On 20th of October of 2017 and at a very young age of 65, I embarked upon an approximately 4,000 kilometers long road journey along with my girlfriend Asha (who also happens to be my wife and 57 years young) from Panaji, Goa. The idea was to travel from Goa to Khajuraho and several other places and then circle back.
The route I had chosen was Panaji> Poona > Nashik > Indore > Bhopal > Khojuraho > Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve> Jabalpur > Kanha Tiger Reserve > Nagpur > Aurangabad > Poona > Panaji, Goa.
Obviously my friends and relatives advised me not to drive but to take a driver or go by flight! I was repeatedly told that I am in vulnerable age and therefore not to take risk. Unknown road, unknown destinations and unknown people etc. were in fact a challenge.
These people had limited influence on me on my decision but major concern was from my wife! She didn’t know whether to swallow or spit! She didn’t want me to go alone but at the same time, she was scared to travel such a long distance! (I am bit of aggressive driver of course!)
The intense concern about me ultimately took over and she decided to join me!
The ‘maps of India’ were a great help in deciding route and also assessing the distances. The distances shown in ‘search’ were quite accurate. We did have problem at times on Google maps and navigation often due to snapping of connectivity. But overall satisfactory navigation!
I had decided not drive after 5pm and take complete rest on the day of driving. Secondly I had decided to park my car in the hotel in whichever city we are and hire a cab for local sightseeing. Third we would drive about 200 kilometers and maximum 500 kilometers in one stretch. We would begin driving around 8 in the morning for short journey and around 6 am on a long journey. The early start was to avoid the city traffic and also enough time to reach before dark even if there is some impediment.
Goa to Khajuraho
I found that this early morning start had an advantage since we used to reach the destination well in time for lunch which would extra comfort of nap thereafter.
The car was Mercedes E class.
Day 1 – Panaji (Goa) to Pune
- Distance covered was about 420 kilometers on good road.
- Overnight stay in Pune.
Day 2 – Pune to Nashik
- Distance approximately 200 kilometers
- Overnight stay at Nashik Club.
- Extremely bad road for about 120 kilometers taking more than 5 hours to reach Nashik.
- Visited Sula winery which is about 30 kilometers from Nashik city. For Rs. 750 per person we had wine tasting of six varieties. This place has in-house restaurant and good on palate but may not be on the purse.
Day 3: Nashik to Indore
- Distance approximately 420 kilometers on a good road
- Stayed at Indore Yashwant Club for two nights.
The club is named after the prince and son of famous Ahilyabai Holkar, the erstwhile ruler of Indore. The club is in center of city, good room, bar and dining. Staying here was possible only because I was an affiliated member of Club the Gasper Dias, Panaji Goa.
The Rajwada palace is worth visiting as well. The most famous place in Indore however is Sarafa, which opens up after 8pm and goes well beyond 2am. It is famous for local snacks and street food. It is a very clean place with no dirt anywhere and totally safe to eat. Indore is also known for more than 350 varieties and plenty of sweets too.
Day 5 & 6: Indore to Bhopal
- Distance about 200 kilometers
- Stayed for two nights at 10 Suites, a service apartment. Good homemade food and hospitality!
The lakes in Bhopal are quite clean. I was pleasantly surprised to find an open gym in the lake park; greater surprise was to find women also exercising. The other surprise was to find eco bicycles on hire adjacent to the lake. The owner of 10 suites also had arranged for his own car with driver (chargeable) to visit Sanchi and Bhimbelkta caves. Both are situated in opposite directions, around 60 kilometers and worth visiting. One should not miss Museum of Mankind n Bhopal which is a tribute to the tribal community of the country. It takes about 4 hours to see the place and for artists it is one of the must visit spots in Bhopal. While we were there the screening of Hindi movie ‘Jane bhi do yaro’ was going on for public.
Visit to Bhimbekta takes almost half a day and involves a good amount of walking. The caves happened to be the dwellings of pre-historic man during the Paleolithic era. Majority of paintings are still intact! Most of historic tribal art seems to have taken off from here!
There is also an ancient Shiva Temple on the way to Bhimbekta caves. The Shivlinga is 18 feet in height supposed to biggest Linga!
The local visit to Taj-ul-Masjid Bhopal is worth it as well.
Day 7 & 8: Bhopal to Khajuraho
Distance of about 400 kilometers
- Good road, even though the majority of it is the state highway
- Originally planned for four nights but cut down to two and stayed at Ramada
First day we attended the sound and light show and I was highly impressed. Next day we went for photography early in the morning before the crowd gathered. We went back to hotel for breakfast and returned at 10 AM with the guide. The temple architecture brings tears of joy. The erotic sculptures in Khajuraho are less than even one percent of all of it. But it gets promoted as if there is nothing else but erotic. The mythological female Apsara is gracefully sculpted with ultimate feminine beauty explicitly.
Day 9 & 10: Khajuraho to Panna Tiger Reserve
- Total distance traveled was approximately 35 kilometers
- Road was a mix of good, bad and ugly.
We felt two days were sufficient in Bhopal so we decided to visit Panna Tiger Reserve for the next two nights. It is hardly 35 kilometers from Bhopal but consumed three hours to reach. Half of the road was extremely bad. I think the journey of bad roads started from here.
