Places covered: Pandav caves, Rajat Prapat, Apsara vihar, Bee Falls, Reechgarh and Dhoopgarh in Pachmarhi
Time of Travel: April 2014
Pachmarhi is called ‘satpura ki rani’ and completely justifies its name. It’s a beautiful and only hill station in MP. When the rest of MP feels wretched with heat waves, you can still feel soothing cool breeze in Pachmarhi’s morning. Since the area is being maintained by Indian Army, you can see the natural beauty at its best. It has well maintained roads, huge manicured green lawns, clean and tide surroundings apart from waterfalls, caves, mountains, trenches, jungle, animals and what not.
Pachmarhi is well connected with all main cities of MP, and has service of Volvo buses at regular intervals. For Train commuters, Piparia is the nearest railway station, from which abundant taxi walas are available, who can drop till Pachmarhi in 1-2 hours. We have booked a Volvo from Bhopal in advance around 1 PM. After being settled with initial glitch of Volvo driver replacement, we started our journey from Bhopal to Pachmarhi around 2 PM. The bus was comfortable and almost empty (barring 10-12 passengers), so my daughter took zillions of rounds inside the bus and felt happy playing here and there in a moving vehicle. There was nothing much to look around during Initial 3 hours of journey, so the driver put on the movie ‘PK’. And by the time we were done with the movie and looked outside, the beautiful scenery of large wheat farms was awaiting us.
We reached Pachmarhi bus stand around 6.30 PM and took a taxi to reach Govt. Rest House, which is just 10 minutes away. Wow, what a location!! We felt elated to see our staying place. Despite, it was an old rest house, built during British rule, the touch of natural charm and plenty of space made all the difference. For stay, I strongly recommend either in MPTDC properties or Govt. Rest houses for serenity seekers. All of MPTDC hotels are old well maintained structures with lots of space and greenery. Govt. rest house is also a nice economical option to stay for Govt Employees minus the facilities offered at MPTDC properties. The USP of all these options are their location and tranquility. The private hotels are in the main market and crowded residential area, they can let you stay in Pachmarhi, but you will still be missing the soul of ‘satpura ki rani’.
We initially thought we were tired after the long bus journey, but after reaching here we felt totally charged up to walk and explore the places nearby. We took our DSLR and began our evening walk. The scenery was delightful, long narrow roads, guarded by trees which are then followed by lush green area. It was all so peaceful, the next human you can spot on the way only after five minutes if not more. We could hear bird chirping as clearly as the voice of falling dry leaves. It is so rare to feel all these basis things for a city dweller. A refreshing change from everyday noise we here in the city of car honking, recorded music, telephone ring etc.
We went on and on, and spotted a beautiful church there. It was the same church I have read about in one of the log in Ghumakkar. It was one of the oldest churches in India and its glass art work on the windows was described beautifully in that log. Surprisingly, we found it locked, when enquired locally, got to know, it remains closed except on Sunday. After an accident, when one of the glass windows was broken by a tourist, its entry been restricted for general public. Only during Sunday prayer time, people can enter the premise. Since there was no Sunday during our stay in Pachmarhi, It was little disappointing, but what can be done, so we returned back to our Rest house enjoying the picturesque landscape.
Mornings were the most beautiful part of the day during our stay of 3 days in Pachmarhi. There was a lovely garden in front of our room, followed by large open area and trees all round. We use to get up early and open the doors in the morning to just sit in front of the room to grasp all the beauty and nature around. Then a long morning jog was next best thing we could do there. So in total, it was a marvelous start of the day.
After getting ready we hired a taxi (Only open gipsy is allowed to ply in Pachmarhi). We had two full days to be spent here, although this place has many more tourist spots to offer, but the main attractions can easily be covered in two days. One important thing to be noted here is, certain places require permission from forest department and its office gives daily permit for Rs. 1200 approx. per vehicle (office remain closed on Wednesday). So it is prudent to cover all the places under forest department in a single day, rather taking permits for two different days. On the first day, we got the permit and schedule to visit all the places under forest department. Pachmarhi is a very small place in terms of area so our day was divided into two parts and planned in such a way that we come back to our rest house for lunch every day.
We began our day with Pandav caves. I found this place just ok, not very pretty. It’s kind of small caves carved out from a single big rock, surrounded by big flower garden. As per our driver and the name suggests, these caves used for dwelling by Pandavas during their Agyaat Vaas. Since the place was very small, I am not too sure about the historical significance of this place as claimed by locals. Though it has stair cases, but small kids and elderly people will find it difficult to climb. The view from the top is also not extraordinary; the only thing I like here was the garden. So someone with time constraint can easily skip this point.
