 hours, 754 km)

We started from Dankuni around 7-30 pm in the evening. Our meeting point was at Azadhind Dhaba to have an early dinner together. We reached there by 8 pm.

Finally we were on a road trip and all of us were super excited.

Us, the entire group-

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And our beloved steeds.

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By the time we started from Azadhind Dhaba it was almost 9-30 pm.

We were in no hurry. Had loads of time in hand. So we were cruising at a steady and decent pace. Around 12 am we entered Jharkhand and were stuck behind a 2-3 km long truck traffic at Nirsa toll!

This was when the 200 mm+ GC for all our three cars came handy and we were off the road bypassing the trucks and were out of the snarl in just 15-20 minutes! Else it would have easily taken 1 hour +!

We kept maintaining the steady pace and reached Aurangabad by 5 am in the morning. Till Aurangabad Nh2 was in great shape. We refueled and left Nh2 and took left towards Daltalganj. It was a single lane twisty yet beautiful road. We were cherishing the transition from dark to daylight along with the rising sun.
This definitely calls for a tea break and when it's about a tea/food break Bhpian Sayata always takes the lead and shows us the nearest food joint or Dhaba! He is a foodie and with regards to good food we always rely on him.

20 km before Daltalganj Gmaps showed us a right turn and soon we entered Chhattisgarh. Here a 30 km stretch through the forest was in bad shape. It took us more than an hour to cover that stretch.
This stretch made us feel tired, but just after this, road was good. That was the last 50-60 km to our hotel.
I enjoyed driving on the twisty winding roads through the woods and reached Ambikapur at 10-20 am.

We checked in at Hotel Grand Basant. Its near the ring road and a decent hotel with proper parking. Took rest for the rest of the day with some good food and chit chats!

Day 2 (Ambikapur-Jabalpur, 10 hours, 438 km)

Had around 440 km to cover, but we were late. By the time we refueled and hit the road, it was already 10 am.

Road condition was mixed. From excellent tarred surface to dusty rough roads with diversions were common. Once we entered Madhya Pradesh, we were on smooth concrete road. Reached Shahdol around 2-30 pm and found a nice dhaba with a cafe to have lunch. Finding this kind of a cafe, where we could have tasty Pizza and cold coffee was a pleasant surprise for us!

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From Shahdol we took left and the road condition deteriorated. It was dusty and full of diversions with rough patches. At Umaria we took left. initial few kilometre was through busy market and then it was an excellent tarmac through the forest. The drive was beautiful. We were enjoying a lot. By the time we reached Shahpura, it was already evening. The last 70 km drive in the night through the jungle in a single lane twisty road with sparse traffic was fun. We all were pushing our cars and having fun. The last 70 km was covered in about an hour and by the time we entered Jabalpur city it was 7 pm. Following Gmaps we reached our hotel Pride By Samrat at 7-40 pm. After a 440 km drive, the cosy and comfortable rooms were just what we needed!

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Old 17th November 2020, 23:55   #3
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Day 3 (Jabalpur sightseeing, 72 km)

Our target was to visit only two sightseeing points. One was Dhuandhar waterfalls and the other was the Marble rock at Bhedaghat.

Our first visit was to Dhuandhar falls. The gushing Narmada river looked spectacular over here.

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Marble rocks is nearby to Dhuandhar falls. Just a km apart. Boat ride through the huge marble rocks over 350 feet deep water was an experience of its own kind.
Every year only once people can opt for this boat ride in evening during full moon. That's on the evening of Lakshmi Purnima.

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Panchmatha temple at Bhedaghat

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Day 4 (Jabalpur to Kanha, 180 km, 3.5 hours & an afternoon safari)

We had an afternoon safari from 2-30 pm. Our target to reach Kanha was before 1 pm. Gmaps showed us an estimated time of 4 hours, so we started by 9 am from Jabalpur.

The route we took was Jabalpur- Niwas - Nayanpur - Kanha, Khatia gate.

