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Travelogue: Satpura National Park & Tiger Reserve, MADHAI (मढ़ई)

There could not have been a better location to celebrate the Family Re-Union after almost 14 years. Everything was pre-arranged and booked well in advance for this Jungle trip by the senior-most member & Head of the family. Right from booking the air-conditioned 12-seater Force Traveller van to drive all of us together all the way and the room reservations at the Forest Resort at Madhai. A short vacation with a stay of Two Days at Madhai was absolute bliss, which every member of the Family from 5 year old grand-son to 77 years old grand-father would cherish for the rest of their lives.

Satpura National Park & Tiger Reserve
The Jungles of Satpura, now known as Satpura National Park and Tiger Reserve, established in 1981, spread over a total area of 1427 km2, encompassing Pachmarhi (पचमढ़ी) and Bori Sanctuaries; as kids we have grown up accompanying our father and travelling with him into these thick dense forests much before they were declared as “Tiger Reserve”. Probably the single largest Reserve Forest, declared in 1999 as Satpura Biosphere Reserve, covering the dense and rich Teak heritage forests of Bori, Pachmarhi Sanctuary and Satpura Tiger Reserve. The trip to these jungles was a trip down memory lane, revisiting our past. Nostalgia because it was none other than my Father (a retired IFS, Forest Officer) was then deputed to these Jungles and a member of the core-team responsible for developing the blue-print for Satpura National Park. This was the link that brought the whole family back here after all these years.

Madhai is about 136 KMs from Bhopal and it takes anywhere about 5 hours of driving time, depending upon the traffic, the road conditions and stop-over. Best time to visit is October to April. The National Park is closed for visitors during the monsoon months of July through October. This spot is not hugely publicized and promoted just yet and hence not corrupted and abused by the commercial tourist activities. This makes it an ideal jungle safari to enjoy wild-life in a truly natural and undisturbed surrounding under the dense thick forests. Unlike many other commercialized National Parks where Tigers can be seen like domestic cattle.

We stopped over at Sohagpur to visit Mr. R.P. Singh (Field Director, Satpura National Park) and Mr. Nagar at their offices, basically to meet with them in person and thank them for the room-reservations at Madhai Forest Guest House, which happens to be a very busy and preferred location for all the visiting VIPs. The meeting turned out to be very informative as well since they were extremely helpful in sharing with us some of the key developments and the current status of Flora and Fauna of the region.

Boat Ride into the Forest Resort
We arrived Madhai late afternoon, well before the sun-set. Madhai Forest Resort is located right at the banks of Denwa river and is the entry point to Satpura National Park & Tiger Reserve. The private vehicle must be parked on this side of the river and we are then ferried with bag and baggage in a Motor-Boat that is owned by the Forest Department, for the very purpose. This feature of the unusual entrance to the resort by itself gives a complete twist to the normal boring story, whereby one usually drives into a guest house or a resort. The late afternoon boat-ride took away the fatigue and tiredness of 5-6 hours of drive thanks to some of the worst roads (State Highways) one could imagine across India, all the way from Bhopal. After this short boat ride, every one was fresh as a fiddle, ready with their Cameras and the Binoculars to enjoy the setting sun alongwith a cup of Hot Tea. 
Deer species at the Forest Resort
Black Buck, Cheetal, Sambhar and Blue Bull were fearlessly walking around inside the resort campus.

Mr. Mishra and Staff
We were welcomed by the Officer-in-charge on location Mr. Mishra, who gave us a brief introduction about our stay at the resort, the food and also planned out events for the next day for us. The resort is losely protected by barbed-wire fence and we were categorically instructed not to venture out beyond the fence. This, with other such rules and restrictions, and rightly so, we were not used to while as kids, and it did dampen the spirits a bit of some of the family members who have recently taken to serious bird watching and environmental studies. But then once in a reserved forest environment, one must follow the guidelines and respect the instructions.

Solar Panels
The resort and the whole set-up surely is not designed or meant for the weak-hearted, luxury-seeking urban tourist. One has to have a keen interest in nature, wild-life and environment to be able to overlook and ignore mundane comforts and small details. There is no electricity and hence no fans and air-conditioners. However, it was heartening to see the installation of Solar Panels, which provide limited electricity during the night. Special light fittings designed to suit the Solar Energy were installed in all the rooms and common areas. Use of this green and environmental friendly electricity in the heart of nature was something to be so proud of; and the credit entirely goes to the very people running the project. There were no mobile signals as well, which was absolutely fine in such a serene setting. After all, who would want to spoil the beautiful surroundings and noises of the nature with ringing cell-phones? The rooms are neat and tidy with clean and well maintained toilets and this is more than enough for a nature enthusiast. The staff was very well behaved and always ready to help.

