When the landscape alters between serene countryside to stretches of virgin forests, when temples and forts are a common sighting, where signboards regularly indicate tourist attractions and when you cross the Tropic of Cancer – you definitely are in MP. The heart of India does have a wide variety to offer what a traveler craves for. For the tourist, luxury is aplenty.
I always believed that India is best explored on wheels – it gives a bonus to chance across beautiful locales enroute your destination. Indian railways cater equally well to the requirement albeit the fact that you might just speed across a dream landscape even before you could capture it on you camera. I had a chance to drive across the length of the state on a road trip to Gangtok – the place of my new posting. Khajuraho was on my mind, but the journey to the land of Temples took my breath away. Leaving behind , Aurangabad- the last major Maharashtrian town before entering MP, i was cruising as smoothly as knife cuts across butter. The broad highway – part of the NH3 network- took me to Bhopal via Indore in no time. I rested for the day unaware of the spectacular scenic treats awaiting me for the days that followed.
I severed from NH3 to the Bhopal-Sagar-Khajuraho road. The two lane highway was well maintained sans tolls. The contemporary India stays alive in this part of India with little modernization . The countryside is rich with cultivation interspersed with stretches of serene forest . Sagar greets you with reminiscences of Malgudi days and onwards to Chattarpur driving through lonely stretches of jungle terrain just creepy enough to give you the scares. Khajuraho seems to be a revelation considering the roads that lead there. It's akin to discovering gold after traversing barren mountains. The tinsel town far away from the nearest city of Bhopal and Kanpur – both over a 200 km – makes one ponder its evolution into its present state of existence. Quaint western settings with clean roads and continental eating places took me by surprise. A functional airport at Khajuraho made perfect sense now. The temples as one's heard is definitely superb and adds to India's pride of ancient monuments. The Western set of temples are well laid out within a single compound but the Eastern set of temples are spread out across couple of villages. Catering to needs of foreigners the town offers facilities of renting bicycles, wi-fi connected hotel rooms, bed and breakfast joints etc. Khajuraho is definitely a weekend getaway.
Moving ahead, a few kilometers from Khajuraho is the Panna Tiger Reserve. A couple of jungle resorts looked inviting with their in-house open gypsy to drive the guests into the wild. The road towards Rewa and Benaras runs through the reserve forest where the deer and the langur are a common sighting. The road ahead of Khajuraho is a painful ride for a good stretch until one enters the Panna forest. The ride ahead has a lot of forts scattered across the villages enroute to Satna and Rewa. A few are in a dilapidated state but yet a treat to get inside the ruins and steal some good clicks on your camera. One can just add Benaras to this itinerary given its proximity to the MP border.
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