Five and a half hours’ time difference feels a little odd. I’m tired from the lack of sleep on the flight but restless throughout the night and then find myself in a deep sleep at 9am when I’ve said I’ll meet the others for breakfast. But most of us are moving slowly and we have plenty of time to enjoy a superb breakfast at the hotel before we have to checkout. With an extensive cold and hot buffet to choose from I decide on a delicious made to order omelette.
Delhi is actually amazingly green.
There are trees alongside all the roads and in some places beautiful planting of colourful flowers. Our guide tells us that the authorities are very strict about maintaining the trees. If you need to cut down a tree because its roots are affecting the foundations of your house then you must pay for saplings to be planted somewhere else.
We don’t encounter heavy traffic and are soon at the airport. The airport is kept sane and comfortable because only people travelling are allowed into the building but we have the assistance of a representative of the hotel who has special airport clearance and he proves to be very helpful. Internal flights in India have a strict 15kgs weight limit for check in bags. It’s possible but not easy to keep to that limit since we are going from Delhi at 30ºC to Shimla at 9ºC, with some camping nights and the possibility of rain – and a few of us have over weight bags. But we pay our dues and are soon moving through security.
It was quite surreal to arrive in departures and find a smart new M&S and a WH Smiths with exactly the same book offers as was in Heathrow. And very clean loos (which if you have travelled through an Indian airport more than ten years ago you will remember was definitely not the case in the past).
It’s a short 1.5 hours flight to Chandigarh, the capital of the states of Punjab and Haryana. This was the first planned city in India post-independence in 1947 and is one of the wealthiest in India. But we don’t actually see much of the city as our bus drives through the outskirts and heads out of town for about 20kms to our hotel – Fort Ramgarh.
350 years ago when the fort was built this building must have really stood proud on the hillside, but now it sits on quite a busy road in town.
The entrance is spectacular and the Indian welcome warm, as we walk across a little bridge towards a huge wooden door which, at 37 ft, is apparently the world’s tallest door.
A little sign tell us that the doors of forts and palaces were exceptionally high so that rajas sitting on elephants could enter without dismounting!
Four inch spikes (now safely blunted) on the outside of the doors were so that they could not be broken by charging elephants of an attacking army.
I love Heritage Hotels like this – each room is different and there are interesting things all around reminding us that its also a home. OK our room doesn’t exactly have a power shower, but I can live without that.
We meet Bonnie and Colonial Singh who are going to be our guides on this first ever ride in the Punjab.
Tomorrow we meet the horses and set off riding. We will be camping tomorrow night so hope that the rain stays away.
You can read all the posts from the Hola Mohalla trip by clicking below: