Yesterday Stuart and I left Jhodpur and headed further west to a little Rajasthani village called Chanoud.
More about Chanoud Village itself later, but the first stop was our bed for the next two nights, Chanoud Garh. Located in the centre of Chanoud village, and like many forts in the region, the building is laid out around two main courtyards.
Our hosts, the Singh family, live around one courtyard with their pet dogs, and our suite of rooms was one of those located around the other. We were in the tower suite in the corner. Who doesn't like a turret to sleep in, eh?
The fort has been restored over 8 years in a mammoth renovation project with much care and attention taken to respect the original building and character. The result is both spectacular, spacious and charming.
The Singh family have lived here for 350 years, that's 13 generations. They used to own 1000s of acres of land, 80 villages, have 400 private soldiers, and have judiciary power. But then the water dried up and so did their power - and their money.
After partition in 1947 the current owner's father decided to move into the horse racing business. After some initial success that too fell on hard times and a decade or so ago he could no longer afford the upkeep of the roof over his head. Something had to be done. There was concern in the village too- even that after all these centuries many there still depended upon the fort for work and for custom.
So the call went out to the owner's children for help. The three siblings jacked in their day jobs in different parts of India, decided to move back to their grandfather's home, and join forces to make the fort a going concern as a hotel. Eight years later here we are. And business is thriving for the dad, the mum, the two brothers and the sister. They now employ 40 full-time staff and as you might expect, the service is excellent.
The place is stunning too, its former glory recreated, and the villagers couldn't be more pleased.
The terrace area is an ideal spot for soaking up the sun, the garden courtyard with its fountain a joy to behold, and dinner is held by candlelight on the roof.
Food is locally-sourced and delicious. It is traditional home-cooked Rajasthani cuisine at its best.
The butter is home-made, so are the jams the yoghurt, and all the bread. The meat is local. The vegetables and rice are all from the village too.
In the evening there was a jeep drive where we drove through some of the other nearby villages to rural farmland, along the way we meet the local farmers and herdsmen.
We saw hundreds of birds: lapwings, eagrettes, sangrows, drungos, green bee eaters, demoiselle cranes, falcon (known here as shikra), hoopoos, white cheeked bulbuls, red vaulted bulbuls, shiks, crows, finches, common sparrows, stone chaffs, bush chatt, and kites. Oh and a harrier, a flock of peacocks, and a partridge (but sadly not in a pear tree).
We watched the sunset over the incredible salt flats and lake and took in the scenery.
Later that night we climbed our turret steps weary but happy. A stunning end to a stunning day.
Definitely a road less travelled.