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Old 1st December 2020, 11:01   #1
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Default Diwali drive in a Toyota Fortuner - Bangalore to Delhi!

We planned to drive to Delhi for Diwali from Bangalore and thought of taking the central India route. Along with a service before the long trip, I also decided to get the HSR plates on the car as the national capital was enforcing it very strictly. Ravindu Toyota helped me procure one in three days and I got it fixed along with the colour coded sticker on the windshield.

The road connectivity from Bangalore to the national capital is very good and a driving holiday gave us the flexibility to explore things around esp. places in Madhya Pradesh on both the forward and return legs.

A compilation of the drive is here


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Old 1st December 2020, 11:07   #2
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Default Bangalore to Nagpur

So on a cold November morning at half past five, we left Bangalore and pointed the nose of the car toward Nagpur. Route was Bangalore - Hyderabad - Nagpur. We had plenty of supplies in the car to last us for a good number of days and stopped for breakfast enroute near the Gooty fort.

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Near the Gooty fort


Folks this side of the country will no doubt know that the road to Hyderabad and thereafter to Nagpur are in really good condition. We made good time despite going on small, off the road excursions for food and photography breaks.

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Near Nirmal, small distance from the National Highway


By late evening, we had trooped into Le Meridien, Nagpur The drive of 1100 kms was uneventful and the car gave a rather depressing but understandable 10.5kmpl but took everything in its stride. We arrived quite chirpy and went about tucking into some good food at the hotel. I was quite happy that I could drive a manual transmission for the whole day and not have creaking bones and stuck muscles to worry about.

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A refreshing sunset on the way to Nagpur

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Old 1st December 2020, 11:15   #3
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Default Nagpur to Jabalpur

The next day’s drive to Bhedaghat, Jabalpur started after a heavy breakfast and we had our stay booked at Madhya Pradesh Tourism (MPT) Marble rocks. This was at a convenient location with the Dhuandhar falls, Marble rocks and the Chausath yogini temple, within a short driving distance. We reached Jabalpur by noon and the road conditions from nagpur were very good throughout. The staff at MPT were very courteous and we had a pleasant stay. We managed to treat ourselves to a beautiful sunset on the Narmada amidst the towering rocks with Rajesh our boatman entertaining us with some hilarious commentary while rowing his prized boat Rupali.

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Marble rocks at bhedaghat

We planned to be at the Dhuandhar falls early next morning to view the sunrise and it turned out to be a good idea as the place was deserted. Spent a good hour at the falls watching the water cutting through the glinting rocks in the morning rays. On the way back to the hotel, we trudged up a hillock to visit the Chausath Yogini temple and it was really beautiful to see the circular shaped temple with sixty four yoginis in the morning light.

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Dhuandhar

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sunrise at dhuandhar falls

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The narmada cutting through the rocks

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Chausath yogini temple

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Yogini's in the morning light


The plan was to grab a good breakfast at MPT and head to Orchha, our next destination, where we planned to spend two nights. While in the parking lot at MPT Marble rocks, saw a KA registration XUV and met Hitesh and Hema, who were on a Madhya Pradesh road trip from Bangalore. They were discerning travellers who had visited a fair bit of this beautiful country and were on their return leg to Bangalore.

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Old 1st December 2020, 11:36   #4
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Default Jabalpur to Orchha

The plan was to stay at Orcha for two nights and we had booked a room at MPT sheesh Mahal, that is sandwiched between the Jehangir Mahal and Raja Mahal. The drive to Orchha was a breeze with some nice forest sections and mostly deserted roads. MPT sheesh Mahal was superb and we got some great hospitality.

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Rooms at MPT Sheesh mahal

Inderjit Singh Chouhan, our guide at orcha gave us a lovely tour of the places nearby. The stories of the Bundela kings and the beautiful Rai Praveen and the bravery of Lala Hardoul were mesmerizing to hear. The 16th century construction has great artwork and is an absolute joy to look at. The Laxmi temple is another wonder that should not be missed. We attended the light and sound show at the palace and it gave us a concise walkthrough of the history of Orchha.

