Chittorgarh to Indore – 335 km approx.
I got up early to clean the car. I like to have the car always clean and gleaming. A 30 minutes effort turns the car from a shabby one to a sparkling one. We were ready by 8.00 for our breakfast. Soon after breakfast, we checked out, paid the bill and left the hotel. By 9 am we were on the NH 48 again after filling the tank in a petrol bunk just 500 meters before taking a left turn to be on the highway.
The road to be taken was NH 48, NH 52 and MP SH17 for this 335 km sojourn. The road was superb as long as the NH 48 and NH 52 were concerned. The first 180 km or so was on the NH 48 and NH 52. We left NH 48 just about 10-15 km from the city. It turns towards Mumbai from there. We took a left turn to be on NH 52. Barring the stops at toll plazas, the drive was smooth. We passed through the towns Nimbaheda, Pipaliya Mandi and Neemuch. Shortly we passed through the checkpost at MP-Rajasthan border. It took about 2 and a half hours to cover the first 180 km when we stopped for tea at a restaurant named JOYO. It had a clean and neat washroom facility which we always preferred while stopping at any roadside restaurant or dhaba.
The NH 52 leads to Ratlam from this point whereas we had to leave the highway and enter the SH17 from here turn left. The SH17 is a 2 lane road winding through villages and small towns for about 85 km via small towns named Unhel and Nagda. Greenery all around. Fields are lush with soya crop, corn and sugarcane. Our speed was considerably slower on this road as the traffic was heavy and the stretches passing through the small towns and villages were badly maintained. We had to pay the toll on this road also though I could not understand what for the toll was collected as the road was not at all properly maintained. Lot of patchworks, potholed and rough stretches. It took us nearly two hours to negotiate this stretch of 85 km.
Soon we reached Ujjain ring road which bypasses the city and leads us to the 4 lane Ujjain-Indore Road. By 1.45 pm we were on that road and by 2.30 pm we had reached Indore. We could locate the hotel with the help of Google map though it gave confusing guidance initially. It happens in busy city roads where one may sometimes misunderstand the guide.
The hotel Country Inn & Suites by Radisson is in the heart of the city. There is an 8 lane road in front of the hotel having a BRT corridor, 2 service lanes and 2 pedestrian corridor. The check-in was smooth and after dumping our luggage in the room we went for lunch as the restaurant was to close at 3 pm. After lunch, we came back to our room and rested for the afternoon.
In the evening, we took a stroll along the road. It was a busy marketplace. A few malls and some showrooms of branded clothing are situated on this road and hence there is a crowd always. One more thing we noticed for the crowd to thicken is the mushrooming of ‘golgappa’ vendors every few yards. The locals thronged around the ‘khomcha’ (a makeshift platform to hold the basket) and the vendors did brisk business. Pedestrians, bikers and cars were all there looking for space to have ‘golgappa’, a very popular Indian snack. There are benches on the road to sit and watch the traffic and the assorted hoopla. One could cross the road either at the traffic lights or at the bus stands on the BRT corridor. This is the second city I saw after Ahmedabad where BRT was working. It failed in Delhi. The city of Indore is the cleanest city in the country and it was evident. So many street vendors were there in that short one km stroll that we took, however, we did not find anyone littering. A place is clean as long as the inhabitants show the willingness. It is incorrect to blame the civic agencies all the time.
We returned to our hotel and had dinner. The restaurant is fabulous and apart from a la carte, it offered a buffet dinner at a very attractive price. The staff were courteous and prompt in their service.
Indore to Omkareshwar – 75 km on Indore-Khandwa road – NH 27.
We left our hotel by 8.30 am after breakfast and headed towards the NH 52. Google map showed the way. After few km on the highway, we took a left turn and we were on Indore-Khandwa road, a two-lane road, passing through villages, small towns, and through steep hilly roads where curves were quite dangerous. The road was also breached by manned railway level crossings at 3 places. There is no toll on this road hence the truck traffic is quite heavy. This information was given by one fellow driver when we got stuck in a traffic mess near a railway level crossing. The jam was massive on either side of the track, more than 2 km long on both sides. As usual, the cars, jeeps, SUVs and some local buses were unruly and formed another line on the right side of the road making it impossible for the oncoming traffic to pass. Everyone wanted to surge ahead. The road was just two-lane. The roadside is not paved and due to rains, the soil has turned loose. No heavy truck would dare to leave the road. There were few policemen but for them maintaining order and clearing the jam was a herculean task. Some good Samaritans played their role and the jam started loosening slowly. We were stuck for more than an hour.
