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Published: December 30th 2011
December ’11 Agra to Bassi by public bus then open back jeeps to Madhogarh
Up at 7ish to get breakfast as there is no food available until 2pm today. We all piled into the public bus (much fretting about bag safety by certain older group members) and off we rattled it was a 4 hour journey but we did have 1 pee and tea stop so not too bad – I even managed to find a kit kat and some cadbury’s chocolate (both made in India).
When we got to the jeeps Howard and I sat in the open back section, it was great! Bombing along through rural villages with all of life out on display, camels, pigs and cows all wandering around, men playing cards and women working! We came up to a train crossing when a train was due and it was like the Wacky Races. Everyone was jostling for position, motorbikes with whole families on them, cars, small vans packed to the rafters with people, lorries decorated with garlands, tractors decorated with garlands! All revving their engines waiting for the train to pass then a mass dash to cross the lines once it had gone.
A motorbike with 2 young lads on it was following us and once Michelle got out her camera they started posing for pictures getting more and more extravagant leaning out and then the driver took his hands off the bars and put them out in the air!
Eventually we turned off down a dusty dirt road and rounding a bend there was the old fort in all its faded glory on top of the hill – magical! This was our ‘hotel’ for the night and our group were the only guests. We bumped up the hill and were met by turbaned staff and a lady holding a bowl of flowers and we were each given a bindi on the forehead.
The Fort (Fort Madhogarh) is very gradually being renovated and was an amazing place. The rooms were allocated by lucky dip just pick up a key and guess what?......we got the Prince’s room! It had a sitting area, a long wall of tiny fretwork windows overlooking the courtyard below, a grand bathroom (not hot water) and the piece de resistance the bed was set in a marble alcove with lanterns and stained glass windows behind it –
it looked fantastic!!!
We were soon all madly exploring every inch of the place, up and down winding staircases, on to look out towers and turrets. The view from the roof was immense and you could see for miles, the village was spread out around the base of the hill with field and farmhouses stretching off for miles and the Jaipur hills far away in the distance.
We spent the afternoon walking through the village accompanied by the manager of the fort who looked like he had just left the Indian army in the Raj era – dressed in some kind of khaki uniform with a big twirly moustache and a turban. He spoke very little English but just kept smiling all the time, he was lovely. Everyone in the village was really friendly and the children all wanted their photos taken, they were full of smiles but once you pointed the camera at them they became really solemn and once it was taken they burst out laughing again and couldn’t wait to see themselves.
It really was a lovely place. We made our way up the hill back to the fort and climbed up to the
The Prince's Room - where we slept!
watch tower in order to catch the sunset. As it got darker more lights appeared in the village and out in the farmhouses and it was just a wonderful sight.
1787. Invading forces are amassing at the eastern border of Jaipur state. The Maharaja of Jaipur chooses 300 year old Fort Madhogarh, atop a hill, as the headquarters for his defending army. The battle of Tunga rages for a full day as 50,000 attempt to defend against 80,000. By nightfall, the fields below Fort Madhogarh are awash with the blood of the dead and injured, but the invaders have been repelled and the fort remains untaken.
Tonight we stayed in this fort, now opened as a hotel to help fund it’s restoration. The Raja, a young man in shirt and jeans, owner of the fort, (which is still in the same family ownership after 500 years), regaled this story to us as we watched the sunset from the ramparts.
That evening a big fire pit was built in the middle of the open courtyard, then the women in the group were taken off into one of the rooms where a local lady dressed us all in
The Prince's and our bedroom!
traditional Rajasthani clothes – she matched each person to the best colour for them and it was amazing how right she was, I was dressed in bright red! When we came out the 4 lads were all wearing turbans and kept them on right through the night – as they kept their heads warm! A couple of musicians started playing and soon most people (not Howard of course!) were up dancing. The smokers amongst us were all given bidis – the local cigarette made from a leaf and shown and then preformed the sharing ceremony which involved them all being lit together, then lots of bowing to each other as they were handed out. The actually were really nice but left a weird claggy taste in your mouth after you finished them. After eating we all sat round the fire, star gazing, wrapped in quilts, it was a truly memorable day!
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