Being in Mumbai, and a Maharashtrian at that, Poha comes naturally to me.
Over the years, I’ve had Poha at a couple of hundred different places. This is beyond the home-made variety had at my own and friends + relatives places.
Naturally, I considered the Maharashtra version of the Poha to be the best. So when one of my co-riders shook up this belief of mine, my thoughts went to tipping his chai glass from the hand. The breakfast ride had just gone rogue and the poor stall owner where we’d halted, had to endure our half-hour long argument over Maharashtra vs Indore Poha.
I returned home and started digging around a little. Now I’d been loosely aware of Indore’s reputation as the Street-food capital of India, but the Bombay-ite in me typically oscillates between believing things I hear and being sceptical of them. I made a few phone calls and by jolly God – those online reports did seem to have proper on-ground backing.
Teaming up with The Great Indian Food Trip (GIFT) was a no-brainer. They’d already wrapped up a fantastic Biryani discovery trip in the South of India on their 1st Edition. It would be befitting to contrast it with some delectable street-food, as part of the 2nd Edition then. TheBearClaw came on board as gear-partners for the ride and kitted me up with Revvit’s Sand 2 Touring Jacket, Pants & Gloves for the trip. Meanwhile, Maximus Pro came along as navigation partners for the trip. The plan was for the #HauryaBikers to ride out and discover for themselves a whole new world of Poha, while also hitting the streets of Indore in search of some yummy street-food.
Life’s nothing without a bit of drama though, and this time, it presented itself in the form of rejected leave applications. No amount of wrangling with the powers that be, were enough to convince them otherwise. It was either going to be a solo discovery or none at all. Unwilling to delay things further, it was decided that I would be doing this on my own.
D-Day arrived and I set off. The aim was to escape the city limits and throttle along till as long as I could during the first stint. Nothing however, had prepared me for the heat. Going up Kasara Ghat, I was wilting under the sun. I barely managed to cross the toll-post at Ghoti, when I pulled over to hydrate myself. The heat had killed all appetite and I took solace in the fresh sugarcane juice being crushed out by the kind stall-lady for me.
That first pit-stop done, it was time to throttle along. I soon discovered this dirt road forking away from the highway and like a fire-fly to the bulb, I took off. The next 20-odd minutes were insane fun. Dry powder, to hard-packed soil, a couple of rocky-jumps and turns were all that it took to recharge my batteries. The hunger monster hit me with a vengeance as I got back onto the highway and I immediately took to looking for a nice spot.
I pulled over at this quirky dhaba named ‘Standard and Poors’ and immediately made myself comfortable under the cool breeze of the fan. Not wanting to deviate from the plan, I ordered myself a plate of Poha and started to pay attention to the décor. Huge flex posters of some famous tourist spots around the world adorned the walls and reading them all was a lot of fun. Meanwhile the Bombay-ite in me was impressed at the sight of this huge dish, full of Poha that arrived in front of me. Phew! I spent a good half hour gobbling it all and promptly realized that I couldn’t move. Groan!
Climbing aboard the bike was a huge task that was completed with great difficulty. I decided that enough breaks had been taken and it was time to push ahead. Nashik – Chandwad – Saundana – Malegaon – I crossed them all. The super-heated tarmac and air were both hand-in-glove in keeping me on the boil and the heat really began to take a toll. Famished but unable to eat, I found salvation at the watermelon and lime juice stalls lining the highway. I’d stop every couple of hours and hydrate myself this way, before continuing.
The plan was to catch the sunset at Arunapuri Dam, off Shirpur, Dhule, before settling into a traveller’s hotel by the highway. As luck would have it, I ended up reaching there a lot earlier than expected. What’s more, there really weren’t much hotels there that seemed quite appealing either. So I decided to go out on a limb and make a dash for the state border before the lights dimmed. That bit too didn’t quite work out as planned and I happened to cross over into Madhya Pradesh in the dark. I even managed some unexpected off-roading in the bargain, but that’s a tale for another day!
I now had no choice but to continue my journey, for my best bet for overnight accommodation would be the Madhya Pradesh Tourism run Tourist Motel at Khalghat. The cry of relief as I pulled into the parking lot of the Motel must have been quite audible to anyone who’d have been riding alongside me that evening.
The Tourist Motel at Khalghat is located just off the highway, making it ideal for RoadTrippers. Run under the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, it has a nice old-school vibe to it. Spacious and airy, the courtyards are huge and there’s enough parking for everyone too. The staff was amazing, with the cook there quickly whipping up a simple meal of roti and palak-paneer. From the first morsel itself, I’d hit upon a flavour bomb. A tad spicy than the versions served back home and easy on the cream to boot, I could actually taste the freshness of the palak and the soft paneer in every bite.
I was a happy trooper that day and slept in my room like a king that night. Having covered the maximum chunk of the trip on the previous day, I decided to take it easy in the morning. The air-conditioning and the comfortable bed weren’t making it easier to get back on the road. Indore beckoned though and I then packed my bags and rode out front.
I requested the cook if he could whip up some Aaloo-Paratha’s and he gracefully obliged. Another round of flavour-bombs exploded, as the Paratha’s were wolfed down with yummy achaar. The thought did cross my mind on possibly staying back another evening, but thankfully, it was immediately dismissed. I thanked the staff there profusely for their cheerful nature and warm company, before bidding adieu.
Indore was only a few hours away and I decided to back off the throttle a bit to take in the scenery. To be honest, wide highways get kind of boring and a full stomach didn’t help much either. Before I knew it, Indore came up on the marker and I finally turned towards the city. The hotel was some distance away, and it gave me time to observe the local life there.
Continued in part two…
Written by Tanmay Pangam aka The Angry Saint