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India: Ride to Balotra Fair in Rajasthan

Ride to Balotra Fair in Rajasthan

Next ride dates:

14 - 26 March 2017

What is the Balotra Ride?

Brand new ride in Rajasthan: This is a rare opportunity to see traditional India on the way to a fair riding a Marwari Horse. Every year this large fair is held in the desert where horses, camels, bullocks and donkeys vie for the buyer’s eye. When you arrive at Balotra heads will turn to see riders from the West mounted on horses that the experienced, appraising eyes will acknowledge come from the top bloodlines.

What horses shall I ride?

You will ride a Marwari horse, a breed descending from the war horses of the ruling families of feudal India. A tough, brave breed, their these horses were known as ‘superior to all men’ - including the ruling family - but perhaps their most notable attributes are their unusual ears which are lyre-shaped and curve inwards, often appearing to meet at the tips.

What will I do on the ride?

Day 1, Tuesday 14th March 2017
Depart London and fly to Jaipur (overnight)

Day 2, Wednesday 15th March
Arrival in Jaipur

The flight arrives in Jaipur at first light. Met upon arrival and driven across Jaipur (35 minutes) to the hotel where your charming room awaits you  for a freshen-up and change of clothes; it’ll be warmer here than in the UK so it’ll be good to shower and change into lighter clothing.

Breakfast will be ready when you are, around 08:00 and we’ll then head off into Jaipur to explore some of the city’s highlights, including the Amber Fort, Palace of the Winds and a couple of the shops.

Dinner and overnight in hotel, Jaipur

Day 3, Thursday 16th March
Travelling to Jodhpur

After breakfast we’ll set off for the train station and the four hour trip across Rajasthan to “The Blue City” Jodhpur. Our destination is a hotel that was built in 1920 by Maharaja Ratan Singh, a keen horseman and one of the greatest polo players of his time. Many of the buildings are built from the impressive pink Jodhpur sandstone: exteriors are extensively carved and ornate, while the interiors are simple and comfortable. Our hotel is the home of the grandson of Maharaja Ratan Singh, who built the hotel.

In the afternoon drive out to the camp which will have been set up in the desert about 45 minutes away. The horses and grooms will be waiting and after introductions we’ll mount up for a couple of trial rides around the local fields. There is the opportunity to change horses if you’re not comfortably settled. As the sun goes down we’ll return to town.

Overnight hotel, Jodhpur

Day 4, Friday 17th March 2017
Explore Jodhpur

To add perspective to this riding experience the morning is spent exploring Jodhpur.

In the afternoon, as the day begins to cool, drive out to the camp that has been set up in the desert, and meet the horses. There will be a trial ride to make sure that you are comfortably matched with your horse.

Overnight Ratan Villas Palace, Jodhpur
Saddle time, two hours; distance 10 km

Day 5, Saturday 18th March
Jodhpur to Luni and on to Satlana

In the morning return to base camp and set off on the ride which begins by crossing a dry, flat area. The lunch halt is at a dew-pond that sits beside a temple dedicated to ‘mamoji’ a local divinity. The trail continues following the dry riverbed of the Luni River which threads between fields where the sandy soil sustains crops of dry-land specialist plants such as millet and various pulses. The land is open and flat and the sandy soil is firm and ideal for horses.

Overnight in camp
Saddle time, six hours; distance 35 km

Day 6, Sunday 19st March
Satlana to Ghana

The ride continues “upstream” following the broad expanse of the dry river bed. The sand here is deeper and softer, so progress is slower and the horses work hard. After a couple of hours we leave the riverbed and pass through tiny villages and across dry scrubby country. The festival of colour “Holi” and local communities will still be celebrating with dancing and drum. Towards the end of the day we cross 9 Km of protected bush land belonging to the Ramdev ji Temple; such protected areas are called “Oran”. In the evening we often have visitors from the adjacent farms and nearby village. They are as eager to see you as you are to see local people in their local dress; our grooms and guide act as translators.

