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Old 9th January 2021, 10:58   #1
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Default A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh

“I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to keep moving.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Exploring the heart of Incredible India – A 3700 Kms road trip into the jungles, hills, and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh

Prologue

At the onset, I would like to give a special round of applause for yours truly, my wife, and our two kids (aged 12 and 7) for pulling this plan into action in the COVID times. It was our longest road trip till now that spanned 12 days and 3700 Kms. I am also thankful for my parents, in-laws, other close relatives, and friends who were patient and supported us all through. I realize that, while we are away on road trips exploring various places, there are a lot of people at home who pray for our safety and safe return. The wishes and blessings from them are invaluable and help us navigate and return safely. Also, the almighty without whose wishes, nothing would be possible. Last but not least, all the members who have posted travelogues here on team-bhp on MP, I read each of them and gathered the necessary information to plan this trip. It would not have been possible without team-bhp and some wonderful people here.

So, after our numerous road trips around Bangalore (Coorg, Chickmagalur, Pondicherry, etc) and many trips to Goa, I was fairly comfortable pulling off a 4-7 days road trip below 2000Kms overall. However, the seeds of driving farther and longer through the forests, hills, and villages of beautiful Madhya Pradesh were sown in my mind after our successful Andhra road trip last year which spanned 7 days and about 2400kms. I was confident that we can successfully pull off a road trip that could span 10-12 days under 4000Kms overall since we had the passion, the right attitude for a road trip, and above all love for it. Also, the numerous trips earlier have helped us in knowing ourselves better and how we react on long journeys, getting used to being in the car for long times, and has taught us to love this incredible country through road trips. More importantly, these earlier trips have helped me immensely in honing my driving skills and building endurance and stamina for long drives. I am now very proud of my ability to drive long hours and enjoy the drive.

Coming back to this trip plan, I started planning around July when the COVID restrictions were eased and started researching blogs, travel videos, reading travel forums, etc to zero down on places to visit in MP. As we all know, MP is a huge state, and covering the entire state in one trip was not possible, so I had to stick to one particular region. As a family, we all love nature, village life, and hills along with enjoying local food and street food in different parts of our country – so eastern MP was an obvious choice ( Via Nagpur to savor vidharba cuisine). Plus we were also excited to visit Zero Milestone at Nagpur en route. Eastern MP was an obvious choice and there you go, I started to put things on paper and get going on the plan.

Planning

I truly believe in one thing – Planning long trips with multiple stops is something one should do themselves rather than taking a package from an agent. I like being in control of my schedule and have the flexibility to change/modify itineraries at the last moment. Plus I believe it is much cheaper and fulfilling. But it has one important facet and it is to make all your co-trippers understand the underlying theme of the road trip and stick to it. I generally don't get everyone involved in the planning process as I know what everyone mostly likes/dislikes. Getting a lot of heads in the planning process just disturbs me and makes me uncomfortable, but I make sure that I convey the plan multiple times to all and get them on board with what they are getting into. One of the most damaging aspects of a road trip is to have your co-passengers (especially if they are family) in the dark of the finer aspects and giving them surprises. I make sure to tell them what to expect on the drive, what kind of food we might get, the terrain, weather, etc, and ensure they are well aware of things before we embark. Plus it also helps to build excitement in them. Needless to say, having the right company with you on such a long road trip is the secret for a memorable trip. I don’t prefer large groups while traveling and stick to smaller groups – be it family or friends. I am very choosy about the people with whom I travel and it helps me be myself.

So, after zeroing down on eastern MP, team-bhp travelogues helped me a lot in deciding the exact places and the itinerary. I read quite a few blogs and finalized on the below plan

Day 1 – Bangalore to Hyderabad (Overnight stay at Novotel HICC Hyderabad)
Day 2 – Hyderabad to Nagpur (Overnight stay at MTDC Hotel, Nagpur)
Day 3 – Nagpur to Kanha (overnight at MPT Kanha Safari Lodge, Mukki)
Day 4- Kanha (Overnight Stay at MPT Kanha Safari Lodge, Mukki)
Day 5 - Kanha to Amarkantak ( Overnight Stay at MPT Holiday Homes )
Day 6 – Amarkantak to Bandhavgarh ( Overnight Stay at MPT White Tiger Forest Lodge)
Day 7 – Bandhavgarh (Overnight Stay at MPT White Tiger Forest Lodge )
Day 8 – Bandhavgarh to Bedaghat ( Overnight stay at MPT Motel Marble Rocks )
Day 9 – Bedaghat to Pachmarhi (Overnight Stay at MPT Satpura Retreat)
Day 10 – Pachmarch ((Overnight Stay at MPT Satpura Retreat)
Day 11 – Pachmarhi to Nagpur (Overnight Stay at MTDC hotel, Nagpur)
Day 12 – Nagpur to Bangalore

This is what it looked like on the map
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-map.jpg

The plan and itinerary were mostly in place by late September. I was still skeptical of the COVID situation and was in double mind whether to go ahead or just push this off to 2021 instead. However, I decided to continue with the bookings and then cancel in the end if the situation worsens. The advantage I got was all the accommodation places were available at a fair price. MPT resorts and hotels also change their pricing in real-time like most of the private hotels. I stick to staying in government tourism hotels/resorts in unknown towns and tourist places since they always have the best location and are safe for families. We had good experiences with APTDC in Andhra, MTDC in Maharashtra, and KSTDC in Karnataka and hence decided to go with MPT. I did extensive research on TripAdvisor, read a lot of reviews, and went through the photos of the places. Well, this was the best decision as MPT hotels and resorts were top-notch and the staff was very polite, humble, and helpful everywhere. In some places we visited, there was no other good alternative as well. MPT hotels get booked very quickly in the holiday season, so planning early definitely helps.

With the plan in place and the bookings done, we waited patiently for the days to pass. A week before the trip, I got my car checkup done at the VW service station on Mysore Road and ensured all the glitches if any were taken care of. A word on the machine though – I got my Polo GT TSI in 2016 and it is such a pleasure to drive this. I hate less space, but I just got it for the drive quality. It is only because of this, I have been able to do so many road trips. The 1.2l turbo TSI engine mated to 7 speed DSG is a heavenly combination for driving enthusiasts. Top-notch machine from VW. With the new Pirelli P7 Cinturato tyres that I had got fitted about 6 months ago, the highway was calling us.

Day 0 (22nd Dec 2020)– Car routine

As is the routine for us now, on the previous day I got the car wash done along with tanking up at my favorite Shell station at Yelechanahalli in Bangalore. Got the air pressure checked including the spare tyre. We completed all the packing the previous evening and ensured we loaded the car the same evening. Due to COVID times and this being winter, we had an extra bag with our own bed sheets, blankets, and pillow covers along with warm clothing.

Day 1 (23rd Dec 2020) - Bangalore to Hyderabad ( 590 Kms )

I like starting early in the morning between 4-5 AM. It helps me beat city traffic and cover the first part of an uneventful drive (the roads that I have traversed multiple times) quickly. Since it was winter and I just had to drive till Hyderabad we decided to start at 5 AM. So there we go, we performed a small Pooja of the car before we hit the road and started at 4:50 AM from JP Nagar.

