The route. Nagpur to Khajuraho. Why this route, one would wonder. Well, this route is home to four national parks which are home to India’s national animal. Yes, the adventure for this year’s Honda Drive to Discover event was not only discover new routes through Madhya Pradesh, but also spot a tiger in the wild. Did we manage to spot a tiger? Read on.
This isn’t the first Honda Drive To Discover journey that’s crossed tiger territory. The 5th edition saw a motley group of bloggers take the then new Honda Mobilio through Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Nagarhole Tiger Reserve. But, the tiger remained elusive.
With new trails and routes each year, Drive To Discover 7 took on central India in January. An excellent time to experience bone chilling winds that keep you snugly under blankets when you wake up to experience early morning tiger trails, and forest safaris.
In order to begin the drive from Pench National Park, the group gathered at Nagpur. From Pench National Park, the drive moved onward to Kanha National Park, then Bandhavgarh National Park and finally to UNESCO heritage site – Khajurao.
The 900 km long Drive To Discover 7 spanned 4 fruitful days. Leg 1: Nagpur to Pench National Park ( about 150 kms along NH 44). Leg 2: Pench National Park to Kanha National Park (about 200 kms). Leg 3: Kanha National Park to Bandhavgarh National Park ( 300 kms). Leg 4: Bandhavgarh National Park to Khajurao (270 kms).
Honda had brought their entire fleet, including the flagship Accord for the drive experience. The experiential Drive To Discover events aren’t meant to match top speeds or compete, but to enjoy the ride. The Madhya Pradesh trip was no different, and chunks of the main road network needs repairing. Driving through will be met with ongoing road widening and repair work, so, the tarmac bits aren’t always the longest of stretches.
For those fascinated by Pench Tiger Reserve, some of the initial interest stems from our love of ‘The Jungle Book’. Rudyard Kipling drew inspiration from the region, and Mowgli remains dear to all. It’s one thing to expect to see a tiger, and quite another to actually see one. Trips across all forest reserves were undertaken in designated trail vehicles, wherein our road trip vehicles were left behind to be prepped for the next leg of the journey.
Spotting a tiger was high priority on a cold morning, and along the route, there’s plenty of deer, and langurs going about their business. Most animals don’t bother looking up used to the daily dust storm kicked up by incoming vehicles. Every now and then a deer looks up and stars through your soul, and casually looks beyond. The moment passes all too fast. As designated spotter of the day, you will the vehicle to go slower in case you miss the rare tiger. Well, this time around, it was meant to be.
With the first couple of vehicles close by, soon, there was movement by the bushes. In no time at all, the young female tigress chose to walk right onto the path. The ensuing moments were spent in silent thought captivated by the sheer brilliance of this majestic being. You pretty much don’t even want to twitch in case that disturbs the tiger causing the animal to walk away. That was certainly the highlight of the trip despite mentally having believed we may not actually see a tiger. If yes, maybe later on at Bandhavgarh, but certainly not on the first trip into tiger territory.
While driving is well liked activity for most, half the fun is diminished if your vehicle isn’t road capable depending on road conditions. Luckily for us, the Honda BR-V has ample leg space making a longish road trip comfortable. No one wants to be cramped in when trying to enjoy the experience. It’s one of the reasons why we were just as peppy and enthusiastic to explore Khajuraho in the last leg of our trip. The journey along the road had been a comfortable one with decent seating and back support.
Madhya Pradesh is a large state, also largely barren. You can go through stretches without seeing another being. Occasionally, you’ll be greeted by cattle, street dogs, and locals. And any of them could walk out right in front of you at a bend, or may have parked on the road itself. When driving one needs to be diligent about what may who/what may greet you. In fact you may have to go around them, or wait for a cattle herd to pass by.
Since the roads are unending and don’t qualify as great motorable roads, being comfortable in the vehicle is important. That’s the only way you won’t be fatigued when beginning the next day. Every trip into the reserves starts early morning so it’s essential to reach friendly ground on time, and get enough rest.
If you’re not carrying enough warm clothing, make sure to find the closest market to your resort/hotel and buy mufflers and caps. You’ll need it in the mornings when out on open safari vehicles. They’re all open jeeps.
Khajuraho isn’t a place that you should visit for only a single day. Apart from being the land of kamasutra, there’s an endless range of quaint little cafes along the main market street that’ll make you want to stay back and enjoy the calm for another day. As for us, we managed to pay visit to the famous Khajuraho temple before heading to the airport.
Before we could even realize, it was time to head back to our routine life. As with road trips and with life, unscheduled stops are mandatory. It was no different story with Honda Drive to Discover 7, along our journey from one reserve to another. With connectivity with outside world sketchy, you do get a lot of time to soak in the sheer pleasure of driving along.
Of course, the experience opens up ample avenues of being temporarily lost, just in case you choose to go off the road to catch a view. Overall, the experience has been one that we will cherish for years to come. Looking forward to Drive to Discover 8. What Next, or rather, Where Next?