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Cenotaphs

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The cenotaphs define the skyline of Orcha and we got to see some lovely ones in the fading sunlight that evening. We placed ourselves on the betwa river to view this classic scene and it did not disappoint.

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Cenotaphs

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Paintings in the Laxmi Mandir

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Rai Praveen depicted here

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Jehangir Mahal in the backdrop

We decided to attend the Ram Mandir aarthi at Raja Ram Mandir that was right opposite the palace. This was a very unique aarthi with an army man starting off proceedings before the pujari took over. This ritual stems from the fact that the mandir was first a fort before Lord Ram was placed there. So the fort rituals precede the puja each time.

The long billed Indian vulture made the minarets of the Orchha palaces its home and one could see many nests there. This is a critically endangered species and these parts have seen a growth in their numbers thanks to large scale conservation work being undertaken. Earlier carcasses would be poisoned but now the villagers get paid for disposing of the dead cattle in a designated area.

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Long Billed Indian vulture

We hiked to the river and took up a convenient position to enjoy the setting sun.
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Sunset on the Betwa

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Kalp vriksh apparently 500 years old

That evening Inderjit singh Chouhan, our guide took us to “Dubey ji ka dukan” where we met a lively young man who dealt with old artifacts that he sold to customers. We bought some souvenirs and while in conversation, he suggested a sunrise venue to us inside the palace gates. We promised him that the next day would see us there to welcome the sun.

We climbed to the third floor of the Utt khana (camel stable) to get the views promised early next morning and it was a beautiful sight indeed.

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sunrise from the Utt Khana

The stay at Sheesh Mahal was so comfortable that we were feeling bad we had to checkout that day and while we were on this topic at breakfast, the hotel staff mentioned about a chinese tourist who had been staying with them for over two weeks and who had checked out the day before and headed to Agra. He had sent them an SOS message requesting for a room again as he missed Orchha and wanted to return.

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Old 1st December 2020, 11:44   #5
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Default Orchha to Delhi via Bateshwar, Mitawali and Chambal

This stretch had the bateshwar temples, the chambal ravines and the shergarh fort. I had always been a fiction person and the chambal stories on Man singh Rathore that I read and dreamt about just made the ravines a must see.

The bateshwar temples were reclaimed from dacoits in 2005 by the ASI under K.K Muhmmad. Apparently these 1000 year old temples were under mud and debris and the surrounding forests were the hiding place of Nirbhay Singh Gujjar and his gang. The ASI talked the dacoits into helping them with the archeological work and these men had a large role to play in the excavation of the temples. The surrounding forests and the dilapidated temple made a perfect hiding place for the dacoits. It was a wonderful location.

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Bateshwar temples

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After spending time walking around the Bateshwar temples, we started for Mitawali to see another 10th century Chausat Yogini temple. This was on a hillock and was spellbinding in its beauty.

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Chausat yogini temple at Mitawali

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Thereafter, we had the chambal ravines on the radar and sped to the dholpur Morena stretch.

We ran into little rajkumar at Chambal, all of twelve years old and one who promised to show us the ravines. We went to a hillock through the thick thorny shrubs and got to see the ravines stretching for miles in every direction. I was again reminded of Man Singh Rathore and the adventurous life they led. This was where many famous dacoits had made good their escape.

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Chambal ravines

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Old 1st December 2020, 11:46   #6
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Default Diwali

That evening got us to Delhi and we spent the next week at home celebrating Diwali. This was spent mostly at home enjoying a lot of home cooked food and was a good break from the long road trip.

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Old 1st December 2020, 12:03   #7
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Default Delhi to Bhopal

On the departing day from Delhi, we had to cover a lot of ground and reach Bhopal from Delhi. This journey took us through Agra, Gwalior, Shivpuri and Guna. Each of these locations has its own gems but we decided to come back to them at a later date. But one just can’t pass the Taj without ogling at it.

