Travel: Escape to a 14 century fort near Delhi
Summer vacations are about getting away, running off from the heat to cooler abodes.
Winter holidays on the other hand are about indulgence. Indulging in the gorgeous weather, soaking in the sun and just enjoying the moment.
As much as one would want to, often in the hectic humdrum of life, we can't manage to take off from work and weekend vacations remain wishful thinking.
Well the next time the travel bug bites, just pack a picnic lunch, rev up your car and head out. That's just what we did last weekend.
Delhi has plenty of options for weekend breaks but we just wanted to get away from the madding crowd. And after a bit of research, we zeroed in on a remote Neemrana property called Hill Fort Kesroli (at 700 years old it is one of the oldest forts in India in which one can stay).Harnoor Channi-Tiwary is the founder of Journey My Way, a personalised travel advisory firm (www.journeymyway.com).
Photographs: Rohan Tiwary
Located just 140 km from Gurgaon, one needs to get off the NH8 Delhi-Jaipur Highway at Daruhera and drive towards Alwar. There is a shorter route through Sohna but the traffic and road make the drive difficult.
Directions given on the Neemrana website are quite accurate and there isn't much trouble finding your way there.
The road is two-lane like most state highways but fairly smooth and we drove leisurely through the canopies of trees on both sides and vast expanses of fields beyond.
India's true treasure, its agricultural bounty is not just an economic boon but also a sight for sore eyes.
We stopped for a nice lunch at a local dhaaba on the way, of which there are plenty to choose from.
The delicious food served in these dhaabas, piping hot and tempered to taste can rival any fine dining restaurant!
On a hillock
The drive took us three hours from Gurgaon and feeling as fresh as we were when we started, we turned off the highway into a dirt track which 2 km ahead brought us to the tiny hillock on which this fort stands.
To call it a hill would perhaps be a stretch of imagination, but being at a height of around 150 feet gives the fort some great views.
Expect to be looked after here. The moment we drove up, two helpers rushed to us from the gate to take the luggage up. The fort itself is quite small.
With a total of 21 rooms, it almost feels like you own a part of it. The rooms are priced from Rs 2,500 to Rs 6,750.
The history behind the fort
We had booked a suite called 'Sarus Mahal' which had a room with a double bed, another small room with a single, a study and a large bathroom.
In true Neemrana fashion, one doesn't need to worry about the upkeep of the rooms or the cleanliness factor. The rooms are freshly painted, the linen crisp and clean and the bathroom accessorised as expected.
The origins of the seven turreted Hill Fort Kesroli can be traced back to over six centuries.
Yaduvanshi Rajputs, descendents of Lord Krishna, who converted to Islam in the mid-14th century to be called Khanzadas are said to have built this fort.
Subsequently the Mughals and the Jats conquered it before it fell in the hands of the Rajputs in 1775 when the princely state of Alwar was founded.
Retired Wing Commander Mangal Singh who married the royal princess and now resides in Alwar now owns this place.
Tea was served in the common area with hot pakodas and mouth-watering brownies. There is no room service available here and the room tariff includes tea and breakfast.
The evening entertainment of Rajasthani singers was a great backdrop to enjoy our drinks when the bar opened at 7 pm.
The bar menu was surprisingly well priced and wouldn't cut a hole in your pocket like one would expect it to (30ml Indian rum/whiskey/vodka priced at Rs 70).
Dinner (priced at Rs 550 per head) was a bit expensive but a decent spread that included the local favourites like Laal Maans and dal as well as items to suit the foreign palate like spinach bake and penne in tomato sauce with olives.
A perfect getaway
The next morning we woke up early and went for a long walk into the surrounding mustard fields.
The village gives one the impression of having stepped into a period film, with the buffaloes being milked early morning and farmers going to till their land.
The fort overlooks miles and miles of mustard fields with no concrete civilisation to mar the skyline. The air is fresh and rejuvenating and offers the perfect antidote to the dust and pollution of our cities.
Unable to stretch our little escape further, we headed back to Delhi after breakfast.
Another German couple who was residing there with their two little daughters were lucky enough to have time on their hands and planned to visit the nearby Sariska Tiger Sanctuary (40km away) and end their day with a boat ride on Siliserh lake (25km away).
They had spent the previous day exploring Alwar (9km) with its museums and palaces.
Hill Fort Kesroli is the perfect quick getaway from Delhi when one just wants to clear their head and switch off.
There is nothing to disturb you as you read your book or watch the birds chirp away.
It is also a great place to go with small children as it offers enclosed areas for them to play within and at the same time, gives one a few moments of tranquillity.
The resort is not a five-star luxury resort -- rather think of it as a piece of history that takes you back to a time that was.