This post was written after we got back from a wonderful trip to Khajuraho. We travelled with our own car and the route we followed was Bhopal - Sagar - Chattarpur - Khajuraho. It was 400 kms one-way, and the total time taken was 7 hrs and 15 minutes. This article follows my previous post asking about road conditions in a thread on IndiaMike.com, and this is my update to it.

You can read my previous thread here: "Road condition from Sagar to Khajuraho".

Traveling from Bhopal to Sagar

 Lakshmana Temple - Wall of the inner sanctum By Vishaka
The distance from Bhopal to Sagar is 180 kms and the road is in excellent condition. We started at 8:30 AM from Bhopal and it took me about 2 hrs 45 minutes to reach Sagar with a 15 min break at Raisen. The route was beautiful with picture book scenery on both sides of the road. There were fields after fields of various crops on undulating land, and it felt like you were driving through golf courses. There were small huts in the middle of the green fields, with a solitary mango tree for shade. It was just beautiful.

It was the 26th of Jan, 2008 that day, and throughout the journey we saw India’s Republic day being celebrated with enthusiasm. School children were holding flag marches, with flag hoisting and functions at all the village choupals and grounds. The scenes took me back to time when I used to take part in these activities as a school kid.

Once we reached Sagar there was a bit of confusion. There were no sign boards and no directions, and I had to ask the way out of Chattarpur at least 5 different times. One has to cross 3 railway crossings, and if you are unlucky then you may find all three closed like I did on my way back. These crossings are a real challenge of your driving skills, and if you come out unscathed then hats off to you. My car had a nasty bang at the first crossing.

It took about 20 minutes to cross Sagar since it was very crowded, the traffic is very slow, and everybody walked right onto the road. Horns are of no use, probably because everyone was deaf, and I felt like getting out of car and pleading them “PLEASE GIVE ME WAY...!”

You have to ask for Makroni chouraha for the road to Chattarpur. I later came to know that there was another way, which bypassed these 3 railway crossings and takes you to Makroni chouraha directly. But I am still not sure of this.

A difficult journey to Chattarpur

The distance from Sagar to Chattarpur is about 165 kms and the road is pretty much OK. A lot of patchwork has been performed on the pot holes, so you won’t find craters on the roads for which MP is notoriously famous for.

The road got narrow in between and it is there that life got difficult as I was driving my own car. I had to constantly get off the road since approaching trucks and jeeps wouldn’t give me any space. But it was mostly manageable.

Sagar to Chattarpur took me about 3 and half hours with a break of 30 minutes for lunch. We had packed lunch from home, so we stopped the car near a field with a big Banyan tree. We sat down under the Banyan tree, spread a bed sheet, and enjoyed the lunch and the cool breeze. It was a good picnic. I think holidays are about spending quality time with your near ones.

The landscape changed to dry land and forest in between Sagar and Chattarpur. There were a couple of Ghat sections on this route at which we had to be a bit careful. The jeeps, which ply between villages, were very recklessly driven.

Travel from Chattarpur to Khajuraho

 Khajuraho. Bhairav By bijapuri
The distance between Chattarpur to Khajuraho is about 50 kms and road is good with one side newly laid. It took me about 45 minutes to reach Khajuraho from Chattarpur. The road turns left for Khajuraho from a village called Bamitha. From Bamitha there is a double road to Khajuraho. A word of caution here, this double road, especially the left side as you go from Bamitha to Khajuraho has trees and electric poles right in the middle of the road. More dangerous are the one foot high concrete stumps of pillars just before Khajuraho. Be very careful at night when you drive at night, as they can rip your car in half.

I reached Khajuraho at 3:45 PM in the afternoon. The total time taken was 7hrs 15 minutes.

As you enter Khajuraho the five star hotels are in the beginning. Then come the hotels which face the small dry lake. After that there is the main market in front of Western group of temples and an umpteen number of hotels and lodges. I checked into Hotel Payal of MP Tourism which is after the western group.

Hotel Payal of MP Tourism was a nice, clean hotel with a garden, and it was a bit away from the hustle and bustle of the market. I generally prefer to stay away from the market. The rooms were clean, freshly painted, with an attached bathroom and 24 hrs hot water supply. Room rent was Rs. 690 for a double room with complimentary breakfast for 2 persons.

Both I and my wife like to eat food that is not spicy and is like what we eat at our homes. Also with a kid we prefer non-spicy and homely food. Throughout our stay at Khajuraho we ate at Hotel Payal only, and the food was excellent. Some guests were complaining about the service but i didn’t mind. I was in holiday mood and a 10 minute delay in service didn’t make any difference.

We were both tired so we took a nap for about an hour, which refreshed us, and then we went to the market in the evening. Most of the shops had overpriced handicraft items and clothes, which were available anywhere in central and north India. If you cannot stop yourself from shopping there then feel free to bargain hard. A starting price of 1/2 or even 1/3 of the quoted price may be a good start!

