We decided to give the twins their first taste of history on this vacation. Nothing complicated…just introducing them to a little maratha architecture since we were not too far from Pratapgad…a famous fort from Shivaji’s time.
It was a fairly long drive from Panchgani to Pratapgad but we played a lot of songs that the kids like (they now can actually sing 2 french songs thanks to our long drives!) and we played a lot of I spy with my little eye. We were fairly entertained by the animals we saw along the way..cows, buffalos, horses, donkeys, dogs, goats, camels (!) and a lot of monkeys. The monkeys were especially interesting and fun to watch because they sat there and pretty much performed for us…chattering away, jumping and making faces, etc. There were multiple families, a very aggressive alpha male and lots of little baby monkeys who were clinging to their moms and feeding. We saw monkeys fighting (just like us, said Nish) and monkeys clambering up slopes and trees.
Finally after a loooooong (but surprisingly peaceful non cranky non fighting) drive we reached the base of the Pratapgad fort. I loved Sid’s reaction when he looked up..”wow!!! cool!!!” It is so funny to hear them talk like that. But it was a pretty cool sight. The fort with the orange flag flapping in the wind, set on top of a green mountain was a lovely sight.
We wondered if the kids would be okay to climb all the way to the top. The original steps are not used at present and they have created a newer pathway which is safer and easier to climb. The boys were pretty excited about ‘climbing up the mountain’ and were most disappointed when they learned that the way up was by the steps and not a more adventurous route…however, their disappointment was short lived and quickly replaced by wonder when they saw a group of load carrying donkeys making their way up the same steps. We followed the donkeys up the steps watching out for “donkey potty” which was quite abundant. Nish was especially disgusted that they were just going potty all over the place..(why can’t they use a bathroom Aai? this is gross!).
It was a bit of a climb with several touristy distractions like hats and glares and cheap plastic cars but the donkeys helped us stay focussed (and saved me some cash) and we finally made it to the top.
Sid and Nish were most fascinated by the food and drink stalls there – there were fountains with ‘kokum juice’, buttermilk and ‘strawberry juice’ (all fairly synthetic looking to be honest). The view was simply breath taking and the boys were awed by the sheer beauty and the dizzying height! (Nish actually kept quiet for a minute straight i think).
We showed the boys the fort, the water storage, the cannons and finally we made our way to the temple there. My very devout boys all prostrated in front of the idols and then we made our way to the sugar cane juice vendor there. We watched him take the sugar cane and pass it through the machine to get deliciously refreshing sugar cane juice. Since we had visited a sugar cane field just the day before the boys were able to relate to what they were seeing a little better.
We had lunch at a small eatery located on the mountain itself…simple mahashtrian fare (pithala with bhakri – a healthy roti like bread made with jowar, thalipeeth and yoghurt). The boys played there, made friends with the old man who owned it went and checked out his room, declared it ‘very very nice” and also discovered how to pee on the mountain side when there is no loo for miles! (well not miles …but not till the base of the fort – which for a 3 yr old’s bladder is miles)
The car ride back (after we again saw the monkey clan) was extremely peaceful as they were all passed out!