Rajiv Roy
18 min readMay 1, 2021

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Road trip to Pachmarhi : the queen of Satpura..

Pachmarhi nicknamed ‘Satpura ki Rani’ and situated at 1100 meters is surrounded by nature and history, amidst the Satpura range. Located in the Hoshangabad district, it is the only hill station of Madhya Pradesh.

Captain James Forsyth of Bengal Lancer while leading his troop in 1857 came across this plateau and was mesmerized by its pristine beauty. His efforts led to the development of the place as a Hill Station.

Pachmarhi is listed in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for its flora and fauna and is home to some ancient Buddhist caves. The water of Pachmarhi plateau drains into Denwa river, a tributary of Tawa river which in turn joins the Narmada river. The Satpura Tiger Reserve set up in 1981 is 86 km away.

Since 2017, the Pachmarhi road trip was in our mind. In 2018, we visited Khajuraho, Jabalpur, Amarkantak & Maihar but missed this beautiful hill station. Finally in March, 2021, me and my friend Mr. Bindhyachal Singh planned the trip and accordingly booked the Madhya Pradesh Tourism (MPT) Hotels. The GM (Operations), MP Tourism played a pivotal role in coordinating the trip providing us all the information we sought from him. Special thanks to him as the proper place of stay is very important in any family trip.

The road distance from Patna to Pachmarhi (via Allahabad) is around 1000 km which we decided to cover in three days. The route to be taken was Patna- Allahabad- Rewa- Maihar- Jabalpur- Pipariya- Pachmarhi (as the Patna -Mirzapur -Rewa route is not in good shape).

(Patna — Khagaul road, the exit point)

On 27th March, left Patna at 5 AM. Early morning departure provides plenty of time to drive in a relaxed manner and reach the destination in time. In a family road trip, it is essential to drive carefully and ensure not to exceed the maximum speed of 80 KMPH. It not only allows complete command over the car, good mileage can also be expected.

Besides me, the other team members included my wife and daughter while Mr. Singh was accompanied by his wife and son. Two cars following each other moved on to Ara, Mohania highway (NH19) and reached Mohania at 10 AM. Had a brief stop for breakfast and again hit the road after half an hour. The NH19 between Mohania to Varanasi remains horrible all through the year as thousand of trucks remain lined up all along the 60 km stretch and it is very difficult for private vehicles to get past it.

(Banaras Hindu University)

Reached Varanasi around noon and took the Ramnagar Fort route to visit Banaras Hindu University. Following new rules, it was closed during noon hours. We spent quite sometime in its sprawling lawn before moving on to Allahabad exiting through the B.H.U.’s ‘Naria Gate’ towards the NH 19. The newly laid road between Varanasi up to Allahabad bypass is in excellent condition. The toll amount at Bhadohi toll plaza has now gone up to Rs 185/-. Reached the ‘Sangam’ city by 5 PM, had our car tank full at an Indian Oil outlet before checking in at U.P.S.T.D.C. Hotel Triveni Darshan.

(New Naini Bridge, Allahabad)

Allahabad is the place where our daughter, Dipti studied for four years and is thus close to heart. Post dinner, drove towards the New Naini Bridge, Civil Lines, Chandra Shekhar Azad Park, Military Cantonment, Old and New Katra & Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology (MNNIT) before returning to Hotel.

(Yamuna Gate, MNNIT)

An early riser, walked along the Yamuna river and later cleaned the car. Once everyone was ready and post breakfast, we left Allahabad at 11 AM crossing the nearby Old Yamuna bridge for Jabalpur (380km).

Soon we were cruising on the beautiful NH 35/ NH 30. Traffic is very scarce in Madhya Pradesh and unlike Bihar, U.P., where the truck drivers frighten with their rash driving; in M.P., driving is actually a pleasure.

Crossed Rewa (120 KM) at 1.15 PM. After driving for almost three and half hours (since we left Allahabad), we stopped at Maihar outskirts (190km) for lunch. Mr. Bindhyachal Singh placed orders for the food and later both of us relaxed on the cot for a while. Stayed there for an hour and then continued our journey towards Jabalpur. The townships that we crossed were Katni outskirts (260 km) and Sihora (315 km). As the sun was setting in the west, we checked in MPT Marble Rocks, Bhedaghat, 20 kms away from Jabalpur at 6.30PM.

