A trip thanks to the fine Bhopal hospitality of the Royal Nawab Begums (a legacy which included their woman to be fine horseman, swordsman and progressive leaders over men, keen advocates of peace and culture, who promoted the arts and literature, were great poets in both Persian and Urdu and importantly founded hospitals and waterworks within their municipality). Today their 3 sons, charming hosts, run their 3 properties.
Arriving once again in amongst the hustle and bustle of Delhi, the ancient city. Quite an onslaught for the senses and one can’t resist a gentle stroll in the old quarters – getting whiff and sight of those spices. An apartment run by ‘street connections’ a organisation housing and rehabilitating children http://stay.streetconnections.co.uk – join one of their walks and see what they are up to. Very special indeed. Of course the lure of Khadi cloth for some fine purchases.
Old Delhi, after some hours meandering a chance meeting with ‘rice street’ below and above the familiar dried spices in the atmospheric chandi chowk. *Little culinary tip – we should be eating ‘un’ polished rice.
Cycle rickshaw to New Delhi rail station for the early express train to Bhopal.
A chance encounter with Mexicans who were being escorted to Khajaraho.
The train reaches its destination late afternoon. The usual confusion and search for a good three wheel chariot and likeable driver. Speedy journey across the city in the wonderful afternoon light.
Delightful stay at the Jehan Numa Palace Hotel http://www.jehannuma.com. Exploring the sights – Sanchi, Tribal Museums, the Siva temples, ancient cave dwellings – from this charming old residence.
Below is Bhojesvar Temple 1100 AD, an unfinished Jain temple, housing India’s largest lingam. 28kms from Bhopal.
The extraordinary Bhimbteka ancient cave paintings. The beginning of South Asian stone age. Some of these caves were inhabited 100,000 years ago, and of the most part 30,000 years old. Not a great pic, but not got quite got the lense or lighting for this kind of subject.
And the buddhists established themselves in the region much later – below – the tranquil 2nd BC Sanchi Stupa. A buddhist stupa built in the Bhopal region of Madhya Pradesh, built under Emperor Ashoka and his thriving buddhist civilisation.
Onward to Madhai and the fabulous Reni Pani Lodge
The region is divided up into ‘buffer’ and core zone. The buffer zone allows some traditional villages to continue farming, but in equilibrium with the protected big cats and other wild life. The core zone is a controlled nature reserve.
Life in the buffer zone. Actually Reni Pani do night game drives – firstly one sees a surprising amount of wildlife in close proximity to the lodge, and one can see why there is a rule of accompanying back to their cabins in the evening – but also it is an obvious poacher deterent.
Local village 2 km from the lodge. A 15 year old girl got taken and eaten by a tiger in buffer zone village a month prior to these photos. The tiger was located very close to this photo, tranquillised with a shot and re located to a confined wildlife compound. It was collared and repeatedly crossed the huge river preferring the buffer zone region to the core of the park.
Crossing the Narmada river (which flows East to West and is India’s 5th largest river) – here it is the natural boundary when going into the core of the reserve – crocodiles and huge variety of bird life reside here- we are going for a stroll with our guide and naturalist from Reni Pani.
Arriving in the core zone by foot, about to embark on a walking safari.
We don’t have the lenses for wildlife photography. So we just keep our eyes peeled and senses alert as a rule of thumb, sort of key to the old balance of things to know when to leave the camera out of the mix! You can look at books and other websites for those pictures! We did see and track sloth bear, had an extraordinary experience with following a leopard, and spotted the giant squirrel, had a glimpse of wild dog, wild boar nosing around, ruddy mongoose scarpering along a river bank, blue bull, sambar …
Sightings board …
Wild cat footprint in the core of the park
Satpura National Park is the only park in India where one can go on safari on foot, sleep under canvas. Plus it is not over run with jeep traffic. Ali, owner of Reni Pani Lodge, facilitates this experience for one to feel the magic of India.
It would be a wonderful place to have horses and ride! Sandy tracks in the forest, beautiful scenery, sounds and light and abundant with wildlife.
Leopard print in the core of the park.
