Monday, January 16, 2017

MP Diaries - Prologue

 "MP Diaries" is a chronicle of our recent road trip to the magnificent state of Madhya Pradesh. Our journey in and across MP felt like home. We owe our sincere thanks to the  people of Madhya Pradesh. Until the evening of 23rd  December 2016, the plan was uncertain. Almost every day in December, we planned/ unplanned for this trip due to various reasons. Looking back, we know we made the right decision. As we had lost our camera along with all its accessories during our Chikmagalur trip long back, we went ahead to buy another DSLR on 24th of December for our upcoming MP trip. This apart, the car was not even serviced owing to the dilemma of our trip, although the much needed engine oil change and coolant top up was done on the morning of 25th December just before we hit the highway.
Our Best Friend in MP
During our return journey to Bangalore, our vehicle (Xylo) which had behaved well through out the trip developed fuel leakage about 150 km away from home. We realised about the leakage only after the smell of the fuel intensified.  Being a Sunday noon, the chances of finding of a service center were meager. My wife kept an eye for any operational garage as we drove and we found one in Devanahalli. Thanks to the heroics of this mechanic, the leakage which was manageable priorly, only increased as we drove although he had convinced us that we could drive till home safely.  At about 12 km  to home, we observed fumes coming out of our vehicle's engine, which rang an alarm bell to stop immediately. We had to park our vehicle and book a cab to reach home, thus ending our wonderful journey.
Madhya Pradesh Route Map (click here)
Two other important aspects for planning our trip were our 20 month old kid and demonetisation. Though our little one enjoys traveling, the next fifteen days would be a testing time for him as well as us with regards to food, drinking water and sleep. We three, together, managed it quite well.  Though he caught cold due to the extreme cold in Gwalior, the hotel staff were cooperative in setting up a heater at the middle of night, without which the situation would have only worsened. Thanks again to the staff at hotel Ambassador, Gwalior who were helpful and responsive with the heater, it was a savior!. This apart, he enjoyed well through out our journey. Demonetisation made most of us go cashless, hence we had to be prepared for overcoming this. As we decided late about our journey, we had little time to go the bank and draw money. We had to be dependent on undependable ATM's for the rest of our journey in addition to not being sure  about how far plastic currency/wallet would be accepted. Most of the fuel stations accepted cards/e-wallets, except for one in Andhra state. Almost all toll booths accepted cards/ e-wallets payments. Most of the budget hotels we stayed in were quite hesitant to accept any form of digital pay mode and preferred cash invariably. Many ATM's across the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh were operational and issued money, Maharashtra being an exception where long queues in front of banks were a common sight. On the whole, the effect of demonetisation on our journey was nil.
 Madhya Pradesh like all other states in India is blessed with rich natural, cultural and historical heritage. Driving across Madhya Pradesh was a pleasant experience as described in our previous post. While researching on  places to visit in MP, we realised that finalizing our itinerary was a tough job. Since it was a road trip, we had the freedom to go around as we wished (which we always enjoy) and explore the lesser known places. We made a list of places we  wanted to visit. We also made sure to be prepared for the harsh winters of North India during December. A major disadvantage to us while traveling during winter was that the days are shorter and we had to manage our timings accordingly. Gwalior in the Northern part was the coldest place during this trip and we had to use a heater, both in our room as well as our vehicle during travel (rarity for us). Driving from Orchha to Khajuraho was a challenge in itself owing to the zero visibility due to smog. To add to our misery, my wife realised at the right time (being quite sarcastic!) that I  hadn't collected my ID from the hotel we checked out last. Thinking wise, we drove back to get the ID rather than getting it couriered to our residential address. We will surely remember this drive for long and will always cherish it. 
List of the Places we planned to visit 
1) Pilgrimage - Omkareshwar and Ujjain
2) Architectural, Hindu - Maheshwar, Khajuraho, Shivpuri, Orchha, Gwalior, Indore, Udaipur, Gyaraspur, Padavali, Bhojpur, Bateshwar
3) Architectural, Buddhism/Jainism - Sanchi, Udayagiri, Badoh Pathari, Budi Chanderi 
4) Architectural, Islamic - Mandu, Asirgarh, Dhar, Burhanpur, Chanderi  
5) Prehistoric - Bhimbetka 
6) Natural Wonders - Marble Rocks and Dhuandhar Falls
7) Wildlife - Bandhavgarh, Panna and Chambal 
Unfortunately, Bandhavgarh and Panna didn't happen since the online safari booking was full. We thought it wasn't feasible to travel to Bandhavgarh/ Panna and try on the spot safari  booking. Also, the prices of guaranteed safari via resorts was way too high. We didn't make it also to Ujjain due to paucity of time.
Places to visit in Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh - The Heart of Incredible India (Click on the image for Enlarged View) 
Our companions of the trip
1) Information partner - “Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent " by Takeo Kamiya, India - Eyewitness Travel of DK, books we bought locally during our journeys across MP and a  few details collected from various websites/ blogs
2) Clicking partners – Nikon D3300, Lenovo K5 Note
3) GPS partner - Eicher Road Atlas (wonderful road atlas) and Google Maps
4) Music partner -  iPad Mini with 16GB songs
5) Telecom partners - Airtel and Idea - Connectivity was very good which ensured we kept in touch with all our loved ones
6) A travel diary for writing down details of places visited, etc., including expenditure (unfortunately we didn’t use it as usual!).
Our Travel Oath
1) Not to exceed a speed limit of 100 kmph (Result: Roads were too good to keep a tab on speed limit)
2) No night driving beyond 10 pm. (Result: Had to break this oath on two nights only to keep pace with time)
3) Calling home every day (Result: Did not dare to break this one, if not this, the reverse surely happened!)
Total Cost: Under Rs.65,000/- per couple +child. Fuel expense (Rs.24 K) and Accommodation (Rs.17 K) being the major contributors, toll fee too significantly contributed to the expense
Road Conditions:  Do we need to speak about this again? Although most of the roads were good to  drive, there were many stretches of NH which were under repair or in a bad shape. Sadly, the caution/diversion boards too were not clearly visible. Two such stretches were from Mandu to Indore via Dhar (we hated this stretch!) and Shivpuri to Gwalior
Total km: 5243
Number of Days: 14,  (25 December 2016, 9:15 am to 08 January 2017 6:30 pm)
Total No. of photos taken: 10162 clicks 
Team G Cube in MP 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Madhya Pradesh, The heart of Incredible India

