Pics and Videos from Panna-Khajuraho Tour

This section is a detailed pic and video part of the tour, also my rave/rant section. The tour was enjoyable and scenic with isolated forest sections being the best.

One of my favorite stopovers en route from Kanpur to Banda, near Bindki town is a small shack selling snacks. It has a tree nearby that houses dozens of owls. The old-timer farmer who runs it is an affable old man who appreciates the rigors of long haul cycling.

IMG_8577One of my favorite haunts about 5km. from Bindki and about 55 km. from Kanpur with the owl nest tree in the background

The above pic was taken on my scouting trips to check out the Banda route.

IMG_8589Rajpoot Dhaba (roadside food shack) 5 km. away from Ajaigarh en route to Panna

IMG_8591Hill climb route to Panna, the climb is lung sapping and the road is not good in some stretches

Panna hill road runs through dense forests having abundant wildlife, its advisable to negotiate it before sunset. There were signboards warning local villagers against killing leopards and deer. Tip to cyclists negotiating big cat infested forests: look for cattle, human tracks, if you find none try not to stop in those stretches.

IMG_8617Beniasagar Lake, Panna city

IMG_8619On the way to Khajuraho a few km. out of Panna

IMG_8620Bike battering road construction dirt diversion on the way to Khajuraho — often means bouncing on rocks and pebbles eating dust from passing vehicles. If you find a couple of these it could mean your freewheel and transmission lose a considerable portion of their life.

IMG_8625A signboard which will set the pulse rate of solo cyclists pacing, seen on isolated stretches of Panna Tiger Reserve

The Youtube video link below shows a steep downhill road section through Panna Tiger Reserve forests:

Panna to Khajuraho downhill Video Clip

IMG_8631Entry Gate to Pandav Water Fall

IMG_8638Narrow bridges spanning water streams with occasional heavy traffic, through Panna Tiger Reserve

Something that has always bugged me is the lack of traffic discipline on our state highways. Heavy trucks, SUV’s and fast cars try to overtake each other in single lane/double lane stretches often hogging the entire opposite side of the highways. This means that cyclists and two-wheeler riders are often at great risk. There are no speed restrictions even though speed limit signboards are there on the highways. What’s the point of putting up speed limit signboards if no one even notices them?

The entire Panna Tiger Reserve road stretch had speed limit signs of 20 or 30 kmph., but cars and trucks were zipping by at 60-80 kmph., oblivious of the dangers to wildlife. I did spot deer next to the road.

IMG_8640The Ken river boundary of Panna Tiger Reserve, beyond this are abundant human settlements

IMG_8642The ONLY cycle mechanic who can service/install gears and handle modern bike mechs in Khajuraho city, just ask around for Bindra and you will be guided to his shack. Khajuraho is a small place

IMG_8657The hidden jewel of Khajuraho — Jain temples, the pillars, and sculptures are ancient but the superstructure is modern

IMG_8661Speed kills — this is an old wreck which I have seen on my past several biking visits, about 11 km. from Mahoba; carcasses of broken up vehicles, broken glass line up our highways as people are intent on not observing safety while driving; according to locals an entire family was wiped out in this accident

IMG_8671Bridge on Betwa river, one enters Hamirpur town via this bridge, the bridge is narrow and has occasional traffic snarls

Youtube video link below of the Betwa river bridge entrance:

Betwa River Bridge Entrance Video Clip

 

IMG_8668Cold and foggy morning on the way to Kanpur, starting from Bharua Sumerpur, I had put on my safety lights and reflective jacket for the same

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Panna-Khajuraho tour

I had been planning a trip into interior Bundelkhand for some time. Bundelkhand is a rural, hilly forest region that encompasses the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The region is dry and there is the issue of water scarcity. However, it has mesmerizing ancient forts and temples including scenic forests and hills. The region had a dicey reputation till a few years back with dacoits and armed robbers ruling the roost, but all this has changed now.

