An award-winning cookbook author, a telly-show host, a marathoner, an advanced PADI diver, a mountain climber, and a doting mother and wife are just some of the many hats that Maria Goretti gracefully dons. We recently caught up with this free-spirited travel enthusiast on her recent trip to Ahilya Fort in Maheswar with her kids and she tells us all about it. By Amitha Ameen
1. You recently visited Ahilya Fort in Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh. Tell us about your experience.
We were initially very concerned about the vehicle and those driving us, and we didn’t stop anywhere on the way. Normally when we go on a road trip, we make pit-stops but this time we did not. We carried our own eatables and water on this trip. We took a break in between when we spotted stretches of lush greenery; we quickly enjoyed our food and were on our way in no time. The travel was certainly different and when we reached Ahilya, the sanitization practice in place there was really good. I stayed there for seven nights, and every evening I would see them sanitize the entire place, which made me feel reassured about our safety.
2. What was it like to travel with family during these times?
Masks, sanitizers and covered clothes were the staples this time. I am somebody who has had a very positive outlook towards this pandemic, and I have not let the pandemic affect me in a negative way. Yes, the fact that I cannot travel freely is upsetting. But obeying the pandemic rules and following social distancing is a must during this time.
3. What made you decide on taking up a road trip?
We took a car simply because we thought it would be safer. I am doing a road trip after 2011 and back then my daughter was very young and fell terribly car-sick and after that, I never did any road trips. This was my second road trip after the lockdown (the first being in Goa), and the first one with my daughter after a really long time. Although my daughter, by then, had been on many road trips, I had somehow avoided long car journeys up until this trip. But I was really glad because the roads were so beautiful and this trip has opened me up to taking road trips in the future, granted the car is comfortable.
4. What made you choose Ahilya Fort in Maheswar?
My kids could attend their online classes from there because the WiFi there was really good. And, every evening after the kids were done with their classes, we would get out, go for a swim or just watch the sunset over the Narmada river. The food there was also outstanding, so we had a lot of fun there and I was pretty happy that my first trip out with my kids was to Ahilya. There was something to do for all of us. I love nature so I would spend my time sitting at the Narmada watching the sunrise and sunsets, my daughter and son were also well occupied and content with all the activities that were available at the property.
5. What kind of safety measures did you spot at this property?
The property offered a minimal to contactless experience. The staff there were fully equipped with proper sanitization kits and everything was wiped down clean. Another reassuring fact was that nobody on the property had tested positive for the virus. The food was also always fresh and directly sourced from their organic vegetable garden. They would always inform us and other guests of what ingredients they were putting into the dishes. The pool was a highlight for me as well because it was right in the middle of a lot of greenery.
6. What did you like the most about Madhya Pradesh?
Fantastic food and great roads are at the top of my mind. And, I think if you are in the right property then you are sorted.
7. After this trip, how do you think travelling in the post-pandemic era has changed?
I know that the roads are not terribly crowded now. All the places, whatever little were opened, they all had masks on and provided sanitizers at the entrance and even in the restrooms. So overall, I am looking forward to going on road trips now. I definitely want to travel and I think road trips are the safest way to do that right now.
8. Where all do you want to go next?
I want to go to Kerala, but I have nothing planned yet. I want to head there because I want to learn more about the cuisine, which I find fascinating. I really love the food there, the Syrian-Christian food mixed with traditional Hindu flavours…
Right now, I just want to get to the middle of a forest and stay there for a week or 10 days. Every time I come back to the city, I wonder why. The pandemic has made me feel like I am not so much of a city person anymore, although I was born in a bustling city like Bombay. But the more I get out into the wilderness, the more I feel I belong there.
9. Can you tell our readers what they need to keep in mind while planning a trip during these times?
– If it is a long trip, then the car that you are travelling in needs to be comfortable as that will dictate how your trip turns out to be.
– Carry your own water and food wherever you can. Although I am sure the places en-route may have food available, you don’t want to take risks, and it is better to carry your own.
10. With domestic travel and road trips taking centre stage now, what would be your first choice of destination for an Indian road trip?
I would love to go on a long road trip for a month if time and work permits. I would definitely want to travel down south to Kerala and Kabini.