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Jaipur & the Great Outdoors – yes it is an adventure destination.

People tend to think if they have been to Jaipur and seen ‘the sights’ then there is no point going back. I disagree, Jaipur is a destination that can be visited time and time again, the city itself has so much to offer, but if you have ‘been there and done that’ as far as the city is concerned, get yourselves back on the NH8, stop short of the city, stay in one of the hotels in the countryside on its outskirts and discover what we all assume such a famous city can’t offer – the great outdoors.  I recently did just that, spent five nights at the Tree of Life Resort and tried out a different activity every day and spent the afternoons just chilling by our private pool and didn’t once feel the need to venture into Jaipur. These adventures make for a great fun weekend away!

  1. Hot air ballooning

Oh my word it’s huge! Was my first thought on seeing it, semi inflated, stretched out along the ground, a team of people basket end, directing fire up its bottom. Tea and biscuits were laid out for us and we grabbed some and then wondered down to where our pilot was preparing for the flight. My friend terrified of heights (to be fair I should have checked before springing it on him) had to be forced into the basket but no sooner was he ensconced than he was as captivated as I was. The take-off was so gentle as to be barely perceptible and we gradually started to drift across the fields, slowly gaining height as we went. A little too slowly as it turned out, we just tipped the ridge of a low lying wall, the others gripped on terrified, the pilot winked at me, to be fair, we were barely two feet off the ground, what could happen? The sun was climbing above the hills and people were starting to go about their daily chores as we glided silently over the roof tops. Of course, this being India, roof tops are a hive of activity, one man didn’t seem to object as we cast a shadow over his morning yoga session, women waved as they lit the morning fires for chai, and children jumped and squealed and waved with extraordinary levels of excitement as we passed by. I was astounded by how close we were, to the people and villages below, dogs barked, we startled the odd cow, old ladies peered up at us in awe, and groups of children gathered and ran behind us as we gently floated by.  A wonderful start to the day and a unique perspective of the countryside, brilliant photo opportunities and one of the most extraordinary sunrises I have witnessed in India.  You can find more details at www.skywaltz.com ; goballooning@skywaltz.com or call: +91 9560397222

2. Elephant Experiences – Elephants are two a penny in Jaipur but I have always detested the elephant ride to the Amber Fort, that isn’t how elephants, even domesticated ones should be making a living. So come and meet, Udaijit Singh who, having refused to sell the family land to developers to build yet more hotels in this over accommodated city.  Instead, he adopted a couple of elephants, giving them a much more natural environment to work in, built a colonial style pavilion replete with bar, some thatched dining areas (both for groups and individuals) around the land and started Dera Amer, just half an hour away from the city (just beyond the Amer fort) yet a world away. Turn up for lunch or dinner, spend some time with your elephant, feed them bananas (what else?) and then take a leisurely stroll around the countryside either on them or alongside them, your choice. It is a sedate amble through the scrub of the Rajasthan forest, the bird life is wonderful, the peace and quiet even better, barely perceptibly punctuated by the occasional deep belly rumble from your pachyderm. After the safari (evenings are better), enjoy  a drink or two as the sun sets and then enjoy a dinner under the stars served by his staff, all from the local villages and resplendent in their vibrant orange turbans.

If you want to take the kids along, then he can also arrange elephant face painting and elephant bathing, true stories for the school room!  You can find more details at www.deraamer.com or

Call : +91- 90015 12512 or email: udaijit@deraamer.com

3. Trekking

I found out about  the ruins of the deserted maharajas hunting lodge in the hills above the Amber Fort several years ago and have been itching to trek to it ever since.  My favourite guide from Jaipur, Vineet, had told me about it but looked less than keen to accompany me when I suggested we head out the following morning. In his defence, it was May. I had trekked the week before from Kumbalgarh to Ranakpur and despite the 0500 start it had been unbearably hot, so realistically, I knew better, but I am a ‘’hear about it and want to try it NOW’’ kind of person. Vineet was not happy, immediately regretting telling me about the lodge, he looked terrified, I teased him a little while longer and then relented, we would do it another time.

It took 5 years to pin down a date, once gain almost missing the winter season but the wait was worth it.  We started early morning from Amer Village, a short walk brought us to to a small temple with a most amenable priest who insisted on providing a breakfast of chai and ladoos. Vineet has a way of befriending everyone on his walks and so one always has wonderful encounters when exploring with him. Suitably refreshed, we continued on. Just beyond the temple the view opened up, the Aravallis in front of us and a row of chattris to the left, each having a peacock (and real ones at that) perched perfectly; a magazine shoot couldn’t have planned it better.

