I think it was in mid June when Brinda called me from her office on a afternoon.
"I have to take "Mandy" of 10 days this year"
What do you mean by "Mandy"????
"Mandatory leave, Let us plan to go to Varanasi this time in September last week. No excuses "
"OK, let me start working on it".
I love such instructions. Normally i do all the initial planning and will be finally approved by her. Isn't it same with everyone!!
It is now my turn to talk to my boss in the USA and get the green signal.
Our road trip to Chattisgarh and Kanha in March this year had given us confidence of doing long road drives. Hence the mode of travel was a foregone conclusion. Even my parents are used to our wanderlust and consented as well!!
I love planning these trips as it gives me a chance to play around with places. Since we had lot of time on hand, it gave me flexibility to include many places. This is how we started
Bangalore - Hyderabad - Pench - Jabalpur - Bandhavgarh - Khajuraho - Lucknow (via Ayodhya) - Varanasi (Via Bodh Gaya) - Calcutta - Puri - Vijayawada - Bangalore
I give a call to Dr Abheek Ghosh my friend in Nagpur to check on Pench. A fantastic guy, he is passionate with wild life conservation and colloborates with Forest authorities in Pench and Tadoba on different projects and knows every nook and corner of these parks. He confirms that the park will not open before 15 Oct. He also says that all national Parks in MP will open only after 15 Oct. What a damper to start with. I am back to planning board now that we are not doing national parks. I need to look for places to fill in those days.
I rework the route and decide that we can go to Pachmarhi from Hyderabad and then to Bhopal and beyond. The new route looked like this
Bangalore - Hyderabad - Pachmarhi - Bhopal - Khajuraho - Lucknow - Varanasi - Calcutta - Puri - Vijayawada - Bangalore
We start looking for accommodation in all these places and call them up for reservations. Some of the hotels are on "must stay" list of ours and we knew that we have to book at least two months in advance not to get disappointed. This was true of Hotel Ganges View, a fantastic hotel in Banaras (more about it later).
Now, another problem erupts - TELENGANA AGITATION.
The agitation was peaking and with no signs of any resolution, we were is a dilemma whether we should go via Hyderabad. In fact, the complete stretch of road after you leave Anantapur till Maharashtra border on NH 7 goes through Telengana.
Is it worth taking a risk and get stuck in the beginning of the trip which will ruin the whole plan?
I was not prepared to take the risk. Speaking to some of my friends in Police/Army in Hyderabad confirmed my doubts.
Dump Hyderabad. What next??
I go back and rework the route. We all experience EUREKA moments. This was the one for me. I tell my wife that we go via Pune. It will also give us a chance to visit Shirdi on the way. My wife is overjoyed as she is a staunch devotee of Sai Baba.
I rework the route. Pachmarhi is dropped and Mandu is added instead. I tell my wife we can go to Maheshwar as well.
"Isn't it the same place which is known for Maheshwari sarees"
"Yes" comes my reply.
"I will shop for sarees there"
"Yeah, you should" (can anyone say No to his wife!!)
The plan is now firmed up and the Version 3 (Final version) of the plan looked like this
Bangalore - Pune - Dhar - Indore - Bhopal - Khajuraho - Lucknow - Varanasi - Calcutta - Puri - Vijayawada - Bangalore
You must be wondering as to how did Udaipur and Orchha figure in this whole plan? I will come to that as we progress on our journey
We finalised the itinerary which looked like this. The journey to start on 24 Sep and end on 08 Oct. The last leg of journey being on 08 Oct from Vijayawada to Bangalore.
The Journey continues.......Next post - Readying the vehicle etc....