Julia Loxton and her sister Diana Fisher enjoyed one of our personalised riding itineraries in India, joining a small group. This trip would be perfect for a family holiday or a group of friends looking to do something different but we should point out that it is not for the novice rider!
“My sister Di and I had been discussing another trip to India for some time, and we had decided that we wanted to go to Rajasthan and to combine this with a horse riding safari as we are both keen riders. After many phone calls to Fiona at Far Frontiers Travel, she sorted out an itinerary for us which combined all the elements we wanted.
We flew to Delhi and spent a couple of days there visiting wonderful sights, including the old town, Qutb Minar, Purana Quila and the Lodhi Gardens — there are so many fascinating places to visit, it’s a good idea to do plenty of background reading so you can pinpoint where to go.
Our next stop was Agra and the Taj Mahal, which I was pretty ambivalent about visiting. I thought I’d seen so many photos of it, there was no need to go in person. I was so wrong! It’s simply the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen, and no photographs do it justice. It’s a must see, and I’m so grateful to Fiona for stressing we should go.
We spent a lovely night at the Laxmi Vilas Palace at Bharatpur, visiting the nature reserve early the following morning with a young, knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide, where we saw (among many other creatures) a large python coiled at the side of the track, probably waiting for us all to move away so it could cross!
The Pushkar Camel Fair was one of the highlights of our trip, and it was such fun — as we neared the town more and more trucks and buses were heading there, often filled with Rajasthani girls in their gloriously vivid clothes and wonderful jewellery, all looking so excited and waving to us as we passed. Camels, horses and cattle filled the hillsides at the edge of the town as far as the eye could see, and it looked like a scene from the Bible. The camels were decorated with geometric designs on their coats, some clipped on and some painted, and many had embroidered mirror-work cloths under their saddles. There were huge camels, baby camels, led, tethered, ridden, pulling carts, or lying down fast asleep — we just wandered, taking endless photographs, and scarcely able to believe what we were seeing!
In the town, people thronged through the streets, past stalls selling food of all descriptions, camel and horse saddlery, wonderful embroidered and mirror-worked bags and hangings — which I remembered from the 1960’s and the hippie era, and never knew it all hailed from Rajasthan! In the middle of it all a big wheel turned slowly and majestically, and at the lake in the centre of Pushkar, Di and I had a Hindu blessing.
We saw one party of riders arrive at the fair looking terrified as their horses went absolutely crazy when they approached all the noise, and, as we realised later, the safari horses are all stallions and there were a lot of mares tethered nearby. Di and I gave each other a very apprehensive look, and both of us turned ashen with terror!
The next day we met the owner and operator of the horse safari and his horses, which were small, fit and contentedly munching their feed whilst tethered at the back of our tented camp. Within a couple of minutes of riding them we realised they were a joy — willing, comfortable and totally bombproof, even when lorries tore past with horns blaring inches from us. Many unflattering comparisons were made to our own horses at home!
The riding was wonderful, through timeless villages with smiling, waving inhabitants, across semi desert, where once we saw an old man shepherding a herd of camel ahead of us, across fields, walking and cantering fast on our agile and sure-footed horses.
We stopped for lunch each day, sometimes in a farmyard, other times in a field, by a temple, or at the side of a lake where the fishing nets were being pulled in by teams of boys, and goats were being tended by a woman and her young son. We were always found shade under a tree, a delicious freshly-cooked lunch was waiting, with bowls of hot soup to start with, and beer, lemonade or water to drink. The horses were whisked away from us to be watered, fed, groomed and rested while we ate and magically reappeared, saddled and ready when we had finished.
We stayed in different palaces each night, where the kindness and hospitality of our hosts was unfailing. Some of the palaces had been turned into hotels, some were beginning to take guests, and all were vast buildings full of history and atmosphere. It was all such fun, and really well-organised. We left the safari not exhausted and stiff as we’d imagined, but fit as fleas and raring to go — not bad for a couple of fifty-somethings!
We finished our lovely trip at the Lake Palace hotel, Udaipur, in total comfort and luxury with some jewellery shopping thrown in, but no sign of James Bond!
Thank you Fiona for organising such a great holiday brilliantly, and I can’t wait to go back to India again.”