My plan was to kick off the tour from Kanpur, on to Banda — Ajaigarh — Panna and Khajuraho, then back from the same route. The load was about 25 Kg., including winter wear and clothing, bicycle spares and water. It gets cold in Bundelkhand around this time with temperatures hovering around 5 degrees Celcius. I had already done some previous scouting on my MTB up till Bindki which is almost midway between Banda and Kanpur. However, I had to change the return plan due to a bad road stretch between Naraini and Panna. The total tour distance was about 600 km.

Route Map Kanpur-Panna-Kanpur

The tour started on 19th December 2019, around 6:30 am from Kanpur and it was only by 7:30 pm that I could manage to reach Banda. The reason was a constant play in my left pedal arm which I discovered was due to the screw fastening the pedal arm to the Bottom Bracket turning loose. I had to constantly dismount and tighten it. Due to this, I decided to stay in Banda for one more day and work on the issue, also tuning my rear derailleur in the process. Banda is quite similar to dusty, congested towns in North India with poor traffic management. I would like to point out that traffic in my own city of Kanpur is quite bad too. Gear assembly/tuning bicycle mechanics are not available in Banda so make sure that you carry your own spares and stuff.

IMG_8580                            On the way to Banda, after crossing Bindki town

IMG_8581                                The Yamuna bridge on the way to Banda

Beyond the Yamuna river lies the ‘real’ Bundelkhand and one gets that feel while cycling towards Banda as green vegetation gives way to thorny bushes and brambles. Cyclists need to be careful not to stray too close to the road edges as dry twigs with big thorns lie scattered around the edges. Another disconcerting thing that I did notice in interior Bundelkhand was dead cattle lying by the roadside, this is often due to severe cold and the lack of fodder in the dry belt.

My onward leg from Banda started on the 21st of December, 5:00 am and I rode my MTB in pitch darkness with occasional heavy truck traffic towards Naraini. I deliberately chose not to use my bike safety lights, since this was a backwater rural road segment and I did not want to stick out like a sore thumb. This is also the reason that I do not use a helmet. The entire 35 km. stretch does not have street lighting. The ride was uneventful except for a lonely stretch where I was chased on the roadside by a skulk of foxes. That event was surreal, I never knew that foxes could be so aggressive. It was sunlight by about 6:00 am and I took it easy from thereon.

IMG_8585                              Tea break at about 7:00 am., 20 km. from Naraini

Proceeding from Naraini to Ajaigarh on the way to Panna, my bike’s left pedal arm gave away entirely, and I had to spend some time fixing it back. This and the fact that the road to Ajaigarh was single lane and rough, cut down my speed considerably. I took frequent stops and was seriously contemplating ditching the entire tour by loading my bike on a bus back to Banda. The pedal arm held on but I had issues with my front derailleur while tacking the steep and strenuous climb to Panna, gaining an elevation of almost 1500 feet in 30 km., the hill road was very bad in certain segments and I had to dismount to negotiate these.

IMG_8587                                           On the way to Ajaigarh

Arriving in Panna by about 5 pm. I went straight to Ashish Lodge next to the Panna bus stand and was given a cozy room to stretch out in.

IMG_8615                                            Room in Ashish Lodge, Panna

Panna is a nice hilltop town with Panna Tiger Reserve being the main attraction. The road to Khajuraho leads through the Reserve area. Panna does have a decent bicycle repair shop where I bought a new Bottom Bracket set in case mine gave away.

Extending my stay in Panna, I worked on my front derailleur and cleaned up the clogged transmission, moving out on the 23rd morning by about 7 am towards Khajuraho, 46 km. away. The trip was mostly downhill and I was constantly braking negotiating the hairpin turns, passing Pandava falls and Mandla gate of the Tiger Reserve. The entire stretch has warning signboards about big cats and wildlife. The road is an absolute no go after 8:30 pm till 4:30 am.

