Getting into the meat of the grand tour details here, by breaking it down into several parts/blogs; starting with the onward leg, from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, my residence, to Ranthambore Tiger Sanctuary right next to Sawai Madhopur town in Rajasthan state, on the way to Jaisalmer.
The near-complete Kanpur to Jaisalmer onward journey tour map misses a few longish turns, can’t map them in detail here. I did take an interior Rajasthan short cut to Ajmer from Sawai Madhopur to avoid Jaipur, which is advisable if you know how to break your bike and repair it. The roads were hellish.
The next link, Jhansi to Sawai Madhopur is the breakdown leg — this journey started off on the 7th of Jan, 2019 from Kanpur, and I was at Jhansi on the 8th Jan, evening. If you read my blogs I have done the Kanpur-Jhansi route a few times, so I am going to concentrate on the Jhansi-Shivpuri-Sheopur-Ranthambore part. The route covers three states, Jhansi is in my state of Uttar Pradesh (U.P.), Shivpuri and Sheopur are in Madhya Pradesh ( M.P. ) while Ranthambore and Sawai Madhopur are in Rajastan state.
I had lodged up in a hotel in Jhansi and started off early morning around 6:30 am, on the 9th of Jan. The route to Shivpuri was scenic with wilderness and sparse forests starting off from Karera, midway between Jhansi and Shivpuri. Locals later informed me that the forest starts off from Karera and extends all the way up to Sawai Madhopur and Ranthambore.
Hilly forests in Karera on the way to Shivpuri
Further up Karera, the climb became steeper and there was a scenic fresh water lake.
Scenic fresh water lake in Karera
Traffic was sparse and wild rhesus and langur monkeys could be found sitting right next to the roadside in parts of the hill climbs. I also spotted occasional deer. The forests have wild boars, bears, and leopards but these remain in the deeper recesses and only venture out in the nights.
The forest cover became denser with some steep segments as I approached Shivpuri. The town itself was a hectic place with chaotic and often hazardous traffic. I stayed there in a cozy hotel taking off for Sheopur on the 10th Jan, about 6:30 am morning.
A cute and bratty dog at a roadside dhaba in Pohari, Shivpuri-Sheopur route
This doggie kept growling till I tickled his belly. I had a relaxed chat and a breakfast with the couple who ran the dhaba.
Upwards from Pohari, I hit the dense forests of the Palpur-Kuno wildlife sanctuary. The climbs can get very steep here with one section that took me up to an hour of lung-bursting ascent. Traffic was sparse but the road was good. I spotted a lot of wild langur monkeys and local cattle on this route.
I crossed Sheopur town and headed out for Ranthambore, it was already evening and I remember being in a hurry. The traffic out of Sheopur heading into Rajasthan was chaotic near the smaller towns and I did not stop, cycling well into the night till 8 p.m.; at which point I found a quaint and cozy hotel near Pali in Rajasthan, after crossing the Chambal river. Started out the next morning for Ranthambore tiger sanctuary which was just 15 km. away.
One sad part of the Ranthambore approach was the strangely hostile attitude of some of the small town/village folks. However, the excitement of cycling through Ranthambore overcame all that.
Panoramic view of Ranthambore hills from a nearby hamlet
The Ranthambore fort houses about 50 tigers and assorted wildlife. It is right next to Sawai Madhopur town. The road through the sanctuary leading to the town is a nightmare to bike through. It is narrow and there is two-way traffic going through it, with patches of dust, rocks, and pebbles being most of the so-called road. In the middle of this mayhem, is a small stretch of what could be the opening to the fort.
The opening to the fort? Right in the middle of the sanctuary
I had a small chit chat with a villager in a roadside shack right next to the rough patch snaking through the sanctuary and was informed that in the day time, big cats and other predators keep away from the road. But after 10 p.m. or so when the traffic dies down, they prowl about and often cross the ‘road’.
Sawai Madhopur is again the same old Indian town with chaotic traffic in the older parts and swanky malls in the modern, newer part of town. I would like to mention Hotel Jain Residency, Sawai Madhopur where I had lodged up. It’s a budget hotel with excellent rooms and facilities. Most of my time at the hotel was spent in servicing my bike after the hellish run through the sanctuary. I was also feeling a bit feverish after consuming all the dust and grime while biking through but the local med shop gave me some excellent over-the-counter meds and by the time it was morning, I was A-OK.
The next morning i.e. 12th Jan 2019, I was up and away at around 7 am for the Sawai Madhopur-Chaksu-Dudu-Ajmer-Pushkar part of the grand tour, coming up in another blog.
P.S.:- Stayed in a good hotel called Zayka at Shivpuri, it’s right on a crossing that heads out to Sheopur. The hotel offers good budget facilities and has an excellent restaurant too. Recommended for cyclists.