Deccan Odyssey Encore

Staff member: Nicki // Trip date: Jun 2018

Trip recap

Journey: Maharashtra Wild Trail

Duration: 7-night 8-day Luxury Indian Journey

Class of service: travelled in Deluxe Class which is one of the two classes on the train.

Amenities: The train has (in addition to the Deluxe and Presidential rooms) a bar car, two dining cars, conference (games, books) car and a spa car with spa services, hairdresser and gym. Food, off-train excursions and all tips are covered on the train, with the exception of the pooled tip at the end for the train staff. The only additional cost is for Alcohol, Indian Beer/Wine and international spirits that can be purchased in the Bar or the Dining Car.

 

What was your favourite part of the experience?

India in its self is such an amazing place and to see it with the "unpack once" style of travel that the train allows is a favourite for me, I also hate busses and get sick so any chance to avoid long bus journeys is always appreciated. The staff also make the trip so enjoyable. 

 

What's your number 1 tip for anyone doing the same journey?

Pack lightweight clothes, it is India and going to be very warm!

 

Want to chat with Nicki about this trip?

Easy - Nicki is our BDM for VIC/TAS/SA, so feel free to send her an email with any questions.

Full story

As this was neither my first trip to India nor my first trip on the Deccan Odyssey I was fully prepared for what the next 7 days would include.  I was also very surprised to see some of the small issues I had with the train on the last visit have been changed.

 

On this trip, I was lucky enough to visit a very rural and remote area on Maharashtra’s Wild Trail.  It was so remote that from leaving Mumbai we did not see another westerner for 7 days!  

 

The Wild Trail trip departs Mumbai and travels east visiting Wildlife Parks of Pench and Tadoba (tiger sanctuaries), UNESCO sites of Ellora Caves and Ajanta Caves and Indians top wine vineyard and holy city Nashik.  But back to the start to tell you all about the trip.

 

We travelled from Melbourne via Singapore to Mumbai. On our arrival in Mumbai, we quickly moved through immigration. I have now arrived both late at night and at midday to Mumbai and if you can get a midday flight I would recommend it, the airport was so quiet we didn’t have to wait at all and compare that to the two hours I spent in the immigration line last time straight through was much preferred.  We met our guide and got on our transfer into town.  Mumbai airport is roughly an hour’s drive from South Mumbai where we were staying.  We had a short walk around of the area that we were staying in. Our stay for the night was at the Oberoi Hotel.  A beautiful 5-star luxury property that offers very modern rooms, and shares some facilities with the property next door - the Trident. They are part of the same hotel group and the Trident is also a beautiful property but not as luxurious, either can be booked as a pre-train option.

 

In the morning we got to experience Mumbai as a local. Our day started at 5 am and we went to the fish markets, the total craziness that is a market in India. We watched the ships come in and offload their catch, most had been out there for 8 days, the wives of the fisherman take the fish off to the next destination which was either right there for selling or off to middlemen to be sold in other places, we also saw the auction process of wholesale fish selling and a couple of cheeky birds help themselves without paying.  After the fish market, we made stops to the Flower Market, Fruit Market and also the area where the paper vendors prepare and sell the daily newspaper before the sun comes up.  We then went to a local gym and saw the traditional Indian version of pole dancing; we also had a look around the facilities, at a weekly membership of $1.20 its quite a bargain!

 

If anyone has a chance to do this type of sightseeing I would recommend it.  Old buildings are great but this really gave us the insight of how the average Mumbai person works and got us up before the city got too busy and too hot.

 

After breakfast, we got to see some of the old architecture in the Mumbai Fort and the main Rail Station Victoria Terminus, a world heritage monument built in 1878.  We then drove around the back of the giant station to drive directly to the platform the train was leaving from.  The local performers and dancers greeted us as we arrived.  The check-in process was very easy, our bags were quickly taken and sorted, and we were given the arrival documentation including carriage information and trip itinerary.

 

The train, of course, has to make a grand arrival!  So once all guests had arrived… the train arrived.  We were then taken to our rooms and shown all the features of each room by our valet.  I quickly noted how much more comfortable the bed was and how there was double the amount of wardrobe storage, two very welcomed enhancements.  The other thing that was new was a double layered tinted window, very very little outside noise was getting into the cabin.

 

We departed for Aurangabad and had time to freshen up before dinner.  The start of my 7-day obsession with Indian food. The train does, of course, offer Indian and non-Indian options for every meal. Spiciness can be adjusted to your liking and if you like the look of something make sure you get it when you see it as the menu is different every day!

 

A little bit about the train, the Deccan Odyssey is one of India’s Luxury Rail Journeys.  It consists of two cabin options, Deluxe and Presidential.  Deluxe rooms have either twin or double bed configuration and Presidential are twice as large and include a private car for all off-train experiences.  Presidential rooms are great for tipple share as they have two bathrooms and two entries and the lounge and be converted into a room with a single bed folding out of the wall. 