IMG_8627            Through the Tiger Reserve with a Tiger Signboard about 50 feet away

IMG_8633Feeding wild monkeys is a punishable offense but the monkeys do line up roadsides implying that people have been doing otherwise.

I did stop to enquire about booking a seat on a jeep safari into Panna Tiger Reserve and was pleasantly surprised to find a fellow biker from Kanpur on a family car tour to Panna. We had a nice chat before parting ways, I reached Khajuraho about 4 pm, this being my second bike trip to the city. The next day I took off to Pandava Falls about 35 km. from Panna again in the Reserve area. The falls are scenic and have a heavy tourist footfall. But, it was more about the bike trip through the Reserve that appealed to me. The 24th morning was cold and rainy.

IMG_8643                  Cold and rainy starting off from Khajuraho to Pandava Falls

IMG_8645                                               On the way to the Falls

 

IMG_8648                                                 Pandava Falls, Panna

Extending my stay in Khajuraho, I took up lodging on the outskirts of Khajuraho just to soak in the village air. As luck would have it, I did manage to sort out all my bike front and rear derailleur issues and front disc alignment taking off on the 26th December early morning at 6:00 am. for Mahoba. Unfortunately, it was a solar eclipse and a dense fog shrouded the whole region with the mist so thick that my gear and myself were soaking in it.

IMG_8660                       On the way to Mahoba via Chhatarpur, visibility about 50 feet

Lodging up in Mahoba for the night, I took off for Bharua Sumerpur early morning and lodged up there for the night, reaching my residence in Kanpur on the 28th December 2019, by about 6 pm.

More pics and video about this tour in another post as I feel it would have unnecessarily lengthened this post. DO visit the detailed pic/video section of this tour too. Happy riding !!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orchha

A town locked in medieval history, in the midst of rocky hills and forests, that is Orchha for you. There are historical forts, temples and ruins everywhere in Orchha. The historical town was established around 8 A.D. but most of the historical structures in existence date from 16th century to the 19th century A.D.. There is a bird sanctuary and river rafting facilities for the adventure seekers. In short Orchha has everything one hopes to see and soak in for a few days of relaxation and adventure.

My bicycle tour to Orchha was memorable and I do want to share pics and vids of my Orchha visit. The lodge where I stayed was clean and had spacious rooms, like most of Orchha lodges and hotels. The hotels range from the budget to the expensive five star ones.

Left image:- Outside Orchha walls, the forest at 6 am., Right image:- Banks of river Betwa

Orchha was and is a religious town, and is known as Ram Raja city where the deity is considered as the de facto ruler of the town. The new Ram Raja temple is right next to the old one offering a striking contrast between the medieval and modern architectures.

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In Order:- The striking contrast between the modern Ram Raja temple domes next to medieval domes of bygone era; the Ram Raja temple entrance.

Orchha has a large cenotaph complex housing the cenotaphs of 15 kings. The oldest is probably the cenotaph of King Madhukar Shah on the right below dated 16th century A.D., the larger complex on the left below houses many such structures.

Cenotaphs on the banks of river Betwa, situated within 300 meters of the Ram Raja temple.

Orchha fort is the major historical attraction and houses several palaces and ruins in a vast area across the river Betwa. The fort is again at a walking distance from the city center.

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In that order:- Medieval bridge connecting Orchha fort to the city, Jahangir palace, Raja palace pictures of the interior courtyards.

Jahangir palace is the later historical palace, ( the earlier one being Raja palace ) in the fort and has a lot of frills in it’s architecture with dazzling elephant sculptures in the support columns. The difference in the style of architectures of Jahangir palace and Raja palace is evident when one gets to go there. Jahangir palace seems to have a lot of Mughal-Turkic influence in it whereas the Raja palace is more Indic. Raja palace precedes Jahangir palace by at least a century.

A quick view video of the fabulous interior of Jahangir palace

The town always had a special place for animals, in it’s heart. Dogs and cows are treated with more care than other towns and cities in the region.