Dhatura – a plant, of which its seeds and flowers are very poisonous, used in ancient siva worship and ayurvedic medicine.
Off again – car, train, rickshaw and then foot for another explore – this time looking out for cave temples in another area of the Satpura hill range.
Jatashanka caves – (jata, hair or matted hair; Shankar, another name for siva). Hidden deepen in a ravine there is a shrine in the mountain with a cold and hot water spring inside. Good spot.
Entrance to the Mahadeo rock temple in the same Pachmari region.
Strolling in the faithful gobis from http://www.vivobarefoot.co.uk
Great little addition cultural excursion – to horse riding ‘The Desert Safari’ – if you want to be doing something a bit different.
Many thanks to the generous and absolutely wonderful hospitality of Jehan Numa Palace Hotel. Jean Numa Retreat and Reni Pani Lodge. To their charming family and friends who made the trip possible.
In the afternoon riding from the MalchinUul. Wonderful view of all the peaks and Potaina glacier.
Tavanbogd means “the Holy Five” referring to the five highest peaks, of which HuitenUul is the highest in Mongolia, 4374 meters above sea level.. The other peaks are named Nairamdal, Ulgii, Burged and Malchin.
This trip is best described in photos without text! It was an exploratory journey in the far far west of Mongolia where we rode along the remote Kazak and Russian borders in the highest area of the Altai region where the landscape changes dramatically day by day, as did the weather! Camels carrying our mobile camp.
This was not a tried and tested journey, it was a first, as was the meeting with the horses and Tuban horseman. I have never been on a trip with so many challenges in the beginning days – including things at camps, a fierce storm depositing a layer of snow mid summer etc etc – delaying moving forward by 2 days before a mountain crossing – great effort was made so they were met to the best of the teams abilities and for the most part overcome and we all learned a lot and had a unique and rewarding experience.
Quentin and Christine certainly had their experiences and I am sure have enjoyed sharing it with friends and family. I think it might be there last trip in tents though!
Starting as always at the temple in Ulaan Bataar, of which we are very fond. Always providing a nice experience, wonderful sounds and colours of the monks and surroundings – and spinning the prayer wheels …
After an internal flight … night outside the village of Bayan Ulgii, in a simple ger camp.
Then the long journey (8 to 10 hours) cross country to first camp and the horses.
First camp … after a long journey to the head of TsagaanGol valley where the Tuban people spend their summer.
The pack camels
And off on the trail …
Inside a ger of the regional Tuban nomads. A few ritual flicks of vodka drops and then some shots, yogurt and the local products to see us on our way.
Riding up toward the glacier.
Remote Russian Mongolian border posts
A beautiful riding afternoon back to the head of the TsagaanGol Valley
Riding to the KharaAirikh Valley via Shiver Hairhan Uul. A spectacular ride and soft grass under foot. We saw the Siberian Ibex on a cliff. We stopped and saw incredible petroglyphs from supposedly the bronze and iron ages
Experiencing bad weather for a couple of days we had 2 rest days at this next camp below Shiveet Hairhan Mountain, revered by the local nomads.
The show tent.
The Kapinsky, with treasures and treats from Fortnums and fine french delicatessens.
A journey to Northern Patagonia – Pampa Norquin, Vilu, Ranquilco and on to explore Fila Hua Hum further south and ride ‘the Patagonia trail’ with Jakob and Charlie. Great to start with a few days with Kiki, Chino, Matias and Virginia, Thomas and Hannah – and fun to see Ashley and Thomas up in the Trocoman Valley. Sorry to miss Ginny and Sky. A pleasure to reunite with a faithful old saddle, ponchos and poetic mountain kit – which hadn’t been used for a while and was in threat of being consumed by nature! Some long distance travelling, but gosh, some nice rides in the Cordillera. Must be said, you can forget sometimes, but you and a horse in the mountains, spring water, a river to swim in, making a fire to cook on, saddle blankets, sheepskins and poncho for bedding, sleeping under the stars – takes a lot of beating. Dressing the horse with the wonderful eclectic mix of tack and beautiful woven textiles, doesn’t really get any better anywhere, travels well and you just can’t but love it …
Onward to meet up with Jakob and Charlie in Fila hua hum, to do the ‘The Patagonia Trail’. A few hours south, still in the land of the Mapuche weavings. A hidden gem in the Cordillera of Patagonia. Hat off to the Baron, this is such a good safari. Doesn’t really get much better than this. I agree, probably the best ride in Argentina! Great little log cab cabins combined with fine african safari tents, on the banks of the river, in the forested valley. 2 perfect little camps 8 hours ride (including lunch, siesta pause).