The first 40-50 km was on the excellent 4 lane Nh45. Soon we entered the interior roads. The road condition was good, but it was through the interior villages and the roads were narrow. As the traffic was sparse we were making good time.
Our designated time according to Gmaps was 1 pm but we reached our resort Motel Chandan at Khatia gate by 12-30 pm.

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Got freshened up, had our lunch and we were ready for our first jungle safari of this trip.

Due to Covid, forest officials have made wearing mask mandatory and one needs to get the temperature checked before entering the forest.

We were onboard on our Gypsy's by 2-15 pm and by 2-45 pm we entered the jungle.

Our designated zone for this safari was at Kisli zone. It's a dense zone, with lesser grassland. Chances of tiger sighting is less, but the scenic beauty of this zone is great.

Pics from the safari.

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A sambar deer

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These two Turtles went inside the water too quickly!

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Sambar deer

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Not a wild one

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Sambar deers

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Spotted deers

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At this point we heard a lot of tiger call from the jungle. That meant tiger movement was on. We waited patiently and could hear a painful sound from a Bison, which came from the bushes. According to our guide, the tiger made a kill! Soon this huge Bison came out running on the road. Maybe his friend sacrificed his/her life few minutes back and this one was the lucky one to survive!

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A Woodpecker

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A pack of jackals

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A Sambar deer

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Clicked this from the balcony while having evening tea after the safari!

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Next day's morning safari jeep was scheduled to pick us by 5-30 am. So we need to get up by 4-30 am! Hence we had an early dinner and called it a day by 10 pm.

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Day 5 ( Morning Safari & Kanha sightseeing, 32 km)

Waking up at 4-30 am felt like a big task, specially for late risers like me. But the hot bed tea served by 4-45 am made me feel fresh. A quick bath and I was ready by 5-30 am.

It was cold outside. Even after wearing the TbHp hoodie I was feeling cold.
The gate opened at 6 am and we were in, after the routine ID & temperature check.

Our designated zone for this safari was Mukki zone. This zone has quite a good amount of grassland, so chances of tiger spotting was more.

But from the beginning, jungle was very quiet, there were no tiger calls. That means there was no tiger movements. They were taking rest! So chances of spotting tiger was very less.

Our driver and guide tried hard, but till 9 am there was nothing. We just enjoyed the feel and the silence of the jungle.

Chances of spotting tigers are high till 9 am, after that the chances get bleak.

So we had our breakfast at the designated place. All of us were surprised to see the neat and clean well maintained washrooms over there.

Few pics from the safari.

A peacock

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A Jackal

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A male Barasingha deer. It's special at Kanha.

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Another Peacock

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A Red-wattled lapwing

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Shedded snake skin

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A wild boar

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Our driver and guide waiting patiently

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The Safari ended by 11-30 am and we reached our hotel at 11-40 am. After we reached, Bhpian Sayata, Bhpian AviC93 & Debarshi da reached on their gypsy. Sayata looked happy and asked me, whether we have spotted any tiger or not. Mine and Arindam da's answer were in negative.
But he was grinning and told they spotted Kanha's one of the best male tiger and showed us the pics. It was the dominating male of Jamuntola, & god, the pics were stunning!

I just kept drooling at the pics.
At that time the first line I told him was the dialogue from the movie 3 Idiots!

'Dost fail ho jaye toh dukh hota hai, lekin dost first aa jaye toh zyada dukh hota hai...'

& we all had a good laugh.

Mr. Dinesh Makhija owner of our resort told us to visit the sunset point during afternoon. We surely did enjoy it. It was just 12 km from his resort and he was right. It was an afternoon well spent.

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Evening at our resort

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Our good friend Mr. Iman Bhattacherjee & his wife also came to Kanha from Kolkata in his Innova Crysta.

A pic with him. From left to right. Mr. Iman Bhattacherjee, Bhpian AviC93, yours truly, Bhpian Sayata, Bhpian Arindamxeta

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Bhpain Drivetrain told me, if possible we should take Mohan Ji as our driver. He is a naturalist from Mysore and has got excellent knowledge on wildlife. I requested Mr. Amit Makhija, brother of Mr. Dinesh Makhija, if he can get us Mohan ji for the next day safari & he obliged.

