It was a one-hour drive from the temple at Ranakpur to Kumbalgarh and we passed through different villages and saw a different landscape unfold along the way. As we neared the fortress we realized that our unconventional plan for the day meant that we had missed lunch and we were hesitant to face the hundreds of stairs without some sort of 'fortification'. The driver delivered us to a lovely hotel with a courtyard restaurant just before we crested the last hill leading to our destination.
We were amazed to see such a high quality hotel out in the middle of nowhere, over one hundred kilometers from Udaipur. When we opened the menu we were shocked to see the prices. The cost of a cup of soup was more than we usually paid for an entire meal. Somehow, even though we could afford to eat a lavish meal there, after watching the poverty in the villages we passed through, I had no appetite for such indulgence. We knew we needed an energy boost more than anything, so we just ordered masala tea and dessert. For some reason, my hot apple pie with a warm custard sauce was less expensive (and more delicious) than the tomato soup would have been. Anil ordered kheer (rice pudding) and savoured the almonds, raisins and saffron it contained.
Now ready for the ascent, we drove over the ridge and there spread out the full width of our vision, was the massive Kumbalgarh Fort in all its glory. We made our way up to the main gate and proceeded on foot. I had read that the walls were 36km but I hadn't realized that they enclosed over 360 temples as well as palaces, gardens, and an extensive agricultural complex. Built in the 15th century, it was only taken once in its history and then for only two days. It had required the combined efforts of the armies of Mughal Emperor Akbar, and of Amber and Mewar, to breach the massive walls.
I think we encountered only five other visitors during our hike through the royal palace, perched at the highest point on the escarpment. The relative solitude gave us ample opportunity to focus on the construction details and the breath-taking views out over the landscape below. We truly felt dwarfed in this imposing structure. As late afternoon set in, we started our return journey, via yet another rural road and passed through different villages along the way. I was able to take a host of pictures and plan to group these in an entry about the rural scenes of Rajasthan.