Then we headed to rajat Prapat and apsara vihar. All the places in Pachmarhi, barring few, requires good amount of tracking. Since we had a small kid and parents, it took more than usual time to cover each place. It was a 1.5 km track to reach Rajat Vihar, which was total wastage of time and efforts, since it landed us to a place which only gives a view of that water fall from a distance of another 4 km. Uff!! Why nobody told this before, we thought, or we should have come here after thorough research. Waterfalls are something, which we truly enjoy by going near and immerse the feet into the water, if not getting drenched, but just looking at it from a distance, naaa!! That’s not our way. However tracking in Satpura Jungle with the family was a good experience in itself here.
Next was Apsara vihar or panchaali kund. It is very near to Rajat Prapat, and requires little more tracking to reach, but it was worth. As claimed by locals, this place was once used by Draupadi and later by English ladies for bathing. It has a big pond and a group of many small ponds one after another with clear water and rock walls on both the sides apart from thick curtain of greenery. Perfect place to take bath, as the shallow ponds gives you space and rock walls ensure non-existence of any unwanted attention. By the time we reached here, everyone was tired. After handing over the sleeping daughter to the parents to sit and relax under the tree near main kund, I and husband went inside to explore all the kunds. Since we already planned to take bath in Bee Falls, which we were to go next, we kept ourselves restrain from taking bath in these kunds. But after a long track, we felt refreshed and better prepared for track upside back of another 1.5 km.
Bee falls is largest waterfall of Pachmarhi and many Bollywood movies including Asoka have been shot here. From the car parking area, a little track leads you to the small artificially made waterfall, which was a perfect place for elderly people and kids, who cannot afford to go on the steep long track to the main fall. Leaving parent and kid here to enjoy, I and husband started the journey to Bee falls after two glasses of masala-nimboo-Paani. Most wonderful thing I found in MP was ample ‘Nimboo Paani’ Stalls at each tourist place, instead of any fast food and cold drink stalls; it was very energizing for the tired trackers. Honestly speaking route to Bee falls was one of the most difficult tracks for us in Pachmarhi. But after reaching there, we found the amazing place was totally worth the pain. Such a beautiful view and crystal clear water, nobody could resist having a bath under this fall.
Reaching back was even more difficult as compared to previous tracking, so we managed somehow and ended the journey with two more glasses of nimboo-paani at the same stall. At the small artificial waterfall above, there were hundreds of tiny fishes in a shallow pond. I saw few ladies were sitting beside it keeping their feet inside the pond. When I observed closely, they were actually enjoying a free session of fish pedicure. It was very surprising, even I also tried it. And the moment I put my feet inside the water, several hungry fishes came and started giving small bites…yiiiekkk!! Hilarious feeling, but one of its kind experience. It was already lunch time by then so we moved to our rest house to get some food and rest.
Reechgarh and Dhoopgarh were two places which we planned to cover in the second half. Like any other place in Pachmarhi, Reechgarh also requires good amount of tracking but has equal number of nimboo-paani stalls as well. . We initially thought this place must have some connection with the animal Reech (Brown Bear), but could not get any information on the same. It is a place where you can find amazing caves amongst thick forest. When we got off inside down the cave, we felt little change in the temperature, and it was cooler from the outside forest. walls of the caves were also very different, we could see pebbles, which are found in water bodies like river were deeply engraved into the rock walls, as if the whole place was under the flowing water at some point in time. The caves themselves were also mesmerizing, we were amused to see many secrete pathway inside the dead looking rocks. One can reach to another place just getting into the mountain through these small caves. But I am sure no tourists have ever tried this, as it is risky, you never know, what is waiting for you on the other end. This place may not be as beautiful as sea or mountains, but definitely an inimitable experience and another face of nature.
Now the last spot for the day was Doopgarh, which is famous for its sunset. Since and we has enough time in hand to reach there before sunset, we stopped the car midway to get a good view of whole satpura forest area. There was also an echo point near to Doopgarh, so spend few minutes here, shouting our lungs out to get that echo effect.
Doopgarth is situated on the tallest peak of Satpura Range (4429 ft.), in the middle of dense forest, and offers magnificent view of the whole area. Since the place is in deep interior of forest, tourists were advised to be in groups only; else wild animals might attack. We tried once to go apart and capture a good shot of nature, but on hearing a strange sound from behind, we immediately rushed to the group without even looking back. Later the guide warned us that we should not try such adventure, as one of the tourists was attacked by a wild bear here some time back. There were rock stair cases for tourists, to enjoy the sunset peacefully. Like many others, we also settled down and waited for the right time. It was truly magical to see the whole sunset from here. This is surely a not-to be-missed-place in whole Pachmarhi, specially the sunset part. Each range of mountains has something distinctive in themselves, which make them different from the others. Be it Ladhakh region or Himachal or Uttarakhand or North-East or any other, we call them only mountains (straight), as if they all are same, but they are so different from each other hence not comparable at all. It is fact that, the nature’s beauty has so many faces, so no ranking is possible literally.
Here we ended our first day in Pachmarhi, the remaining travel in Pachmarhi and Jabalpur is covered in Hindustan Ka Dil Dekho (M.P. Trip) Part 3