Started the engine at sharp 4:50 AM
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-starting-photo.jpeg


Well, I have been on the Hyderabad highway multiple times and hands down it is still one of the best roads getting in/out of Bangalore. The traffic is thin and you can maintain decent average speeds. Crossed Devanahalli in the first 50 mins and was surprised to see no fog at all. I never cross 100kmph and this helps me in having the car in control thereby attaining maximum efficiency on the fuel economy. I set the cruise control at 95 Kmph. We passed through the KIA factory in Penukonda and were amazed by the vastness of the plant. Also, it was a different feeling to see Korean boards on the roads near the factory.

By 8:20 AM, we stopped at the Blue moon highway restaurant after Pamidi for breakfast. It was decent with not much of a crowd and decent toilets. We quickly finished our breakfast and started again by 8:55 AM. We generally stick to the standard South Indian fare of Idli/Dosa for breakfast while driving. It is quicker and safer. My young one really adored the cotton field adjoining this restaurant. It was nice to see the cotton crop in bloom.

My little one venturing into a cotton field
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-cotton-fields.jpg

While passing on the road, we watched the Gooty fort on a hilltop in awe and decided to definitely visit this on one of the weekends. We recently have read the book on Shivaji’s life and have started to admire forts whenever we see any. Just amazed by the sheer engineering skills in the olden days.

One thing that we all were mentally prepared for on this trip was to endure long periods of driving and being in the car. We drove nonstop from here on and reached Hyderabad Novotel HICC at 1:50 PM. Again never crossed 100Kmph with most of the drive being on cruise control mode. I am always amazed whenever I drive on the Hyderabad ORR - hands down one of the best roads in the country with a minimum of 8 lanes. I can't help compare it with the shoddy job we have done in Bangalore with NICE road which can't even be called a ring road.

Overall the drive to Hyderabad was quite joyous and uneventful. The road is generally good overall. There are few unscientific speed breakers once you cross into Andhra till Kurnool and you need to watch out for that. I also found a lot of two-wheelers and even autos driving on the wrong side of the highway especially between Anantpur and Kurnool. Traffic after Jadcherla increased quite a lot and I was reminded of entering Bangalore through Tumkur Raod on Sunday evening. It is like entering another galaxy. But that’s a different topic.

The toll booths were all well managed and Fastag worked very well. But again, the speed breakers before entering the toll booth were quite big and for a hatchback, you need to be careful. We entered the Nehru ORR and I set the cruise at 100Kmh till the Gachibowli Exit. Checked in at Novotel HICC around 2 PM. Novotel had a good package if you book online – you can book two rooms connected to each other in a family package. The second room comes at 50% off.

World-class Hyderabad ORR.
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-image-2-hyd-orr.jpg

Since a long trip lay ahead of us, we decided against venturing out into Hyderabad city and take it easy for the day. This was also the day of our 15th wedding anniversary and we celebrated with a small cake from the coffee shop at Novotel in the evening. Had dinner at 7:30 PM and called off for the day around 10 PM after few games at the Foosball table.

Day 2 ( 24th Dec 2020 – Hyderabad to Nagpur, 500 Kms)

We had initially planned to leave early from Hyderabad around 6 am with the first light of the day, but then decided to take it easy and wanted to give kids some more time to catch up with their sleep along with finishing breakfast at the hotel. Woke up around 6 am and two rooms helped us to get ready quicker by 7:10 AM. Checked out and wrapped up breakfast by 7:45 AM. With some parting photo clicks and the usual routine of giving the car a visual checkup, we were all set to hit the road by 8 AM.

We were on the ORR in less than 15 mins and got another opportunity to marvel and enjoy the beautiful drive on the ORR. Exited ORR at the Medchal exit and were on Nagpur highway now. A few km ahead we stopped at Reliance fuel station to tank up and moved on. There was considerable traffic in Medchal town and further down the road which only thinned down after Nizamabad. A couple of toll booths were not properly managed and people weren't following lane discipline to enter the booth. We lost a bit of time in passing through one such booth but overall the journey till Nizamabad and further to Adilablad was quite uneventful. We recollected our memories of last year’s Andhra trip and were happy to see Godavari just before Nirmal.

We were driving on this stretch for the first time and the excitement of experiencing a new road was quite palpable. The roads till Adilbabad were super good and smooth but be on the lookout for unruly bike drivers on this stretch. Having 3 people on bikes without helmets was a common sight. We entered into Maharashtra around 1:30 PM. We had packed some stuff for lunch and I decided to stop at a roadside Dhaba rather than a desolate place on the highway. We got some tea from the Dhaba just after Pimpalkuthi and had our lunch there. Started back again and drove further towards Nagpur via Pandhkarwada and Hinganghat. The road on this stretch is quite uneven and some potholes have cropped up. I found the left lane was far smoother compared to the right lane. So stick to the left side of the road on this stretch. With some sedate driving, we reached Nagpur ring road around 4 PM. I had booked MTDC hotel in Civil Lines for the overnight stay and before going there, we headed straight to Zero Milestone after negotiating a few traffic snarls at Buti Bori.

I and my son being geography buffs, visiting zero milestone was one of the top agendas on this trip. We appreciated being in the center of our country although geographically it isn't the exact center anymore. However the British used this place as the geographical center during their reign and there is a nice little monument erected to illustrate this. It was quite an experience to visit this place and appreciate it. I was expecting a big tourist attraction here but it turned out to be a small place on a busy traffic junction. I was amazed to see locals not even looking at it. For us, it was so special to be there. We also walked towards Vidhan Bhavan on the rear side and appreciate the old-style building. With both these taken off our bucket list, we checked in at the MTDC hotel and took some rest and tea break. MTDC reception has a good collection of books and one of them was a photo journal on the construction of Nagpur Metro. Definitely worth a look and a quick read. I also liked the colors on the metro pillars in Nagpur plus the work seemed much neater. Probably next time with more time on hand will travel in the metro here.

Kids at Zero milestone
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-zero-milestone-1.jpeg
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-zero-milestone-2.jpeg

As we weren’t sure about our stay at Nagpur on the return leg, we decided to make the best of use of whatever time we had in our hand that particular evening. Without wasting much time, we went to the Sitabuldi area, parked our car in one of the paid parking spots, and explored the area on foot. Had some street food here – panipuri and bhel and both were quite different and nice compared to what we generally have in Bangalore. I was surprised to see a lot of crowd in a café named Corridor Seven and it immediately gave me a vibe of being in Bangalore. After a bit of walk and light street food, we paid a visit to Varhadi That, a famous Maharashtrian restaurant for dinner. We were more than half full with chats, but I did not want to miss the food here. This is a classic Nagpur style restaurant that serves authentic Maharashtrian fare. We ordered Jowar roti, Zunka, and Patwadi Rassa. All three dishes were top class. Finished our dinner and were happy to have done most of the things in Nagpur that we wanted to.

Varhadi That
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-varhadi-facade.jpg

Delicious meal at Varhadi That
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-food-varhadi-.jpg

We drove around the city a bit and visited Nagpur Railway Station. Due to COVID, we did not venture inside the station premises. We are big fans of Railways and like visiting the Railway stations of the cities we visit and Nagpur was also ticked off.

