On a recent trip to Bhopal, Anusha and I visited Pachmarhi. Pachmarhi is a little-known, but very beautiful, hill-station in Madhya Pradesh that deserves to be more popular. It is the highest town on the Satpura range of hills, situated about 900 metres (3,000 feet) above the sea-level. It is surrounded by the Satpura National Park.
Pachmarhi gets its name from a set of five caves carved into a big rock. These caves are called Pandava Caves because it was believed that the Pandavas stayed here for some time during their exile from their kingdom. However, it turns out that these caves were really carved out by Buddhist monks who used them as shelters.
Most of the rocks in Pachmarhi are made of soft sandstone. These rocks soak up water during the rains and then slowly release it throughout the rest of the year. This water feeds the many streams that flow through Pachmarhi and provide its beautiful waterfalls. A remarkable thing about these rocks is that some of them clearly show layers of embedded round pebbles. Though it is at a high altitude now, Pachmarhi must have been under water a long time ago.
We decided to stay in Glen View, a hotel developed by Madhya Pradesh Tourism. We also took their bus from Bhopal to reach Pachmarhi. The bus usually takes around five hours for the journey. As luck would have it, we ran into a chakka jam (road blockade) organised by the BJP that day to protest against the Sethusamudram project. This delayed us by three hours.
Pachmarhi is a very small town, most of which is occupied by the Indian army. It has a very unhurried and quiet feel to it. The local people are very friendly and helpful. It is surrounded by stunningly beautiful forests, valleys, waterfalls and caves. There are several trekking trails for enthusiasts. Some of the caves have pre-historic rock paintings. It also has several Shiva temples, each one associated with a myth relating to his fight against Bhashmasura. There are so many places to see that it can easily take about five days to explore everything properly.
It is not easy reaching these beautiful spots though. You have to have a car with a four-wheel drive and an expert driver to drive it. You should also have a bit of stamina because the car would not be able to take you all the way everywhere and you would have to go about 200 to 400 metres up and down a hill to reach many a spot.
I had an especially tough time reaching these spots because I found it hard to breathe. That was because I had a very bad cold. That in turn was because the air-conditioner in our room could only be run at its full strength. The ceiling fan was not enough for the hot and humid weather at the time. This was one of the worst colds I have ever suffered. It took a full two weeks for me to recover completely from it.
This was not the only problem with our room though. The water from the taps was always reddish-brown from the rust in the pipes for a while in the beginning and you had to leave it on for some time for it to approach something close to transparency. Even then it had an unpleasant iron flavour to it. The hotel staff was extremely nonchalant about it, informing us that it was quite normal for all the rooms in the hotel.
Pachmarhi does not have good options for accommodation at this time. None of the well-known hotel chains have their presence here, so you tend to err on the side of caution by opting for what is touted as a luxury hotel. Glen View is promoted as a luxury hotel by MP Tourism. Judging by our experience, they seem to have a rather peculiar definition of "luxury". To add insult to injury, they insist on collecting 100% of the hotel tariff for all the days you plan to stay there, in advance at the time of booking, with no scope for refunds. The hotel also does not accept credit cards, so you better carry some good cash to pay for the ridiculous amount it charges for its unremarkable food.
We were so disappointed by our hotel and the lack of other options that we cut our visit short by a day, losing some money in the process. We took some solace in the fact that we had saved almost 30% by booking it during the off-season. We would love to go back and see Pachmarhi again and explore the sites we could not visit, but not until there are better options for accommodation there.
I have created a Picasa web-album that has some more pictures from Pachmarhi.