Camp 1 is 20.35 kms ride / & camp 2 is 21.42 kms ride from home base. Lastly or firstly, depending on which way you start the safari, camp 3 is a charming place, in comfy big canvas tents, estancia home of the family of Felipe Chandea, the safari Gaucho, seen below.
It is an authentic experience with a mix of a comfy base – with good round the fire, fine camping high up in the mountains. Good quality, good everything – horses, kit, ponchos, wine and food – and most importantly good gang looking after you in Charlie, Felipe, Frederico, Cristobal, Belky, Rosa and Gabriela.
On day 6 riding to the second camp which is in the beech forest, just below the tree line. Maximum elevation this day was 1951m and total distance travelled 21.42 kms. We arrived at the cracking little. Perfect for both tired horses and humans alike. Great fire place with logs to sit or stretch back on. Horse grazing nearby. Tents, tarps or on your saddle blankets under the stars being the sleeping options. Lots of options and picturesque locations. As always, wonderful to eat and drink round the camp fire. The forest providing nice shelter with open skies close by for those amazing southern hemisphere stars.
Charlie in his new bombachas checking on the clients tents
You can see the volcanic ash trail. Riding down from camp 2 through arroyo Filcun to Felipe Chandea’s Estancia home where his mother, Eleanor, and Señora Marta reside. It is a charming spot and they are lovely hosts.
The Baron has done a super job renovating an old wooden quincho structure for dining and an old estancia building into bathrooms, with a good open aside fireplace outside. All makes for a lovely atmosphere, authentic setting with interesting addition of comfy african / botswanan canvas tents. Lago Truful is 10 minutes walk away through the forest for a beautiful swim off a pretty lovely beach. You either start a safari or end your safari here on the full itinerary. Either way this spot is reached by boat!
The breed herd. Catching the young mare, Charlie, for some taming time
great african canvas tarps
Max and Tessa
Charlie and Eleonore
Lunch for everyone – after swimming their horses
Valley Fila Hua Hum.
A good spot for a horse safari!
‘Asia is not going to be civilised after the methods of the West. There is too much Asia and she is too old.’ Rudyard Ripling.
Bonnie, a gentleman and wonderful host, both at home and on Safari, as ever.. The Mewari horses from the Dundlod Stud were beautiful, faithful, spirited desert companions on another wonderful voyage across Rajasthan.
There is so much to experience in India, the riding is just a part of the story and here are a mix of photos to help illustrate this:
In the Puranas the Mt Abu region has been referred to as Arbuduranya (Forest of Arbuda). It is believed that the sage Vashnistha, retired to the southern spur of Mt Abu. It is also believed to be where a serpent, named Arbuda, saved the life of Nandi, Lord Siva’s bull. It is today a popular Indian hill station, with very little foreign tourism. It hosts Om Shanti Ashram, HQ of the Spiritual Movement of the Brahma Kumaris. There are a number of very interesting temple sites, namely the Dilwara Jain Temple complex, which is exquisite beyond belief. Rather lovely that the Jains ban cameras from their temples, which adds to the very tranquil experience of one’s visit. The temples are carved in marble and the structures hidden by surrounding granite rocks which give the site a humble approach but awe inspiring impact once inside. Immersed in mesmorising sculpture of the cool white marble. The photos above and below are from a very holy Siva Temple which was full of tremendous atmosphere and evidently very active with the many wandering ascetics living in the nearby forests. In hindsight we spotted a flow of these sages on the train enroute. There is a huge deep hole at the main shrine, believed to be Siva’s toe print. It is very deep and thought to lead to the underworld.
