Sorry folks! What was intended to be a NE trip eventually turned out to be a 'Almost all India ride' Will be regular henceforth.
So I executed on a dream I saw sometime around 2015, to do an all India motorcycle ride after taking a sabbatical from work.
I deviated quite a bit from the dream but eventually fulfilled it.
- Motorcycle ride was replaced with a car drive.
- Rugged solo trip was replaced with vacation kind of travel style.
- There was no need to take a sabbatical, Covid mata lent a helping hand.
- And the word Solo was replaced by my entire joint family.
The plan was to visit my hometown (Siliguri) while Covid restrictions are on and wfh is permitted. Work for 5 days and visit nearby places over the weekend. If required take a leave on Friday or Monday to make it a long weekend getaway.
Thereafter take a 15 day leave for a road trip to North East (NE). From Siliguri, NE is just 500 kms away therefore with 15 days I can cover most places in NE. One problem though, covid restrictions ensured tourists to Mizoram / Meghalaya and Arunachal were barred unless they go through a 15 day quarantine. I was certainly not going for that. So the next best alternatives were Manipur / Nagaland and Tripura. The initial plan to visit Siliguri by early November’20 and experience the winter there before heading back for Bangalore. After all there is no such thing called summer or winter in Bangalore. Thereafter sometime in Dec we head for NE.
Sometime in mid Oct dimag ka batti jala and I was like, ‘Why don’t I drive to my hometown before Durga puja instead of early Nov’. BTW Durga Puja was starting on 22nd Oct. Within next few days, my cousin (who was in Siliguri at that moment) decided to accompany me on this mammoth 2500 kms drive and he flew to Bangalore. After all such long drives happen rarely.
Kya kare planning khatam hi nahi ho raha.
Once my cousin was here, we thought agar jaa hi rahe hain, why not visit Varanasi on the way. The last time we visited Varanasi was decades back. To chalo Varanasi bhi itinerary mein add hogaya. But hold on, I have just one leave (Frday) and a weekend. How can we cover 2500+ kms in 3 days and still manage to site see Varanasi. So here is the birth of the baap of all drives…. We will drive for straight 28 hours for the first day and then take a halt somewhere in Madhya Pradesh. Yes Bangalore to Madhya Pradesh in one go. By Second day afternoon we will be in Varanasi. By 3rd day noon we will leave Varanasi and reach Siliguri by late night. Cousin ne plan mein pani pherne ki koshish ki by putting across his conditions, “Mujhe 21st Oct ke raat tak ghar mein pohuchna hai, I don’t want to be on road during Durga Puja”. Maine kaha “Hukm ki taameel ho”.
So we froze on an outlandish plan of 3 days with a day halt in Varanasi.
Day 1 & 2.
Plan: Bangalore to Seoni (MP) by Day 2 mid night.
We started from Bangalore by 10:45 pm. By the time we were in outskirts of Bangalore it was already 12:15. As we were heading for home, we took this opportunity to pack every damn thing possible, that we have been wanting to take back home for years now. Result: The car weighed much more than what 5 passengers and luggage would have weighed. Spares we carries included 5 ltr petrol jerrycan, 5 ltr drinking water can, 5 ltr extra, medical kit and a sack full of food. We were travelling during covid thus we did not want to take any chance with food and stay.
Bangalore to Hyderabad is a stretch I had done multiple times in past. Baring few short patches I think it is better done at night. Less traffic and temperature is comfortable. There is nothing much to narrate about this stretch. With just one stop in between we were on Hyderabad outer ring road by 6:45.
The first impression as soon as we connected to NH44 (Hyd-Nagpur highway), is “is this how the traffic and road going to be?”. First 50 kms was comparatively narrow for a 4 lane national highway and traffic was all over the place. But soon the situation changed. We were welcomed by rural Telengana. Mostly green and well vegetated. By 10:30 it was time for breakfast and attend a meeting. So while my brother attended the meeting I had breakfast and clicked few pictures.
As the day progressed we realized northern Telengana and Maharashtra is mostly dry and barren. We were accompanied by shrubs and dry uncultivated land. There was nothing much to capture or enjoy so we put up few dark blue pillow covers on window as shades and enjoyed our favorite playlist, while the accelerometer constantly clocked 110kmph.
Shit we had to skip Saoji mutton
By 3 ish, we were well inside Maharashtra and the drive had started taking a toll on our body. Terribly tired and sleep deprived, we decided to park our vehicle at a dhaba and take a short nap. Little did we know that the stretch from there to Nagpur would have big pot holes which would drop our speed significantly? Our plan was to taste saoji mutton in Nagpur for which we had to get into the city. We decided to skip saoji and head for Nagpur highway. By now it was 7:45. The good part is the roads were again superb and mostly straight. Even on google map, it shows a linear line J
Mid night drive through a Tiger reserve forest
It was evident that we were riding through a forest but we weren’t able to figure out how dense it is. The road was guarded on both sides so wild animals don’t get to the road. On most patches it was elevated. There is a video on youtube on this section; a flyover made for wild animals to cross underneath. Do check out, it is interesting. Seoni in MP was our target. At around 10:30 we reached Sitapur and halted for a tea break. The shopkeeper told us that next we have a dense tiger reserve forest (Pench Tiger Reserve Forest) but instead of taking the main road we have to go via forest road as one of the bridge in between is under repair. We asked him how long the detour is, he replied “150 kms”. So what was meant to be a straight (& fenced) 80 km ride is now going to be a 157 long adventure. And obviously at night 10:30 there was hardly anyone to join us for the mid night jungle safari. God save us. We did not have any option after all. After all the target was to reach home in 3 days flat.
After few kms we reached a check post where we were asked to take the diversion. As soon as we headed for the detour, it was evident that there aren’t many people traveling on this road. For that matter it is not even part of a state highway I guess. The forest got dense and dark and we were scarred. Now the dark blue pillow curtains were replaced with wide open eyes, closed window glasses and the playlist had to stop. Few more kms ahead immediately before a small bridge we find a road sign which stated “Seoni 75 kms” and then the next sentence read as ‘baghsthal’ (waterbodies or a stretch of river where tigers drink water). Man I had not felt scarier ever in my life than this moment. We had petrol but what if the car breaks down?
The red line is the actual road, but the blue line is what we had to take.
Ram naam japke we headed for another 25 kms to reach Katangi. This is where we saw any sign of human establishment so we stopped for a water break. Fe more kms ahead, now the situation was turning absurd. We were climbing hills and there were long trailers from the other side of the road. Absurdity reached to such a peak that at one point we were stuck in a long traffic jam created by in the middle of the forest. I mean where on earth do you experience all such situations in one night.
Night stay at dhaba
We reached Seoni by 12:15 and as expected apart from wandering cows and dogs there was not a single human being to welcome us. Pretty much everything was closed, including hotels. It is a small town you see, thus expecting visitors at midnight is somewhat off. We decided to continue and stay at any dhaba on the road. Do note this was our 26th hour of drive and all this while it was only me who was driving. At around 12:45 we found a typical MP dhaba where we parked our car, ordered for sev tamatar, dal tadka and freshly baked tandoori roti. After having stayed in South India for decades now, I was thirsting for that typical dhaba food one gets in North India.
Tonight we will stay in our car. The dark blue pillow covers were back on windows and we fell asleep in no time.
That's how we looked after that outlandish drive. Me in front ( otherwise I look better ) and my cousin in specks.