The route from Shajapur to Karanvas via Sarangpur was a 'karavas'. Actually, it was more about the brazen attitude of the drivers that was making life difficult. With patience, you could come to terms with the potholes, but not with the people treading on them. Panting and fuming, we reached the scenic town of Biora at the stroke of 12 noon.
There's a tourist motel right on NH3 - don't miss it if you travel to Biora. The food's great and the hospitality even better. The friendly receptionist-cum-waiter advised us to take the Biora-Bhopal route for the return journey. His tip was zillion times more valuable than the one we paid him, we found out on our way back.
After a delicious meal of Pav Bhaji and Chaas (The Bhaji was not the tomato-dominated stuff that we relish in Mumbai, it's a rich mix of fresh vegetables, yet looks red and tastes even better), we were ready to encounter the last leg that proved to be the longest one.
The roads are much better if you compare them with the Indore-Biora, hence the journey was not all that arduous, at least the Beenagunj-Guna stretch. But after Guna, the roads get narrower and the maze of trucks gets wider. Interestingly, throughout the Indore-Gwalior route, you are forewarned about approaching Ghat sections whenever the bend is minimal, they're hardly noticeable in fact. And in contrast, the couple of hair pin bends that really merit a caution come with no warning whatsoever.Wonder how do they define a 'ghat' in this part of the world.
Post Guna, you pass through the insignificant townships of Badarwas and Lukwasa. At Lukwasa, we had tea at a stall with an amusing title "Ziddi Pandit". The tea was excellent and I looked around to spot Mr.'Ziddi' but only a urchin seemed to run the show. We left the scene wondering who was 'Ziddi' and why was he so? (come to think of it, this could be a nice film title like 'Ziddi Pandit ziddi kyon hai?' akin to 'Albert Pinto ko gussa kyon aata hai')
After leaving Kolaras behind, we arrived at Shivpuri, the abode of Lord Shiva. This is an ancient place that finds mention in mythology as well as history. It also houses a promising 'tourist village' and a rich forest reserve. Years earlier when I was a small child, we had spent a night at a motel here, so I was told by my parents. Years later, when I looked around, I shuddered at the very thought of doing an encore. The town is excessively shabby, filthy really ...maybe the interiors could be better. But who knows? It was a tragic sight really, the place has such vintage value but what we saw around was only nuisance value.
It was getting dark now but thankfully the visibility was still fine. The Khankar-Mohana-Ghatigaon went on and on - it was 7.30 pm by the time we saw boards of Gwalior welcoming us. The approach road to the main city is so narrow that you would miss it if you don't ask for it.
Finally, we had arrived in the historic city. The city roads are awesome and although the drive to Hotel Landmark was confusing, thanks to the contrasting advice we got at different points, the whole effort was well worth it.
By the time, we reached our suite, it was 8.30 pm. Thankfully, the hotel service was excellent...just what one would expect after a long drive. The food was super, so was the beer, just that the waiter lacked the Mumbai finesse to open the bottle. I felt helpless, watching the rich Kingfisher froth spill all over the place - nothing short of a national waste. Vijay Mallaya would have been equally upset had he seen the mess.
Gwalior seems to have changed a lot over the years, for the better I would like to believe. The streets were full of life and the dazzle of commerce was exceptional - what with malls, multiplexes and shopping complexes all over the place. The area what they call City Centre is particularly eye-catching.
But I had come down with a purpose - to locate a place called Jiwaji Ganj and Ratan Colony in the old city where I had spent a few of my formative years. I looked forward to the next morning.
To be continued...