Not much ado in Mt Abu!

(Em) We were really looking forward to a few days in Mount Abu. The hill station town has long been a favourite of holidaying Gujaratis (Indians from the neighbouring state) and we had been recommended a visit there by several other travellers. More importantly, as the highest point in Rajasthan, it offered the promise of cooler climes away from the desert plains. After 200 or so kilometres on roads that were fairly empty, we actually had some rain as we started climbing altitude towards our destination – quite the novelty as it had been a while! We thought it prudent to pull into a petrol station and wait out the heavy shower; the driving in India is bad enough without poor visibility added to the equation, plus the state of most vehicles suggested that braking capacity would be somewhat limited. Luckily, once we ventured back out onto the road, we found that our course took us away from the still ominous cloud cover making for a very pleasant sunny ride into the hills. We took in some nice twisties which wound up through lush (rubbish-free) vegetation and stopped for a while to photograph some of the masses of monkeys which, with remarkable agility, were loping about quite casually by the side of the road.

Despite this promising introduction, it has to be said that Mt Abu itself was a bit of a disappointment – as we rolled into to centre, our hearts dropped when we espied (yes, that’s right ‘espied’ – am reading ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ and loving the olde language!) the same old garbage, stray dogs and arrogant cows. We found a hostel tucked away up a side street and had only just unloaded the bikes when a torrential downpour was unleashed (seemed we hadn’t veered away from the clouds as much as we’d thought…) Our room was a comedy little number up on the top of the building: somewhat like a conservatory, there was a two inch gap between the top of the windows and the roof so as soon as the storm started, all sorts of crap flew in onto the bed! Plus, as we unpacked our things, we had to shout at each other to be heard over the din of rain on the corrugated iron roof! Still, it was light and airy (once the weather cleared) and the multitude of windows gave us a nice panorama of the green hills and palm trees that surrounded us. We went out for something to eat and were delighted to finally utter the words, ‘Wow, that’s really tasty’ upon receipt of our order (thus far the food had been nowhere near as good as Pakistan, or in fact as Thali Thali, the local Indian restaurant back home!) The dish in question was a masala dosa – a southern Indian speciality – which comprised of a crispy pancake stuffed with a potato mix and spinach, along with some delicious sauces. Things were looking up!

There’s not a whole lot to do at Mt Abu; its appeal lies more in its elevated position, peaceful lake and the flora and fauna on offer. At least, that’s what the guide says! I suggested we go for a walk round the lake. James was dubious; lakes can take a long time to circumnavigate and we hadn’t done any exercise in a while… we cracked up when we saw it, though – more like a pond really! A small jetty offered the hire of row boats and pedalos but the water was strangely traffic free; turns out there had been recent crocodile sightings which had put people off. As for us, we were quite keen to see a bit of croc action but after the beauty and splendour of Dal Lake in Srinagar, this one was a bit of a joke so we stuck to the walking plan. It was a very pleasant stroll and a lovely temperature for such an activity; warm and sunny with plenty of shade. Once round the lake, we continued walking for a couple of kilometres to find the Dilwara temples, Mt Abu’s most celebrated attraction. The temples are of the Jain faith, an Indian religion that promotes a path of non-violence. Getting into the complex was all a bit unnecessarily officious; we had to deposit  our shoes and any belongings, including our cameras, and self-important guards made us line up in single sex queues. (There was a sign on the wall prohibiting the wearing of any leather products and also, bizarrely, entry by any woman who is menstruating… quite how they check, I don’t know!!) Once they deemed the number of people waiting to be sufficient – a good couple of hundred as several school groups and Indian tour groups had arrived – the whole system was revealed to be pointless when they suddenly let us all through in a free for all! Anyway, the temples were worth the visit – absolutely spectacular. It’s such a shame we couldn’t take photos as a description alone just won’t do it justice but basically each temple, made from solid marble, was exquisitely carved in its entirety; the work was mind-bogglingly intricate and extensive, depicting gods, elephants and lotus flowers in the most minute detail. (James: The hundreds of craftsmen were encouraged to make their carvings as intricate as possible, ingeniously, by being paid according to how much marble dust their work produced!) The oldest temple, constructed in 1031, took a staggering fourteen years to complete!

There were also a few Hindu temples dotted about the place in Mt Abu, but these generally took the form of a shoddily painted rock or a mounted cage containing a tinfoil covered blob with eyes stuck on; not quite so inspiring. After a second poor night’s sleep, having been kept awake by festival revelries until 2am, we enjoying the novelty of loading the bikes in cooler air (normally we’re sweltering by the time we get going) and took the great twisty road back down to join the main highway. For most of the way, we had a people-carrier driving in front of us from which no less than three members of the family were hanging out the windows taking photos or filming! Once down out of the mountains, the dual carriageway to Udaipur was completely empty so we pootled along comfortably and were on track for making our destination around midday – unheard of! However, we had an unscheduled stop when we spotted another overland motorcyclist travelling in the other direction and spent an hour chatting with him by the side of the road. Matteo, from Italy, was on a Honda Trans-Alp and had shipped from Iran; he was very jealous to hear that we’d made it through Pakistan which he’d heard was impossible! He recognised Donato’s sticker on our bike and it turns out he’d been following his blog. Small world! We exchanged details then James and I rode the rest of the way to Udaipur. The city itself was huge and it took us a while to ride to the old town but James, master-navigator extraordinaire, got us there without a wrong turn and we secured lodging at the lovely Panorama Hotel in the Hanuman Ghat area. Clean rooms, friendly management and a roof top restaurant; all in all a great start!

4 Responses to “Not much ado in Mt Abu!”

  1. Jackson says:

    Haha good o see you guys have become travel snobs. And who can blame you after all the experiences yiuve had. I find the same sometimes, like “I’ve seen better” when confronted with a much touted beach, temple etc.
    However I must say I am genuinely impressed and inspired with Brazil. Paradise for kiting. Plus I’ve met my future Brazilian bride ;-)

  2. Mama/kate says:

    Message from Mama/Kate: Travel snobs, indeed?! The point is, you guys ARE travellers as opposed to tourists. As are you, Jackson, as are you.

    Re: Brazilian Bride. Is this the feisty 22year-old cabin attentant?

  3. julian says:

    Temperate climes and deserted roads in India? You are in the fourth dimension!
    Jackson, I thought you were trying to catch waves not wives!
    love from bal(d)idad XX

  4. stef says:

    ehy,
    I did not know u would go to Mt. Abu. I went there last year as I was recomended, very disappointing …

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