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 !!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Tour — Kanpur to Ranthambore

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.

Route Map for this section

The 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 cosy hotel taking off for Sheopur on the 10th Jan, about 6:30 am morning.

IMG_8276A 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 Rajastan 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 cosy 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.

IMG_8282Panoramic 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.

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 which heads out to Sheopur. The hotel offers good budget facilities and has an excellent restaurant too. Recommended for cyclists.