Nagpur Railway Station
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-nagpur-railway-station.jpg

We returned to the hotel after this brief drive and called off for the day by 10 PM.

Day 3 – 25th Dec 2020 ( Nagpur to Kanha National Park, Mukki Gate)

This was the day we were waiting for since we would be in MP on this day. Although technically Hyderabad and Nagpur were the stops for us, today was the day when we would be on our first stop on this road trip. The excitement to be in MP was quite high and we were all roaring to go but not before having breakfast in one of the famous Poha stalls in Nagpur – Saoji Poha. Started from our hotel at around 8 AM, refueled at the Reliance Fuel Station near Japanese Garden, and headed straight to Saoji Poha near Mate Chowk ( google maps shows the correct location). We had the famous Tari Poha along with chai for breakfast and it was so very delicious. The taari adds a good little spicy flavor to the poha and I liked the way they topped it with some sev and a slice of tomato. Poha was hot and fresh. There was also a stall serving South Indian fare of fresh Idli and Dosas adjoining to Saoji poha. Got some Idli’s packed from there. Nagpur was a culinary treat for us and we loved eating in this city. I missed trying out saoji non-veg food due to paucity of time.

A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-saoji-poha-1.jpg
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-saoji-poha-2.jpg

There were two routes to reach Mukki gate at Kanha National Park – one via Bandara- Tumsar - Balaghat and the other via Khawasa-Tirodhi-Balaghat. We took the former route and probably it was not the right decision. The road till Bandara was ok but from there till we crossed into MP, it was bad with multiple potholes and heavy local traffic with two-wheelers driving recklessly. Crossing Tumsar town was very challenging. It had very narrow lanes and high traffic along with huge potholes. It was a tiring drive and I was happy to see good roads with reduced traffic once we crossed into MP. We stopped at a local fruit stall en route and got a few apples and oranges. After crossing Balaghat, the landscape changed and the villages looked so pristine and beautiful. Many houses were painted in blue and white color depicting the colors of Neelkant bird (India Blue Jay) that dominates this area. Roads were pretty good in that ghat section and we reached our place of stay – Kanha Safari Lodge around 2:30. They had an all-inclusive package and we had opted for it. We had our lunch and then checked in around 3:15 PM. The food at this place was the best on our entire trip and to top it all the service was excellent. Great place, location, food, and excellent staff made our tiredness go away. We were happy and relaxed to have reached the first stop in MP after 3 days of travel. I immediately noticed tall Sal trees all around and this was something very unique to Kanha. The hotel guys told me that Sal tress actually makes the place a lot colder.

Fields on Nagpur Bhandara Road
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-nagpur-bandara-fields.jpg

Entering MP
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-entering-mp-board.jpg

Roads leading to Kanha
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A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-en-route-kanha-2.jpg

Typical village houses near Kanha
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-our-favorite-colors-houses.jpg

Kanha Safari Lodge is near the Mukki gate of Kanha national park in the buffer zone. It is not a very big place and that gives it a very calm and serene atmosphere. The crowd is less and the rooms are pretty far from each other and that offers good privacy. There is a trail that goes into the forest and near the banks of Banjar River adjoining the lodge. We spent our afternoon at the river walking around this trail and headed back to our room before it got dark. The kids had a gala time sitting beside the river and just taking in nature. It was extremely peaceful and we were so glad to see a clear blue sky – something we don't often get in Bangalore. MPT has built a canopy walk along this trail and we explored that as well. We couldn't finish the entire trial as we relaxed at the river and decided to do it the next morning. Banjar River had very clean water and we could actually see the entire reflection of the forest in the river waters. It was a photographer’s paradise here.

Banjar River
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-banjar-river-1.jpeg

Notice the reflection of the forest
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-banjar-river-2.jpeg

Kids taking in Nature
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kids-relaxing-bajar-river.jpeg

This was also the coldest place we encountered on our whole trip. We took it easy from there on and called off for the day after our dinner. Again the dinner was spot on and I liked the local delicacy named 'Aloo Barbati’ that was served as one of the subji for dinner.

Day 4 – 26th Dec - Kanha

This was our first 'no car' day of our trip. After being in the car traveling for the last 3 days, we were looking forward to a day where we weren’t traveling in our car. After missing my morning run for the last 3 days, I woke up early and along with my son went for the run on the trail we had been on the previous afternoon. The morning sun rays touching the waters of the Banjar river and the moisture evaporating due to this was a surreal experience to see. It was as if water vapors were coming out of boiling water. Later I got to know that the water is actually warmer during this time and I could experience it in one of our boat rides a few days later. This was truly magical nature at its very best. The running experience was good although the trial wasn't perfect for it. But I was happy to be in nature and take in all the morning sun and fresh oxygen. We decided against doing the morning safari as it was very cold and instead do it in the afternoon. We later regretted this as our morning safari in Bandhavgarh turned out to be great. More on it later.

After two very high quality and delicious meals the previous day, our expectation was very high and the MPT folks did not disappoint us at all. The breakfast served was wonderful and we spent the morning just taking in nature and walking through the jungle again with our little one as well. The trail had boards after every couple of hundred meters with a lot of information about the forest, wildlife, tigers, etc. and that kept us engaging. Also, we could find finer pieces of stone that actually looked like glass. These were very thin pieces and we couldn’t make out what was that. On returning our hotel told us that they were actually copper. Kanha region is actually very rich in aluminum and copper ores. We also found some very unique colored stones. We collected all of these as souvenirs on our walk.

Local kids near our lodge
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-enjoying-local-kids.jpg

Kanha Safari Lodge
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kanha-safari-lodge-mukki-1.jpg

Lodge entrance
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kanha-safari-lodge-mukki-entrance.jpg

Morning sun rays breaking through the forest
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-moring-rays-sun-through-forest.jpg

The jungle trail behind our lodge
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-trail-behind-lodge.jpeg

Water vapors in the morning out of river. The mobile camera doesn't do justice here though
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-water-evaporation-banjar-river.jpg

We had an afternoon safari booked and finished our lunch by 1 PM. We packed essentials things in a backpack and headed to the safari gate by 2 PM. The safaris were quite well managed and the booking was online. We had booked an entire gypsy for us. You need to pay for the cost of the entire gypsy along with safari permit charges and guide charges. In total, this comes to around 4,500 Rs. The safari started exactly at 3 PM and wow the moment had arrived when we were actually in the tiger territory.


I spoke about regretting not doing the morning safari earlier and that is because afternoon safaris are shorter ( 3 to 5:30 PM as opposed to 6 - 11:30 AM in mornings). Due to time shortage, the safari drivers and guides take us to all the places within the park in search of the Tiger. This I understood is not a good tactic. Sightings are better when you hear an alarm call made by deers and go towards that place and stop for a while for the Tiger to venture out. Nonetheless, we weren't too perturbed with it as our sole intention was to enjoy being in the wild and hear the sounds of animals and nature. We could closely see Barasingha Deer, Sambar Deer, Barking Deer, Wild boar, Neelkant bird along with Kingfishers. Then after a while, our guide got a call from one of his counterparts and drove us towards a spot where we could see a tiger relaxing under a tree. It was far but we could make it out. Our mobile cameras couldn't capture it but it was a fantastic experience seeing a tiger in the wild. We spent the rest of the safari exploring the jungle but there was no tiger sighting. Overall it was a fantastic experience being in the wild and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Well managed by the forest department of MP government.