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In that order:- A notice encouraging people to drive carefully, taking care of chilren and animals; a medieval ‘gaushala’ or cowshed probably dating to 16th century A.D.

The journey back to my hometown was uneventful but I did see several historical monuments on the way. One such structure was the Ammargarh fort, in Jhansi district, Moth tehsil, about 80 kilometers from Orchha. It was a bit on the inside from the highway and there seemed to be no way in to go there except through congested village lanes, but I did manage to take a few snaps of it. See below:

Thanks for reading my blogs and do keep coming back to check for more of my bicycle tours !

Journey to Orchha

Orchha* is a historical town locked in medieval time. It’s a goldmine for those interested in history and adventure. It was on my radar for long but somehow the journey never came to be. It was time to settle this.

The jouney to Orchha took me two days on my modified roadie, with a night halt in between. The return leg was similar. Stoppage in Orchha was for a day. The total distance covered was approximately 500 kilometers. Orchha is in the state of Madhya Pradesh, so as far as I am concerned it was an interstate trip, my state being Uttar Pradesh.

Kanpur to Orchha route

Road traffic along the whole route is heavy, except for the last 20 kilometere leg to Orchha town. The route is quite good for a roadie run except for a very rough patch in and through a town called Kalpi. Kalpi is a dusty town and the road here has craters that can break a heavy vehicle’s axle. The entry/exit to Kalpi is via narrow bridges on the river Betwa and this causes frequent traffic jams. Had to dismount on the return leg and walk through the town.

20181217_062853Foggy winter morning ( 6 am ) on the route, near Orai, 120 km. from Orchha.

20181217_083954My roadie all laden up with gear, 100 km. from Orchha.

Lodging and food on the journey to Orchha was in roadside dhabas ( trucker stop restraunts ). Most of these are situated far away from congested towns and are very convenient for cyclists. As for me dhabas always were a major attraction as the fresh clean air of the countryside never failed to rejuvenate me.

20181217_090442A typical roadside dhaba, the food is tasty and reasonably priced, about 100 km. from Orchha.

Near Orchha the terrain becomes hilly with a few uphill/downhill gradients. The town is surrounded by forests although most of these are now rapidly being encroached by human settlements.

The town itself is full of historical relics and one gets a sense of being locked in time here. The culture here hasn’t changed much over the centuries.

20181217_160523Orchha gate, the entry to the town.

The town gate was probably part of a historical fortified structure built to guard it. In Orchha there are historical ruins and structures dating from 16th to 19th century A.D., with the Orchha fort being the major historical attraction. Besides the fort, there is the cenotaph complex next to the river Betwa and the Ram Raja temple.

The town itself is small and all the historical monuments are situated within walking distance. The lodges and hotels are budget oriented. The Ram Raja temple has a plethora of sweet shops and restraunts. Mouth watering peda** and kalakand adorn the sweet shops next to the temple.

20181217_175216Orchha kalakand sweet.

My stay was in a budget hotel, next to the temple landmark of Orchha. The rooms were spacious and clean with hot piped water, which was a welcome relief from bathing with cold water in my dhaba lodgings. Winter temperatures can reach around 2-5 degree Celsius here but it gets hot in the afternoon.

20181219_062344The roadie parked next to my room at a lodge in Orchha.

The return leg from Orchha started around 6:30 am, and I was heavily decked up to face the morning winter chill.

20181219_064523 Yours truly getting ready to start off the return leg.

There was a gear malfunction on the return leg with low tire pressure issues along the way. But this was sorted out as I was carrying a full bike repair kit alongwith replacements.

The route from Kanpur to Orchha and back, has quite a few long arching highway flyovers but there are level byways alongside these. These byways are something of a boon for cyclists like me as huffing and puffing up the flyover inclines alogside speeding heavy truck traffic is not something to be relished. Further, most of these byways are almost empty of any traffic which is something a cyclist would enjoy. However, not all of these byways connect right up to the bridge end, with a few coming to an abrupt end halfway across the flyovers. One has to be careful in making the byway route selection.