Our stay of two days at Panna tiger reserve was bliss. Reviewing the reviews on net, I talked to a gentleman who was quite young but owner of a resort. While inquiring about his resort, he was totally open and stated that his resort can offer good food, good room and good service but no luxury. The luxury comment was after he asked where we were staying in Khajuraho.He also told us that his partner, Abhinav would be at the resort. He is the recipient of India Today Award for being the youngest cine-photographer. The resort was on the banks of Kan river. It was a simple one but a great place. Two days of last minute decision to stay here was well worth it.
Also Read: Honeymoon in Kashmir | Kashmir Diaries
We met a middle aged couple from Pune and other young couple from Bombay. The Pune couple went for early morning, evening and night safaris for all three days! The second couple had come for tiger photography and had checked out but returned same day for further photo shoot. When we told them that we would be staying in Nagpur for four days, the gentlemen (he was from Nagpur) told us that we would wasting our days and will be disappointed as there is nothing to see in Nagpur. We again cut short our tour by two days’ post Kanha. My wife was extremely happy as she was home sick or rather ‘fish’ sick! For Goan people, life without fish is very hard!
In Panna, we saw panther, wild boar, deer, foxes, peacocks etc but unfortunately no Tiger.
Day 11 & 12: Panna Tiger Reserve to Bandhavgarh National Park
- Distance covered was about 250 kilometers
- Extremely bad roads and unfathomable road pits
- We could hardly keep an average speed of 20 kms per hour
This road was mother of all bad roads. Pits, potholes, no road but mud and rubble for miles together. We were fortunate enough to get a pickup driver who drove for our sake to guide us to a better road! People did not know “Bandhavgarh’ even though they were just about 100 kms away! The road signs and directions though new, were showing directions of such pathetic road.
We had mix-up on dates and the resort people did not bother to call us when we did not show up. We had booked safaris for same day evening and next day morning. It was a weekend and there was a big crowd at the tiger reserve. We had to stand in line for more than one hour to get two seats in a bus safari. The bus too started late. Instead of 3pm it started at 4pm and returned at 6 pm. The driver and the guide just killed time on the way. Both of them were least bothered in giving a proper tour. Except for one or two dears and jackals, nothing could be spotted. It was disappointing as here also we could not spot the tiger.
Other people form safaris also did not see the tiger.May be the jungle is quite dense and the rains were just through. The Aranyak resort was good but was missing warmth of hospitality.
Day 13 & 14: Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve to Jabalpur
- Total of approximately 200 kms traveled
- Roads were a mix of good and bad
We had booked at Vijan Mahal hotel at Jabalpur. The young General Manager gave us a warm welcome and help sort out the mix up in our travel and stay dates. He was magnanimous of condoning our mistake and went to the extent of upgrading us for a special room and showered us with complimentary fruit basket etc. He was exhilarated to find young couple like us driving all the way from Goa. For a day our Mercedes was parked by the hotel just at the entrance of reception.
Our excursion to Bedaghat was worth it. For no reason, the cars were not allowed near the falls and an ordinary person has to walk for more than half a kilometer. But I saw few cars below and when I inquired with our driver, he told us he can also take us for Rs 400 more; as half that goes for bribing the authorities. Everywhere there is corruption and bargaining.
We came to know that there is a rope way which starts at 10.30 am and we chose to take the same. It was worth it as the rope way car crosses over the falls and reaches on the opposite side of the river. It is across Narmada River. The water gushes in a cascade and flows through marble rock gorge for more than five kilometers I believe. We also went for boating which took us on the further down part from the falls. We saw our rich Indian custom of worshiping of the river by hundreds of ladies on the banks.
Day 15 & 16: Jabalpur to Kanha Tiger Reserve
- A total of about 160 kilometers
- Extremely bad roads throughout
We had booked our stay at ‘Royal Kanha’. The entire experience here turned out to be of great disappointment in terms of accommodation, hospitality and Tiger Reserve Safari. We had, as said earlier, made a mistake in reservation dates and as per which, we should have checked-in previous day. We had also prepaid for safari to the resort. The resort staff never bothered to inquire as to why we did not show up. However, they allowed to check-in without charging extra. We had to stand in the queue for about two hours and typical to our country there was chaos at booking counter. With lot of haggling we got into safari bus and suffered. In other tiger reserves we had seen plenty of common animals like dears but here we could not see any of them. I wonder whether it was a farce safari.
Also Read: Caravan Trip – An Experience of a Lifetime
Day 17: Kanha National Park to Nagpur
- A total of 266 kilometers
- Bad roads all the way
We had booked our stay at CP Club wherein only members and affiliated club members can stay. It was just a night’s stay. We picked famous orange Burfi and it was unique, but its shelf life is only four days.
Day 18: Nagpur to Aurangabad
- A total of about 500 kilometers
- Condition of the roads was very good
We reached by lunch time at VITS hotel. The chef ordered excellent chicken dish and without transferring our bags we hired a taxi and went for half day site seeing, covering Ellora caves and local spots like Pan Chakki, Bibi ka Makbara. All worth visiting!
Day 19: Aurangabad to Kolhapur
- Journey of approximately 400 kilometers
- Took short cut bypassing Pune and regretted due to bad roads
Day 20: Kolhapur to Panjim (Goa)
- Journey of about 250 kilometers
- Road condition was very good
And finally we were back home after a journey of 20 days covering over 4000 kilometers; from Goa to Khajuraho and back. It was really fun and if given a chance, I would love to do it all over again, with a few changes of course. One thing that I did accomplish after this trip was instilling confidence in my wife that she can rely on my driving. If you have any questions on any part of this journey, please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.