(MPT Marble Rocks, Bhedaghat)

Mr. Nayak, the helpful, polite man on MPT Bhedaghat desk guided us to a smooth entry as Jabalpur was under lockdown on Sunday. We were allotted the rooms facing the Marble Rocks. After refreshing ourselves, we visited the terrace restaurant. It was most relaxed evening and with smiling MPT staffs serving delicious food, one could not have asked for more.

Bhedaghat is a Nagar Panchayat where the famous Marble Rocks and Dhaundhar Falls are situated. The Hotel is beautifully placed near the Narmada river.

(waiting for the dinner; the Marble Rocks light in the background)

After the dinner, the families chose to walk towards the ‘ghat’. The marble rocks as high as 100ft are located on both sides of the ‘Narmada’ and the river flows gently between them before it falls down the cliff to form the Dhuandhar falls. We stayed there past midnight as everyone was enjoying the cool atmosphere there.

(Marble Rocks/ Narmada river in night)

29th March, ‘HOLI’- the birds were chirping in the garden of MPT Marble Rocks. Walked for sometime in the garden with a cup of tea and thereafter gave sometime to the car cleaning. Once it was done, freshened up and then went to terrace restaurant for our breakfast. The food was really good.

We were informed that the Boat ride at the Marble Rocks as also the ‘Dhuandhar Falls’ were closed due to ‘HOLI’ and thus it was time to leave for our final destination, Pachmarhi (232km). Mr. Dharmendra, the Desk in charge was there to see us off as the cars moved toward the highway taking the short Bhedaghat Nagar Panchayat route instead of going to Jabalpur crossing.

Soon we were on the SH 22 route which later joins with the NH 44, the Srinagar — Kanyakumari National Highway. My daughter too had her hand on the wheels for a while. After driving for more than 100 km, reached Kareli at 4 PM.

Unfortunately, no signboard or milestone was there showing route to Pipariya/ Pachmarhi. ‘Google Baba’ asked us to leave the Srinagar — Kanyakumari National Highway and move on to SH22. We continued on the Kareli road for 15 km, another left turn and after crossing Gadarwada and covering around 90 kms reached Pipariya, the gateway to Pachmarhi at 6PM.

(on way to Pachmarhi)

It was time to have some relaxed moment at Pipariya before taking the hilly 52 km stretch to Pachmarhi. MPT restaurant is there but due to ‘HOLI’, the cook was unavailable. The staff, on our request, went for the cook who happily joined the kitchen and served delicious ‘DOSA’ / coffee. Three cheers for all of them.

(outside Pipariya restaurant)

We remained there for more than an hour. Finally started our dream journey towards Pachmarhi on SH19A at 7.30 PM. The night drive on the hilly road was a pleasure. Crossed ‘Matkuli’ (26km from Pipariya) and as it clocked 9PM, we entered the Pachmarhi Cantonment Toll Point and finally the MPT Club View, adjacent to the famous Catholic Church.

However, to our disappointment, the most uncooperative, rude MPT staff (name withheld) was on duty. Considering that our stay there was for three days, it was real disappointment. He was completely detached with the job MPT has hired him for.

The MPT Club view has four cottages with two rooms each and thus this spacious hotel gives lot of space and peaceful environ. We were allotted a cottage with rooms nos. 07 and 08.

Post dinner, strolled on the road and visited nearby MPT Glen view; the sister concern of Club View. It was past midnight and time to return to Hotel. Pachmarhi is a small township with most of the area under the cantonment and thus completely safe and secured.

(relaxed night at MPT Club View)

Rose early in the morning and saw some rare birds chirping in the campus. However, beware of the monkeys specially in the morning while in Pachmarhi. After the usual car cleaning, freshened up and had breakfast. Thereafter our daughter started her Work From Home (WFH) sitting in the garden while the other team members retired in rooms.

Meanwhile, my friend and I chose to visit ‘Bison Lodge’ to enquire about the the Gypsy/ Guide booking as there are some places in the city where private vehicle is not allowed, important being Bee Falls and Dhupgarh*.

(* as per the locals, the humming sound of water fall resembles sound made by bees, hence called Bee falls while sunlight remains there from sunrise to sunset, so named Dhupgarh)

(Bison Lodge campus)
(Bison Lodge Gate, Pachmarhi)

The Bison Lodge is one of the oldest buildings of Pachmarhi constructed in 1862 and served as the residence of Captain James Forsyth. Later a Museum was also built inside the Lodge where we get glimpses of the rich flora, fauna, history and places of interest in Pachmarhi.