Vineet explained as we continued that we would be skirting the walls of the 13th century Kunthil Garh fort, would have a view down over the Bhuteshwar Temple which not coincidentally captures the first rays of the morning; venture down to the Sheeshawas Village which still has no ‘proper’ roads leading to it and whose imposing entry gate is over 1000 years old. Here, we would see the ladies making the maawa that the village is famous for, needless to say sampling some, before strolling along to the Audi Ram Sagar. This is the former hunting lodge of the Maharaja of Jaipur, now inhabited by monkeys and birds, then we would head back down through the bio diversity park and, four hours after we started, end up down by the Delhi – Jaipur road.  In between we spotted birds, clambered up the walls of the ancient fort to marvel at the views over Jaigarh, Amer Fort and Amer Village, sat on the ramparts and chatted about the history of Jaipur and so much more. Don’t be fooled by Vineet’s unassuming demeanour, he is a veritable font of knowledge on all things Jaipuri yet imparts in in a casual and fun way, never preaching, pontificating or recounting lists of dates and names.  The walk was beautiful, we didn’t encounter another person, we had stretched our legs and completely forgotten about the stress of the big cities we both live in. I would highly recommend this walk to anyone visiting Jaipur though if 4 hours sounds a bit too long, there is also a shorter two hour version that Vineet is more than happy to take you on. Contact Vineet Sharma on Jaipurwalks@yahoo.com.

4. Zorbing/Quad biking and so much more

Have you ever wanted to throw yourself completely encased in a giant plastic ball, down a hillside? No? Seriously, the thought has never occurred to you? Then it must. Zorbing is on offer at Tao Experiences on the outskirts of Jaipur. Wishing we’d stopped at just two bottles of wine the night before, we climbed into the orbs rather apprehensively at the top of the slope. It is hilarious, as long as you can hold onto the contents of your stomach, one feels weightless (always a bonus) and as if one is defying gravity as one tumbles head over feet down the slope coming to an unceremonious stop at the bottom.  Yet despite this, one can’t help but giggle and one time, on the rather too short run is not quite enough. However, zorbing is only one experience on offer at this ‘adventure’ destination and they really have thought it out well so that there are activities for everyone from kids (as young as 4 years old) to grown up kids alike.

There are quad bikes of various sizes to take around the pre-determined tracks, sons racing dads, though lets’ not be sexist here, I gave my male companion a run for his money and actually beat him to the finish line; cries of ‘Philippa,  this isn’t actually a race track! Going unheeded, needless to say, a second ‘go’ wasn’t offered but I don’t blame them, they have to be aware, when offering such activities of the health and safely aspects.  Other activities available are zip lining, a low rope course, bungy elastic run, archery and mini golf, cricket, paintballing and a rock climbing wall. They even have a music jamming deck where musicians can meet and dream of fame and fortune. I planned badly and didn’t have enough time to sample a fraction of what was on offer but in a weekend you would be hard pressed to fit it all in. It is the perfect family getaway from Delhi or Jaipur and a place where the kids will never get bored.

They have various packages on offer to club together the activities:

The kids below 9 package consists of; Bungee Elastic Run, Kids Zipline, Cricket Bowling Machine, X-Box Gaming, Karaoke, Kids Quad Bike, Body Zorbing & Sumo Suit.

The PRO ADVENTURE package consist of Quad Biking 200 CC (LAP) and paint balling with 50 BallsPlus any two of the following: Bungee Run, Kids Zipline , Cricket Bowling Machine, X-Box Gaming, Karaoke, Kids Quad Bike (Battery) Body Zorbing or the Sumo Suit.  There are other packages on offer or they can be custom made, contact Tao Experiences +91-93143-45345 or sales@taoexperiences.com for further details. http://taoexperiences.com/

5. Cycling:  It is possible now to do early morning cycling tours of the old city of Jaipur which are fun and one gets to see a whole new side to the city, but for the purpose of this write up, where we are being more adventurous then there are some other fun cross country options available.

