Travel Around Bhopal: Road Trip To Madhai

 

2017 began with an impromptu road trip. Our best friends where in town, spending the weekend at our place, and we were aimlessly getting drunk on the night of December 31, when this led to that and we were calling up resorts, checking the road map and deciding on where to go.

Since the next day was Jan 1, we knew that most people would check-out and head back home by afternoon. We were right, whichever resort we called, private or government, said that rooms would be available and we can just drop in by noon.

We slept off by 2 am, woke by 6 and left from Bhopal by 8 am. The thing is that there aren’t a lot of options around Bhopal to go for the weekend. However, over time, the government is investing and coming up with options like Madhai, Tawa etc. On the first of January, 2017, we were driving to Madhai which was in the Satpura forests.

The route to Madhai was pretty decent with relatively less bad patches than earlier. That the roads were being made better, was a pleasant sight. (c) Samarpita Sharma

We reached Madhai by lunch time and were spoilt for choices wth hotels. Almost all had rooms available, but most seemed quite noisy. We wanted a child friendly, yet relatively quiet place. We finally found what we wanted we reached V-resorts. Apart from being quiet and child friendly, it was also very environment friendly and the best part was, there was absolutely no mobile network! The resort was cozy and beautiful, and deserves a separate post which I’ll write shortly and add a link to, here as well. Meanwhile, here is a pic of our cottages at the resort.

(C) Samarpita Sharma

These cottages were equipped with all modern amenities including AC and though the interiors were basic, everything was clean and well-maintained. The wall outside the cottages all had Warli painting while bougainvillea creepers adorned the other side of the entrance.

Open air meals and bonfires

The day we reached, after we settled our things in the room, we met for lunch. The resort doesn’t have a dinning room, we assumed, or even if they do, they don’t encourage using it much. Not that we wanted to. The weather was perfect. Cold, with the sun glaring at us – giving us the right temperature.

There were a few other families and we all gathered in the lawn area where the buffet was served. The resort had made arrangements to sit and eat in groups chairs, tables and even lounge chairs spread across the lawn. The food was simple, home-cooked and sumptuous.

We slept through the afternoon; all of us were so tired. By the time we woke up, the sun was about to set in some time. We hurried out drove down to this place which had a lake, on the other side of which was the path to the interiors of the Satpura forest. Watching the sun set behind the forest with its colours glistening over the crystal clear water of the lake was a mesmerising sight.

She’d come for a drink with few of her friends. She was the most majestic of all, just look at her gait! I was clicking pictures of the setting sun when I noticed her looking at me. As if she was posing, waiting for me to click her picture. The moment I did, she walked away. (C) Samarpita Sharma
The sunset was beautiful and the experience so surreal, with light breeze blowing and bringing in sounds of the forests along with it! (C) Samarpita Sharma

We drove back after sunset. It was dark soon and there were no street lights. Took us a while to find our way back to our resort. Once there, we saw that the  resort’s staff was building bonfires in the lawn. After dropping our things in the rooms and adding another layer of warm clothes, we all went back to the lawn and sat around one of the bonfires.

Bliss! No mobile was ringing. None of us was staring at the mobile screen under pretext of checking ‘work mails’. We were four adults and a child, and all our attention was at the moment. Like it is with close friends, conversations took over and we didn’t realise when dinner was served.

While the dinner was being cooked, we managed to source some whole potatoes from them, and baked them in the bonfire. Once charred properly, we pealed off the skin, garnished with lemon juice and sprinkle of masalas and ate the potatoes. Earthy and fresh, the flavours were unparallel to what we eat otherwise.

(C) Samarpita Sharma

Dinner was done by 9pm and I’ll be honest, we were a little annoyed. With nothing to do, and dinner done so early, how do we pass time until it is time to sleep? Just then the manager came and spoke to us about the morning safari for which we were supposed to leave at 5:30 am.

The manager advised that we sleep early so that we can wake up early the next day. Okay, but at 9 pm? We went to sleep, confessing to each other that after sleeping in the afternoon, there is no way we’ll fall asleep so early.

But, surprise, we were all fast asleep soon and up by 5 am, thanks to the alarm. The child with us was a lovely, obedient and no-hassle little five-year-old girl of our friends and she too was ready for the safari at 5:30 am! Dressed in layers and still shivering, we took with ourselves a thick blanket from one of our rooms, to the jeep. An open jeep, we were bound to feel cold. And cold, it was!

When we started off, it was pitch dark. Dark, quiet and the unknown – in simple words it was SCARY. As we drove into the depths of the Satpura jungle,  सतपुड़ा के घने जंगल। नींद मे डूबे हुए से ऊँघते अनमने जंगल। kept playing in my mind. About 15-20 minutes we could see the sky lighting up. Initially there was very little light, just about making the tree visible, marking their outlines – reminding us of the scenes from the Hindi movie Raaz. There was ample fog to add to the effect.

As we drove deeper into the forest, the sky started clearing up. We could know that only if we looked directly above us or peaked through within the trees which were really tall and dense. We couldn’t see the sun and had no idea to which side it was. By 7, we reached this are which was apparently a village. We’d see more such places later but at that point this was amusing. The villages were emptied by the government and the forest departments because lives of the villagers were at risk.

(c) Samarpita Sharma

We reached this place, a clearing of sorts, and stopped. That reminds me, the the vehicle which took us for the safari, we were told, is manufactured specially for the Army. So how did we get a ride in it? We couldn’t get a very clear answer to that!

The place where we had stopped used to be a school of the village. Now, it was used by forest officers. Outside the building were some people sitting around this bonfire. They asked if we’d like some tea and our driver said we must taste the tea that was made there, so we agreed! (c) Samarpita Sharma
The tea was our basic black tea with a strong flavour of lemon grass. It tasted so good, and all they’d done was dump few lemon grass leaves in the boiling water along with the tea leaves. There was no network here and yet, they needed to be in touch with the mainland for various reasons. So, a basic mobile phone was attached to a pole at a height on top of the terrace. That was the only place some reception could be received and the phone could not be moved from there, even to talk! Imagine…
(c) Samarpita Sharma
(c) Samarpita Sharma
The only rock and mortar structure in the middle of the Satpura forests where we were which used to be a school but was not used by the forest officials (c) Samarpita Sharma

The rest of the safari deserves a separate post and I will try to make it live at the earliest. Leaving this post with one last beautiful photograph of our trip to Madhai.

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