From Siswan to Nalagarh (Olwen Law writes from the Hola Mohalla ride)

Posted on March 20, 2016

As we wait for breakfast the heavens open – extremely heavy rain falling straight down. I’m sitting at the tiny reception desk trying to get the best wifi signal to put these pictures up but the drips through the veranda roof puts a stop to that.

The Siswan Jungle Lodge isn’t actually in the jungle – it’s really in the middle of a small town, but behind their high walls they have done a lot of planting and created a little haven. We’ve enjoyed our short stay.

We’ve attracted a small crowd of children (and adults) who watch us mount up and get away. These children were very happy to be photographed, albeit not too keen on smiling for the camera.

riding in india
We continue to follow the river bed, sometimes following the many jeep tracks which cross back and forth. When the river is in flood this must be a huge barrier to communication because we don’t see many bridges.

Many people live along the river bank in very basic living conditions, but times are moving fast. We pass one shack which has attached a wire to the nearest electricity cable and has a satellite dish on the top of the shack. I wonder who made that connection to a live wire without electrocuting themselves!

Some of the farms are now prosperous enough to own a tractor and trailer.

Recognise this plant? I’m from a very sheltered background and didn’t recognise it by either smell or sight. Marijuana is growing wild all over the place. Apparently as well as smoking it, locals use it in tea, lassis and also in crushed smoothies but I don’t think I’ve been served any yet!

Lunch is in a lovely shady spot near to a village. Word has got out that we have arrived and there are soon a small group of children, later joined by the adults.

During lunch we have a visit from a tailor who is measuring up all the ladies in our group for a shalwar kameez (tunic, trousers and scarf) to be delivered hopefully for Hola Mohalla. It’s all been arranged for us by the lovely Nanaki, daughter of Colonel Singh who has organised this first Punjab ride. I shall put up some photos in due course of how we look!

One of the most amusing things has been the number of mobile phones appearing and the number of photographs being taken of us. Quite a few people have taken selfies with horses and riders in the background (the young pretty rider, at least) and I do wonder where they are going to appear on facebook. Apparently you can buy a mobile phone for about £30 and internet access is very cheap.

As the afternoon draws on we ride alongside some huge cliffs – just think of the power of the water to cut through those.

We cross and recross the river – fortunately never very deep – although sometimes we have to detour back and forth a bit to find a suitable crossing point.

Up to now we haven’t seen any fences except for the small corrals enclosing the young calves or goats. Dogs are used to guard the crops at night from greedy buffalo or deer. However, we’ve started to see some farmers fence off their sections.

Have you noticed that I’m on a new horse today – her black ears actually touch.

Tonight we stay at Nalagarh Fort which was built in 1421. It is set high above the town with amazing views back over the town and towards the Shivalik hills. It is a warren of courtyards and interconnecting steps and quite easy to get lost.

We are amused to find a film crew making a music video. The male singer has to lip sinc over and over again – for about 2 hours! (I’m certainly going to know the tune again) while a very cold looking dancer has to do her best to look interesting.

The town twinkles below the walls of the fort.

You can read all the posts from the Hola Mohalla trip by clicking on the links below:

Arriving in Delhi

From Delhi to Chandigarh

First day’s ride to Pinjore Gardens

From first camp to Siswan

From Siswan to Nalagarh

From Nalagarh to Bharatgarh

From Bharatgarh to Anandpur Sahib

At the Hola Mohalla festival

From Hola Mohalla to Shimla

We do hope to do it all again next year, with only a few modifications to the itinerary. For more information email or visit

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