Modified On Feb 04, 2014 11:54 AM By Kunal Kelkar
In today’s day and age, life seems to be moving at warp speed. Stress has now become an integral part of our lives. We have all become so achievement oriented that all our focus is pinned on achieving the goal rather than being able to enjoy the journey towards it. Yes, I know that I may sound like I am preaching from a Life Lessons book or using the words of the many spiritual masters, but if we just introspect, it should dawn upon us that slowing down and enjoying the little experiences in life really adds up to a holistically fulfilled life rather than one that revolves around achievements and meeting the next goal. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious or goal oriented, but the key word here is “balance.”
February is what the world considers as the “love month.” All the new couples are trying to impress their partners with a memorable Valentine’s Day where as the couples that have been there and done that are always looking for a new experience or a new adventure to spend some quality time together.
This year CarDekho.com urges you to take a step back from that crazy busy schedule you have and explore that wild side that has always intrigued you. Now I do know that the rugged jungle life is not for everyone but that’s exactly why we decided to bring you two wonderful and unique alternatives for getaways this romantic season.
Tucked away, off the beaten path, in the out skirts of one of India’s smallest national parks, there is an exclusive property holding 12 cozy cottages on the banks of a small river. As you drive off the tarmac onto the dirt road toward the entrance, the sign can be seen clearly- Baghvan Pench National Park. Baghvan means Tiger’s Jungle. The name is perfect, as this is the forest where Ruyard Kipling conceptualized his famous novel- The Jungle Book. This was the forest that Mowgli grew up in and had his encounter with Sher-Khan.
The car we chose for this special story was the Mercedes-Benz A Class. This is Mercedes-Benz’s installment to the compact car market and no matter what anyone says this car is on hell of a looker. It is a great vehicle for the up market couples that like to make a style statement and at the same time are not ready for a bigger vehicle. Wherever the A-class goes, heads turn and acknowledge its presence. It may be small but the three-pointed star did make its presence felt everywhere we took it. Considering we drove from Mumbai to Pench, we picked the A180 CDI. The diesel version of the A-class comes with a 2200cc four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that produces just a tad more than a 100hp. Initially we thought that it might be a little under-powered but as the trip commenced we immediately fell in love with the dynamics of the A. The car made it from Mumbai to Nagpur, 853km on less than a full tank of fuel. Once we reached Nagpur we still had a quarter of a tank left and the range meter showed that we could travel another 200kms with ease. The fuel efficiency of the A-class was mind blowing. Anyway, getting back to Baghvan.
What can I say, the second you drive through the gates you are transported to a whole new realm. The Taj Safari’s Baghvan has a special connection with the jungle. Sambhar deer, Chital deer, mongoose and many smaller mammals frequently visit the property. Having the river flow right by the property is an asset for the nature lovers as the water body does get quite a few critters dropping by for a drink throughout the day. Each cottage has space for 2 people, making it a perfect couple’s retreat in the jungle. Attached to each cottage are a deck and a machan. The deck overlooks the small stream that flows along the property whereas the machan is perched above the ground amidst the trees. This can either be used to relax with a cup of tea and a book or even as an outdoor bed to sleep on during the warm summer nights.
The service at the Taj property is near to flawless. Present on the property is a fantastic chef by the name of Aksh who personally asks the guests their respective allergies if any, and then works throughout the day making sure a grand three-course meal is ready for lunch and dinner. One of the best parts of this property is the food. Scrumptious and filling, the food served at the Baghvan is something worth experiencing. As the sun goes down in there are loads of birds that come home to roost. The chirping of the birds dulls down and the crickets take over and the moon comes out from hiding, and to top is all off, dinner is served out on a deck surrounded by trees and bushes with candles providing the ambient light for the evenings.
The guests also get assigned a resident naturalist that knows the forest and is responsible for the morning and evening safaris in the park. The Naturalist Kaustubh at Baghvan is a very well mannered and knowledgeable guide that knows the Pench forestland flora and fauna very well. Breakfast is usually set up as a picnic in the forest mid-way through the safari but since the park opened late when we were there, we could not experience the in-park breakfast, which I hear is a must try.
