27th February 2019
As Ludo and I await our flight home at the airport in Mumbai, we both wanted to say a huge, huge thank you for organising just the most wonderful trip, and a real insight into some of the less visited, but every bit as beautiful, places in India.
And all along the way we were supported and helped by amazing Wild Frontiers reps, guides and drivers all of whom made the trip not just go incredibly smoothly but allowed us to start to get under the skin of this wonderful, complex country.
We have now become firm fans of Cholle Bature and know that if you want the very best samosas or gulab jamun you head for ‘Puran’ - a street stall that has been going for 50 years in the town of Obedelaganj!!
We loved Gwalior, and the hotel there is particularly good - friendly, beautiful rooms, tranquil gardens, charming, helpful staff and wonderful food, thanks to the incredibly dedicated chef. The fort, is of course, stunning, but we loved the town itself. It is very friendly, not remotely a hassle, and the chai in the market was the best we had anywhere.
Bhopal too was such a surprise. Again, we loved the market and the whole vibe of the town and its beautiful buildings, some of which are undergoing extensive restoration.
Two things stand out here, particularly. Our young guide, Ajay Singh Chouhan, was outstanding. He absolutely ‘got’ what was of interest to us, added things to the itinerary that he felt we shouldn’t miss, was full of knowledge and enthusiasm for all the places we visited.
It was he who persuaded us to go to the Museum of Tribal Life, not somewhere we would have chosen to go at all. IT WAS BRILLIANT!!! We both agreed it is probably the best museum we have been to anywhere in the world. It made us want to see even more of MP!
Reni Pani Lodge was absolutely faultless. Aly was a delightful host, but all the staff there are so knowledgeable and passional naturalists - proper nerds!
The cottages are beautifully designed, but we were also shown the new ‘tents’ that they have erected around a water hole. They are absolutely stunning. We enjoyed our two game drives - and did get an excellent sighting of a sloth bear - but it was the two-day trek that was truly special. We started at the hill station of Pachmarhi and walked 13kms the first day. The walking is easy - the track in very good condition and not too steep.
There is only one short section on the first day that is a little bit of a steep descent over rocks, but it is in no way difficult. We walked very slowly - looking for tracks and making the most of Aly’s excellent birding skills.
We saw plenty of birds, wild pig, barking deer, tracks of tiger and sloth bear. The temperature was perfect - not too hot - and we reached our campsite at 4.30pm.
And what a campsite! An unbelievably beautiful setting alongside a river. The camp was basically a miniature version of Reni Pani lodge - really comfortable tents, plenty of warm bedding and hot water bottles. Warm showers, private toilets, a fully stocked bar and amazing food.
It was chilly at night, but we sat around the fire with an uninterrupted view of the stars and the moon and only the occasional call of owls to break the silence. The walk the next day was 16kms, but almost entirely on the flat. There are a few easy river crossings and there were beautiful pools where we swam. Again, we saw great birds, butterflies and tracks of bigger mammals and the campsite at the end of the day was equally stunning. I can’t recommend this trip highly enough.
North Goa was a bit of a shock after the absolute tranquillity of Satpura! But Ahilya By The Sea is an oasis and Smita and her team could not have done more to have made us welcome and comfortable.
So, to everyone at Wild Frontiers, especially JP for organising, and all your team here in India, thank you again for a truly memorable and wonderful trip.
All photos courtesy of Ludo Graham.