We were scouting what to do for the short period of holiday that is available between Chirstmas and New Year, and after speaking to a few friends and doing some research on the internet, we decided on visiting Pachmarhi. When questioned by a few people as to why Pachmarhi, and not some other place, there was no valid reason. Of course, it helped that a colleague had visited Pachmarhi some time back and there was enough feedback. Keep in mind that we did all this planning a month earlier, in November and wanted to finalize the total plan by end-November (we did not want to travel by air, and train tickets should always be booked early).
Next, who all to go – so we asked parents and a couple of cousins, and ended up with a total of 6 people all ready to go. Now, it was left to the 2 of us to plan the places, book train tickets and book a place to stay (being end-December, we did not want to try going by air since fog can terribly disrupt any air travel out of Delhi, and of course it would be a lot cheaper as well). We read up a bit more about Pachmarhi, were relieved by the fact that it seemed to be a less commercial place (if you have been to Shimla or Nainital, you would realize what I mean), and photos of the place seemed to confirm our opinion.
We were told about a package by MP Tourism (site) that takes a person from Bhopal and back to Bhopal (and includes travel and hotel bookings), however at Rs. 8500 per person for 3 nights, it seemed expensive. And it would not allow us enough time in Pachmarhi (since the 3 nights actually meant 2 nights in Pachmarhi). We eventually worked out a compromise whereby we would find a hotel room and then use that contact to work out more travel inside Pachmarhi and from Bhopal to Pachmarhi. There are 2 ways to get to Pachmarhi from Bhopal – either you can take a taxi direct to Pachmarhi (approx Rs. 3000 for a Qualis type of vehicle and which takes around 4-5 hours), or you take another train to Pipariya (a train station much closer to Pachmarhi) and take a vehicle from Pipariya to Pachmarhi (this trip takes around 1 hour). We decided to take a taxi direct from Bhopal since we did not want to do another step of luggage transfer.
Eventually, after looking at a number of hotels, we found a hotel called Misty Meadows (nice name, right?) (link). They had different types of rooms, and after looking up a few reviews where we did not find anything negative, we made a booking for 3 rooms for the 6 of us. In addition, we also talked with the MD Mr. Chanakya for bookings for local travel and a to and from Bhopal and came up with an overall package of Rs, 44,000 for the entire trip (3 nights in Pachmarhi) and travel to a host of local sites.
So, the D day came up (just before Christmas) and after figuring out that the temperature of Pachmarhi does not fall below 10 C, we packed our stuff and took the Bhopal Express from Nizamuddin Railway Station in Delhi at night 9 PM. The Bhopal Express was an incredibly clean train through and through, and the journey was most comfortable (I have got into the habit of preferring the AC 2 tier rather than 3 tier). The only problem with the train is that food is not served (although there are a number of vendors within the train who offer things to drink and do offer meals), and the train never seems to reach at its standard time of 6:40 AM the next morning (it arrived at 8 AM). We quickly found the taxi, piled in everything, were choked to the brim, and started out.
We arrived mid-day in Pachmarhi, got our rooms (functional rooms with adequate service and bathrooms) rested a bit, ate lunch, and were ready to go. Pachmarhi is essentially a hill station with a number of places to go to in the near vicinity. Pachmarhi falls right in the Satpura Tiger Reserve, and is also under the physical control of the military, which in turn acts as a deterrent against wide commercialization, and also makes sure that the town and its surroundings areas are clean and proper. This also means that there is only BSNL mobile service available; just to repeat, Airtel, Idea, Hutch, none of these is available in Pachmarhi (and they don’t seem to have an interconnection arrangement with BSNL), and hence this can be truly a break from the constant ringing of the mobile.
Given that we just had an afternoon to spend, we soon got a gypsy (most places in Pachmarhi require that you have a 4 X 4 vehicle – jeep, gypsy, whatever) to go to our first destination, called Pandav caves. All the destinations in Pachmarhi (except for one) are located within a short distance, so this was also a short distance away. Pandav caves is essentially a rocky hillock with caves built into them. You can climb right to the top of this hillock, and also get a glimpse of some of the caves, but if you are hoping for a long section of caves, you may be disappointed. There is also a beautiful circular garden arrangement at the bottom.
After climbing to the top and getting a good view of the entire location, we decided that we had spent enough time in that location. We climbed down, wandered through the gardens, and then decided to leave. Just outside the location, there were people with horses, the deal being that they would take a person for a 5 minute run on the horse and get an opportunity to take photos. My cousin wanted to do that, and he really enjoyed it.
We asked one of the local people as to why this was called Pandav cases; the answer was most interesting. The local vendor claimed that the name had no association with the mythical Pandavas, but instead, was a name put forward by the locals when the British asked them for a name for the local caves (a long time back). And of course, if you name a cave as Pandav caves, it would seem most apparent that it would be lined by their mythical roaming around India during their time of exile (including the one year of hidden exile).
The next leg of the journey was to the Lake Pachmarhi. This is a lake that is not very big, but has boating (you can get pedal boats, and also hire a boatsman to do the actual movement of the boat). There are places of the lake that are supposed to be deep, and they are marked by poles around portions of the lake. This is helped by many boating operators all around the lake armed with whistles. Whenever any boat would go towards the deeper end, they would start whistling and running closer, making the boats move towards the desired place.
The setting around the lake was that of a sunset time, with the light becoming that orange shade that looks beautiful. In addition, since there were hillocks nearby, the light was coming over the hill, and the place looked very beautiful. We spent quite some time over there, and ended by having tea at the tea stall right next to the lake. There was no other commercial stall or the like at that location.
After this, we headed to a Pachmarhi fair. There was a fairly huge tent and many many stalls over there selling cultural items, foodstuff, clothes, accessories, marble and wood creations, etc. The food over there was so-so (imagine trying to relish some idlis in a stall in Pachmarhi when there is a cold wind blowing). After some time, the wind started getting to us, and we decided to head back to the hotel. After some time, the car finally arrived, and this time, travelling in an open Gypsy was somewhat uncomfortable because of the cold wind.
We finally reached the resort to terminate the first day in Pachmarhi; imagine that we ate our dinner in an open lawn with the cold wind blowing around us. Now imagine all of us gathered around 2 bonefires that blew away the chill and made all of us warm and comfy. And of course, the food gave almost the same taste as home-coked food, a major comfort.