Freedom Trip 2021

It’s like hormonal change starts to happen at the beginning of every winter, which triggers a natural urge to go on a road trip. This road trip is only limited to Madhya Pradesh so far. This year, due to the board exams of our kids, it was near impossible to maintain that tradition which we were following for the last 11 years. Thanks to the delays caused by lockdown exams were postponed and our trip plan switched on.

We have decided to touch an ancient but important city Mandu in MP and visit the nearby holy city of Ujjain. As it was a long trip from Allahabad, we took a halt at Vidisha while going and Sagar while returning back.

Our route was

Prayag (Allahabad) -> Vidisha -> Mandu -> Indore -> Ujjain -> Sagar -> Prayag  (Allahabad) (Dates 24-29 Jan 2021)

Due to fog on plains, we have decided to remain in Vindyachal while going and returning back, else we could have taken the national highway.

A couple sighted at Vidisha

A couple sighted at Vidisha

Baoli: People of MP and many other parts of the country where groundwater is very low rely mainly on rainwater. Collecting and conserving is a practice being followed in these places since long time.

Baoli: People of MP and many other parts of the country where groundwater is very low rely mainly on rainwater. Collecting and conserving is a practice being followed in these places for a long time.

A women filling her bucket from a water storage

A woman filling her bucket from water storage. Mandu

A tribal women selling berries and carrying slingshot in Mandu, MP. She had tattoed face, like many other tribes have tradition of tattooing face.

A tribal woman selling berries and carrying slingshot in Mandu, MP. She had tattoed face like many other tribes have a tradition of tattooing face.

The tree on right is known as the Baobab tree (Adansonia) also known as Khorasani Imli found only in Mandu within India. Other than India it can be only found in 3 other countries in the world including Madagascar where it is a national tree.

The tree in this picture is known as the Baobab tree (Adansonia) also known as Khorasani Imli found only in Mandu within India. Other than India it can be only found in 3 other countries in the world including Madagascar where it is a national tree.

Baobab tree

Baobab tree with ruins. Mandu

State of MP is known for it's low population density and this is what fascinates travellers. One can travel miles without seeing anyone or been seen, there is nothing other than nature around. Mostly based on Vindhyachal plateau and have very rocky terrain. Not much suitable for growing crops, so mainly cattle farming being done here. If you are sick of chaos around you this is the place where you want to be. It has it's own magic in every season.

The state of MP is known for its low population density and this is what fascinates travelers. One can travel miles without seeing anyone or been seen, there is nothing other than nature around. Mostly based on the Vindhyachal plateau and have very rocky terrain. Not much suitable for growing crops, so mainly cattle farming being done here. If you are sick of chaos around you this is the place where you want to be. It has its own magic in every season.

Vindyachal range is a plateau, which predates the even Himalayas by a huge margin. Fossils of many prehistoric bacteria and even dinosaurs are found on this.

Vindyachal range is a plateau, which predates the even Himalayas by a huge margin. Fossils of many prehistoric bacteria and even dinosaurs are found on this. Sunset Point, Mandu

Met a couple from Ujjain in Mandu, made friends :)

Met a couple from Ujjain in Mandu, made friends :). Sunset Point, Mandu

My big bro BK, I like his royal look

My big bro BK, I like his royal look

Rani Roopmati Pavilion

Rani Roopmati Pavilion, Mandu

Baz Bahadur Palace

Baz Bahadur Palace, Mandu

Dr Sharad At Baz Bahadur Palace, Mandu

Dr Sharad At Baz Bahadur Palace, Mandu

A soft drink stall near Rani Roopmati Pavilion, Mandu

A soft drink stall near Rani Roopmati Pavilion, Mandu

A boy selling sugar-apple or sweetsop along with tamarind near Baz Bahadur Palace, Mandu

A boy selling sugar-apple or sweetsop along with tamarind near Baz Bahadur Palace, Mandu

House of head maid, Mandu MP (apporx 1500 AD). They were so respected and got high rank in society that kings use to provide them big houses and servent. Their main job was to groom kids of royal family.

House of the head maid, Mandu MP (approx 1500 AD). They were so respected and got a high rank in society that kings use to provide them big houses and servent. Their main job was to groom kids of the royal family.

Mandu has a turbulent history, especially between 1300-1500. This is reflected in its architecture as well. Same buildings that were built with Hindu architecture been modified many times over the years. One needs to look closely to figure out layers of history in these buildings.

Mandu has a turbulent history, especially between 1300-1500. This is reflected in its architecture as well. Same buildings that were built with Hindu architecture been modified many times over the years. One needs to look closely to figure out layers of history in these buildings.

A Sadhu with a puppy sighted near Mahakaal temple at Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh.

A Sadhu with a puppy sighted near Mahakaal temple at Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh.

