It was long drive through the heart of India. Bangalore – Pench – Jhansi – Agra – Mukhteshwar – Chaukri – Musiyari – Binsar – Corbett – Jaipur – Nashik – Bangalore. A little more than 7000 km.
Pench – my usual first day destination from Bangalore (it takes me 15-16 hours for 1200+ km) – was hot and humid. The evening was relaxing, given I was staying at a place whose balcony overlooked the jungle. I had no times to do safaris this time, so left the next morning. The roads till Jhansi were fantastic. However, I had to slow down once I crossed into UP. The numbers of cows increased by 10X, and humans by 5X. Got lost trying to take a shortcut near Jhansi. Google Maps led me to a dirt track which eventually became 8 feet wide, and passed through a few villages. When will I ever learn and stop going on detours just because it looks interesting? Got stuck near Gwalior for a few hours, the traffic wasn’t moving. A SNAFU due to road construction, an accident, and a convoy of army trucks passing. All at the same time. This meant that I had to cross the Chambal/Morena stretch after 7 pm. Oh well. A friend had told me to avoid stopping, and not to take panga with local drivers. Followed the second advice, but not the first, when I stopped at a local dhaba. There were some interesting looking guys lounging on charpoys, waiting for mutton (which was getting cooked), and having local beer. Was tempted to join them. Reached Agra late at night, just in time for dinner. Left early next morning, because I wanted to avoid Noida traffic. Yamuna Expressway was a little misty. Had breakfast at Gajraula McDonalds. Decided to take the Kaladhungi – Nainital route via Bazpur. The potholes were only one foot deep. While passing through Kaladhungi, I stopped for a while to breathe the forest air, and to remember the days spent exploring Corbett country on foot during the autumn of 2012.
In Mukteshwar, I went for a long night walk. A guard did warn me that wild animals were common after 8 pm, but I figured that if I made plenty of noise while walking, they would stay away. Spent an hour sitting on a bench, near the little square. There wasn’t a human in sight. The hoarse warning call of a barking deer kept me company.