20181220_143150

Byway alongside a highway bridge. 

That is it for the very enjoyable bike trip to Orchha. If you would want to see more about Orchha and it’s historical structures, do visit my other blog specifically for videos and pics on these.

Journey date:- 16th to 20th December, 2018.

*Orchha

**peda sweet

 

Khajuraho

Khajuraho is an ancient temple site in the state of Madhya Pradesh (M.P.), Central India, bordering my own state of Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) in the north. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and gets a healthy amount of national/international tourist traffic. More details about Khajuraho can be checked online. It’s definitely deserves the world heritage site tag and is worth visiting at least once.

As a college student, I had visited it along with my college mates, way back in 1988. This time around I wanted to check it as it was super budget friendly and had some good adventure trails. I based this off my own travel as a college student and the internet. 

I started the journey in October, 2017, when it’s autumn here. The distance was 250 km. approx., one way and then back. I plotted the track on Google map and then set off. It was the same Kanpur-Hamirpur-Maudaha route which then goes on to the city of Mahoba; crosses the M.P. border and then into Chattarpur from where the track branches into Khajuraho.

Kanpur-Khajuraho road map

Except for the granite blasting quarries of Kabrai, a town preceding Mahoba, the route is scenic and enjoyable. Kabrai must be what they call Dante’s Hell. By the time I crossed it I was plastered in granite dust and looked like a ghost from the Evil Dead. My MTB was having issues too as the dust had settled on the gears and chain, which meant that I had to take a night halt in Mahoba, the last town of U.P.. The morning started off bad as some kids in the hotel had played around with the bike gears in the night, which meant that I had to spend precious time trying to fine tune them. 

Our towns are notoriously overcrowded and the traffic is chaotic, hence long distance cyclists like me try to cross them as early as possible, but I started late from Mahoba and consequently went headlong into the peak hour, chaotic traffic of Chhatarpur, the next town. Anyway, I did take a stop or two along the way to fiddle with the gear system.

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Small hillocks on the road to Chhatarpur above, it’s also unbearably hot even in October. I felt it was close to 38° C in the afternoon.

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Roadside eatery about 20 km. before Chhatarpur town. I have stopped here often on my other trips too. The owner thinks I am crazy going around India on my MTB.

It takes an effort to negotiate the chaotic town traffic even for a normal cyclist, but if you have about 130 km. under your belt; and your bums have rubbed raw on the saddle, the chaos can become a nightmare. Added to that was my own 10 kg. backpack on the mtb carrier. It took me about 2 hours to cross Chhatarpur, about 15 km. from one end to another.

Once I was on the Khajuraho highway, everything settled down except for the blaring of bus and truck horns, which often means that you climb down the road and hit the dirt track, to avoid them knock you off the road.

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Road to Khajuraho, all clear except for the occasional crazy traffic. 

All along the way it was the usual inquisitive people on mobikes and the occasional tea-samosa break. Khajuraho itself was uneventful and it was getting dark when I arrived there. I checked into my hotel and then slept like a log. Next day I was up and took off to Raneh Waterfalls about 20 km. from Khajuraho town. It is also a wildlife sanctuary. 

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Raneh wild life sanctuary, inside the gates.

It has wild boars, deer, leopards and bears. The display board says tigers too, but the forester rangers told me that there were no tigers in Raneh Waterfall Forest Reserve.

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The Waterfall itself, it’s a raging roaring thing in the monsoon season. 

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Pools created by the Raneh Waterfall.

Went back to Khajuraho and took a few snaps of the Temple Complex. Khajuraho has several temple complexes, so if you do visit, make sure you look up all of them.

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The architecture and wall sculptures are breathtaking, this is just one of the several temples in the main temple complex.

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Another temple in the complex, notice the sculpted stairs, although a lot has been lost.

That’s it ! It took me 4 days to and fro from my city to Khajuraho and 2 days in Khajuraho itself. Nice memories.