On Saturday we took peddle boat out on the lake then a 6 hour bus tour around Mount Abu. It was the state run bus service and cost 60 cent for the 6 hours, needless to say we were the only foreign tourist on the bus and soon after we set off we found out why - the guide only spoke Hindi. So we stopped off at a few temples and stuff, guessing what they were called by referencing the Lonely Planet book. Nothing special for the first few hours, temples, viewpoints and more temples. One thing that was starting to bother us though was the amount of attention we were getting. Indians love to stare and they stared at us all day. They asked could they take pictures of us and with us etc and it got tedious after a while. At one point a family wanted to take a picture of Lydia holding their baby (Lydia's favourite - Babies and Photos!) but the baby was screaming crying, obviously not wanting to go to Lydia but the father just kept pushing the baby into Lydia's arms and they eventually took the picture. There were crowds of Indians around enjoying the spectacle and we decided after that that we'd refuse any more requests for photos. The highlight of the sight-seeing by far was the trip to the Jain Temple. It was savage, apparently the people who were making the carvings were paid every day by the amount of dust they collected from their carving so it encouraged the artists to be as intricate as possible. The results are fascinating but unfortunately photography isn't allowed. After the Temple we went to Sunset Point to watch the sunset there were loads of Indians here and the by far the most starring we've experienced to date. Lydia had to take a black shawl out with her to wrap it around her head and shoulders to stop them staring. They also took loads of sneaky pictures of us with their mobile phones etc. without asking this really pissed us off too, they were so rude. OK, they're mostly from Gujarat, a strict religious state with very few western tourists and most of them were probably seeing a white person in the flesh for the first time but it was so intimidating for us and it wasn't as if Lydia was walking around in a bikini or something. She summed it up nicely by saying "Now I know how Britney Spears feels!" I cracked up laughing and told her I wouldn't write it in the blog but I couldn't help myself!
On Sunday we did what we came to Mount Abu to do - trekking. We did a 5 hour trek through a national park and it was definitely one of the highlights if not the highlight of our trip so far. Our guide Charles was a Buddhist and I don't think it's any coincidence that he was by a mile the nicest, most genuine Indian we've met to date. His main belief is karma and what goes round comes round. He knew absolutely everything about all the flora and fauna of the wildlife park and told us lots of fascinating stories. He's been a guide for 6 years and used to work for Intrepid but now works on his own. He's in the process of setting up a new horse riding business which sounds amazing and he gave us an enlightened view on Buddhism and what it means. We had so many long chats with him along the way I can't even write about half of them here but he's an interesting guy. I promised him I put up a link to his website on the blog so anyone coming to Rajastan can look him up: www.mount-abu-treks.blogspot.com
. Highly recommended!
The trekking itself was, at times extremely tough with some very steep climbs and our legs felt the effect on Sunday afternoon. We spent the rest of the day in the hotel eating, playing cards and watching telly. A relatively short (5 hour) train ride to Jodhpur awaits us on Monday then it's on to Jaisalmer for our camel safari.
On Friday morning we took a 6 hour bus trip from Udaipur to Mount Abu. Mount Abu wasn't on our original itinerary but we decided to go on the advise of the newly wed Sheik we met on the train from Goa to Mumbai (by the way, due to our extended stay in Goa and trips to Hampi and here to Mount Abu we're nearly 20 days behind our planned itinerary, but it doesn't matter. It's quite possible we'll make up some days by not being allowed entry to Tibet but we'll see about that closer to the time).. Its one of the highest places in Rajastan and can get very cold at night and in the winter, it's quite a small place with hardly any other white people. The majority of tourists here come from Gujarat, the only dry state in India and a predominant Jain population who are quite strict religiously (see entry on Udaipur). There was a big storm when we arrived and the sky turned a weird brownish yellow colour. The locals in the village were cheering and clapping and the chap that was checking us in to the hotel told us it was the 1st time in 5 or 6 years that it rained outside of wet season. There was another chap running around outside the hotel shouting "It's raining ice, it's raining ice" he couldn't believe it. It was just a few hailstones and he was running around picking them up handing them to us! We couldn't believe how cold it was that night, I had to pull out the long johns to sleep in!