There was a light and sound show every evening in the western group of temples. The winter timings were 6:30 to 7:30 PM for the English version and from 7:40 to 8:40 PM for the Hindi version. We bought the tickets for the Hindi show. The show was mesmerizing; with the deep baritone voice of Amitabh Bachhan (a Bollywood superstar) taking you back in time to an era of Chandela rulers, who built these temples. If you want to photograph the temples illuminated in different lights then take a tripod and set it up behind the chairs were people sit. But then you will not be able to focus on the narrative! Your next best bet is to raise the ISO setting of your cam, set the lens to max aperture and hope for the best.

The Temples at Khajuraho

 Sculpture Detail - Khajuraho By Vishaka
Next morning we visited the western and the eastern group of temples. As soon as we entered the western group of temples we were just left awed at the sight of these huge temples surrounding us. The carvings and details were just exquisite. We were compelled to think how much effort went into making these. Carving these massive stones and then placing them one on top of another without the aid of any modern equipments and cranes is a monumental achievement. It is truly a herculean effort and truly an engineering marvel.

The temples have survived a thousand years of beating from extreme weather, armies of invaders, and natural calamities. It speaks volumes about the greatness of the civilizations India has.

The Temples of Love as they are referred to are not all about sex. Yes, there are graphic and vivid portrayals of acts of Kama Sutra but there are many more sculptures which are equally interesting and not about sex. Each of the temples stands on a massive platform with a defined architecture. Guides are available who speak all the big languages including English, German, Dutch, French, and Japanese. There are also audio aids available at the entrance. Guide books are also available and plaques in English and Hindi are at each of the temples, informing the visitors about the history and architecture of that particular temple.

I was sitting on the stairs of one of the temples. My daughter called me and I stood up with my camera bag.

THUD. THUD. THUD.

Out came 3 of my lenses on the floor. I had forgotten to ZIP the bag, a most common cause of lens damage. I cursed myself, and am still cursing myself, but fortunately all three survived with minor bruises.

The Pandava Caves near Khajuraho

 Temples of Khajuraho By mainak
After lunch we decided to check out the Pandava falls and caves. The Pandava falls are about 30 kms from Khajuraho in Panna National Park. The gate entry is a further 5 kms from the gate where jeeps for safari go in the park. The falls are half a kilometer from the gate entry. Vehicle entry is Rs. 200. However, if you are on foot, then its only Rs.15 per person.

We parked the car at the gate and decided to walk. After half a kilometer there were 100 odd steps down, which lead to the fall and the pool in front of it. Trust me, don’t miss this place. It’s an amazing experience. Even though the falls were very narrow, because of poor rainfall that year, but the tranquility of the place is something to experience. We were all alone there for an hour and suddenly we were at peace with ourselves. We were listening to the sound of the falls, the sound of dripping water on the caves, and the amazing sight of a pool in middle of nowhere. Peace is what we experienced here. I am not sure whether the falls are open in the summer, but do make an effort to visit this place.

We returned from the caves in the evening from the falls and decided to check out the Chandela emporium just after the five star hotels. Most of the stuff was from Rajasthan. Boy! What an expensive place it was. Even the pricing was in dollars ! It was certainly not for us, so fifteen minutes of window shopping was all we could afford, so we ran back from there.

We were feeling hungry, and my daughter was insisting on eating pastry. After a bit of a search we found a German bakery, run by a Nepali guy. This bakery is just next to Hotel Gautama, and in front of the lake. We had an apple pie and nut cake, which was delicious. I had never eaten an apple pie before, so you might not want to take my word for it, but it certainly tasted very good. We loitered around in the market for a while then headed back to our hotel. Dinner as usual was good.

Initially I had planned to stay one more day to visit Panna National Park in the morning. But with a small kid and biting cold it was just not advisable to venture out at 6:00am in an open jeep. So we decided to go back home the next morning.

Back to Bhopal

 Khajuraho By mainak
We headed back for Bhopal at 10:00 am. Before the trip, we packed a couple of apple pies and other cakes from the German bakery. We ate lunch at a roadside dhaba just before Sagar. It was a delicious lunch. We had Dal Tadka, Baingan (Brinjal) Bharta, with Tandoori roti. We sat on a manji (bed made from rope) and ate off a patiya (wodden plank). Nothing beats the original dhaba stuff. Your taste buds are revitalized.

We reached safe and sound at 5:00 pm in the evening in Bhopal.

All in all we enjoyed the trip very much. It was a welcome break from a mundane routine.

One more thing... Sanchi can also be covered in this trip since it’s only a couple of kilometers detour from Raisen. Sanchi certainly merits a look if you’re passing so near to it.