● For full details on our route, transport info, hotel details, etc, look at our Google Maps page

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Mount Abu

22nd-24th March

Leg 8 – Barmer to Mount Abu
Distance – 325 kms

Time – 7 hours
Average Speed – 46.4km/h

Road – 2 lane highway, brand new 2 lane highway – uncompleted and no road in parts! Last 30kms mountain pass.

Clothes almost dry, we set off early for Mount Abu. We were assured that the road was good… all the way? Of course! The highway 15 was fine but then we
turned off to join a new road, straight through to Mount Abu. After fifteen minutes the road ended. The old road was being dug up and we were forced to ride on a single carriageway of loose gravel and rocks, competing for space with oncoming trucks and buses. Each time of course we lost the battle and had to pull into the ditch at the side of the road. Thoughts (as usual) of reaching our destination by lunch quickly evaporated and we prepared ourselves for a hard slog.

We reached Abu Road by mid afternoon and it was still baking hot. Sitting at 1200m altitude we were mildly concerned about whether we’d make the steep climb in this heat. Thankfully the roads were more sweeping than tight hairpin and the views were so spectacular Sam filmed a good part of the ride. We stopped for a photo at the mid point and on re-starting the bike a loud backfire managed to blow the carburettor off! Fortunately it was nothing our on hand mechanic (Ady) couldn’t deal with we were shortly on our way.

Mount Abu rises high above southern Rajasthan, cool on the heels of the baking desert plains. It’s a welcome hill station retreat, nestled among pedalo-filled Nakki lake which attracts hoards of weekenders from neighbouring Gujarat. The tremendous wooded valleys that line the winding drive to the summit lend some longed-for Alpine beauty to a Rajasthan excursion and house wildlife including bears, wild boars, langoors, India civets, hyenas and sambars.

We stayed at the friendly Shri Ganesh guesthouse who provided us with a map of the local area and its highlights. As the sun was dropping we decided to check out Honeymoon point, a supposedly picturesque place to see the sun set over Rajasthan. Lazy as ever, we hopped back on the bike and proceeded to ride around the enormous lake to reach Honeymoon point, at the far side. For some reason it didn’t occu
r to us why everyone was walking – in our experience Asian people never walk anywhere! Before long we hit a large barrier, set up to prevent traffic movement and it dawned on us why we’d been getting so many annoyed looks!

We found Honeymoon point to be overcrowded with large groups of local tourists. The resulting noise of boisterous chatter was such that it wasn’t a peaceful place to watch the sun set. We stopped a while to chat with a small family who seemed quite amazed to see foreigners in Mount Abu before heading back to the lakeside to indulge on delicious whipped ice-cream.

The next day we found the bike sitting in a small puddle of oil and found ourselves using the morning to fix it. Finding parts in this tourist town proved to be difficult but Ady managed a bodge job that should at least get us down the mountain. We checked out a couple of the listed temples but each time found our mobile, camera and bike helmets prohibited. Unwilling to leave them (our UK helmets are irreplaceable in India and for some reason everybody wants to try them on!) we made for the nearby Peace Garden, a strange museum of a garden set up by Raja Yoga Meditation. We found ourselves following a path through the garden, maintaining the requested silence, reading the mantras written
on various placards. At one point we were invited into a tent to meditate and suitably freaked out by the cultish feel of the place, bolted for the exit with profuse “thanks but no thanks!”.

Still curious though, we visited the Brahma Kumaris Spiritual Museum. Attached to the University of the Same Name it’s aim is “the establishment of universal peace through the impartation of spiritual knowledge and training of easy raja yoga meditation.” Apparently there are 4500 branches in 70 different countries. The aim of the museum is to answer questions as “How can world peace be established?” We left feeling no more enlightened but then many of the displays were in Hindi and as usual we had declined an offer of a guide. Needing to return to our comfort zone we sought out an ice cream stall and took a stroll around the lake.

There are a number of strange rock formations around the lake’s perimeter, the most famous is Toad Rock. A s
teep climb up a flight of crumbling stairs is needed to reach the rock, which is said to resemble a toad about to hop into the lake. Whoever thought this up was clearly on something; to us it looked more like a sheep’s skull! In any case the view over the town and lake was great and easily beat Honeymoon point as a vantage point. We had the place to ourselves and sat on a large boulder for the remainder of the afternoon, appreciating that this was the first time in our month in India we’d been able to sit in public, undisturbed and unharassed. Unless you are a keen temple goer, Mount Abu doesn’t hold a lot for the western tourist, but this town, established solely for tourism is the cleanest, most well-maintained town we’ve visited, a far cry and welcome relief from the poverty and grime down below.

No comments:

Visitors Since 19th May 2009...