A flower seller sighted at Sangam, Prayag

A flower seller sighted at Sangam, Prayag

8 pro tips for traveling with family

After traveling for so many years I thought to jot down my experiences and share with you, let’s start with tips (Gyan) for traveling with family. Traveling solo, and with friends will come later. I am assuming you will be driving your own car –

  1. Research about place
    • Do not plan to travel to more than 2 destinations if you have young kids or your partner can not match your energy level. Short trips are not more than 3 days long, you can not cover many places and get exhausted rather than enjoying the trip if you are thinking to cover so many places. There is plenty of tourist and offbeat places around Delhi, where you can go and return back during weekends or long weekends.
    • Do good research about the place (refer https://wikitravel.org, highly recommended) and find out all good tourist spots around, you can also refer https://tripadviser.com for your destination and find out nearby places, read reviews. Take a printout of places or write all details of places in a notebook, hardcopies are a good backup. These sites will give you a fair idea of spots as per your taste (site-seeing, natural beauty or historical monuments, etc.).
    • Other than the study of place you also need to study about good restaurants, lodging with parking space and other amenities which you want.
    • Some places have opening and closing times, keep a note of that as well.
  2. Itinerary (planning route)
    • Avoid visiting a touristic place on weekends or public holidays, they will be hugely overpriced and over-crowded.
    • If you are planning for just one place, then it will be easy but in any case, make sure you have enough buffer time in hand. Delays are very common when you are traveling with family.
    • Also do not calculate your ETA based on google maps, their ETA is based on continuous driving, add 10-15 minutes every 150 KMs, you will have to stop often for someone’s natures call or tea-coffee breaks or kids chocolate or chips demands along with breakfast and lunch breaks.
    • Start with sunrise (in winters), calculate ETA, and make sure you either reach your destination before sunset or you have a night halt.
    • Normally we just focus on the destination and do not consider interesting spots on the way, where we can stop by and spend some time with family, this can be a small historical monument or riverside, etc. Consider these points of interest, while plotting your route.
    • Use google maps to plot the route, it’s very good, then search for point of interest on the route.
    • Points of interest on the way will make your return journey interesting as well, else towards the end of the trip, you will just focus on reaching home and will not enjoy that drive at all, neither your family, they will just sit, get bored and wait to reach the home.
    • Sometimes fuel stations are far from the place where you are going, make sure to fill your car tank on the way to avoid any hassle.
  3. Hotel booking
    • Most tricky bits! while traveling with family you can not afford to go without booking hotels in advance.
    • Try to locate a hotel in the middle of all points of interest in the destination, so that you can cut down local travel time and return back to the hotel whenever you want to.
    • Use https://www.tripadviser.com and read reviews and ratings of hotels at your destination. Book from MMT, Agoda, booking.com, etc, or the hotel website directly.
    • My personal preference is the govt. hotels or rest-houses. They are located at the best spot, maintain a good standard of accommodation and food is also hygienic. For Uttarakhand search for KMVN or GMVN hotels, Rajasthan RTDC hotels, Himachal HPTDC, for MP look for MPSTDC hotels.
    • Once you book the hotel, call the hotel in advance and tell them when you are arriving, call them again on the day you start your travel, keep updating them if you are late, trust me shit happens!
    • Sometimes confirmed booking gets canceled due to overbooking, it’s very common in tourist places. I went to Shimla once with the family, and after considering rating, reviews, parking space, Wi-Fi, hot water supply, and what not I booked a 4-star hotel in advance. Half-way on the way the hotel manager called me and said that they can not accommodate us as the hotel was over-booked due to a software glitch. In the end, they have accommodated us in a very smelly room and the car was parked 1 KM away.
  4. Packing
    1. No matter how much you think and plan, once you cross 50 KM from your home, you will start recollecting what you have forgotten to bring along. This is a very common problem, do not worry much about that, you have everything using which you can enjoy your trip.
    2. Always keep thin clothing, thin towel in your list of items to pack. Open your drawer and visit the bathroom a few times, and check if you will need anything from there. I find it a good practice that if you see something then you can decide if you need that or not. Power bank, mobile chargers, toothpaste, slippers are a few things I often forget while packing, but with this review process, chances of missing something will be greatly reduced.
    3. Try to keep the number of bags minimal, keep those things handy which you may need during travel, for example, snacks for kids or camera, jacket or other warm clothing, rest you can pack in one or two bags and dump in the boot. These will be things which you only need at the destination or next days. You can not negate the truth that extra baggage will be with you if you are traveling with family.
  5. Fooding (what and where to eat)
    1. When stopping for breakfast or lunch, make sure the place is neither too crowded nor totally empty. If the crowd is more, then you may not get the taste of food which you wanted and if no one wants to stop at a restaurant, then its service is not up to mark. A restaurant with a moderate crowd will be best where you can direct the cook about salt and chili ratio or quantity of ginger for your masala tea. After traveling for so many years, my menu is almost fixed now, Aalu paratha+butter with masala tea for breakfast and daal-tadka with butter roti for lunch. I prefer not to experiment with food during travel. I hardly had dinner on the way, as most of the time we reach to destination or place of night halt before dinner time.
    2. Quickly consumed items like paratha or daal are fresh, you can find others by looking on to other people’s plates. Avoid sweets if you are driving as they may trigger sleep, also you do not know how long back those were prepared.
    3. It’s funny but normally I do not order food for myself whenever traveling with family, as I know they will order extra and I can feed myself on the leftover. I hate food wastage. But if you see that food wastage is inevitable, better feed cows or dogs around rather than leaving on the plate.
  6. Shopping
    1. You would want to take your family to a local market where they can buy few souvenirs or gift items, always remember to buy few gift items for friends and family back home, they will love it and remember you whenever they see or use it. Personally, I did not follow this practice of buying gifts for a very long time though 😛 (which is bad).
  7. Roaming around
    1. Keep light while traveling in local, keep one small backpack per person, doesn’t matter if it empty in the beginning, it will get filled with stuff in your local travel for sure. For me, I have to carry 2 lenses which are bulky and heavy, along with a camera body, so a backpack is a must for me. I do not carry a tripod while traveling local, flash I do not have. You really need not worry about carrying food or water bottles, as you can get packaged water bottles, biscuits or chocolates everywhere.
    2. Always remember that traveling in local places is the core part of this trip, this is the reason why you are here, so do not rush or give timelines to your family or friends, let them take their own time, enjoy and experience the place. If you are tired and do not want to roam around, you may sit someplace and tell them to catch you when they are done.
    3. Match the pace with the slowest person in the group, they will bless you 😀
    4. Allocate a certain budget for kids or other family members for local shopping.
    5. Respect the privacy of other people. Being a tourist do not take everything for granted if you want to take a photo of something ask the owner if you want to take a photo of someone take their consent. The best trick to get permission is to befriend them, talk to them for sometime before taking your camera out and asking for photos. 
  8. Return journey
    1. Give more time to your return journey, spend some time to those point of interests which you have identified during planning.