Overnight in camp
Saddle time, six hours; distance 35 km

Day 7, Monday 20th March
Ghana to Karmavas

The ride turns west-northwest with the Aravali hills in front. Today the country is flatter and the going less sandy. The villages are noticeably cleaner and the clay houses better maintained. We won’t quite reach the Aravali Hills, but camp tonight is within clear sight of them.

Overnight in camp

Saddle time, six hours; distance 35 km

Day 8, Tuesday 21st March
Karmavas to Asotra

This morning we ride past small groves of acacia trees which cluster together where there is more subterranean water. By lunchtime we reach the village of Mangla which sits on the bank of the still-dry Luni River. Gradually the land becomes greener as we approach the Aravali and the village of Asotra.

Around 2000 BC a massive aquifer was created by the Saraswati River; as a result farmers pump water by electric pumps and for their crops and riding through this fertile oasis is easy on the eye! Our camp is in quiet agricultural land and riders are able to meet the villagers and the family of our host.

Overnight in camp

Saddle time, six hours; distance 35 km

Day 9, Wednesday 22nd March
Asotra to Balotra Fair (Tilwara)

We are a short distance from the market town of Balotra, famous for its hand block-printing, and of course the livestock fair! The access to Balotra is particularly poor, so the grooms take the horses through at dawn, and we jump aboard the Jeeps as far as Jasol. The final 16 Km from Jasol to Tilwara, and the site of the fair, is on horseback. Evening in Tilwara. Explore the fair grounds on arrival. Evening campfire and folk entertainment

Total distance ridden 142 Km

Days 10 and 11, Thurs/Friday 23rd & 24th March
At Balotra Fair (Tilwara)

We have two entire days to join in the fair, look around and enjoy the experience.

Overnight in camp; riding as you wish.

Day 12, Saturday 25th March
At Balotra Fair (Tilwara)

We have until lunchtime to enjoy the fair; at lunchtime we’ll say goodbye to horses and grooms and drive into Jodhpur in time to catch the train back to Jaipur. Arrive in Jaipur in the late evening. Overnight in hotel, Jaipur where the group will have access to two day-rooms for showers and changing into clothes for the flight home.

Day 13, Sunday 26th March 2016
Return home.

Return to the airport before dawn for the flight home. The flight reaches Heathrow in the afternoon of the same day.

Riding Difficulty
We rate this riding experience 8 out of 10 because the horses are well-mannered but forward-going. They are very fit and love “making progress”. The tack is predominately English (with some variations) so you need to be well-seated, compared for example, to Western tack which is more forgiving. Some canters are eight to ten minutes long and a dozen horses cantering together is exhilarating for competent riders, but could be scary for a novice. The trails are dusty and temps can top 30°C and higher so you will get sweaty and grimy – in the nicest possible way! Having said all that, it is also the most authentic, exhilarating and all-absorbing ride you could wish for.

Maximum group size is 10
Maximum riders weight is 85kg

What’s included

  • Meals: full board from breakfast on day two to breakfast on day 13.
  • Train Jaipur to Jodhpur, return. Air conditioned carriage.
  • The ride as detailed with horse, tack and grooms.
  • Services of ride leader and camp master; English-speaking
  • Services of Venture Co group leader
  • Entrance to Balotra Fair
  • Road transport in private vehicle
  • Sightseeing in Jaipur and Jodhpur including entrance tickets where required.

What’s not included?

  • International flights
  • Visa for India
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Alcoholic drinks and soft drinks
  • Tips

How much does it cost?

All our Challenge Rides require a registration fee. This £300 fee is needed to secure your place on the trip and is non-refundable if for any reason you are unable to participate. Challengers are encouraged to fundraise to pay for their trip. The cost per participant is £3,350 (excludes £300 and flights) plus a minimum donation of £500 to BHS Welfare. The flight cost will be approximately £826.

Fundraising inspiration

Now you’ve read about the Balotra Ride in India, we’re sure you’ll want to know how to raise the money to get there. We’ve put together a list of fundraising tips to help you on your way.

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