Madhya Pradesh Travelogue

At the start of 2017, we left the desert and dry hills of Rajasthan for the state of Madhya Pradesh. The country gradually became a lot lusher. Not so flat, either, although mostly it’s gently rolling terrain interspersed with occasional ranges of small hills. Of course, the wildlife changed as well, so the Beastie and Bird Log has a set of new pictures.

Mandu

Not such a famous place outside India, considering its merits. Huge abandoned city, of which semi-ruined palaces, temples, mosques, tombs, and city walls (37km around!) remain. Extensive waterworks add to the fascination.

Maheshwar

Like Mandu, not so many western tourists, and many more visiting Indians. A famous pilgrimage site on a holy river. Temples, walls, a (small) palace, and river boats (with middlemen gouging the tourists and giving the boatmen as little as possible). While ambling around town, we saw a yoga school, and while discussing it, up popped the head of the yoga teacher – from Brighton! She invited us in for a chat, which was lovely, ranging over ‘how-to-spend-our-lives’ philosophy to (sigh), the hassles of property in England. Unfortunately we couldn’t make any of the yoga sessions before we left, so we got ripped off by a boat tout instead. We reckon he ripped off the boatman, too.

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Hoshangabad and Bhimbetka

Following the Narmada from Maheshwar, we stopped a few days in the unfamous town of Hoshangabad. Hoshangabad was on our route as an overnight stop between Maheshwar and Bandhavgarh, a seven or eight day run, with a rest day in Jabalpur. But it didn’t pan out like that. We got to Hoshangabad relatively early in the afternoon and, as usual, stopped on the outskirts to look on our phones for places to stay. Also as usual, we became the centre of a small crowd. One guy, astride his Honda, acted as translator.

 

An old chap came up and very straight faced was jabbering away. It transpired he was a sculpturer, and wanted us to come and look. We did, and very interesting too. There were remarkably lifelike, life size, lions, in various states of preparation, including one finished, complete with realistic, but vegetable, fur. And gods, who might ride them. All made in clay on a straw frame.

The young biker suggested popping round to his place for a chai. His family were builders, so they had their own, grandfather-built, temple. In the cool and quiet front room of their house, we met all three generations living there. And he told us about some of the town’s sights. Then he led us, on his bike, to the area of the hotels, where we were unusually fussy and chose the third one that offered us a room. Balaji-Inn turned out to be a good choice, we had long chats & good information from owner Deepesh about places to see, and our later route. And it had both hot water and WiFi. We started to think about staying an extra night.

So, we got up and going really late, that being ideal for a rest day, taking a tuk tuk to see the ancient rock shelters and paintings at the Adamgadh Hills. And bought some more souvenirs in this very untouristy town. That evening we met a lovely local couple, the Bhagats, in the restaurant, dining together. Ajay especially was a super-keen traveller, and gave us lots of good tips for along our remaining Indian route. We realised with a jolt that we were halfway across India already. And they insisted on buying us dinner, too. Come to think of it, our elevenses stop at a roadside diner had been complementary, too. Still, we’d attracted a huge crowd into the diner 🙂

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Can’t remember if Ajay Bhagat or Deepesh at the hotel told us about Bhimbetka, 35km north. Cue more replanning. It was certainly Deepesh who told us of the Silk factory, and reminded us the town had extensive ghats down to the sacred Narmada.  We’d originally thought to divert our cycle via Bhimbetka, but 35km is an annoying sort of distance, and it’s likely not cheap to stay there, so we booked another night at Balaji-Inn and did a morning trip using the frequent buses to Bhopal. 1 hour bus trip – 40 r each. It was about 2km from bus route to the rocks, but transport was available on the back of a motorbike,  three up.
Bhimbetka was indeed impressive and intriguing. And we learnt some new words, mostly containing the syllable “lith”. Then back again on the bus from Bhopal. It was, err, interesting to see the maniac bus driving from the other side. To be fair, only one of the two drivers adopted the horn blaring maniac stereotype, the other was a peaceable, careful fellow. Both stopped to make an offering to the gods.
After this palaeolithic experience (the buses as much as the paintings, one had its roof held up by a metal post, the other’s windscreen parted company with the frame over every bump) we rushed back to Hoshangabad for a tuk tuk to the Silk factory,  which showed some aspects of silk we’d not seen before, indeed different types of silkworm chrysalis. There was no weaving, but it turned out some of their yarn went to the silk hand weaving works of Maheshwar, which we’d seen there. And of course there’s a shop… Oh dear, more souvenirs, making up for buying nothing in Maheshwar. Then the early evening wandering the ghats. And our third night in Hoshangabad. Very restful. To be fair to ourselves, we also did a lot of blog work, booked our days in Bandhavgarh National Park, and mostly sorted ourselves out for the increasing risk of malaria over coming weeks: The many labours of the long distance tourist. Sometimes we overlook the time we need to find for planning, preparation and blogging.
With all these people keen to chat extensively with us, Hoshangabad rates as the very friendliest town we’ve been to in India, where everywhere has been friendly. And on our last evening, one of the hotel lads knocked on the door, and waved the local paper at us: Our moment of fame, in Hindu. We’d been flagged down a couple of times by local press on motorbikes – this was the outcome. The headline most ungallantly highlighted Clare’s age.

Bheda Ghat

Still on the Narmada, more famous religious sites to see. And a waterfall. Not sure if it was Grade IV or Grade V.

Bandhavgahr – Tigers – No, no Tigers today.

Indian National Parks seem not to be accessible unless one forks out for a jeep (or elephant) and a guide. Pretty pricey, so we limited ourselves to two jeep safaris. Here’s what we saw. Mostly birdies, plus deer and boar.

And on to Uttar Pradesh… A few roadside snaps from along the way…

And more wildlife too, see the Beastie and Bird Log.

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