Emily arrived just in time for a Christmas break. A true Rajasthan adventure was in order and the three of us got right to planning a desert holiday vacation. With Jailsalmer as the ultimate destination, we set to finding an interesting route. Kumbhalgargh, a 15th century fort 84 km outside Udaipur, was an obvious first stop.
We hopped on the 5:30am bus which had us sleepily bumping along a rugged road out of Udaipur. Rajasthan is famous for its many ancient Rajput forts, and Kumbalgargh was appealing for its remote location, deep in the heart of the Aravallis. It is also perched above what is now the Kumbalgargh Wildlife Sanctuary, where we hoped to spend our first night.
The early morning sun brought a little warmth to our chilly ride while treating us to a view of the beautifully bucolic villages that lie along the mountainous route. We arrived in Kewara, a small rural outpost 7 kms below the fort, just past 8am. Before heading on, we had a quick chai and the common Rajasthani rice breakfast of Poha. Emily picked out some snacks and the three of us headed up the road to the fort. We could have taken a shared jeep, but chose rather to wake up our legs and minds with a long walk with the locals. Within a few kilometers of the fort itself, we began to see the ancient wall that provides 36 kms of protection to one of Rajasthan’s most important forts.
Built by the 15th century Rajput Rana Kumbha, the isolated fort is most famous for its success in protecting Mewari rulers in danger, having only been taken once in all it’s history – even then requiring the joint efforts of the three armies of Amber, Marwar, and Mughal emperor Akbar, who were only able to hold on to it for 2 days.
The impressive wall surrounding the fort is as wide as 8 horses abreast in some places. It encloses 360 temples, 700 cannon bunkers, various palaces and gardens, and a small, still inhabited village along with a few food and trinket vendors. We spent most of our morning’s wanderings at the main palace near the fort’s entrance.
Over lunch we learned that spending the night in the nearby wildlife sanctuary was more logistically challenging then any of us were up for. Before long we were on our way to Jhodpur where we would spend one night before heading to the ultimate destination of Jaisalmer. Though the fort at Jhodpur is supposed to be another Rajasthan gem, we must have somehow known that real adventure awaited us in the far desert outpost of Jaisalmer. We were not regretful.