The fare for full Gypsy is Rs 1700/- (maximum six people) while a Guide costs Rs 900/- (both mandatory). For Scooter/ Motorcycle, it is Rs 200/. No advance booking is done. Important to note that on Wednesday, the visit to the sites are restricted to half day and thus we settled for Thursday booking. Later visited the Museum present inside the campus. The Bison Lodge has a huge garden where one can sit and enjoy the surroundings.

(the display boards)
(Inside Bison Lodge Museum)

Homework done, it was time to visit Pachmarhi market to enquire about the Motorcycle on rent as my friend was keen on exploring the city on M/c. The man on desk showed us brand new Royal Enfield and charged Rs1300/day plus Rs400/ for two nights. An additional Rs 1000/- was kept as caution money. The M/c was to be delivered at 7 PM.

(Jay Stambh, at a central place in the city erected to commemorate the Indian Independence)

The phone started ringing from the family members and we realized it is lunch time. Pachmarhi has no traffic and as such it took few minutes to reach MPT Club View.

In the evening, we drove towards hilly Mahadeo road and reached the Priyadarshini Point (earlier known as Forsyth Point) to watch the breathtaking sunset. Named after the former Prime Minister of India who visited this place, it is from this point that Captain James Forsyth had first witnessed the serene Pachmarhi in 1857. Layers of hills rolling on each other laden with clouds present beautiful scenery. A small trek from the parking area leads to the point. We remained there for an hour just feeling the beauty of this place.

(Priyadarshini point)
(friends and their beloved)

Later we drove towards the Gupt Mahadeo Temple but darkness had engulfed the area with no traffic on road and thus a conscious decision was taken to return to our place of stay. Post dinner, went to the Market to pick the M/c. One after another, every family member took a ride on it. We walked on the road outside the hotel, sat on the footpath, chatted and enjoyed the atmosphere of Pachmarhi till midnight.

(the cottage; our place of stay)

Wednesday morning. As family members were getting readied, friends rode Motorcycle to explore the Pachmarhi city. Crossed the ‘Jay Stambh’, Pachmarhi Lake and Handi Khoh. ‘Jay Stambh’ was erected to commemorate the Indian Independence and is located centrally with multiple junction. Pachmarhi Lake offers Boat ride and some adventure sports. Handi Khoh, as per the legends, was earlier a lake but dried up and give the look of a pot (Handi).There are government owned ‘Resham Kendra’ and ‘Mrignayani Emporium’ where local/ Chanderi silk sarees are available with up to 30% discounts.

We returned to the hotel for the breakfast. Again, while my daughter continued with her WFH, the families moved towards Handi Khoh and the five caves. The legend connect the five caves to the visit of Pandavas but the archaeologists claim that it actually was carved out during the Gupta period by the Buddhist monks for meditation and presence of ‘stupa’ on the top of the caves give credence to the theory put forward by them.

(near Handi Khoh)
(Pandava caves in the background)

Later, we drove towards Rajendra Gir Park (named after the first President of India who was regular visitor to Pachmarhi). The park is neat and clean and the different plants add beauty to it. Took a look of the Pachmarhi city including the Chauragarh temple through a telescope placed there at a nominal cost of Rs 20/-. It is another point for sunset view and as such returned in the evening, this time our daughter accompanying us. Viewed the sun setting behind the Satpura ranges.

(sunset view at Rajendra Gir)

From Rajendra Gir Park, we went to the Pachmarhi Lake for Boat ride and remained there for half an hour. The four seater pedal boat cost Rs 200/- . Although a small lake, it is beautifully manned and a place where some time can be spent. Took sip of tea from the makeshift restaurant present there.

(Pachmarhi Lake)
(full team outside Pachmarhi Lake)

It was time to return to the Hotel. After refreshing ourselves, the Motor cycle session was repeated with the family members. Pachmarhi with a population of just 12000 is cool and gives complete peace of mind at almost all the sites. No need to move to every destination. It is better to prioritize the place of visit and spend some quality time there instead of rushing to each and every destination and feel exhausted.

Priyadarshini Point, Handi Khoh, Pandava Caves and Rajendra Gir as also Pachmarhi Lake are must visit places and need no permit. Important places that should not be missed and need Gypsy/ Guide are Bee Falls and Dhupgarh. Other places of interest are Rajat Prapat, Apsara Vihar, Reechgarh etc.

(friends with the Royal Enfield)

1st April, 2021. Me and Mr. Singh visited ‘Bison Lodge’ at 9 AM when the booking window opens. Had a look at the Gypsies parked there and settled for serial number 58. There were just few people on the counter but we waited till the number 58 came up on the list.

