Why would anyone come up with the crazy idea of travelling from Mumbai to Darjeeling by car? I would do it, just for the thrill and experience of covering more than 2400 Km in a car. Good, bad or average, whatever it may be, I knew, it will be a lifetime experience to count on and tell stories about. So here I am, telling you yet another story of my travel experiment.
We bought our first ever car, Maruti Suzuki S-Cross on 19 November 2021 in Mumbai, where I work. What prompted us to buy this car now was to get this car to our native places in Bihar (Patna and Katihar), by covering some of the most interesting places along the route. As expected, everyone advised us not to do this since it meant paying much more than a flight ticket to Patna for four individuals and spending at least four days in a compact car. I think, the difficulty level, made this idea even more appealing and we decided to go for it, despite the resistance.
The initial idea was only to reach Patna, my wife’s city, by car in four days, taking necessary deviations and catching up on sleep each night so that we can start afresh the very next day. We considered two possible routes, one going through Indore-Orchha-Varanasi and another through Mandu-Jabalpur-Varanasi. We found the latter route more interesting, as it not only covered the historical counterpart of Orchha (Mandu) but also had the touchpoint of Bhedaghat (near Jabalpur) where we could witness the mystique waterfall of Dhuandhar and the river Narmada meandering through famed marble rocks seen in the Bollywood movies Asoka (the song, Raat ka Nasha Abhi) and Mohenjo Daro (crocodile fight scenes).
Mumbai to Mandu
Mandu to Jabalpur
Jabalpur to Varanasi
Varanasi to Patna
Having decided our course as the one hitting Mandu and Jabalpur, we started our four days’ long journey on 2nd December with my wife, a driver and two more family members to cover a total distance of 1881 Km. We were also mindful of the cost, as it required staying overnight in three cities with two rooms and a driver’s accommodation. The other major costs were petrol, driver’s pay-outs and toll booths. I have given a split-up of our expenses for your reference. The cost may, however, differ depending on the hotel you choose to stay.
- Stay (2 rooms x 3 days): 7500
- Petrol: INR 15000
- Driver: INR 4500
- Toll: INR 1950
- Food (5 persons x 4 days): 8200
- Tourist Points: 1900
- Total: 39,050
Day 1: Mumbai – Mandu
Date: 2nd December 2021
Distance Covered: 532 Km
Route Taken: Via Nashik – Dhule
Why this route: Shortest and fastest
Where to Eat: The Orchid, Malegaon Road, Dhule, Maharashtra
Where to Stay: MPT Malwa Retreat, Mandu
Why Mandu: Jahaz Mahal, Jami Masjid, Rani Roopmati Pavillion and Palace
Our Journey: Thanks to the excellent roads in Maharashtra, this was the smoothest part of our journey which gave us the much-needed confidence to take on a 606 km journey the very next day. The only small hiccup was a shorter route suggested by Google Map, going through uneven roads of a small village in Madhya Pradesh towards the last 40 Km of our journey. We actually felt ‘lost’ for some time, while travelling through the narrow broken roads of this village in the dark. The key takeaway was – never trust Google to tell you the best route. It always suggests the shorter route, no matter what the condition of the roads may be.
The next day we spent around 1.5 hours visiting Jami Masjid and Jahaj Mahal which were nearby before we headed for Jabalpur.
Day 2: Mandu to Jabalpur
Date: 3rd December 2021
Distance Covered: 606 Km
Route Taken: Via Dewas – Vidisha – Sagar
Why NOT this route: Longer and slower due to a busy town (Sagar) and a reserve forest with a speed limit of 20 Km/hour
Where to Stay: MPT Marble Rocks, Bhedaghat
Why Jabalpur: Dhuandhar waterfall, Marble rocks
Our Journey: This was the toughest part of our journey for three reasons. Firstly, given the distance, we started a bit late (11:00 am) from Mandu. Secondly, we chose a longer route to avoid the busy traffic of Bhopal, which was a wrong call. Lastly, a considerable part of the road towards the end goes through a reserve forest with countless speed breakers limiting your speed to 20Km/hour for the entire stretch. By the time, we reached Jabalpur, it was already 11:50 in the night. We spent the rest of the night in a Railway Guest House and headed for Bhedaghat by 7:00 AM.
As I have already been to Bhedaghat once (see the earlier post below), the idea was to take my wife and her family to this beautiful place. This was indeed the best part of the entire journey in terms of natural beauty and tourist attractions.
Day 3: Jabalpur to Varanasi
Date: 4th December 2021
Distance Covered: 491 Km
Route Taken: Via Katni – Mirzapur
Why this route: Surprisingly much better than the roads in Madhya Pradesh.
Where to Stay: Any hotel with private parking.
Why Varanasi: Ganga Ghats, Street Food, Pilgrimage
Our Journey: Our journey to Varanasi was again smooth, though we started quite late around 12:00 in the noon. We were utterly surprised to see the roads in Uttar Pradesh so good and maintained until the last 25 Km from Varanasi where the roads were broken and under construction.
What we did: Unfortunately, we could not explore Varanasi much except for giving its lip-smacking Kachodi-Sabji a try, along with hot Jalebi. While I wanted to experience the boat ride along the ghats of Varanasi, my other family members were keen on visiting the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. With the limited time we had, we could only make a failed attempt to get inside the temple. Failed, because none of us was willing to wait for two hours in a long queue where social distancing was just a mockery.
Day 4: Varanasi to Patna
Date: 5th December 2021
Distance Covered: 252 Km
Route Taken: Via Chandauli – Mohania – Arrah
Why this route: Shorter and faster (with tolls)
Why Patna: Ganga Ghat, Local Food
Our Journey: Although it was the shortest distance of our four days’ long road trip, it did take a considerable time for us to reach Patna. Needless to say, the roads did not support our high expectations set from the past three days.
Day 5, 6 and 7: Patna
Date: 6-8 December 2021
I did not travel for three days as the initial idea was only to reach Patna. [P.S. Patna is my wife’s city, where I get VIP treatment when I come.] While in Patna, I mostly focused on honing my driving skills, as I still did not have the confidence to drive my own car yet.
If you are in Patna for a few days, you can do a lot of things here. Find this out in my earlier blog post on Patna here.
In these three days in Patna, I also made an impromptu plan to take my parents to Darjeeling from my hometown, Katihar and thus extend this road trip by another three days. Read about the second leg of my road trip to Darjeeling in my next blog post.