I badly needed my tiger fix, an addiction. I had about seven days to spare, and looked at a few options – Corbett (clubbing my trip with official work in Gurgaon), Ranthambore (tagging along with a photo tour), Bandhavgarh etc. Finally narrowed down on Kanha and Tadoba. Kanha, because safaris were still available, and Kanha is beautiful even without the tigers. Tadoba, because I like going there at least once every year.
Had kept the bags packed the night before. I was supposed to wake up at 4 AM and be out by 4.30. But snoozing led to one hour delay. Was finally out of the house at 5:30 AM. I had a 1200km drive ahead, but decided to take it easy. I needed to reach Kanha around noon the next day. There were no other deadlines.
Bangalore – Pench – Kanha
Crossed Bangalore airport by 6:30, while keeping below the speed limits. Then started cruising, maintaining a stead speed. There was more traffic on NH7 than I had expected. Had ‘breakfast’ while driving – juice, bananas, biscuits, some chocolate. Years back I used to be a lot more serious about food/snacks for long drives – Red Bull, energy bars etc. Then I realized that it is best to keep things simple. Main thing is to stay hydrated, have fruits if possible, and avoid anything heavy. Reached Hyderabad after noon. I took it easy on the Hyderabad ORR since I realized that I was getting 1-1.5 km less mileage on the new Pirelli Scorpion A/T tyres, compared to the old Dunlops. The ‘lower than ideal’ tyre pressure was also to blame – I had kept 30.5-31 PSI instead of 32 PSI.
Decided not to stop for lunch, but finish all the food items I had bought. Got down after every 2-2.5 hours, to stretch a bit. The temperature forecast for Nagpur/Chandrapur wasn’t encouraging – it was around 44 degrees, and in the next few days Chandrapur was supposed to reach 48 degrees. The drive wasn’t very uncomfortable, with the AC going at full blast. In any case, I needed to get used to the heat – I would be out in the sun for 8 hours every day, for the next few days.
Before crossing Adilabad, I called up MPTDC Rukhad, and booked a room. The AP-MH border stretch was bad as usual. But not as bad as last year, when I had crossed the stretch after monsoons, in the night, when it was raining. In spite of cruising sedately (relatively speaking), I reached Nagpur bypass around 7 pm. It started raining a bit. I had mixed feelings about the rain. It would bring down the temperature a bit. But I was more worried about the impact on animal sightings. Anyway, the rain stopped after a while. When I was going through a narrow railway crossing (it was dark, and it was drizzling), a bike – coming from the other side – skidded on the tracks and fell right in front of me. My speed was slow, so I was able to stop and swerve in time.
The drive through Pench was nice. I rolled down the windows from time to time, to enjoy the smell of the forest after the rains. I was hoping to come across a cat or two (perhaps out to mark their territory after the rain), but they didn’t oblige. Truck traffic is heavy through Pench, at least till 10 pm, so the animals stay away from the highway.
Reached Rukhad a little after 9 pm. The MPTDC tourist lodge is in the middle of a forest stretch, and given that the room was economical, it was ideal for a stopover. The food was pretty good – I recommend the place for a breakfast or night halt. The manager was surprised to hear that hear that I drove from Bangalore. Met a local guy, who told me that it was possible to take my vehicle inside the forest for a safari. Good. If I didn’t feel tired, and could wake up before 6, then inside the forest I would go, before I headed for Kanha.