Though the distance is just about 75 km, the narrow road aided with heavy traffic, sporadic rains and potholed stretches passing through the small towns made the speed really pathetic. All the traffic was moving at 30 kmph on an average and for the heavy trucks, this was half the speed. The ghat road portion – about 15 km – is really dangerous with sharp curves and steep slopes/inclines. At one particular turn, the vehicles needed to climb or decent using the wrong lanes. Since this was a toll-free road, trucks use this route to save on toll charges, which they pocket themselves.
Since the road is just two lanes with no central verge, there is no chance of maintaining even average speed. A hardly two hours’ drive took more than 3 and half hours. Starting at 8.30 am from our hotel, we reached Omkareshwar around 12-noon thanks to the last stretch of 15 km which was beautifully maintained and was a breeze.
The main temple is on an island and a bridge is constructed to walk across. There are boats and boatmen who woo you relentlessly to take their services. From the parking slot, the temple is just about a km road flanked on both sides by shops selling puja items and shops for sundry purposes. The boatmen tried to scare us by telling that the walk is about 2 km. We just brushed them aside and proceeded towards the temple. Shortly we crossed the bridge. The River Narmada was flowing in the deep gorge below. There were solid rock formations on both the sides of the river and these posed a very imposing view of the riverbank. There is also a dam on the river on our right while going to the temple. Still, the residual water in the river was deep enough for navigation. The tranquillity of the surrounding was shattered by the constant sound of the diesel engines attached to the numerous colourful boats on the river.
I had booked online tickets for special darshan. So it was easy to visit the sanctum sanctorum. There was a huge rush in the free darshan queue. We avoided that. There is a huge menace in the form of the priests who, from the time I had entered the city, followed me and tried to thrust upon their services in the puja, darshan etc. They were everywhere, right from the entrance to the very entry gate of the temple. I was approached by more than a dozen of them. The boatmen had tried to dissuade me from walking as the distance would be more than 2 km whereas it was not even 500 meters. The boatmen, cunningly, did not mention the steep stairs down towards the jetty and up to the temple from the other side. This is a pity in every temple town. For them, pilgrims are business opportunities and they try to encash it using even nefarious means. Since we are accustomed to such practices, we ignore their advances.
We returned to the mainland walking back through the bridge to visit the Mamaleshwaram temple, the twin Jyotirlinga site along with Sri Omkareshwar. A very old temple, maybe a thousand years old, is in very dilapidated condition. The ASI has put up a notice board declaring the temple as a protected monument, but that’s it. There is no sign of repair or protection of the temple from decaying. Here the crowd was thin. We could enter the sanctum sanctorum easily and offer our puja to the deity. In this particular month of Shravan, as per Hindu calendar, worshipping Shiva assumes special significance. In the temple complex, there was a sizeable number of devotees doing various pujas and the priests were busy.
With this visit, I have completed visiting all the 12 Jyotirlingas in the country. This year I visited 3 such places – Somnath and Nageshwar in Gujarat and now Sri Omkareshwar here.
The first part of our road trip was over. We had lunch in a shack type eatery near the bridge and soon we were back to the road to Indore. While exiting the small town of Omkareshwar, we observed surging of a crowd. Dozens of buses, people on tractors and sundry vehicles were seen approaching the parking lot. We thanked God for being able to avoid the crowd.
The return experience was the same. It took more than 3 hours to be back to the city due to heavy traffic and also due to a massive jam in the same railway level crossing. The only saving grace was the greenery all around and the dense forest on the ghat road. The Sagwan trees were a plenty – a very expensive wood used in manufacturing furniture.
The car was very dirty from outside due to rains and slush on the road. I went to a car wash facility nearby and got the car washed and cleaned. Next day’s trip was over 400 km to Shirdi and I wanted to start with a clean car and a clear mind.