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Camels being taken for sale

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A break for lunch after Guna

Got to Bhopal by evening and reached our place of stay, Noor us Sabah that was located on a hillock overlooking the Upper lake. It offered a grand view of the setting sun and was a palace hotel with all its conveniences.

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Noor us Sabah Hotel

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Another view

One of the things we wanted to do while at Bhopal was to pay a visit to the Union Carbide factory site where the tragedy unfolded on the night of Dec 2nd, 1984. Went around the periphery of the factory as entry is restricted now and one needs special permissions to go inside. We also visited the museum that had old photographs and memoirs. The stories we got to hear and the ghastly looking site could only convery a small share of what folks would have endured on that night and the subsequent years.

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The union carbide factory site

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The memorial

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The museum that has old photographs and other memorabilia

We hired Komal Prasad's auto rickshaw to get us around old bhopal to see the Union carbide site and also see the Tal ul Masjid, towering above the city. Its one of the largest mosques in the country and is a sight to behold. Getting Komal Prasad itself was a fun incident. At the Noor us Sabah, after we had dined, we were planning the union carbide factory site visit and enquired at the hotel for availability of an autorickshaw. That is when we met Komal Prasad. He guided us to a secluded place in the palace premises and enquired about our plan. He said he worked at the hotel and also had a rickshaw. So while I very cleverly asked him the cost of the rickshaw, he said he would ask the driver and get back and walked a few yards away. He came back almost instantly and told me that it would be 400 rupees. I ask in all seriousness whether that amount sounded reasonable to Komal Prasad and he replies without batting an eye lid that it is very reasonable. I am happy. On enquiring about the details of the rickshaw driver, he mentioned that he himself was the driver. So, effectively he spoke to himself, fixed rates and I asked him about the reasonableness of the rates mentioned by the driver. Cant get any more crazy than that. Anyway, we were destined to travel with Komal Prasad and he did not disappoint.

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Part of the old palace in ruins

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New and old

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Taj ul Masjid

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Komal Prasad's rickshaw proudly in front of the erstwhile vidhan sabha

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Old 1st December 2020, 12:27   #8
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Default Bhopal to Churna

From Bhopal, we were to head to Bhoura where we would take the detour to Churna and enter the satpura national park. The drive from bhopal took us to Hoshangabad and this stretch is undergoing massive road construction and this was where we met the “Marauding bus driver” of Hoshangabad.

“Marauding bus driver of Hoshangabad”

His arrival is usually marked by continuous ear splitting honking and flashing lights. He muscles his way past smaller vehicles and takes on the big trucks unfazed. I got a fleeting glimpse of his face at one point as I made the mistake of taking him on and overtook him. He had savage looks and eyes that had utter disdain and worked his hands on a horrendously large steering wheel and a gear lever that was as long as a hockey stick. But he was special. He was special because he knew how to do that each day of his life and make it work. I watched him in amazement as he went in the opposite lane and went straight for a 30 tonne truck before smartly jumping into his side of the road and continuing. Well, the man holds a special place in head for doing this each day and staying alive.

The roads improved after Hoshangabad and Itarsi came quickly and the traffic thinned out as we were on our way to Bhoura. Bhoura is where one takes a deviation for Churna gates of the satpura NP.

The Churna FRH (forest rest house) is located 40 kms inside the park and is a beautiful location. Great food and some lively safaris were the treat here. We were the only people there and that meant very little noise from anywhere and the surrounding jungles and the dark night just elevated the feel for us. The jungle was beautiful and absolutely a joy to be in.

