The next stop was Kesroli for Christmas. A man from the Neemrana hotels met us with a car at Delhi airport and drove us the 3 hours to the Hill Fort there, the oldest hotel in India.
We arrived in time for high tea between 5 and 6pm, which was an array of different teas plus cake of the day, biscuits and pekora. I ought to say that these were some of the best cakes I've tasted, delicately flavoured with nuts and vanilla, and very much looked forward to daily.
There were also traditionally dressed nautch girls that got everyone up dancing with them. Well, not everyone, but we cold, rhythm-less Brits put all the IMCs (Indian Middle Classes) to shame, bolstered by the novelty of accessible gin and tonics. In fairness, we were joined on the 'dance floor' by some young professionals from Delhi who I 'hung out' with after dinner, Indian style - make of that what you will. When in Rome an' all that.
The following morning, I was struck down with the Delhi Belly that I'd been expecting all holiday but which had begun to seem like a myth. Perhaps I became complacent in Varanasi, which is likely where I picked it up, but the cramps and stomach knots were so painful that the life drained from me and I was unable to do anything save for lying very still on my back or sitting under a rug on a chair in the sun.
As I sat on the Hill Fort's round terrace (one of the ramparts) writing, in hour 15 of what was to be a 40 hour fast, the cramps finally subsided enough for me to appreciate my surroundings: The fort stands tall atop a small hill in a plain of fields and farmland. Mustard flowers create a patchwork quilt of yellow squares amid the brown and green of neighbouring fields. Water buffalo swish the flies away with their tails and women & boys pump water from the wells or transport goods in baskets from one place to another on their heads. There is a scattering of basic domiciles here and there; rudimentary flat roofed square buildings, often with accompanying thatch or dung huts.
Ladies' saris add colourful highlights to a single tarmacked road. The sounds of parakeets and the occasional tractor trundling along make a change from the dogs and beggars of Varanasi. You listen and you look down from the battlements and you can't help but think that this is what it must have been like centuries ago (perhaps without the tractor). Life doesn't change much for the simple, hill farmer.