A peaceful retreat in the hills
Trip Start May 01, 2010
90Trip End Apr 30, 2011
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We woke the next morning and found ourselves in a Muslim area on a street lined with stalls where all manner of dead animals were being butchered. The smell of raw meat pervaded the air and piles of litter filled the gutters. We had intended on spending a few days here but after our dealings with the rickshaw driver the previous night, the crowds of people, the heat and the high cost of living, we decided to leave as soon as possible. We were in luck and managed to get some tickets for a train leaving for Mount Abu in Rajasthan that afternoon. The rickshaw drive to the station cost us about a quarter of what we had paid the previous night and took us along busy roads where cars and motorbikes sped along next to carts pulled by oxen and then along the edge of one of Mumbai’s slum areas.
The Ranakpur Express left at 3pm. We were seated next to some Indian families and their noisy kids. For dinner we tried some bhelpuri, thin discs of fried dough mixed with puffed rice, lentils, onions and herbs. We were travelling sleeper class, which is much more affordable than the three levels of first class and adequately comfortable with seats which pull out into three tiers of sleeping platforms
As soon as we arrived in Mount Abu we knew that we had come to the right place. Located in a bowl like depression up in the spectacular Aravalli Mountains, it is the only hill station in Rajasthan and at 1200 metres, it enjoys a much more agreeable climate than the dry plains below. As such, it is a popular holiday spot for Gujaratis wanting to escape the heat during the hot summer months. We checked into the pleasant and very reasonably priced Shri Ganesh Guesthouse, located down a quiet lane a few minutes walk from town. We were so tired that we went to bed for a few hours before heading into town for a lunch of Dal Bhati, which is a delicious lentil dhal poured over an oily oven baked bread. After lunch we walked around the scenic Nakki Lake, the focal point of the town. The town itself is a little touristy but in a nice low key way with a few ice cream parlours, souvenir shops and even a miniature Eiffel Tower (!). There are also a lot of old palaces dotted around the surrounding hills dating back to the time of the maharajas
Seeing a sloth bear, preferably from a safe distance, was high on our wish list so the next morning we joined the same guide for a half day trek into the surrounding countryside along with a nice Australian and English couple, Gemma and Liam. The hills around Mount Abu are rocky and covered in dry forest and scrub and a number of rare plants. We saw a large troop of langur monkeys but no bears unfortunately but we enjoyed a good walk soaking up the local environment and feel of the place.
The next day we joined another trek into Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary, this time with a chap called Charles who was both knowledgeable and passionate about his local area and its wildlife and culture. There were six of us on the trek, a young Australian doctor, his English girlfriend and her friend, and an interesting and inspirational German man called Winfred, an incredibly sprightly 73 year old who has spent most of his life in the merchant Navy, has travelled all over the world and is still travelling widely now
After the trek we all went for a slap up meal at the amusingly named Hotel Hilltone where we tasted a delicious Indian dessert called Gulab Jamun which is made of round balls of deep-fried milk solids soaked in a sweet rosewater syrup.
We are a little disappointed that we still haven't seen any sloth bears but apart from that we have had a lovely couple of days here in Mount Abu. Tomorrow we venture further into Rajasthan to the city of Udaipur.