Add if I have missed anything or you think needed, comments are open 🙂

Yearly ritual – part 1

Happy new year !

I guess it’s the best way to start the blog, its first post of year after all.

Well, there were 2 long weekends first of x-mas and then new year, took few offs in between and got 10 days of break from 23 Dec 2017 to 1 Jan 2018.

Few years back I came up with thought of giving sometime to myself, to slow down a bit and spend some time with friends, nature, wildlife or whatever I love to do, actually live a different way of life all-together and do whatever I can do to relax and since then it has became a part of my yearly plan, which happens only in winters.

Reached  to home town (Allahabad) on 23 Dec. Visited Sangam with brother and my ancestral place with dad on 24 Dec. Finalized my trip with brother BK and Dr. Sharad. Posting few photos taken on 24th.

A Sadhu at Sangam

A Sadhu at Sangam (Allahabad)

My great grandfather was the one who first moved in to my ancestral village from somewhere, got some land which was very cheap or even free that time and started farming. He had 3 sons, my grandfather and his 2 younger brothers, once grown up they built their own houses next to each other, they all had 3 sons, but slowly my fathers generation and my generation started moving out of the village and now not a single person lives there. Those 3 houses are now started turning into ruins. The front of house and the place between house and well is turned into a mini forest. I remember, when we use to visit the village in my childhood, we were not having enough space left to put a Charpai (a portable bed) to sleep, ironically only snakes and scorpions lives in that area now.

Well build by my grandfather and his 2 brothers

Well build by my grandfather and his 2 brothers

Temple build by my grandfather and his 2 brothers

Temple build by my grandfather and his 2 brothers

Cluster fig (hindi. Goolar) tree, we use to spent our summer noon on branches of these tree in childhood

Cluster fig (Hindi: Goolar) tree, we use to spent our summer noon on branches of these tree in childhood

House of our neighbor blacksmith, like all others he has also moved to some city for job

House of our neighbor blacksmith, like all others he has also moved to some city for job

We once had mud-wall house like this one, these are very comfortable in summer and we use to sleep on dry paddy plant to keep our selves warm.

Dusk

Dusk

I have visited this place many time since childhood and was fascinated by beauty of this place, this is a very large ground next to river Ganga, due to flooding every monsoon no one lives there.

First day in Allahabad and second day of this yearly ritual was dedicated to dad :). Will post about 3rd day later. Keep watching this space….