Our mobile cameras fell considerably short on capturing the safari moments. But here are a few photos from the Safari from our mobile. Doesn't really do justice to the beauty of this forest and the animals here.

A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kanha-safari-1.jpg

Beautiful Meadows
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kanha-safari-3.jpg
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-avni-mukki-gate.jpg
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-avni-infront-national-park-gate.jpg

Headed back to our lodge around 5:45 and it got dark by the time we reached. Had a quick chai and retired into our room for some much-needed rest. Sitting into a 4X4 gypsy and doing offroading gets you tired. So we gave some rest to our backs before our dinner which was another feast cooked by the local chef at the lodge.

Overall a great day in the jungle and a wonderful experience spotting a tiger and other animals in the wild.
Attached Thumbnails
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kanha-safari-2.jpg  


Last edited by trahul4 : 9th January 2021 at 18:25.
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Old 9th January 2021, 12:00   #2
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Default re: A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh

More pics from the safari

A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kanha-safari-4.jpg

A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kanha-safari-5.jpg

A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kanha-safari-6.jpg

A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kanha-safari-8.jpg

A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kanha-safari-9.jpg

A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kanha-safari-10.jpg

A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kanha-safari-12.jpg


Day 5 – 27th Dec ( Kanha to Amarkantak - 200 kms)

Well, to be honest, I had to cut a day's stay at Kanha to accommodate Amarkantak. Amarkantak was a late entrant in planning my itinerary and it was something that I only heard about while going through some team-bhp travelogues most notably the one here by a distinguished BHPian laluks (https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...e-narmada.html (S-Cross'd : Amarkantak, the birthplace of Narmada)). I was intrigued by the Narmada Mandir looking at this travelogue along with those faces at Yantra Mandir and Kabir Chabutrah. Plus driving to Amarkantak also meant we pass through some beautiful villages en route and hit the Chhattisgarh border to tick off another state on our list.

But all of this not before we did the little village tour of Manjitola in the morning at Kanha. We were quite impressed with the villages around Kanha with blue and white painted huts and houses. We wanted to visit a village on the foot and experience the village life in this part of the country. The lodge arranged a village tour for us and we took a leisure stroll around the Manjitola village. It was such a beautiful sight to see the kids playing around, a government school, village mandir, and visit the house of the watchman of the lodge. We loved every part of it and spent a good 1.5 hours walking through the village in the morning. The atmosphere here was very unique for us and the people seemed quite friendly and nice. Don’t miss out on the village tour if you visit this place. Very beautiful and memorable.

Local kids at Manjitola village
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kids-manjitola-village.jpg

Village view
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Typical houses at the village
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Village Mandir
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We had our breakfast at the lodge after returning and then got things packed and loaded the car. It was a bittersweet moment for us to leave the beautiful Kanha Safari Lodge and Banjar River behind and hit the wheel again for the drive towards Amarkantak. We spent two nights here but were treated so well that it had become very homely for us. Amarkantak was about 200kms and we were looking forward to another 5 hours of driving through the villages. We started around 10:30 AM and delivered our best wishes and heartfelt goodbyes to the entire staff at the Kanha Safari Lodge.

We had to pass through the Mukki gate again. You have to make an entry as this road passes through the core zone and another entry at the exit. The speed limit is 40km/hr and they will fine you if you go either faster or slower than this. We got to experience the Kanha forest again during this drive and exited the forest after about 9Km. Took a left before Gadi and proceeded onwards to Amarkantak via Bichiya, Smanapur, Gadasarai, and Karanjiya. The drive after taking left at Gadi till Bichiya was scenic with beautiful landscapes dotted by villages with a lot of houses painted in blue and white. This was a photographer's paradise. The fields were stacked with hays in different shapes and I felt proud that we are lucky to explore this part of our incredible country. Traversing through the markets of Gadasarai was beautiful as we saw how local shops stacked different items along with some beautiful colors all around. There were many stalls selling chats, hot jalebis and we were so inclined to eating some of that but gave up just because of how crowded those places were. We missed having roadside street food quite a lot on this trip. We would have done this had there been no COVID.

Arching trees nearing Amarkantak
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en route after Bichiya
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en route near Bichiya
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Gadasarai market
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fields with haystacks
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Haystacks again
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The landscape on this scenic route
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near rusa village en route
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Gadasarai market
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Kids venturing into one of the haystacks en route
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Typical scene en route
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We stopped in the middle for a quick lunch break that we had packed earlier against a backdrop of silver oak trees. Some local village boys were heading for a game of cricket and it was wonderful to have a conversation with them. Their look said it all when they got to know how far we had come. They invited me to the game of cricket. With a heavy heart, I had to decline since we wanted to reach Amarkantak before it gets dark. After a nice break, we drove non stop and reached Jagatpur junction around 3:45 PM. At this junction, the road goes towards the left for Amarkantak and the straight road goes into Chattisgarh. We decided to visit Kabir Chabutrah and entered Chattisgarh for a few hundred meters. This was a very peaceful and quiet place. No wonder sant Kabir wrote a lot of his writings from here. I saw a trekking trail from here till Sonmuda that said 8.5Kms. Looked wonderful and I hated we did not have time here for doing a trek – we were staying only for a night at Amarkantak. After spending some quiet time at Kabir Kuti we headed back and exited the Chattisgarh border to enter MP again. My son was happy to tick off another state in our country.

Kabir Chabutrah

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A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-kabir-chabutrah.jpeg

Just before entering Amarkantak town, I saw the board for Arrandi temple and we decided to check it out. There is a nice little temple underground that houses the deities of Lord Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita Mata here, very beautiful. Outside this, there is a temple of Goddesses Ganga, Narmada, and Arandi. Another beautiful temple and my daughter loved seeing the goddesses here. After spending some time here and taking in the vibe, we left for our hotel, and by the time we reached it was already dark.

Inside Arandi gufa
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The three goddesses temple
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We had booked at MPT Holiday homes, and after our blissful experience at MPT Kanha, our expectations were high. We were a little disappointed as this turned out to be an average place. I had booked an AC room and it was very small with not so clean linens. The bathroom was just ok. But what put me off was dust all around and I hated it. But still, we were there only for a night and with not many alternatives around, decided to put up with it. In the hindsight, I feel it is ok as kids need to experience different kinds of stays and need to learn how to adjust in all situations. This hotel also had deluxe tents and I reckon those were nicer. Our experience in such tents later in Bedaghat was very nice.

I love being in temple towns where they play bhajans on loudspeakers throughout the day which goes till late at night. Amarkantak was no different. So after checking into the room and with not much to do at the hotel, we decided to venture out. Gave MPT restaurant here a miss and had an early dinner around 7 PM at a local Dhaba in the town. A simple meal of dal roti and rice was cooked fresh and served hot. Phenomenal food. Binged on this simple food and then visited the Mata Naramada mandir around 8 PM.