             "God Made Madhya Pradesh Beautiful. 
     We made it comfortable" 
   - Madhya Pradesh Tourism 

Madhya Pradesh (MP), often referred to as the 'heart of Incredible India' owing to its location in the centre of India is the second largest state of India in terms of area and the fifth largest, in terms of population. As a state, MP  boasts of being a mixed bag of well known destinations  and certainly has a lot to offer to an avid traveler. It has without doubt left a great lasting impression on us. Catch a glimpse of this wonderful state through our lens. Summarized below are ten of the most notable facts and the best ones we experienced during our journey.

1. Roads - The state of MP probably has the best of roads in India and surprisingly is one of the few states wherein the state highways, major district roads and village roads are far better than the National highways. Two of our most favorite stretches were the four laned 140 km stretch of state highway connecting Dewas to Bhopal and the two laned 105 km stretch of major district road connecting Saleha to Tigawa.  Driving across MP was thoroughly enjoyable primarily due to its good roads.
Mandu
Village Road
2. Food - POHA (flattened rice) and Jalebi (saffron colored sweet coil) branded as the national food (intentionally called so)  of Madhya Pradesh as they have it on all occasions of break fast, lunch, snack and dinner . Invariably, all road side eateries serve only Poha, Jalebi along with its savory and snack counterparts of Samosa/ Kachori and Sev, at all times.
Poha
Break Time Poha
3. History - The history of MP dates back to the Mesolithic period (as per artifacts found in Bhimbetka), early Buddhist era (Stupas of Sanchi), early Hindu temple architecture (Tigawa, Nachne, Ashapuri), Medieval temple architecture (Bateshwara, Gwalior, Khajuraho), Jain architecture (Gwalior, Pathari, Khajuraho), Islamic architecture (Mandu, Chanderi), British architecture (Asirgarh, Raisen), Cenotaphs (Orchha, Gwalior, Shivpuri) and freedom struggle for Indian independence. As per legend,  Lord Rama and Sita  spent most of theirs years of exile in their 14 year exile period in Chitrakoot (now in state of Madhya Pradesh). In most of the places we traveled, we always found and explored other lesser known places that played a significant role during the reign of various kings and dynasties.
Badal Mahal, Chanderi
Badal Mahal, Chanderi 
4. Wildlife/ Nature - Undoubtedly MP is a state blessed with natural wealth and wildlife, and popular   among the tourist population for wildlife sighting, especially the Royal Bengal Tiger. A wide variety of wildlife can be sighted in the national parks of Bandhavgarh, Panna, Pench, and Kanha and in the sanctuaries of Satpura and Chambal apart from other smaller reserves. Sighting wildlife came easy to us as we spotted a fox, jackal and  wolves on different nights during our  travel  across this state (national parks or sanctuaries  not being a part of the roads we traveled). Our sighting of Vultures  at Orchha, Indian Skimmers at Chambal and the lovely Peacocks with their families at  Bateshwar will always remain close to our hearts.
Indian Skimmers
Indian Skimmers at Chambal
5. Rivers - Many rivers flow across the state, with Narmada following the longest path, Chambal being the cleanest and Shipra being the holiest. All rivers were flowing with glory and pomp owing to the good monsoons of last year. Being one of the water rich states of India, MP enjoys vast stretches of fertile land.
Sunset at the Lake of Pathari 
6. Agriculture - The vast stretches of agricultural lands that MP encompasses were dedicated to rabi crops owing to the current season, mostly Wheat, Mustard, Bengal gram (Channa) and Tur. The state's predominant  dependence on agrarian economy was clearly evident even on the out skirts of major towns like Bhopal and Indore, where the agricultural lands were filled with standing crops. Thanks to them because of which we were always surrounded by greenery.
Mustard Fields 
 7. Tourist Infrastructure - True to their tag line "God Made Madhya Pradesh Beautiful. We made it comfortable", the tourism department of Madhya Pradesh has done a very credible and appreciable job in providing the best infrastructure possible and surely deserve all the applause for their commendable work. From accommodation to providing tourist information along with all other necessary facilities for tourists across all locations were perfectly managed by the tourism department. This is definitely something that every other state in India can learn to follow. On the flip-side, most the information boards with regards to directions and distance were seen in the language of Hindi, which would hinder or rather make it more difficult for foreign tourists and travelers from the southern most region of India to navigate around.
Midway Treat, Bhimbetka 
8. Diesel Pricing - Strangely, the only hurdle during our road trip was the high priced diesel in MP. They were presumably the highest compared to the other states we have traveled across. Apart from their high prices, its variation was drastic across the state. While diesel at Indore was priced at  Rs 62/- per liter, the same was Rs.67/- at Nowgaon, Chattarpur. This difference is quite high when compared to all the other states we've traveled, where the maximum difference was less than a rupee.
9. Bus Rapid Transit - Indore and Bhopal are two cities in MP where the BRT system has been successfully implemented. Very few Indian cities have this system of separate lanes for buses. It was good to witness that this system was being followed very strictly, not interfering with other travelers on road.
10. People - The locals were very kind and helpful in many ways. To quote an instance, while we decided  to stop by at a particular place for breakfast in Chanderi, we had to reverse our vehicle and while doing so, a biker collided at the rear end of our vehicle. Though it was not a serious collision, the biker tried to exaggerate the entire incident, seeing which the locals gathered in order to help us as they were aware that the fault was not ours. They assessed the situation and convinced the biker to just move on as nothing serious had occurred and  politely told us to carry on. We were thankful to them and just wondered how people elsewhere would have behaved in the same situation. That apart, in most of the places we observed that people minded their own business and seemed least interested in others. Also, there was selfie madness everywhere with people being engrossed admiring their beauty.
Photo on Demand 