Gypsy booked, it was time to make payment for the Guide at another counter along with the Gypsy receipt. Thereafter we took permit for the M/c. The Gypsy Driver and the Guide were courteous. Asked them to come to hotel at 10.30 AM and returned thereafter.

In view of the homework done and having covered some destinations in the last two days, we decided to visit just two places: Bee Falls and Dhupgarh. This was done particularly because Bee Falls has more than 400 hilly stairs and going down, remaining there for a while and then coming back needed lots of time. Those unfit and old should avoid this place.

(trekking down to the Bee Falls)

Our journey to Bee Falls started at 11 AM. The route to the Bee Falls through the mountain is really beautiful. From the parking place, we trekked down to the falls watching some scenic beauty enroute. Finally, reached the base of the falls and spent pleasant time there. As we were armed with clothes, had good bath under the chilling water. Added attraction is the ‘Fish Pedicure’ as hundreds of fishes present in the stream clear the dead skin of the feet. After the bath, sat there for quite sometime.

(mesmerizing Bee Falls)

Bee falls session took three hours and we were at the parking place at 2.30 PM. Chose MPT Amaltas for lunch where the smiling staffs served quality ‘Dosa’ and coffee. Thereafter, returned to the Hotel.

It was 5 PM and time to visit Dhupgarh. My better half after trekking 400x2 stairs at Bee Falls raised her hands on visiting Dhupgarh.

On way to Dhupgarh, we visited Reechgarh. According to the legends, sloth bears once dominated the place, hence called Reechgarh. There are rocky cliffs with cave like formations between them and the narrow pathways between it create a passage for cool breeze. Remained there for half an hour and thereafter had tea on the ‘dhaba’ situated at the parking area.

(Reechgarh)

From Reechgarh, we continued our journey to Dhupgarh on the hilly road and finally reached the destination where a gentle wind welcomed us. Located at 1352 meters, it is the highest point of Pachmarhi city as also Madhya Pradesh. Entire Satpura range is visible from the Dhupgarh.

(Dhupgarh)
(Board showing sunrise and sunset points)

We first went towards the sunrise point and watched the Pachmarhi city. It is ironical that although beautiful sunrise point is present in Dhupgarh, entry is allowed there only after 10 AM. From the sunrise point, we visited the small Museum which is situated in the centre of the Dhupgarh and saw some rare pics related to the place.

(at the Dhupgarh Museum)

It was time to move towards the sunset point. The government has done an excellent job of carving out stairs on the mountain to watch the sunset. We enjoyed the place and remained there for quite sometime. Priyadarshini Point, Rajendra Gir Park and Dhupgarh, three different points, three evenings — but one thing in common — mesmerizing sunset view.

(happy moments)
(the pleasant evening at Dhupgarh)

Finally our tryst with Dhupgarh ended and we returned to the Hotel by 7PM. Later went to the market to return the Motorcycle. It was our last night at Pachmarhi. Relaxed, chatted for a while and then visited the MPT Glen View for Dinner. Excellent food served with perfect smile by the restaurant staffs. Probably, the MPT training all over the State failed to reach MPT Club View. Post dinner, we drove around the city for an hour.

(city at night)

Friday and it was time to say goodbye to Pachmarhi. Left the beautiful township around 10.30 AM for Bandhavgarh(around 450 km) with a vow to return again.

(Leaving MPT Club View)

For those intend to visit Pachmarhi: My take: October to March are the perfect time to visit this beautiful hill station as the days are hot during the summer. Book any MPT Hotel; they are trained to make the stay comfortable. MPT food quality also good, although price on higher side. Stay for at least three days so that the sites are covered in leisurely manner.

Pipariya (52 kms) is the nearest Railway Station while those taking air route can land at Bhopal (200 kms) for the onward road journey to Pachmarhi.

(Pachmarhi — Pipariya scenic road)

Of our three days return journey, the road route chosen was Pachmarhi- Jabalpur- Bandhavgarh- Maihar- Rewa- Varanasi- Patna. We were back on Pachmarhi — Matkuli — Pipariya highway on way to Bandhavgarh National Park as our booking was with the MPT White Tiger Forest Resort, Bandhavgarh. Reached Kareli on NH 44 and had brief stay at Hotel Krishna. However, by the order of the administration, it was offering only take away food. After moving on the NH 44 for 23 km we took the SH22 and by afternoon we reached MPT Marble Rocks, Bhedaghat where we had some relaxing moment with ‘paneer pakoras’ and tea. Also went to ‘Dhuandhar Falls’ and remained there for half an hour.

