The wild heart of India is a ruggedly beautiful place. Pashan Garh in Panna, near the world famous temples of Khajuraho, is a destination by itself. Join AutoCar (March ’09) on its sojourn into the wild…
If you are driving from Delhi, AutoCar (March’09) suggests that you break your trip in Gwalior. This will enable you an early start in the day from Gwalior and reach Panna without much hassle. On the return run, you could do the Panna-Delhi slog in one log drive (around 13 hours), but be warned that you will hit the Agra-Delhi section after dark and that there will be much traffic on that road since it is a very busy road. Mornings see rush-hour traffic towards Agra while evenings are full of cars heading back towards Delhi.
The road from Delhi to Agra is fast but rather boring as you follow the line of fast-moving traffic. Driving through Agra towards Gwalior needs one to exercise caution as you will encounter much chaos caused by unruly traffic.
But once one hits NH2, traffic is minimal and the roads are wide and fast. The roads are well-tarred and even the Chambal Valley section, which falls on the route between Agra and Gwalior, is now much safer than it used to be about 15 years ago. In fact, you could also stop and go for a boat safari on the Chambal River…just imagine!
The road from Jhansi to Panna is meant to be driven at sunrise. The mustard and green fields dancing in the soft rays of the early morning sun do wonders to the mind and calm it more than an expensive spa treatment…A 5 a.m. start from Gwalior had the AutoCar team (March ’09) in Panna by 11.30 am.
Panna is a sleepy little town with no real demarcation between the village and the national park. There are fences and boundary walls which keep humans out but animals regularly stray and it is not unusual to see deer on the road. You can take your own vehicle into Panna but it is mandatory for you to hire a guide who will come along with you. Honking is prohibited and reversing horns are absolutely banned. The tracks inside the national park are okay for a saloon, but there are some uneven patches, especially those across streams where a saloon might scrape its underbelly. So watch out for those.
The Pashan Garh lodge is luxurious and maintains the jungle safari-like ambience. For example, says Rishad Saam from AutoCar (March ’09), “when we were having our drinks on the sit-out after dark, in the evening, the lament of a jackal came riding on the wind in a long mournful howl and it was a deliciously thrilling moment.”
The open huge bathrooms, the surprise dinner locations, the surrounded-by-forest breakfast deck and the green and sparkling swimming pool all make this place one that you could easily lounge around all day long. At dinner time, roaring bonfires keep groups warm and around the periphery of the meadow were unharnessed bullock carts that had been converted into cozy dining booths…
The most thrilling point would have to be the early morning safari into the reserve. While there is only one tiger left in Panna – there was a lot more to spot for the AutoCar team (March ’09). The Crested Serpent Eagles, Red Necked Vultures and Indian Rollers to name a few…also the best sighting for them were a pair of jackals that seemed unperturbed and ran behind the car for over 20 mins.
While Panna cannot promise you a tiger sighting what you can do to see a tiger in the wild is drive the 120km from Pashan Garh to Katni and then a further 90km to Bandhavgarh where the chances of coming across the big cat are extremely high.
So f you’re looking for an ‘unplugged’ break –Panna is the place to head….