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Old 18th November 2020, 16:10   #6
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Day 6 ( Morning safari & drive to Bandhavgarh, 236 km, 4 hours)

As-usual we were ready by 5-30 am and on board on our Gypsy's. Mohan ji introduced himself to us and what a lovely person he is.
The first thing I noticed was, he was carrying a Canon 100-400L lens with him! He was clicking pics as well!

Our designated zone for this Safari was the Kanha zone. Loads of grassland and the most beautiful zone of Kanha.

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From the beginning we were trying to hear tiger calls and locate the majestic animal. I was hopeful this time! My 6th sense indicated something positive!

We crossed a small water body and soon we heard a tiger call and Mohan ji promptly took an 'U' turn and we rushed back and voila!

Naina and her 3 cubs were roaming around freely! Her cubs were 1 year old. So 4 tigers at one place, two of them were together and the rest two were scattered.

Naina & her cub.

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Another cub of Naina

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Naina & her cub

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Another cub of Naina



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I just could not believe myself what we saw! I pinched myself to come back to reality! Man I was happy!

Spotted these female Barasingha's on the way.

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Soon we saw few Gypsy's standing. On watching carefully we could see Neelam! Another famous tigress making her way through the bushes.

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Mohan Ji knew that she will cross the road somewhere ahead.

So all the Gypsy's went ahead and waited patiently for Neelam to reappear!

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And here she is!

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So 5 tigers in the first 3 hours of our Safari! I cant ask for anything more!

Last edited by Samba : 19th November 2020 at 00:41.
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Old 18th November 2020, 16:28   #7
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Day 6 continued

On the way to our breakfast point, we spotted few blackbucks at a distance.

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The breakfast point was well organised with proper clean washrooms and a museum.

Few pics from there.

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Natures craft! Looks like the side face of an elephant!

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Horn of a male deer. These are rich in calcium. Animals do not get salt in jungle! So these help them to compensate their calcium.

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A wood spider

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Orchids blooming

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Monkeys

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A wild boar

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A rolling shot of the shadow of our Gypsy!

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We will surely visit again!

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At 11-30 am we reached back to our resort, had lunch and got ready by 1-15 pm to start for Bandhavgarh.

I wanted to refill the water bottles and when I opened the car I shockingly found them to be in this state! Just imagine the heat generated inside a closed car when parked in direct sunlight! These empty bottle were kept on the rear parcel shelf!

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Our route was Bandhavgarh - Mandla- Shahpura- Umaria - Bandhavragh- Tala.

The route was scenic and crossed few ghat sections and forest areas.



Car Photography on the way.

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We reached our hotel Nature Heritage resort by late afternoon.

Last edited by Samba : 19th November 2020 at 00:44.
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Day 7 (Morning Safari & Bandhavgarh sightseeing, 21 km)

Just like Kanha the Safari timings were same. So waking up early and getting ready early was mandatory.

Our permit for this Safari was at Tala zone. One of the oldest and best zone of Bandhavgarh.

The morning was chilly cold, but our resort guys provided blankets to us on our Gypsy's. That was a savior!

Sunrise from the jungle was beautiful! The giant wood spider added some character to the pic!

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What I felt was, we should thank Mr. DhiruBhai Ambani! Inside the jungle Jio network works and the drivers and guides communicate among themselves through phone!
Our guide received a call from his friend that they spotted Spotty at a particular place. We rushed to that spot and we could spot Spotty in the bushes! One of the most famous tigress of Bandhavgarh.

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Our guide was confident that, few 100 meters ahead she will cross the road & he was right. We waited at a point and could see her crossing the road!



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Content with the sighting, we moved to the breakfast point to have our packed breakfast.

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Safari post breakfast.

Not a wild one.

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The beautiful naturescape!

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A good show from the vultures!

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This used to be a court of the kings.

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Horse stable of the kings

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Lord Vishnu

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A giant wood spider

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A sambar deer

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Apt!