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Anil Sakya, our guide on the safari's proved to be quite good and we got to see some wildlife and geenrally enjoyed the forests. We had told him quite clearly that we weren't tiger crazy and he could take it easy and be free to take us around. We got to see a variety of animals and the odd alarm call kept us entertained. One large gaur blocked our path and gazed straight at us. Anil mentioned that there were incidents of the gaur charging the gypsy and bending the bonnet line and shaking everyone up. We waited patiently for the big one to go its way.

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The kitchen were the food was cooked at the FRH

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Where is the tiger?

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Road roller from 1948. This was used to make some dirt tracks in the british era.

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The FRH

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Lovely views

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Old 1st December 2020, 12:31   #9
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Default Churna to Madhai

After Churna, it was our plan to drive to Denwa Backwater escape, Madhai. We had booked an elevated tree house and that had nice views. Denwa was a great place to unwind with a lot of activity happening w.r.t safari’s and naturalist training programs. Met a canadian travel blogger there who was fascinated by the tiger and who had come for some courses to better understand the jungles.

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Old 1st December 2020, 12:38   #10
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Default Madhai to Pachmarhi

Madhai to Pachmarhi is a nice drive and the road winds its way to the hill station. We were put up at Rock-end-Manor, another MPT property and this too turned out fabulous. The staff were superlative, food was terrific and we loved the place. Had read about the cave paintings at Neemghan and other places at Pachmarhi and badly wanted to visit a few of them. One of the more industrious staff members, shubham volunteered to take us to one such cave in the forests and this turned out to be a very entertaining hike. We were warned of bears at that time of the day but still went ahead. The paintings were just wow and were apparently 1500 years old. Spent the evening taking a stroll in Pachmarhi.

Cave paintings at Neemghan. We took a morning safari into the forests to see these paintings.

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an old accident I presume on the narrow ghat roads

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The old church

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Rock-End-Manor, MPT

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the hotel

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Rock-End-Manor, MPT

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Handi Khoh, a deep gorge

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shops lining the gorge site

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Forest view from a cave painting site

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Mahadev temple at the top

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Old 1st December 2020, 12:40   #11
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Default Pachmarhi to Nagpur

This drive took us through beautiful Tamia and we encountered the best roads of the entire trip here. Fabulous tarmac for miles together with gentle hills on all sides and a sun that was planning to wind up for the day. Thoroughly enjoyed the drive through the forests of Tamia. We again chose the Le meridien as it was strategically placed to the exits and got there by dinner time. The idea was to do Nagpur-Bangalore the next day with an early start.

Incredible sights at Tamia

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Old 1st December 2020, 12:44   #12
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Default Nagpur to Bangalore

Contrary to the plan, we started quite late at around 9.30am and took it easy as it was the last leg of the journey. The car had performed flawlessly and been so sure footed everywhere that it never featured in any discussion. A wonderful instrument for cross country journeys indeed. No squeaks, noises, vibrations, nothing for a vehicle that had done a lakh kilometers is very satisfying. Made it to Bangalore by 11pm and a very satisfying trip came to a conclusion. We really have a beautiful country!
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Old 1st December 2020, 16:21   #13
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Default re: Diwali drive in a Toyota Fortuner - Bangalore to Delhi!

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

What a stunning picture of the Taj Mahal! Loved it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by megazoid View Post
But one just can’t pass the Taj without ogling at it.
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Old 1st December 2020, 17:36   #14
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Default re: Diwali drive in a Toyota Fortuner - Bangalore to Delhi!

What a wonderful travelogue! Brilliant photos and narration. Thanks for sharing. I haven’t heard of any of those places except Taj Mahal and Chambal. It was a visual treat.

I loved the way you have described your experiences with Komal Prasad and the marauding bus driver of Hoshangabad
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Old 1st December 2020, 18:10   #15
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Default re: Diwali drive in a Toyota Fortuner - Bangalore to Delhi!

Quite an interesting thread! Didn't skip any part of it as each and every line was intriguing.

I did not know that you owned a Fortuner 🤔
An ownership thread, maybe?
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