|Sir Edmund Hillary, the great Everester, who's thirst for adventure has proved enduring and never-ending, found Rajasthan ideal for undertaking a journey on a camel caravan. It was an unusual way to choose to cross the arid Thar desert. And, following in his footsteps, one can re-live the adventure.
Fortunately, one can choose from a number of adventure sports options. Relax with golf, go vintage, or practice archery, go boating - in the Chambal river through the gorges of the Vindhayan plateau of Hadoti, or, go up in the air, for a bit of aerial sightseeing over heritage cities by small aircraft or in hot air balloons.
The terrain in Rajasthan is tailor-made for most adventure sports, what with its Aravalli and Vindhayan hills, the open desert tracts, the vast lakes and rivers, the wildlife parks, and little villages abandoned by the march of civilization as is known, but no less hospitable for it. And threading these together, a landscape where the paths and trails weave through a history rich with forts and palaces, mansions and cenotaphs. And a culture that binds these together into a fascinating journey. Just spot and sport it out.
Rajputs have been keen equestrian and they take to the horses like a fish to water. Their taking to polo in big way was only natural. Their association with polo dates back to the Mughal period and miniature paintings at the Mehrangarh Fort bear testimony to this early introduction to the game. However, Polo did not become a passion until the British period when it became a natural and a marvelous peacetime pursuit.
The aristocracy were enamoured of the gentlemen's game that was so popular in British India. Unfortunately, the weather did not permit them the indulgence of creating golf courses in this arid wilderness, and it was only in Jaipur, as a part of the large scale palace renovations undertaken by Maharaja Man Singh that a course was added to the city. That 18-hole course is still the only one in Jaipur and, in fact, in Rajasthan, and though it is not a professional course, it is good for a round of golf in what are picturesque surroundings: a palace next door, and peacocks on the hazards.
Vintage Car Rally
When the first motorcars started coming to India, Rajasthan's princes and aristocracy were among the earliest to order them. These, in turn, have become the venue for various rallies. Vintage car rally: An annual event, the Jaipur Vintage Car Rally has become an important one on the Indian social calendar. Held in January, and keenly contested, it invites prestigious entries. Since some of the aristocratic families have still kept their vintages in their garages, the turnout too is impressive, with some cars dating back to the very early years of the turn of the century.
The people of Rajasthan have adopted different sporting events over the years, and these have provided a great deal of variety to their lives. Interestingly, there is an eclectic quality to these sporting events that can range from more sophisticated sports such as golf to the well-known Rajasthani's passion for kite-flying.
The most popular mode of transport in Rajasthan could also provide the ideal leisure, since traveling on a bicycle is almost therapeutic, provides exercise without being exhausting, and is certainly inexpensive. Bicycles can be hired almost anywhere in Rajasthan.
Though the bikes tend to be basic, they are foolproof and unlikely to develop major snags. The period of hire can range from a few hours to a few days.
However, those looking forward to doing some serious biking in the state should opt for buying racing, gear bicycles that are available in all major towns, and are not expensive. At the end of the trip, such bikes can either be sold or simply gifted away. Obviously, bikes are ideal when exploring the countryside where towns are in close proximity (Shekhawati, for example) or for getting around the hilly idylls of places such as Mount Abu.
The hilly areas of Rajasthan provide several days of ideal trekking opportunities. The Mewar belt with the Udaipur-Kumbhalgarh-Chittaur combine, or the area around Mount Abu, or the Sariska-Alwar-Amber belt is best for trekking.
Camping is a fine art in Rajasthan with established camps in set locations that would be fit for royalty. Especially created tents include those with bedrooms, a small hallway or leisure area, and attached bath. These tents use hand-block printed fabrics within the interiors, to create a rich ambience.
Visitors can travel short distances between towns or historic resorts in these hot air balloons. The best, of course, is to coast over fairs such as Pushkar or Baneshwar or Nagaur in a hot-air-balloon. Jaipur is now a popular centre for ballooning.
A sport that is begging to be tried out in Rajasthan, with its open, sandy countryside, this has so far only been offered by operators who have brought in their equipment with them.
Water sports may appear an alien concept in Rajasthan but the presence of large lakes has actually made the development of such sports possible. Even though they are not popular yet, the opportunities exist, a fact that was brought home when the water games during the prestigious Asian Games in 1982 were held at Jamua Ramgarh on the outskirts of Jaipur.