It was devoid of the madness of daytime crowds as most of the people had left and it was very quiet with the little crowd. We could hang around and take in the vibe. The temple is painted white and it looks beautiful with water all around. We bowed down to Ma Narmada and were mesmerized to see Narmada ugam. Did some photoshoots here and spent a good amount of time exploring the temple premises. It's truly a beautiful temple and the vibe here reminded me of Varanasi. Narmada is quite revered in this part of the country and I could see pilgrims performing all kinds of rituals here. Very beautiful to walk around this temple.

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It was late by the time we were done here and the cold was setting in. Returned to our hotel by 9:30 PM and spent some time checking phone/WhatsApp after a good 3 days (we did not get Airtel network at Kanha Mukki). I got to know we were in a good position in the Boxing Day Test against Australia at the MCG. Being a cricket buff nothing motivates you more than our team coming back and giving it back to opponents after a thrashing (36 all out was still fresh in my mind). Spent the rest of the time watching the highlights of the day's play and responding to messages. Called off for the day around 10:30 PM.

Last edited by trahul4 : 9th January 2021 at 16:46.
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Old 9th January 2021, 13:17   #3
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Day 6 - 28th Dec ( Amarkantak sightseeing and drive to Bandhavgarh – 240 kms)

Amarkantak is also famous for few waterfalls most notably Kapil Dhara and Doodh Dhara. You need to take a small trek to reach these. With limited time in hand coupled with our excellent trekking waterfalls trip to Tambdi Surla in Goa in October, we decided to give waterfalls a miss. Plus we weren’t keen to take a dip anyway on a cold winter morning. As I said earlier I was very intrigued by the faces at the yantra mandir and decided to check that out. I also got to know that river Son originates at Amarkantak and later joins Ganga in Jharkhand, and decided to check out the origin of this river at Sonmuda. I wanted to beat the crowds and we ensured to be ready and leave by 7:30 AM. Reached Sonmuda and took the trek down the stairs and it was 8 AM by then. All through this, I was hooked onto my phone's Cricinfo app following the test match. Sonmuda is a beautiful place and it was great to see how a tiny trickle from a mountain get converted to a river downstream. The only downside of this place was it wasn’t clean. The crowd and tourists had thrown thrash everywhere. I hope we educate our folks and children to preserve our natural wonders and not to thrash.

View at Sonmuda
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After ticking off Sonmuda, we headed to the Sri Yantra Mandir, and wow those 4 faces are quite interesting. This is a nice temple and looks like it is abandoned. Did some photoshoots here and headed to the Kalachuri temple complex just behind the Ma Narmada mandir. These temples were constructed by the Kalachuri kings in the 10th century AD and are an engineering marvel in their architecture. Spent some time here clicking photos and visited Narmada mandir again to see the beautiful white temple in the morning sun. The crowd was more now and we left after taking another darshan. Shopped for bangles outside the temple for my daughter and headed for our breakfast at another Dhaba in town. After breakfast, we went back to our hotel to check out.

Kalachuri Temple complex

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Sri Yantra Mandir

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Narmada Mandir in the morning
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We packed our bags and were ready by 11M. Checked out and hit the wheel again towards Bandhavgarh. Google maps showed the route through shahdol town that was about 4 hours. The local hotel guys advised us no to take this route due to bad roads and instead take the longer route through Dindori, Shahpura, and Umaria that would take us 5 hours drive and about 240 km. We stuck to their suggestion and started at 11:15 AM. We had packed Aloo parathas at the Dhaba where we had breakfast for our lunch.

The route again was quite scenic through the wheat fields and I could maintain decent average speeds. I stopped at the IOC bunk in Dindori for refueling ( this has the best reviews on google ) and had a small conversation with the person who was delivering fuel to the car. He was asking about my journey from Bangalore. They weren’t used to seeing KA number plate cars a lot I reckon. After refueling and a quick chat, I left and hit the way for Shahpura. Shahpura was a chaotic town and it took some time for us to pass through. A few minutes later we found a very nice place along the load to stop for lunch. Post lunch, I drove nonstop and reached the White Tiger Forest Lodge at Bandhavgarh around 5 PM. Overall drive from Amarkantak was easy and roads were good for the entire part. I was amazed that MP has very good state highways.

En route Bandhavgarh
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Checked the scores the first thing and wow India was in a winning position. Again watched the day's highlights and took it easy during the evening time. Kids enjoyed the play area and we watched some TV as well. We again had an all-inclusive package here and finished our dinner by 8:30 PM. The food was quite good and was served hot and fresh. I would rate it slightly below what we had in Kanha but still pretty good. The room here was slightly bigger with a sit-out area and no balcony. I liked that they arranged for an extra bed on a cot rather than putting it on the floor.

After missing out on the morning safari at Kanha we were keen to do it in Bandhavgarh and I had got the online booking here. I was skeptical of the early morning cold especially with kids around. But we decided to go for it as the chances of a sighting were more and we wanted to experience the core zone and the wild during the dawn hours. The morning safari is longer and you get time to soak in the atmosphere. So with that in mind and the task of waking up at 4:30 AM in the cold weather, we hit the bed early and signed off for the day by 9:45 PM


Day 7 – 29th Dec 2020 ( Bandhavgarh)

We planned to wake up early but the excitement of getting onto the morning safari was a bit too much and I was awake by 4 AM itself. Woke up the kids around 5 and we were ready at the reception of our lodge at 5:45 AM. MPT did very well to serve us tea at that time and had arranged a packed breakfast. They had given us options the previous night and we had made our choices. They even provided us a few blankets and that was of great help. The forest is really cold in the mornings and in an open jeep, the cold only gets worse. But we were well prepared and had good warm weather clothing. The kids put up really well. MPT hotel had arranged the Jeep to pick us up in the morning well driven by our driver Yadav Ji. We were joined by the guide ( Shukla Ji ) at the gate. Any experience at safari largely depends on a good guide and driver and as it turned out Shukla Ji and Yadav Ji were a real gem. Very patient, humble, honest, and above all good human beings with a genuine interest in making us experience the wild. This is their daily job but I could really see the passion in them to make people like us make the most of our time on the safari. Hats off to both of them.

Our ride for the day
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Tala Gate Entrance

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With Shukla Ji - our wonderful guide
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With Yadav ji - our passionate driver
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Coming back to the safari, Shukla Ji kept on telling us stories about the Tigers at Bandhavgarh and the forest overall. The sun rays breaking through the forest was a wonderful sight to experience. After about an hour the moment arrived – spotting a tiger. Shukla Ji could hear the alarm call of a deer and waited at a place. He was later joined by few other jeeps as well. After about 10 mins, there she was. A grand tigress just crossed the road in front of us and walked into the woods. As if not bothered by all the people around, she was just walking as if the entire area belonged to her. Shukla Ji mentioned her name is Kajri and she has a natural kajal like lining just under her eyes. Our mobile cameras don't do any justice to the pics and for that moment we hated not having a good camera with us. But we were extremely happy to spot a tiger in the wild. It was a surreal moment. The kids will remember this forever for sure.