One is a cycle ride through the countryside to Samode Palace, another is a cycle treasure hunt, great for a team building exercise through the Nahagarh Bio Diversity park and the third is to Naila, a village modelled on Jaipur itself with a fort, city palace, temple and suraj and chand pols to enter and leave the village. All of these cycle rides, and I tried them all, are great fun, some involve more off roading than others, and are a wonderful way to get some exercise and see village life and local countryside and breath in some fresh air.

There are two companies offering cycling excursions and they both offer state of the art mountain bikes and safety helmets. Check fitness levels required first.  The early morning city cycle tour requires little levels of fitness, you can cope even if you are rusty on a bike – though don’t have breakfast first, or plan on returning to your hotel, enroute are a famous lassi wala, samosa shop and LMB (the famous local eatery for breakfast), trust me, on this one, you don’t work off the calories! The Nahagarh Bio diversity park is much more challenging, I have to sample these things off season, however, I don’t recommend doing this in the summer months, I nearly killed my travel companion, and he has never travelled with me since. I recommend October to March only, oh, but this is the route they use for corporate team building scavenger hunts so it depends how vindictive you would like to be!

The third option is the Naila cycle ride, my personal favourite but that’s because I have a fascination with Naila, I have written about this before, so to save repetition, click on this link: http://memsahibinindia.com/2016/08/04/havent-we-seen-this-somewhere-before/

The two cycle operators are: http://letstrip.in/ and http://www.letourdeindia.com/

6. Horse riding – Little girls and ponies – that was my upbringing (spoilt brat I know) and even now, any opportunity has me mounting up and galloping off into the sunset. The more common areas for riding in Rajasthan are Jodhpur, Udaipur and Bijaipur, I know, I have tried them all but, for those who don’t want to venture that far, there are now two options available on the outskirts of Jaipur and these tend to involve handsome men and polo ponies…. What’s not to love?

One is to stay at Khas Bagh where they have a stable of retired polo ponies, the owner is a polo player and it is a great place for if you want to do a trial ride or even learn to ride a horse. www.khasbagh.com

The other is back to Dera Amer where they provide once again, retired polo ponies, an escort and a two to three hour ride through the countryside. I have already covered the other facilities available above as it takes place at the same place, Dera Amer where they do the elephant experiences.

Where I stayed:
At the end of each day, we returned to the Tree of Life Resort, Jaipur. What could be better, superb service (this is an all private villa property and they have the room service down pat), great food, and a beautiful, quiet location but within a stones throw of all the experiences mentioned – oh and they also have their own on offer too, don’t miss those. Each morning we set off out to explore and then returned to our sumptuous private-pool villa by lunch time to enjoy a lunch and a perfectly chilled beer or two (after day 1, the staff remember your preferences and have them on hand accordingly). Lazy afternoons were only interrupted by the chef asking for our choices for the evening meal. A saunter down to the restaurant in the evening, perhaps stopping for a moment or 5 to gaze at the star studded sky, before dining and imbibing a glass or two of vino. As mentioned above, don’t let this stretch to a bottle or two if you have zorbing planned for the next day! http://www.treeofliferesorts.com/jaipur-home/

Getting to Jaipur:

The nearest airport and train station is Jaipur itself and then to head to the area where all of these activities are will be approx. 1 hr from the airport, 40 mins from the station. For driving, then head down the NH8 and stop off at a hotel before you reach Amer in the Kukas district.

The best time for all these activities is from Sept – April (though April can be getting too warm and early mornings should be considered). Carry water, a sunhat, correct equipment ie: hiking boots/solid trainers for treks, riding hat and boots for horse riding etc, sunscreen, a camera and a sense of adventure!

 If you want to know what else there is to do around Jodhpur check out: 

http://memsahibinindia.com/2016/06/09/jodhpur-is-more-than-mehrangarh-fort-its-also-about-zip-wiring-stylish-hotels-and-multiple-types-of-safaris/

 

One Comment

  • arv!

    May 24, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    What a lovely post about my city – Jaipur, Phillipa!
    While I haven’t undertaken few things that tourists does like Elephant experience etc. There are few things that I do on a regular basis, like trekking! Watching these pictures of the spots which I regularly visit and reading it from your perspective is quite interesting. I can recall reading your previous posts too, like the one on Naila village.

    Most people look at Jaipur as a tourist destination. When I write posts on variety of things and options that are available, they are surprised. Jaipur has a distinct vibrancy that only few Indian cities have. I’m sure being a regular visitor to Jaipur, you can feel that!

    what do you think?

    Reply

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