This blog post will be followed by a series of posts under 'MP Diaries'.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Places to visit around Bangalore - Part 12

Continued from here.. 

61. Mavuthanahalli
Type: Hoysala Temples
Distance from Bangalore: 220 km
Directions from Bangalore: Bangalore - NH 48 - Tumkur - NH 73 - Arsikere - Left turn - Mavuthanahalli 
About: The Mahalingeshwara Temple here serves as a very good example of Hoysala architecture which  flourished during the12th century. The temple is extremely beautiful despite being in ruins. The locals offer their daily prayers. More 
Mahalingeshwara Temple Mavuthanahalli
62. Rehmangarh/ Kaivara

Type: Hill Fort, Temple Town
Distance from Bangalore: 70 km
Trek Distance: 2 Km (One way)
Directions from Bangalore: Bangalore - NH 77 - Hoskote - Left towards Chintamani - Till Kaivara 
About: The hill fort here was built by Tippu and later improvised by the local Palegars. Much of the fortification remains intact and is currently being maintained by the Forest department. There is a temple dedicated Lord Veerabhadraswamy and a water pond. More 
Rehmangarh as Seen From Ambajidurga
63. Ambajidurga/ Kaivara

Type: Hill Fort, Temple Town
Distance from Bangalore: 70 km
Trek Distance: 2.5 km (One Way)
Directions from Bangalore: Bangalore - NH 77 - Hoskote - Left towards Chintamani  
About: The hill fort here was built by Tippu and later improvised by the local Palegars. Much of fortification remains intact but this place is now abandoned. Trekking here is strictly prohibited. There is a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. More 
Clouds Kissing Ambajidurga Fort 
64. Madhugiri 

Type: Hill Fort, Temple Town
Distance from Bangalore: 122 km
Trek Distance: 3 km
Directions from Bangalore: Bangalore - NH 47 - Dabaspet - Right towards Madhugiri
About: The hill fort here was built during the Vijayanagar period and later improvised by Hyder Ali. Though much of the fortification remains intact, the ASI have taken additional measures to restore this fort along with  all precautionary measures in order to ensure a safe climb to people venturing this fort. More
Fortress Madhugiri
65. Nallur 

Type: Bio-diversity Site, Temple Town
Distance from Bangalore: 50 km
Directions from Bangalore: Bangalore - NH 4 -  Hoskote - Towards Devanahalli - Nallur 
About: Nallur's Tamarind Grove is regarded as the first bio-diversity heritage site in India. This site covers around 53 acres in area having more than 300 tamarind trees. The oldest tree here is confirmed to be around 410 years old. There are numerous ruined temples here which were built during the reign of Chola dynasty in the 12th century. More 
Nallur Tamarind Groove
























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