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The afternoon was spent in shopping and visiting a nearby village named Pator. Here sweets are famous. But its always hard to satisfy a bong with sweets! Though the taste was good!
Few pics from the drive.

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Few pics from the resort compound in the evening.

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Day 8 (Morning Safari at Bandhavgarh)

Our permit was for Magadhi zone. Waking up at 4-30 am for 4 consecutive days was a challenge!
But the excitement kept us going.

We entered the gate around 6 am. But this safari was disappointing. Jungle was quiet and there were no movements. We could see few pug marks but those were from the night. We tried to track the tigers by the pug marks, but we didn't succeed.

When there is no sightings, I just enjoy the silence of the jungle. It has its own charm and I just love it.

Few pics from the safari.

This cute dog accompanied us while having our breakfast and off-course he got his share!

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Charger was among the one of the most famous tigers from India.

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This was our last safari from the trip. We were addicted to the thrill of the jungle Safari's and were loving it to the core. Felt sad, but there will always be a next time.

Few pics from our resort.

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Spent the rest of the day chit chatting among ourselves and took rest. The rest was much needed. We were all exhausted after the continuous drives and early morning safari's with compromised sleep.

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Day 9 (Bandhavgarh to Amakantak & Amarkantak sightseeing, 210 km)

The distance from Bandhavgarh to Amarkantak was 180 km. It took us around 3 to 3.5 hours. Road condition was great. The route we followed was via Shahdol.
Just before the climb-up to Amarkantak, we were stopped by the local police for routine paper check. All our documents were okay and we were allowed to go in less than 5 minutes.

The first 50 km stretch from Bandhavgarh was through the forest area's of Bandhavgarh.

Few pics en-route.

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We checked in at our resort Narmade Anandam by 1 pm.

This property looked different.

Few pics inside the property.

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Our room.

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After lunch we set out to explore the sightseeing places of Amarkantak.

Kapildhara waterfalls.

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Around Kapildhara waterfalls.

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Sant Kabir Sarovar lake

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Continuation of day 9

Shri Yantra Mandir

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Am not sure about the name of this structure, could spot it from a distance.

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Our next visit was to the ancient temples of Kalchuri group.

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Finally we visited Narmada Kund. The temple of Narmada Mata.
Amarkantak is a place of Lord Shiva and the source of river Narmada. At the source of Narmada river (kund) this temple was constructed.

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Evening arati at Narmada Kund.

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Day 10 (Amarkantak to Sambalpur, 381 km, 9 hours)

Spent an hour around the resort by clicking pics. Soon we had our breakfast and hit the road by 9-30 am.

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Amarkantak is located at the border of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Within the first 20 km drive from Amarkantak we entered Chhattisgarh.

The road was through Achanakmar wildlife sanctuary. At the gate we had to make an entry and the entry pass was checked at next 4-5 check-posts.

This jungle drive lasted for 80 km. The road condition was poor at most of the part, but man, the scenery was beautiful. The beautiful forest compensated the bad roads.



The first 100 km took us nearly 3 hours. Few pics from the wildlife sanctuary

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By 1 pm we crossed Bilaspur. From here the drive was on a single lane highway with good road & intermittent town traffic.

We connected to AH 46 near Saraipalli. It's the main Kolkata- Mumbai highway.
From here Sambalpur was 120 km and this stretch was done in one and a half hours. We checked in at Hotel Royal Retreat located bang beside the highway.

This was our last night stay for the trip. The evening was spent discussing about this trip and planning for the next one! We had a great dinner and called it a day!

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Day 11 ( Sambalpur to Kolkata via Hirakud dam, 15 hours)

This was going to be a long day. Plus we had to cross the jungle of Saranda and reach Chaibasa before sun down.
Our plan was to visit Hirakud dam in morning and start our return journey.

Bhpian Sayata & team decided to skip visiting Hirakud dam and planned to start early and reach Kolkata to take some rest, as they had office to join from the very next day.

Sayata and team leaving our hotel by 7-30 am.

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Our hotel

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We & Arindam da had our breakfast and started from our hotel by 9 am. Hirakud dam was 17 km in the opposite direction. We reached the dam in 25 minutes.