Beautiful meadows inside the forest
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Deers chilling out
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Forest views
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Safari Trail
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Spot of Sitamandap - the famous tigress of Bandhavgarh who used to be here
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Fearless 'Kajri' - walking on the rocks here. Amazing to sight her
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We then roamed around a few other spots and our guide then heard a very loud alert call from Sambar deer which was a clear indication that another Tiger or a Leopard was very near. We stopped and waited and the alert calls only got stronger and louder. Our guide was sure there was a tiger or a leopard just in front of us inside the woods and our view was blocked by vegetation. We waited with patience for almost 45 mins but unfortunately, it never came out. But during these minutes it was such great learning about the alarm calls of wild animals to alert others on the presence of a predator. Well explained by our guide and one of the nicest experiences of the trip.

It was about 9:30 by now and we gave up and headed to the center point within the forest for breakfast which we had packed. This point has few tea stalls as well. After finishing breakfast we started back and returned to the gate by around 11:30. These 5 hours we spent in the morning forest were truly magical. Never been passionate about wildlife but I decided to visit wildlife parks in our country after this experience.

The morning safari at Bandhavgarh turned out to be the best moment for all of us on this trip although boating at Narmada passing through Marble rocks comes as a close second. More on that later. To top it all, I checked Cricinfo app and we had won the match at MCG. I was so happy. After wishing and saying goodbye to Shukla Ji, we were back at our hotel by 12. Said bye to our driver Yadav Ji and took some rest. We headed for lunch around 1:30 PM.

Beautiful MPT White Tiger Forest Lodge
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Kids posing
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GT enjoying a well-deserved rest on 'no car' day
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White Tiger Forest Lodge is a very nice property, well maintained, neat and clean. You can just walk around this property and enjoy the walk. We were all tired after the safari and I took a much-needed nap in the afternoon while the kids enjoyed themselves in the play area. In the evening the hotel arranges a campfire in the common area where all the guests can come together and enjoy. I avoided this and instead requested to make us a private small campfire which they happily obliged. It was great by the side of the campfire and spend the evening looking at stars, sky and just talk with the family members. After a very relaxing and enjoyable evening, we finished our light dinner and signed off for the day by 10 PM.

Last edited by trahul4 : 9th January 2021 at 15:13.
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Old 9th January 2021, 15:54   #4
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Day 8 - 30th Dec 2020 – Encounter with Tiger again, Bandhavgarh to Bedaghat drive and Bedaghat Sightseeing.

Today was the last day for us in Bandhaygarh and we had not booked any morning safari. The drive to Bedaghat was only 4 hours and we decided to leave leisurely by 10:30 AM. As usual, woke up early, did some bit of running, finished breakfast, and we were at the wheel by 10:15 AM. With thoughts of Bedaghat in mind, we left the MPT hotel and again had to drive through the core zone to get out of Bandhavgarh. After spending close to 5 hours on safari the previous day, our mind was not on spotting a tiger while we were driving, and frankly speaking, I was not expecting to see one. But as they say, unexpected things happen when you least expect them to. A biker stopped abruptly in front of us and pointed us towards a Tiger that was in the woods just behind us. I reversed my car and saw a tiger crossing the main tar road right in front of us. Wow, what an amazing experience. This only capped up our wonderful time at Bandhavgarh. This was pure luck, it just crossed the road and disappeared into the woods again and we were plain lucky to spot it. What a start to the day!

Post this moment, I reversed again and we continued on our journey reflecting on what had just transpired. Before we knew it, we were in Umaria. There are multiple routes from here and we took the one towards Katni as this road bypasses Jabalpur and goes to Bedaghat. We wanted to avoid city traffic and this road was the right choice, although this meant missing out on Jabalpur city. We observed that the landscape after crossing Katni changed dramatically and saw a lot of green fields all around. Wheat, Sugarcane harvesting was in full bloom.

Scenery after passing Katni
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The roads were super good and we reached Bedaghat by around 2:30 PM. A short and quick drive on this stretch for us. We drove straight to MPT Motel Marble Rocks which was our place of stay for the night and this time around I had booked a deluxe tent with a view of the Narmada river.

View from our tent at MPT Marble Rocks
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View from cable car
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This was another awesome top class place to stay by MPT and the staff here were so polite and humble. Our average experience at MPT Amarkantak was a forgotten memory by now. The tent that we had booked was very neat and clean with all the necessary amenities. To top it all, it had a direct view of Narmada flowing through the Marble rocks. Another top class stay.

Bedaghat was supposedly the most crowded and touristy place we did on this trip. Since it is close to Jabalpur and near to the main highway, everyone stops by here. The afternoon that day was packed with people everywhere and I was put off initially. But then again, I convinced myself that this is India. How much ever offbeat we can plan, but we can never escape people. So we decided not to do the thing that we had come for in the afternoon due to crowding – boating through marble rocks on Narmada. Instead out hotel folks told us to go early morning the next day around 7 to beat the crowd.


The tent the hotel guys allotted to us was quite luxurious with a lot of space. Hands down the best from the stay point of view till then. Had quick lunch and headed to the Dhuadhar waterfalls. It was packed with people and we took the cable car to go to the other side which was less crowded. We enjoyed some scenic views from the cable car and it is a must-do if you come here. Don't miss it. We could venture onto the rocks nearby and touched Narmada waters. Enjoyed some time here and returned back by cable car again. Did some shopping on the street leading to this place and headed to Chausath Yogini Temple located nearby from thereon.

Dhuadhar Falls
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At Chausat yogini temple
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It is a beautiful temple and you can see the statues of 64 yoginis (who are the attendants of Goddess Durga). Some say that this temple has inspired the architects of the current parliament house in Delhi. Most of the idols/sculptures here are in bad shape and the local priest told us that Mughal rulers tried to destroy these sculptures. Nevertheless, it was still a beautiful and nice place. There is a temple in the middle here and the main deity is Lord Shiva who is taking Goddess Parvathy to mount Kailash on a Nandi after their wedding. A very unique statue here. Worth a visit and it is a definite must-do for folks interested in mythology and history.

It was dark by the time we exited from the temple and we went back to our hotel for some much-needed downtime relaxing and chilling out. I ordered room service for dinner and signed off for the day around 10 PM as usual. The food at this hotel was the next best after Kanha.

Day 9 – 31st Dec – Marble Rocks boating, Bedaghat to Pachmarhi drive - 235 Km

We were a bit disappointed the previous day due to not getting a chance for boating through marble rocks as this was our number one agenda here at Bedaghat. So we made a point to wake up early and get the boating done as soon as possible before the crowd hits. So we woke up around 6 AM and were ready to leave our room by 7. The walk from our hotel towards the boating point was very nice with a typical MP village ambiance. We passed through the Panchmata mandir on the way and decided to check it out on our way back.