(Dhuandhar Falls, Bhedaghat, Jabalpur)

Finally at around 6 PM, we left Bhedaghat for Bandhavgarh which was still 216 kms. Mr. Abhishek Dubey, the man in charge of MPT, Bandhavgarh remained in touch with us. Midway, we stopped at a roadside ‘Dhaba’ for tea and then continued on the NH 30/NH 34 route towards Sihora and after crossing the Katni outskirts, turned right towards NH 43.

We drove for another 80 kms and reached the Forest Check Post where the vehicle numbers are entered. Overcame number of speed breakers (probably to put a brake on the speed to protect the animals crossing the pathways) to reach the destination at 10 PM. Mr. Dubey ensured immediate check in and an early morning Tiger Safari booking. After checking and refreshing ourselves, we went to the Dining Hall. Once we had our dinner we walked on the beautiful laid pathway of the resort for a while before returning to our respective room.

(the beautiful MPT White Tiger Reserve, Bandhavgarh)

Bandhavgarh means ‘brothers fort’. Bandhavgarh National Park located in Vindhya hills was a game reserve of the Maharaja of Rewa. Declared a National Park in 1968, it became Tiger Reserve in 1993. The 105 km park is famous for Royal Bengal Tigers and is also a natural hub of White Tigers.

The 18 seater open safari Bus was to leave at 6AM and reporting time was 5.30 AM. The Reception called us at 5 AM with good morning message. Further, they packed the breakfast of our choice and handed over the basket. So much care for the people staying there.

(deep inside the Tiger Reserve)

Our Tiger Reserve journey started at 6 AM and continued till 10 AM. Unfortunately, no Tiger could be sighted. We took our breakfast at the place fixed by the forest authorities inside the Reserve.

Returned to the resort and after quick shower (as the clothes/ face were full of sand) relaxed for sometime before visiting the Dining Room for Lunch. In Bandhavgarh, the breakfast, lunch and dinner are included with the room tariff. The food quality (both veg. and non veg.) was too good and served with the signature MPT smile.

(MPT Resort, Bandhavgarh)

Post Lunch, packing and exchange of pleasantries with the resort people, we drove towards Varanasi in the afternoon. However, as the Rewa -Mirzapur stretch is under construction/ not in good shape and there was some delay near Maihar, we changed our itinerary and decided to stay at MPT Vindhya Retreat, Rewa(170km) and reached there at 8.30 PM. Constructed in 2017, it has a huge campus. Refreshed and after taking dinner, we went for a walk. It was the last night of our trip and we chatted for a while before returning to our room.

Rose early and cleaned the car with a cup of tea. Rewa is another name of river Narmada. The famous Keoti falls (42km) and the Deur Kothar, a Buddhist site (63km) are part of this district.

Left MPT Vindhya Retreat at 10 AM for the final destination, our HOME (around 470km) via Mirzapur — Varanasi. It was ninth day since we left Patna. Although some stretches of Rewa — Mirzapur are in very bad shape, considering the distance we had to travel, the choice was limited.

(friends)
(and family at MPT Vindhya Retreat)

Reached Mirzapur/ Vindhyachal around 3 PM and visited Ma Vindhyavasini Temple where we remained for half an hour. Left Mirzapur at 4 PM for Varanasi taking the Shastri Bridge and after 19 km drive, we were again on the NH 19. Crossed Varanasi around 5 PM and reached Mohania (Bihar) at 6 PM.

Our home was just 180 km from Mohania and it was time to relax for high tea before moving on NH 319. We also wanted to avoid the busy evening market time on the NH 319 at Kochas, Dinara. After remaining there for an hour, we started our last leg of journey. Reached Ara around 9.30 PM and thereafter got stuck in the chaotic traffic jam near Koilwar bridge for an hour. It was only around midnight that we reached home. Must say, the traffic in Madhya Pradesh is much more civilized as compared to Bihar/ U.P.

Nine days, five destinations covering around 2200 km, it was one of the most memorable road trip and finally we had Pachmarhi in our visiting list. We are indebted to the almighty for the safe journey.

Travelling not only gives peace of mind, it boost confidence, broaden our horizon and creates memory of lifetime. It also gives an opportunity to interact with our countrymen and know their traditions.

To the people who love to drive; explore Madhya Pradesh. It has so much to offer. However, for the present, #stay home, stay safe.

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