The Taj Safari Baghvan is a perfect environment for that couple that is looking to spend some quiet alone time far away from the city in the heart of nature. It is part of the forest yet nowhere close to the hardships of living in the forest. Everything is taken care of. From having a warm cozy bed to sleep in at night to the scrumptious meals and the detailed safari, the stay at the Baghvan is luxurious in everyway. Royal treatment is an understatement. If desired even a masseuse can be paged to the room for a custom massage therapy. Now that’s a getaway in style. Something that appeals to many people, but are you ready for option two?
It weighs in at about seven and a half tons fully loaded, standing about 12ft tall and about 20ft long, this entity, as I will call it now, seems ominous, massive and out of the league of most of us Indians. It has large knobby tires and the grunt similar to that of an enraged rhinoceros. As scary as it sounds, what I am describing here is a Utility truck from Mercedes-Benz called the “Unimog.” The Unimog is a multi-purpose truck renowned for it’s formidable off-road capabilities. The 5699cc in-line six-cylinder diesel motor is famous for the huge amount of torque it produces capable of allowing it to climb very steep slopes or crawling over huge rocks.
Now you must be wondering why I am introducing a very large truck to you at this point in the story. This is supposed to be about Valentines Day, love and romantic getaways etc, and well, to tell you the truth it actually is.
The Unimog I am talking about is called the “Glaarkshouse,” which, as the name implies, is the house of the Glaarks. Who are the Glaarks? Well Peter and Jennifer Glaarks are a German couple that recently got married and started their journey in their 1986 Mercedes-Benz Unimog in May 2013 from Munich and drove all the way to India via Turkey and Iran. The best part about all this is that this multi-country, multi-cultural experience is that it is actually their honeymoon!
The Unimog 435 (model) was a decommissioned military truck that was converted into a rolling house by the previous owner that used to use it for Dune Safaris in North Africa. When Peter and Jennifer made the decision to drop their jobs and travel, they were on the look out for a vehicle that would take them around the world that would require little maintenance and would be capable enough to get them through anything and everything. This Unimog was their answer to every question. With the ability to carry about 540 liters of diesel, the Benz can literally go anywhere without having to worry about fuel.
The rear of the Unimog has been converted to a shelter that is about seven sq.m in area and is an extremely cozy unit for two people. The bed is probably the largest part of the shelter, well that would be a given because good sleep is very necessary on a huge trip like this. Above the bed is a moon/sunroof that pops open letting fresh air and natural light in, with a mesh cover to prevent the bugs from entering. Around the corner is their small kitchen next to which is their shower. Opposite their kitchen is the dining table and the closet. All this is organized extremely well into the seven sq.m of the shelter.
Jennifer and Peter said that this is their house and everything that is important to them and that they require is in the area of their Unimog Shelter. They are able to cook inside the Unimog, the solar panels charge their heating system as well as their laptops, iPad etc. They are self-sufficient. The only thing they have to depend on is finding fresh food and vegetables for meals and water for cleaning and cooking.
This is their own personal five-star hotel, which travels with them wherever they go. I mean everyone’s house is like a five star in his or her personal opinion. After all home is the place where you can perfectly relax, and what can be more relaxing than knowing that your house is anywhere you decide it to be for the night.
In the end it is a mindset. This lifestyle is not something that everyone can decide to take up immediately, especially in a country like ours, but it sure is a very fulfilling life. No matter how many countries you drive through, how many tourist sites you see or even the various kinds of food you eat, in the end it is all about the people you meet, and as a couple Peter and Jennifer say that the people that they meet and the experiences they have with those people will be the most cherished memories from their trip.
The luxury getaway in a fancy five star hotel is an option that jives with the many; the expedition drive to various countries or to even explore different parts of India is an option that jives with just the select adventurous few. Nonetheless both options are not the usual go to choice when it comes to deciding a trip with your loved one. For those who do plan such experiences, I tip my hat and say way to be a step ahead an experience the world in your own unique way. The options are plenty, when it comes to making the decision about your special time together the choice is finally yours. For us though, the choice is simple, Unimog and loads of travelling it is. After all it is all about quality time and fun experiences. No matter what, stay safe.