We reached the boating point and there we go, there wasn’t any crowd. We were the first people and could negotiate a good deal with boatmen there. We hired a 4 seater for an hour with a guide. We started and immediately experienced water vapors coming out of the river. The water was warm and what a natural wonder it was so experience this on a cold winter morning. The boat carried on and slowly the marble rocks were showing all their majesty. It was one of the best moments for us on this trip and comes as a very close second for being the top moment of the entire trip. The guide we had was a really great guy and had a lot of information to share. His commentary had all the necessary humor to keep us glued to his talks. We spent an hour boating through the river and it was an extremely peaceful and mindblowing sight to be in the middle of Marble rocks on the Narmada River. With a bit of imagination, you can find these marble rocks in various shapes and forms – a cliff, car, temple, elephant, and in various different colors – white, blue, a bit yellowish. Truly a spectacular sight. Near to the boating point, there is also a bathing ghat that was open for people to take a dip. Seeing pilgrims soaking themselves into the waters of Mata Narmada reminded us about our time at Varanasi last year. A very different experience to witness as is the case in Varanasi.

Panchmata Mandir
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Shops selling beautifully sculpted idols lining up the walk till boating point
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Narmada River
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Narmada Bathing Ghat
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Boating Pictures
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After completing the boating, we started our walk back to the hotel and visited the Panchmata mandir on the way. It was another beautiful temple with nice architecture. Got some photos clicked and headed back. As we were at Bedaghat only for a night, we had to leave soon to our next destination Pachmarhi which was a good 6 hours drive from here. We got back to the hotel around 9 and were ready to leave by 10:30 post breakfast.

We bid our heartfelt goodbyes to the staff at MPT hotel and started at 10:30 towards our next and last destination the trip – Pachmarhi. Another 250 km journey lay ahead of us through the village roads.

Final goodbyes to MPT Marble Rocks Motel
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I wasn’t feeling right about the tyre pressure in the car and got that checked at the first instance. The roads weren't great on this stretch – most of it was potholed, one lane both ways, and a lot of two-wheelers and tractor traffic. But this passed through the sugarcane belt and there were numerous sugar factories we passed by. We took the Narsingpur – Kareli – Gadarwara- Pipariya – Pachmarhi route. The road after Kareli was quite bumpy with heavy traffic. But it also had great scenic views of fields around. We saw trucks loaded with Sugarcane waiting outside the factory gates and the lines were quite long – in some cases more than a kilometer. We enjoyed passing through this belt but the drive was hectic. This was the only stretch on the entire trip we were a bit tired after the drive otherwise we did very well overall.

Familiar scenes on this route

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Just before we entered Pipariya, we stopped at a local tea vendor with a green field in the backdrop. He was a young guy who was preparing tea on a stove fuelled by coal and had a unique handheld machine to keep the coal burning. It was a unique sight for us. We stopped here for 20 mins and chatted with him about the local area. He owned the field behind and used his spare time to put a tea stall. He was such an enterprising guy and I was amazed at his energy and positivity. He spoke about their life, struggles, and agriculture in that region. I also used this opportunity to ask him the best places to eat in Pipariya. He instead suggested us to drive further down to Matkuli on Pachmarhi road and stop at Sai family dhaba. We decided to take his suggestions as locals know the best and I found him genuine.

With Patel Ji - the tea vendor and his wheat field in the backdrop

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We started from here after a good break and I was filled with so much energy after meeting this guy. All the tiredness of the drive went away in a jiffy. Rural India and its people are so authentic and nice. Great experience and we told ourselves that this is the reason we embark on road trips. These experiences and encounters are so unique that stay with you for a long time.


Refueled at the Reliance petrol station at Pipariya and started towards Pachmarhi road. Reached Sai family Dhaba at Matkuli at 4 PM for a very late lunch. But we didn't complain since we were expecting some great food here. And well the food didn't disappoint. We ordered dal and Sev bhaji and the chef here cooked it so well. We had a very sumptuous meal. Moreover, kids liked the experience of eating at a Dhaba in the open air alongside the main road. The crisp air of rural villages with the backdrop of green fields and hot meals was a combination to savor.

Delicious dal and sev bhaji at Sai dhaba at Matkuli
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GT enjoying some rest at the dhaba
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After this, we started our journey and Pachmarhi was about 45 mins away uphill through the Satpura ghats. This road is a single road and you have to be careful here. The cars from the opposite side will hesitate to go down the tar road to pass and it is a game of cat and mouse on who blinks first. Hated this part of the drive but it wasn’t long so it was ok. We also got the first taste of the Satpura mountain range here after Amarkantak.


We had limited agenda at Pachmarhi and our main thing here was to relax and enjoy a good downtime. It was 31st night and all the hotels had a new year party. We didn’t do any of that and instead just relaxed at our hotel. I had booked MPT Satpura Retreat here and it is an old British bungalow now converted into a luxury heritage hotel. It is tucked away in a quiet corner away from party crowds. This was the most luxurious stay for us on this trip and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Spent the evening enjoying the garden, chit-chatting, and finished our dinner by 9 pm, and slept off around 10 PM which had become our routine.
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Old 9th January 2021, 16:28   #5
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Sunset at Matkuli
A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-sun-set-satpuras.jpeg

Our place of stay on the new year's eve
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MPT Satpura Retreat Hotel
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Hotel Entrance

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Day 10 – 1st Jan 2021 (Pachmarhi)

Today was the rest day for us as we knew we had a long journey that was ahead of us to reach back home. We decided to take it easy for the day plus it was also the birthday of my son who turned 12. We ordered a cake and celebrated with the restaurant staff. Just had a relaxed morning, enjoyed breakfast, and chilled out.

My son with his birthday cake. He turned 12 on new year's day
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Around noon we decided to check out Handi Koh and Pandav caves. Pachmarhi was extremely crowded as many had come to spend their holidays here and enjoy the new year parties. We did not enjoy visiting these places due to the crowd and decided to return to our hotel and relax instead.

Handi Koh - the vertical cliff is interesting
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Spent the afternoon in the garden seeing the kids play and enjoying some rest. Ordered lunch at the hotel and took a quick nap. The rest of the day was relaxed and uneventful. We all got the much-needed downtime and enjoyed doing nothing. The staff at the hotel took good care of us and served us snacks, tea, and ensured we were comfortable with everything we needed.


Day 11- 2nd Jan 2021 (Pachmarhi – Nagpur 230 Km )

Today was our last day in MP and was also the day we start our journey back home. It was a bittersweet moment for us to leave this beautiful state and its beautiful people. But we were away from home now for some time and were looking forward to being back but not before visiting the Jatashankar cave temple.

To beat the crowds, we woke up early and visited the Jatashankar cave temple at 7 AM. The legend says Lord shiva was hiding here from Bhasmashur when Bhasmasur was trying to attack Shiva with the ‘Vardaan’ he had got from Shiva himself. This cave temple was stunning and the walk was gorgeous. You need to walk for about a kilometer and then take the steps down to reach the cave. In the morning cool air, this was nice. Enjoyed the vibe here and spent time exploring the caves. Truly magnificent piece of nature here. If you ever visit Pachmarhi, this should be the first item on your agenda.