 

The train also includes in the middle carriages a Spa Car with massages, nail and waxing services and also hair wash and cutting services and next to the Spa there is a small gym.  There is a conference car with board games and books, Two restaurants both serving the same thing but means dinner doesn’t need to be done in shifts and then the Bar car.

 

The Rooms have full bathrooms, TV with pre-programmed movies and one valet per carriage (4 deluxe rooms and 2 presidential rooms) who is always a call away if you need anything.   There is also your guest relations manager who is around if you have any questions about off train excursions and joins the excursions to provide the basics like Hand Sanitiser and Sunscreen and to help if you need anything.  Sometimes it feels like there is more staff than guests!

 

We started off day 2 arriving into Aurangabad in the early morning, the night before there had been some unrest in Aurangabad so we were a little worried we would end up in the middle of it.  We did not see one sign of the issue but we did notice the lack of internet due to the government turning off the internet in the area, I guess it is always nice to have a couple of days totally off the grid.  We went to meet the guide for the excursion to Ellora Caves which are a collection of 34 rock-cut shrines. Nothing has been moved here or carved from another rock, it is all carved out of the one mountain.  We had some free time on the train before dinner.  Overnight the train did not move as day two was also in Aurangabad.  We did have to change the schedule slightly due to the issues in town which gave me some time to hit the gym!  We sent off the late afternoon for our sightseeing excursion through town and to the Bibi-ka-Maqbara, similar to the Taj Mahal it was built by the son of Dilras Banu who the Taj was built for, it is known as the ”Taj of the Deccan” smaller with less Marble but still just as spectacular.   We enjoyed a relaxing evening and set off for our next destination.

 

Day 4 was the first day of our search to Tigers. We arrived in Pench a little later than expected, with the 4.15am wake up call a lot of the guests were looking a little red-eyed.  The team had coffee and tea waiting for us in the Bar Carriage and some cake or fruit.   We set off the Pench Tiger Reserve. Different to Africa were you can just drive around the park for as long as you want, in India, each car has a designated track they have to stick to and they have to be out of the park at a certain time, there is no radioing different trucks to find out where they are and if they have spotted a Tiger.. so it is basically pure luck, the fact that the Tigers follow the same routine makes it a bit easier.  We did see some Jackals and some rare birds and lots of dear and Sambal... but no Tigers.    We had the afternoon to pray or cross our fingers that tomorrow would be the day!

 

Day 5 we had another early morning, another 4.15am wake up call to again head out to find Tigers.  Since the weather is so warm you must be up early to see the tigers. Today was the third day in a row the temp was over 40.   We arrived at the Tadoba national park and again into the open-air truck to head off to find Tigers. 5 minutes into the drive we saw a Sloth Bear, which is actually rarer than seeing a Tiger, a pretty cool experience, but not really what we were there for.  We stopped off at a frequently visited waterhole for a Tiger and bam! There she was!  The Tiger had two cubs who were playing around with each other. It was a wonderful experience, they are so unfazed by the people watching and taking photos of them. The best way to see nature, totally naturally.  After the visit to the park, we stopped at a local hotel where we had breakfast, I should mention we also get a breakfast box on the bus in addition to the cake and fruit at 4 am. The hotel had set up the buffet for us and after breakfast, we headed back to the train and set off for Ajanta Caves and we finally had Wifi.

 

Day 6 was the hottest day of them all.  Low of 27 with a top of 43, the guest relations manager had water, umbrellas and we all had our Deccan Odyssey hats and fans and off we went! Another set of caves carved into the side of the mountain, not as spectacular but still amazing! The shower back on the train was much needed.

 

Day 7 we arrived in Nashik, we visited Godavari Ghats which is a very religious pool like area, people travel from a long distance to get to the Godavari river and after it dried up in 2016 they reinforced this pool-like area to dam off a section of the river and ensure there was always water. Pilgrims take the holy dip, men getting their hair shaved in respect for a passed relative and on the other side of the Ghat a variety of funeral type ceremonies were happening.  After some free time to explore the markets and the area, we went on a city tour of Nashik, some more shopping time and back to the bus to head back to the train for Lunch. After lunch, we went to Grover Zampa vineyards to have a look at one of Indians leading wines. From the very old in Nashik to the very new of the wine cellar it was nice to see a different side of India.  Dinner on the last night of the train is always a nice affair and on tonight’s menu was Lobster!

 

Overnight we were parked for a lot of the night before we headed into Mumbai to say goodbye to the Deccan Odyssey. Again bags are prepared for the whole process in reverse, our Valet takes them to a porter who takes them to our transfer and the train gets ready for its next departure!

 

We had another half day tour of Mumbai and then went and did a hotel inspection of the Taj Palace which is an amazing property and a must to spend at least one night in this hotel.  Transfer back to the airport and on my way back home.

 

To compare the two journeys I have been on, I do think the Indian Sojourn is a better trip for the first-time traveller to India, it covers the big spots everyone wants to see: Mumbai to Delhi via Rajasthan, but for my second time to India it was amazing to get out to more regional areas and explore places that are not as well travelled and of course to see Tigers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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