Three families with 6 adults, 4 children aged 3, 4, 5, and 7 started off from Delhi and met at the Nizamuddin Railway station to catch the Bhopal Express leaving at 9 p.m. Amusingly, each family had at least one member representing some portion of the state of Madhya Pradesh, our destination – Bhopal from the Singh family, Sanchi from the Lamba family and Vidisha from the Dutta family. The train left at exactly on schedule. We had packed a dinner of aloo paranthas, aloo sabji, and achaar along with some sandwiches for the children. We completed our dinner as soon as we got settled in the train. After spending some time sharing our expectations and apprehensions about the ongoing trip, we decided to call it a day and wrapped off for the night in our respective AC 2-tier berths leaving the rest to the soft lullaby of the rocking train whistling past the countryside.
I could not get enough sleep with my restless 3-year sharing the same berth with me and welcomed the first rays of the morning sun on the rain-washed countryside and a pretty rainbow across the cloudily sparkling sky. We reached Bhopal at around 6.45 a.m. roughly on schedule. The sightseeing and the stay, inclusive of all meals, were booked through the MP tourism office at Delhi and we had a 7-seater Tavera at our disposal to go anywhere and everywhere.
Tiredness vanished from the passengers faces and got lit up with the glow of anticipation as we started the day. Luggage was packed off at the rooftop and securely tied and bound, protectively covered with a yellow plastic, an action that made us wonder if it might rain intermittently. We headed excitingly for our first destination, Bhojpur, about 30 kms from Bhopal. It was a 45-minute ride and before long we could see the shadowy outline of the ancient Shiva Temple atop an elevated rocky mound. The rocky temple jutting out of Mother Earth was unlike any other temple that I could imagine seeing. The huge Shivling was awe-inspiring. From the top of the mound, you could feast your eyes on the lush green countryside interspersed with the bellowing smoke from a rare factory and faint outlines of some man-made structures. Cameras were busy clicking and washing off the stains of tiredness from the smiling faces.
Next, it was time for freshening up in a motel (Hotel Highway Treat – Bhimbetka), also handpicked by MP tourism. The motel is conveniently located en-route to Bhimbetka adjacent to a train line. They opened a couple of rooms for us to freshen up. After a satisfying breakfast of paranthas, puris, aloo sabji, dahi, bread toast and omelette, steaming cups of coffees and teas, we were ready to set out. Breakfasting was a pleasure with the trains passing by just outside the restaurant windows shaking and vibrating us with all their incredibly fast motion.
Bhimbetka was 10 kms from the motel and took us around 15 mins to reach. The cave paintings of Bhimbetka revealed hoards of information about seven different periods starting from Paleolithic age to Mesolithic, Chaleolithic, early historic, and medieval age. An informative guide enlightened us with bits and pieces of information pertaining to early civilizations. The paintings depicted wild life, hunting sequences, tribal dances, birds, musical instruments, mother and child, pregnant women, musical instruments, men carrying dead animals, drinking, and burial scenes. Medieval paintings also show the colours used the cave dwellers prepared by mixing manganese, haematite, red stone, cola, animal fat, and leaf extracts. Cameras were busy once more in an attempt to freeze time and memories.
Pachmarhi was the next and the main destination waiting for us around 175 kms away from Bhimbetka. Starting off at around 12, we could reach the Champak Bungalow only at about 4.15 p.m.
MP roads did not have anything to boast with the nagging monsoon worsening the conditions. It was past lunch time and the hungry children had started throwing tantrums. We got hold of our room keys and vanished for a quick session of getting fresh before attacking the late lunch. The spaciousness of the rooms and the rain-drenched fresh beauty all around were too obvious to miss. It was only after lunch that people started expressing their admiration for Champak Bunglow and we were all happy at our choice of selection.
With no set plans for the evening we decided to explore the resort, its miniscule library, the flowery gardens, and its shimmering lake view dotted with colourful rowing and pedal boats. Evening rolled in and out silently while elders had tea and children ran about wildly having all the fun they could get. Elders chatted away contentedly comfortably nestled in the wicker basket-like plush chairs sipping evening tea – a perfect idea of vacation. An early light dinner and we were off for the day just as the rain drops started hitting the nature’s bed with full gusto. With the rain drops dancing merrily outside the cottages, we slept off peacefully gathering energy for the busy next day.