Walk to Jatashankar Cave Temple
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You take stairs to go down the cave
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Jatashankar Cave
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Jatashankar Mandir in the cave
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Returned to the hotel by around 9 AM and started to get things packed and get ready. We finished breakfast and were all set to leave at 10:30 AM. Did a few videos of the hotel and got ourselves ready for the long road journey ahead. A bit of speech from all of us about the experience in MP followed. We all shared our best moments, not so good moments, and learnings from the trip till now. It was nice to hear perspectives from kids, but overall it was great to be in this part of the country for the first time. For us, MP truly was a unique experience and it beautifully emboldened the spirit of Incredible India.

With the Staff at MPT Satpura Retreat Hotel bidding final goodbyes

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We had two options – either drive to Nagpur or Hyderabad. But as we were already late and it was 11 by the time we left, we decided to drive till Nagpur and do the rest of the drive the next day. I took the Matkuli- Parasia-Chindwara – Soaner – Nagpur route and it was a 5.5 hours drive. The journey passed through the ghats of Satpuras till Chindwara and the roads were pretty good all through. We had lunch at a roadside Dhaba after Chindwara bypass and reached Nagpur by 5 PM. En route we picked up Oranges at a road side vendor. They were very soft and sweet.

On Chindwara Nagpur Raod
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Road side vendor stacking oranges nearing Nagpur
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Checked in at the MTDC hotel ( the same place we had stayed while en route earlier) and took some rest. At around 6:30 we ventured out, got the car refueled and tyre pressure rechecked at the same reliance fuel station near the Japanese garden that we had visited earlier. Went to Haldirams at Sitabuldi and got Orange Barfis for friends and folks back home. Orange Barfi at Haldiram is a must-try if you are in Nagpur.

We had stopped ourselves from having street food and chats in MP due to the fear of getting upset tummy but today we could afford to and decided to enjoy chats in Nagpur. Nagpur has a very good street food scene and we enjoyed the normal suspects such as Pani puri, bhel, Vada pav and we topped it all with ice cream to celebrate the end of our successful road trip. Headed back to the hotel and called off for the day at 9:30 PM

Enjoying chats and ice cream at Nagpur - street food at last

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A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh-ice-cream.jpeg


Day 12 – 3rd Jan 2021 Nagpur to Bangalore marathon drive (1100 Km)

I had planned to start early by 4 AM but was told by hotel guys about the night curfew in Maharashtra. He didn't advise me to take a chance and asked me leave only after 6 AM. So we started exactly at 5:55 AM. We were all prepared for this marathon drive and were looking forward to it. Reached Pandharkwada at 8:10 AM and had breakfast at a roadside restaurant –Poha and Idli. Nothing great but it was good enough to get going. I wanted to cross HYD by 2 PM max.

Drove nonstop from here and reached Medchal at 1:30 PM. We wanted to take a break for lunch at Medchal but something in me said to cross the ORR and then take a break. We carried on and crossed the world-class Hyderabad ORR to hit the Bangalore highway at Shamshabad. We stopped at Radhakrishna Veg at Thimapur and also got the car refueled at IOC Coco at Thimmapur.

We took some rest and started around 3:15 PM. The traffic was high till Jadcherla and thinned down after that. Stopped for a tea break at Kurnool at 5:50 PM. Some tiredness was setting in and I wanted to drive slowly from here on. I reduced my speeds in dark and got my cruise set for 80kmph after crossing Dhone. Wanted to stop at Dolphin after Anantapur for dinner but came across Shere-e-Punjab Dhaba roadside before Anantpur which was full of local Anatpur crowd. We decided to stop here and finish our dinner at 8:30 PM. Got back to the wheel by 9:15 PM and was home in JP Nagar at 12:30 AM. So overall it was a marathon 18.5 hours journey for us from Nagpur and for the last 100 km, I drove quite slowly especially after entering the Karnataka border.

It took some time for us to realize after parking our car in our apartment basement that the trip was finally over. Days and months of planning, talking about it and here we were – it was all done and dusted. We were sad but also happy to be at home. After staying in hotels for long, you yearn to get back to your own bed at home. We decided not to unload any bags for now and just get home, sleep and take care of it the next day.

Day 13- 4th Jan 2021 – Car routine

I get my car washed and sanitized after every road trip and I got it done first thing in the morning at Auto detailer car care at Sarakki. Pretty solid service and nice work these guys do. Got the bags unloaded and left the car fresh for yet another road trip soon.
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Old 11th January 2021, 08:10   #6
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Old 11th January 2021, 08:52   #7
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Default Re: A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh

Wonderful travelogue!
Thoroughly enjoyed reading it! Nice pictures too!
Visiting the jungles in MP for a safari has been on our radar for a while now. This will definitely help us plan and execute the trip!
Thank you for sharing a well-written and a detailed travelogue with the community!
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Old 11th January 2021, 08:59   #8
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Thanks, and it is wonderful news. I am glad you and the moderator team consider this worthy to feature on the homepage.
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Amazing travelogue. Would use this as a background document. People tell me that summer is better for sightings of tiger etc. is that what you gathered? The only challenge is summers are quite hot on those parts of India
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Old 11th January 2021, 11:41   #10
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Amazing travelogue. Would use this as a background document. People tell me that summer is better for sightings of tiger etc. is that what you gathered? The only challenge is summers are quite hot on those parts of India
As I said in the blog, we were keen to experience MP in its villages, forests, and temple towns. Tiger safari was only one part of it. If Tiger is what you want to sight, then yes, summers are the best months and you should do at least 4-5 rounds of safari to have a good chance. Our guide told me that May is the best month for this.
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Old 11th January 2021, 13:44   #11
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Inspiring travelogue. I too love my Polo GT TSI, and am getting inspired to plan a longer road trip soon. So far, I've only travelled upto 250km one way in it.
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Old 11th January 2021, 13:59   #12
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Default Re: A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh

A Wonderful travelogue. And laid out very practically considering family along side with kids. Lots of details shared and the pictures of Kanha came out great even on the mobile. Keep travelling and sharing.

One question, if I had only 1 week of time out of which 2-3 days are gone in travelling in and out of MP, which would be the top places you would recommend prioritizing. You skipped Chitrakot Falls.

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Old 11th January 2021, 17:24   #13
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Very inspiring travelogue. Kudos to you on the completion.
Were you the sole driver? 18.5hr marathon to Bangalore seems very tiring
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Old 11th January 2021, 18:49   #14
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Default Re: A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh

Amazing trip and brilliant pictures. Looks like you had a wonderful time with your family. The Polo GT is IMHO a great car to do long trips around India. I recently did a road trip from Delhi to Jaisalmer and back (total distance 1800kms) on my Polo 1.5 Diesel. The amazing Rajasthan roads made me clock top speeds around 170 kmph on my Polo. Unbelievable.

I've road trips from Delhi to Bandhavgarh and Bedhaghat. Love those places. I think Madhya Pradesh truly represents the "heart of India."
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Old 11th January 2021, 19:00   #15
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Default Re: A 3700 km road-trip into the jungles, hills and villages of magnificent Madhya Pradesh

Amazing travelogue. If you don't mind then do share the total kms driven with average fuel consumption. Such long trips are a rarity during such a time so would be really helpful to get some info.
This is one state that I wish to explore in length. It indeed has the flavours to be called the Heart of India. So many things to do and so not getting to do it. Glad atleast to read in detail and have some vicarious fun.

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