The next day we made two Jungle Safari trips in the open Gypsy – early in the morning and another on a different route in the evening. The vehicles were well maintained as well and the drivers extremely well-trained and well-informed about the jungle details. We discovered some more rules on this day - driving around after-dark was totally prohibited; and so was stepping down from the Gypsy during the safari trip. On the contrary, we as kids always went around on night-safari in open Jeep with search-lights in hand, looking for the wild night-life and always walked down to the nearest springs or to study pug-marks. That small fun and adventure was missing but things have changed since. Now it is no more an open forest but a National Park and a Tiger Reserve. 
Wild Indian Bison
We managed to see most of the Fauna such as – Wild Bison, Wild Boar, Wild Dogs, Bear and plenty of Deer species etc. We missed the Big Cat though, as we were lttle too early into the Jungles just after the monsoons. There was enough water for The King to get down from deep inside the mountains looking for food and water. Also the general behavior of wild-life and activities of the Jungle were too obvious and normal to be signalling the presence of the Big Cat anywhere close. This reminded us of the large wall hanging at the resort office, which says – “You might have not seen me... But I have seen you”.

You might have not seen me...But I have seen you
We sat in the open veranda outside until late night under complete darkness and thoroughly enjoyed the Jungle. We then noticed a motor boat idling away slowly in the middle of the river and then moved rather fast and disappeared into the darkness. We went across to the staff quarters to alert them of the incident and were pleasantly surprised to know that this was the night patrol team that has just left for the usual rounds. It was nice to see the team of forest guards working through the night, without supervision.

Rising Sun  ( सूर्य नमस्कार) 
Next day in the morning once again enjoyed the Sun-Rise and also noticed a few Crocodiles floating in the river and were told by the staff that this part of the river has plenty of crocodiles and they are visible when the water recedes during summer. After a leisurely morning and a heavy brunch, we started back. The Motor Boat ferried us across the river Denwa back to the parking lot.

पंडित  जी  की  कचौरी 
We were told not to miss and do stop over at Sohagpur to enjoy “Pandit Ji ki Kachauri”. Pandit Ji has been making Kachauri at this shop since last 45 years. It was an absolutely delicious stop-over and a little bit of chit-chat with Pandit-Ji revealed that he has served Kachauries to every visiting VIP, including Dr. Abdul Kalam. His sons are well settled now with Government jobs and he continues making Kachauries; and he said that he will enjoy doing so until he has customers coming to him – this is passion in the true sense of the word, nothing less than a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs!!

Lastly, this travelogue would not find its due place on this Blog if it does not leave behind Socially and Politically relevant footprints. So here we go:

The drive between Bhopal and Madhai was actually the worst part of the trip. Every time I have visited Bhopal in the last 15 years or so, I have always admired the city of lakes and the way it is being maintained. But I never got the chance to drive around the State Highways in MP. This trip was the realization of the fact that the development in MP, if any, starts and ends with the city limits of Bhopal, the capital of MP. Driving through the Sate Highways even in Budhni, the constituency of current CM, Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, we noticed that the road was almost non-existent. In fact, the small narrow roads (actually jeep-tracks) inside the Tiger Reserve were much better maintained than the State Highways. This shameful state of affairs of Road and Highways infrastructure in MP is even more relevant to the fact that this belt within a 5-6 hours of driving distance from Bhopal boasts of not one, not two but THREE out of the total 27 World Heritage Sites in IndiaBhimbetka Rock Shelters, Sanchi Stupas and Khjuraho. All successive governments at State, whether Congress or BJP, have done precious nothing to improve the infrastructure across the state of MP.

Throw garbage in the bins, not in Narmada
Only garbage in Narmada, nothing else!
On our return journey we stopped over for a short while at Hoshangabad, a small town located at the banks of Narmada, fifth largest river in the Indian subcontinent. We were there on the day after Durga Pooja and we could not believe what we saw. There was not even an inch of clean patch of water on the Ghat and one would not dare even put a hand into it. There were notices and boards all over the place instructing the religious crowds not to litter the river and use only garbage bins, but these two pictures taken at the same spot but in opposite directions, speak volumes.

So first the Roads and then the River, neither the infrastructure nor the environment is of any priority for the government. Public is equally apathetic to both the issues. Life goes on...

Comments

  1. सतपुड़ा के घने जंगल
    नींद में डूबे हुए से
    उंघते अनमने जंगल

    A beautiful write up .. the pics could be bigger though :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. good write ups, and good clicks too :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow! What a trip... I too remembered the line @ShadowsGalore mentioned... सतपुड़ा के घने जंगल... Have wished to visit it since long time, someday soon :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lovely write-up. Enjoyed the details, hope the road conditions become somewhat better.

    ReplyDelete
  5. where is the Tigers in Satpurah So Called Tiger Reserve, Mr Johri.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. May I please know the basis of your question? Can you please elaborate why you ask me this?

      Delete
  6. Excellent write-up. Love the place to visit everytime i got a chance...

    ReplyDelete

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