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REPORT 5 - Oct. 2000

India - Mount Abu

The only hill station in Rajasthan, Mount Abu provides spectacular scenery and year long cool temperatures; it is undoubtedly one of the hidden gems of Rajasthan. Like many others we headed there to escape the heat, unaware that we were about to find a little piece of paradise. It fulfils all romantic ideals of India; a haven from the noise and grime in the cities below. Situated 1220m above sea level, Mount Abu, will at the very least redefine, if not enhance, your Indian experience.

The centre of the town is clustered around the picturesque Nakki Lake, which, legend has it, was clawed out by the fingernails of the Gods. Hindu pilgrims flock here in droves to purify their souls in the holy, if murky, waters surrounded by lush mountainous scenery. Mount Abu's religious significance has not however stopped tourism from overtaking the waters. Popcorn sellers and pedalos mix a little uneasily with pilgrims and priests.

We arrived on the night bus from hell, but our terrible journey was quickly forgotten the next day when we looked out of the window to a beautiful scene of palm trees and lush mountainsides. Mt Abu is not littered with "must do's" but on our first day we embarked on a temple tour arranged by our hotel. We visited four temples, the most spectacular of which was Dilwara Jain. The temple dates from the 11th century and took 14 years to complete. Story has it that the workers were paid by the amount of dust that they produced, an incentive to carve the most intricate detail; their efforts are quite incredible. Every pillar and dome is alive with carvings of Gods, dancers or elephants; the detail is truly amazing. The pillars look like they will snap under a little pressure such is the extent of the carving, all photography however is prohibited; you'll have to see this one for yourself!

Mount Abu is small enough to be explored on foot. It has an almost carnival atmosphere and a stroll down to the lake will take you past countless ice cream parlours and fast food restaurants. Away from the town there are some beautiful mountain walks, which can be challenging, but reward with stunning hill top views. High in the hills around Mount Abu there is even a fresh water lake that you can go swimming in. Be careful though, there are sightings of a crocodile lurking in the waters!

We spent most of time browsing the shops and markets with their numerous small textile shops, jewellery stalls and ubiquitous fruit sellers crowding the streets. Whilst Jon succumbed to the barbers I decided to yield to the henna painters who, for 15p, will adorn your hands with beautiful patterns using a dye paste. Henna, or mehindi, as it is also known, has recently become fashionable in the west. In India it's used at celebrations such as births and religious holidays but particularly at weddings. Traditionally has the name of the bride and groom hidden within the bride's design and the wedding night cannot commence until the groom has found the names! I had one hand painted, using a stencil, with the dark paste that was washed off after around half an hour to leave an intricate pattern behind.

Mount Abu is especially popular with honeymooners and November through till May, (the Indian wedding season) is packed with newly weds drawn here by 'Honeymoon Point' which affords a spectacular view over the surrounding region. There is also a 'Sunset Point', but both are constantly packed with camera touting tourists. To escape the crowds our hotel owner took a group of us on a steep climb to a secluded mountainside, where he showed us the 'real' sunset point. Jon loved the challenge of climbing the rocky terrain and I was all right going up, but not very keen on coming down!

Our stay in Mount Abu seemed to come to an end all too soon. We did not relish the thought of another long bus journey or the baking temperatures that would greet us down the hill. We met many friends through the activities arranged through our hotel and enjoyed swapping travel stories over cold beers on the rooftop at sunset. Mount Abu was one of our most enjoyable stays and made us realise that your experiences are influenced as much by whom you meet and where you stay as the place itself.

Jon & liz
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Nakki Lake



Liz with henna hand

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wallet mending

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The Beginning 14 - THAILAND Bangkok
01 - INDIA Delhi 15 - THAILAND Bridge Over the River Kwai
02 - INDIA Agra Taj Mahal 16 - THAILAND Chang Mai - The Long Necks
03 - INDIA Jaipur 17 - AUSTRALIA Kakadu National Park
04 - INDIA Camel Safari 18 - AUSTRALIA Ayers Rock
05 - INDIA Mount Abu 19 - AUSTRALIA Great barrier Reef
06 - INDIA Goa 20 - AUSTRALIA Fraser Island
07 - INDIA Mumbai (Bombay) 21 - AUSTRALIA Sydney
08 - HONG KONG 22 - NEW ZEALAND South Island
09 - PHILIPPINES Boracay & Panglao Island 23 - NEW ZEALAND North Island
10 - PHILIPPINES Bohol Chocolate Hills 24 - USA Hawaii Oahu Island
11 - PHILIPPINES Banaue Rice Terraces 25 - USA San Francisco
12 - MALAYSIA Kuala Lumpur 26 - USA Washington DC
13 - MALAYSIA Penang, Georgetown 27 - USA New York
  28 - UK - THE END
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