It is a day of forts and getting excited about the Hola Mohalla in a couple of days’ time.
We have been staying at Nalagarh Fort, which was built in 1421. Although the family who own it still live in the grounds, this is actually quite a large heritage hotel. We wake to rain, but fortunately it doesn’t hang around and it is dry and sunny by the time we mount up.
It isn’t a long ride this morning with a couple of fast canters through the countryside until we come close to the ruins of Palasi Fort.
This is an impressive structure on top of the hill. It has a small village around it, but for whatever reason, unlike Nalagarh Fort or Bharatgarh Fort where we arrive later in the day, Palasi Fort has been allowed to fall into ruin.
Around the fort there is a small village and very soon there is a huge crowd of men, women and children crowding into the fort to meet us. They tell us that they have been expecting us for 13 days!
It is Sunday which perhaps explains just how many people there are, but we are amazed at the welcome and since everyone has a camera on the phone in their pocket, there are many photographs being taken of us, rather than the more common other way around. We hope that their enthusiasm to meet the strange people arriving on horseback does not wain in future years.
With the sun shining on us as we picnic under a big tree within the ramparts, there is a definite feeling of hospitality and fun. Our village guides take us to a hindu temple and we are also invited into one of the village homes. It is simple but clean and I am amazed that each bedroom (one for the children and one for the parents) has a TV up on the wall.
I’m back on the grey horse today. Our afternoon ride is on a track alongside a huge canal. The scent from the eucalyptus trees is sweet. On the road on the other side of the canal there are heavily laden motorbikes and lots of tractors pulling trailers full of people. All are flying an orange flag. These are Sikhs either coming from the temple or going to Hola Mohalla like us. There is a clear excitement in the air and sense of anticipation.
Our destination is Bharatgarh Fort, which was built in 1783. This is still occupied by descendants of the original family and is now a heritage hotel with a number of very comfortable and spacious rooms.
But as we sit and have tea and cake in the sitting room surrounded by family portraits it definitely feels like we are being welcomed into a home rather than a hotel. And how many hotels would have a cow to provide fresh milk?
You can read all the posts from the Hola Mohalla trip by clicking on the links below:
We do hope to do it all again next year, with only a few modifications to the itinerary. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.inthesaddle.com