India is the most extraordinary country. The horse riding and the camping gives one a rather intimate experience of the countryside. In the rural and tribal communities of the semi desert regions, horses seem to always be a welcomed sight, such is the generous spirit and natural positive reaction of the people. These are communities that rely and care very much for their own livestock – Brahmin cattle, camels, and buffalos – greet us warmly, travellers on horseback. So much so, that their much valued source of life in the desert, water, is generously given out to the thirsty horses, at waterholes, not wanting, nor accepting, anything in return. Without the generosity of spirit from these communities one could simply not ride in the desert.
The Bishnoi (’29’) represents the number of principles espoused by their Prophet, Lord Jambeshwar. Despite being born a kshtriya, the second highest, he disapproved of the class system and layed down that the community would be classless and adhere to 29 principles. This included, no cutting of trees and no killing of animals. It is said that he attained enlightenment meditating beneath a tree in what is no the village of Jhamba. He discovered a water source that saved the people from a 20 year drought. He established his ideal community that lived in harmony with their environment and with each other. Many of these ideals are upheld today. Women are dressed in wonderful bright saris, predominantly red and pink, adorned with nose rings, anklets and bracelets. The men are white. Ridng acroos the region is a wonderful experience.
BELOW, NAGAUR LIVESTOCK FAIR:
BELOW, THE HORSE SAFARI:
PHOTOS OF THE GANG:
Yes, it is a delight and one is lucky to be on such fantastic indigenous mounts, but an Indian experience is much more than just the riding. It is the hospitality of the people, their kindness and keeness to share which is so memorable. Upbeat and amusing. Bright. Brimming with character. Colourful, eccentric and extreme. A glimpse of a temple puja. Bustling markets overflowing with fruits, vegetables, pulses and herbs. The breaking of a warm chapati! A mouthful of mixed vegetable thali plate bursting with flavours. Spices gallore, a culinary sensation. Yoga asanas and study. Ayurveda. Courses and retreats. Scenes that shock, architecture that astounds, sights that make you gasp and smile. A culture that overwhelms, welcomes and delights.
An unforgettable magic which stays with you long after your journey home.
India would take many lifetimes to explore in real depth. The beauty of Her is that you can visit a different part of the diverse sub continent on any number of return journeys, as many do.
”If there is one place on this earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dreams of existence, it is India.” Romain Rolland
Authentic and personal, a little bit different from the norm in the detail, worth giving it a thought. Mix of riding, architecture, cuisine, festivals and Yoga! Try it, give us a call!
‘Something hidden. Go and find it.
Go and look behind the ranges –
Something lost behind the Ranges.
Lost and waiting for you. Go!’
Sir John Ure
The Altai, she was a fine host, once again to our two safaris that crossed her rivers and mountains. Both intimidating and awe inspiring the landscape is vast, open and belittling. Horsemen with Golden Eagles, Horses that have survived thousands of years through freezing winters, for whom no terrain is impassable: hospitable nomads for whom to give is to live. A proper trip in this region is a real journey, one that fills you with a warmth that is pretty special.
Feels good to go to the Temple after a big journey. Tibetan Buddhist scriptures chanted by Mongolian monks, worn reds and yellows painted on wood, comforting sounds, flickering candles, clouds of juniper incense, silk Tangka paintings hanging from the walls, prayer flags tied on posts. Mongolians elegantly dressed in their del gowns. Counting the rosary beads in one’s hand, passing them over the clouds of incense. A moment of peace, a little prayer and Northern Buddhist prostration below the standing golden Buddha. A little thanks for keeping everyone safe.
Shepards came galloping up as Tiku and I gave them a bit of a surprise passing through a high summerland of 3600 metres in the Autumn with winter closing in. What fantastic ponies the were mounted on. Tiku’s father is a legendary character in the area, one of the toughest men, locals say, that has lived here. You feel you are ok, riding with one of his sons!