Few pics from the dam.

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Finally we started our return journey from Hirakud dam at 10 am.

From Sambalpur till Rourkela, road was excellent. There were 3 tolls en-route but none of them were Fastag equipped. We had to pay cash in all three. The entrance to Rourkela was messy. We were directed via ring road and finally we were on the road to Manoharpur.

Just after crossing Rourkela we were stuck in a level crossing for 30 mins as two goods trains took their own sweet time to pass.
The road was single lane but road condition was good. Few crpf jawans stopped our cars for routine check. They made an entry, clicked a pic of the boot and let us go.

From Manoharpur, we took the road towards Noamundi. This route is through Saranda forest and the surroundings were beautiful. One can just make a trip to Saranda to enjoy the forest.

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A couple of videos from Saranda



Soon we crossed the small hills of Kiriburu



According to Gmaps we were scheduled to cross Chaibasa by 5-30 pm. So by not delaying any further, we were pushing hard to reach Chaibasa before sundown.

Few kilometre before reaching Chaibasa, this girl suddenly came in front of my car and it was a close call!



We crossed Chaibasa by 5-15 pm and from here, Ghatshila was another 85 km. It was a single lane road but the road surface was good. Soon we crossed the Ghatshila Dam and reached Jamshedpur - Kolkata highway by 6-30 pm.
From Hirakud dam, till Ghatsila we drove without a break. So here we took a small break at a Dhaba to have some light snacks and tea.

Started from Ghatshila by 7pm and reached Sher E Punjab Kolaghat at 9-45 pm. We had our dinner together and started at 11 pm and reached home by 12 am. Sambalpur to Kolkata took us 14 hours with breaks.
Sayata and team reached home by 9 pm. We were constantly in touch with them. They were helping us with the road updates.


My Duster's Odo reads 3008.7 km for the whole trip.

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Hotel reviews-

Ambikapur

Hotel Grand Basant
-
Located near the ring road. Reaching this property wont be a problem. Has ample of parking space. The rooms were good. They have 3-4 categories of rooms. One can chose accordingly. Food was great too. Room rent was reasonable.

Recommended.

Jabalpur

Hotel Pride By Samrat-


Looks modern. Location was nice. The surrounding area looked posh. Parking was available. The rooms were really great. Room rent was reasonable.
Food was sub par.

Recommended

Kanha

Motel Chandan-


Excellent location. Just 100 m away from the forest entrance. The owners Mr. Dinesh Makhija & his brother Mr. Amit Makhija were nice people. Whatever demand we made, they obliged. The premium category rooms where we stayed were reasonably priced and comfortable. They have a safe parking too. We loved their food (Indian cuisine).

Highly Recommended

Bandhavgarh

Nature Heritage Resort-


Located near Tala gate. The property looked big and well decorated. Has all the amenities of a luxury resort which includes a swimming pool too. The food they provided was awesome. They never gave us any chance to complaint. Infact if we expressed our interest in a particular food item, they specially made that for us in our package. Ample of parking space available. Room rent was reasonable.
On the flip side, the resort is showing it's age. They need some maintenance to maintain the posh appearance.

Highly Recommended

Amarkantak

Narmade Anandam
-

Located in a remote location. Transportation without car to the nearby city wont be possible. But we loved it. It was in the lap of nature. The cottages looked totally different from what we are used to! The rooms were nice, but need some more maintenance and better pest control! Parking is available. Food is only veg and the taste was just okay. Room rent was reasonable.

Recommended

Sambalpur

Royal retreat -


Located right beside the highway with ample of parking space. The rooms were good with great food. Room rent was reasonable.
Staff attitude was a bit callous. Though their manager Mr. Goutam was a helpful and pro-active man.

Highly Recommended

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Thread moved from the Assembly Line to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing the lovely travelogue Samba!

The pictures are stunning as usual! Back to back travelogues from two Duster AWD owners from Kolkata on Kanha and Bandhavgarh! It seems that Kolkata Bhpians have shifted their focus from the Himalayas to Madhya Pradesh.
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