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Friday, 7 December 2012

A ‘Fort’y Affair @ Alwar

Yes, me and my hubby do try and make every weekend and holiday opportunity an exploration trip somewhere or the other as much as we can afford. The great long Diwali break this October turned out to be yet another budget trip with both our families in tow (Mom & Ma and Dad & Baba… that’s how we avoid confusion between the two families’ parents). The destination was a short drive of about 4 hrs from Gurgaon with the ‘I need to stretch my legs’ breaks included to the city of Alwar in Rajasthan.

Considering the fact me and hubby thought that both families together would make the house no less entertaining than a jungle, we decided to make a trip to the actual jungle-the Sariska Tiger Reserve, and set up tent in one of the Alwar villages. Only, where we stayed in the village were once the walls of royalty- no kidding, literally! After much online deliberation over options available to stay in Alwar, we booked rooms at the Dadhikar Fort (http://dadhikar.com/). About 5 kms from Alwar City, this fort situated on the top of small mount of more than 100 feet from ground level and 342 meters from the sea level and was the perfect choice for a serene, rustic and yet royal stay with family. Resting in the lap of Aravali Hills amidst the dense forest, GPSs’ turned on, we reached the Fort to be welcomed to the premises which had Rajasthan writ all over- from the ethnic and simple décor of the rooms, the furnishings, the attendants with turbans on, to the cool drink we were offered on arrival.

The Fort, with a part of it still  in the restoration process, is over 1000 years old and amazingly has rooms in surprising nooks and corners. Perched high up on a mount, the terrace and rooms offered a breathtaking view of the green fields spread below and peacocks sounding off their calls. The number of peacocks that we encountered had us constantly reaching for the camera!

Having settled down and washed up, we then headed to one of the rivers a few kms away for a boat ride with mountains on all four sides and their reflection giving the water a dual color. From there we zeroed in on going to the Alwar museum, nestled in a palace that had been converted into a court with the synonymous row of desks of attorneys outside. Thankfully, since it was a Saturday the crowd was missing. The museum turned out to be an ogle ground for knife, swords, gun enthusiasts like me with a collection that left me stuck to the showcases. The condition of the museum was not however something to be proud of, and I felt the blades and triggers were a little shabbily maintained, and yet maintained their mystique and glory. Other items at display included some ancient scripts, beautiful paintings, a few stuffed animals including a Bengal tiger and various artifacts and royal as well as war attires.

The day was coming to an end, with the inviting Fort calling us back to it, and so that’s where we headed- back to base camp. The evening was not over yet though. The cultural programme with traditional dancers who even made us shake a leg, the fire eaters and thali dancers carrying a heap of pots on their heads and dancing on steel plates got the camera into memory full mode and us in full fun swing.         

The next day plan was to visit Sariska Sanctuary & tiger reserve. Even though I have visited Corbett twice and have always just seen the paw prints of a tiger who according to the guide ‘must have just crossed the path a minute before we did’ and expected the same here, the thought of being in the wild gave me goosebumps of excitement. After collecting 9 more people who could fit into our mini safari truck as they trickled in  (yes, I’m always the salesman variety of the family in such situations) and having had a laugh at my brother’s sudden trust in my bodyguard skills with mischievous monkeys jumping all over the place, it was time to enter the dragon.. I mean the jungle.

My Corbett trip as a kid I remember had left me with such fondness for Deer than I even referred to everyone as Deer blah blah blah in my school letter writing assignments and I hoped I would now not see more wildlife in Sariska (read tiger). As we progressed through the jungle, fingers on camera buttons, we saw the wild boar, spotted deer, neelgai, hedgehog, baboons, macaques and even a crawly green earthwormy insect miraculously stuck to the pant buttocks of a fellow travelling with us. Just as the 3 hour long safari was coming to an end, our truck stopped in its tracks and the guide gave us a look  of ‘ don’t make a move – the dinosaurs are coming’. A tiger roar had been picked up. The wait was on! With everyone looking in one direction, all concentration and hearing ability at attention, a thought struck me- what if the tiger came from behind where no one was looking. And so Sam of the jungle kept her eyes on the opposite path…… had there actually been a tiger somewhere close, I’m sure he must have had a smirk at the funny sight! We waited and strained our ears and waited a little more… but all we got to see where some more ‘mores’! (I cannot really help being myself you know!).

Back to the Fort after getting dinner packed from the dhaba (the Fort only offered expensive VEG buffets), a restful evening at the terrace and lawns of the premises made the day with family just perfect… and so we lived in a fort for 2 days!


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