It was quite a journey to reach the starting point! It is not an area many people visit. We were justly rewarded for our efforts. The friendly team couldn’t have been more accommodating in taking care of us. We were in good riding country, moving over nice ground for the horses. It was a really authentic Mongolian environment and experience. We ate very well, picked fruits from the forest,loved the yogurt from the nomad families, enjoyed the buddist stupas, hill top monuments to horses, ancient rock art and had a tremendous laugh with everyone. It was a good trip.
What a great journey, super fun and thoroughly enjoyable to travel around with a lover of permaculture, passionate foodie and excellent chef – with wonderful knowledge to share. A love for our four legged friends. A fine balance on many levels and how nice to have roots in Bengal. Skipping around with wonderful threads not a man made fibre in sight. A treasure chest of potions. Generous and thoughtful toward those she connected with throughout her voyage. Not phased by extreme weather conditions. I mean, pretty good girl really – now back at her home living out in the woods with her dogs, pootling around! She thundered through autumnal Patagonia on a variety of ponies – Jalisco, Laguna, Estampa and Rocket to! Fine wilderness dining, quite the most thorough provisioning the village has ever experienced and pretty damned good for us on safari – in freezing temperatures, up in the mountains! Snowy picnics in the forest as the huge snow flakes floated around. Pretty surreal! A little elf worked her magic to bring beautiful home spun woolly jumpers to us all, designed at a glance of her human subjects, perfect sizes returning, knitted overnight. Well it is hard to imagine life without them. Heaps of fun, crossed borders, the safari moved north where it ended in the hills of the fathers, drinking good wine, eating super food, riding all day, laughing and chatting with Chistl and Jakob. Who needs humans, right! Here´s to living remotely and sustainably, four legged friends for company and searching for that special spot to do it all!
The team heading back after what was an absolutely wonderful kayak safari. Amusing company, beautiful scenary. pristine waters, wonderful cooking, happy camping and excellent weather.
In brief the story here is that it is end of the riding safari season but time for the fast approaching Torres del Paine 80 km endurance race. So these weeks were spent on a training program to get Gavelan in shape and fit. He is quite a character! He is a good boy, a little eccentric at times, but not a bad bone in his body. He can be nervous and unpredictable – there is no knowing when he will react to something he sees and move like lightening in one direction or the other! So as long as you as the rider are ready for that and prepared for the odd strong moment when he is excited – he is fine ride. Super fast over long and short distances.
The training began very calmly. I had a bad back and Gavelan was over weight and under used and quite difficult to handle. So the first week was nothing more than a forward walk and some controlled trotting. I have learned that forward walking is an integral part of long distance training. I didn´t want to sore him either, so I was being very careful of that. I progressively moved into steadily cantering him. He would typically have 2 or three days on a day soft day and a day off when necessary. On the soft days I would lead him and search for flamingo feathers by the lake, find a nice place to lie down and generally have a nice bonding tranquil time together. In the end I came back with a full set of rare plummage, including a huge condor feather. Gavelan had his eye out to! He knew straight away when it was feather gathering days. Just as he knew well when he had to work hard.
We talked alot together, him neighing and trumpeting his nostrils, me copying and building up a little language thing.
We had our set circuits with hill work, high flat plateaux, a full mix really. We put up duck, flamingo geese, ostrich and guanaco every day. Spectacular. Some days semi wild horses (ariscos), red fox, armadillo and puma tracks.
It was quite a challenge to get Gavelan shod well. He lost 2 shoes in the training but eventually we got him sorted, he is not tame with his hind, so that was quite a thing…
Explorer hotel group had reclaimed the land where I was living and I had to take Gavelan to a new home. Not an easy feat. He was born in this remote valley. We rode out one day when the training was complete. It was quite a moment. Poncho tied to the saddle, Gavelan never to return. I rode a few hours to meet a small lorry at a trail head.
It was with great relief we arrived at Sofia. I loved looking after him in this week rest period before the race. He was looking magnificent, everyone there noted that, you couldn´t but not. I saddled him up each day for a short walk up into the forest and by the lake. He would spook, ears pricked and turn in circles at the chickens and the Cock sounding off – it was classic. Proper wilderness horse!