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. 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.
PoloRajputs 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.
GolfThe 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.
BallooningVisitors 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.
Para-SailingA 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.
TrekkingThe 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. Winter is the best time for trekking, though the monsoon months provide romantic, green getaways. It is best to trek in a small group, and carry only basic necessities, since provisions can be bought along the way, but do ensure a supply of bottled water. Trekkers can choose a camp in the open countryside, though there are likely to be quaint, personalised hotels available in most areas. Trekking can be along established routes, though a more exciting option may simply be to chart one’s own trails, moving practically as one likes.
CampingCamping 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. Such tented camps can be found at places like Samode Bagh, an hour’s journey outside Jaipur, or at Pushkar for the duration of the fair in November. However, such tents can also be hired, and agents use them to create cities wherever required; or for moving visitors to different places, where these tents are pegged each night. Such camping expeditions bring the outdoors alive, albeit in style. From the food to the entertainment, everything takes on a more exciting edge while at camp.
BicyclingThe most popular mode of transport in Rajasthan could also provide the ideal leisure, since traveling on a bicycle is almost therapeutic, it 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 places such as Mount Abu.
Water SportsWater 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.