The Norwegian adventurist Magnus Rønningen, and his American girlfriend Chanel Banoza, travelled to experience some hidden places of India from the horseback – guided by one of the pioneers of horse safaris in India. Read his summary from 7 fantastic days of horseback riding with Bonnie Dundlod.
Private summary by the traveller himself: Magnus Rønningen. All photos are private. Follow Magnus at instagram: @magnusronningen
The arrival at Dundlod Fort (dating back to 1750) was something out of a movie and the consecutive days its franchise.
Our guide, host and friend Kanwar Raghuvendra Singh Dundlod aka Bonnie Dundlod is one of the pioneers of horse safaris in India. He also started elephant polo in India, is Indian endurance and tent-pegging (awesome sport!) champion and comes from the noble family of Dundlod, who are descendents of Rao Shekha after whom the clan of Shekhawats exist in Rajasthan.
His grandfather had 151 villages under his rule. Bonnie who born in 1952, grew up as the heir to only the village of Dundlod which has about 50.000 inhabitants. The fort where he lives and where we stayed for the first two days is basic, but magic, with 45 rooms and history literally breathing from the walls.
His father was the head of the Maharaja of Jaipur’s forces and took them to war for the Brits in Egypt and Africa during the WWII.
So many funny bits of Indian info that has stuck to my brain.
Like the giant spikes on the giant doors of Nayana Niwas Castle – to keep the fighting elephants away from knocking in the door during the 17th or 18th century.
Or hunting that is forbidden in all of India and the national bird peacock that will earn you 6 months in jail if you shoot one.
Not to be forgotten the deer-worshipping Bishnoi tribe who will breast feed a baby deer if necessary. Bishnois do not cut trees for fuel and timber and haven’t for centuries. In 1730 A.D. the Maharaja of Jodhpur sent soldiers to Bishnoi villages to cut down khejari trees growing in the area. The Bishnoi villagers pleaded to spare the trees. When the soldiers did not relent, they hugged the trees and as many as 363 of them laid down their lives to save the trees.
Due to their majority hindu population India is in reality vegetarian, which is ok because their food is so superb.
Their respect for animals is hard to grasp, they feed everything from ants to pigeons and it was a relief to experience how well they treated working animals in general.
Never before have I passed statues in honor of wellbreeding bulls in the village square.
Indian people are so friendly and polite and genuinly genuine – although their inability to say “no” can be a source of irritation sometimes. I mean…the Indian head wiggle, which means who knows what and is utterly confusing and matchingly charming. Im implenting it in my body language as of now.
India is so much more than the poverty most of us associate with it. It seemed most villagers although poor posses a dignity and self-respect and an insight to the fact that a simple life in touch with nature and animals is the core of of living. And not necessarily less giving or fun than that of the urban hustle and hassle.
The hotels, the castles, the old mansions, the history seeping out of every village.
Delhi Belly? Nope, and we brushed our teeth in tap water and ate the vegetables, but were obviously a bit aware.
Shopping. I dont like shopping, but India introduced me to my inner Kim K, I wanted to buy everything! Its just ridiculous.
Bonnie along with his American partner, diplomat daughter Francesca Kelly have created the Indigenous Horse Society of India and almost singlehandedly saved India’s fieriest and most regal breed of horse, the Marwari horse. Yet despite once being revered as divine beings above the status of their riders the breed deteriorated badly in the 1930s as a result of persecution by the British who refused to use ‘native breeds’ preferring instead to import less well suited animals.
The Marwari is a perfectly adapted desert horse. The coat is fine and silky to keep them cool, they have exceptionally hard hooves to deal with the rocky terrain and they can travel great distances on scant water. To cope with sandstorms they have developed long eyelashes and perhaps their most easily recognisable feature – their unique lyre shaped ears which can rotate 180 degrees individually or together.
Follow Magnus at instagram: @magnusronningen