V: Desert Ranger

Mount Abu is a great relief from the Rajasthani heat & the dust whipped up by phrenzied tourist-leeches whenever a western wallet is opened. Amidst all of that flat, sandy, tank-country, nature has happily congregated some stunning Indian peaks. I have found a great hotel, for only two-pounds-fifty a night, with room service & mopeds for hire. I arrived here on a fifteen-hour sleeper bus, leaving behind the dusty desert for the amazingly fertile mountains about Mount Abu. En route, the driver invited me into his cabin for some kind of religious ceremony. By his side was a box of tricks, with ten or so buttons creating a series of swirling siren noises, which he operated in the same way we would use morse code. I began to recognise one, which I think meant something like, ‘I am hurtling round this corner at eighty miles an hour on the wrong side of the road & hope there is no-one coming towards me.’ Suffice it to say, I soon headed back to my cabin & blanked the whole thing from my mind.

The Rajasthani is a very colourful affair, from the lithe curly-mustached men squatting on their haunches all day, to the busy women who seem to be constantly pumping water & carrying it on their heads in metal pans.  I saw a group of teenagers building a wall in the blazing sun, just like some Louisiana chain-gang. I am actually enjoying the animals more, who have much more freedom here than in the West; dogs, camels, boars, goats, donkeys & especially the sacred cows, swaggering about the place nuzzling through the rubbish for food. Talking of goats, I now know why humans call their children kids – the sound an anxious young goat makes is identical to a wailing baby. On the same note, I have also discovered that Thomas Crapper was once a very big name in porcelain toilet manufacture.

Mount Abu is alive with fluttering butterflies & zip-zipping dragonflies, adding a most fluufy-bunny dreaminess to the clean, serene scene. There is a gorgeous green lake here, watched over by a ‘Toad Rock,’ which has been poised ready to leap into the water for millennia. It reminds me of the Toad Rock in Tunbridge Wells, which I used to pass on my daily walks when I was writing Axis & Allies back in 2001. In fact, I am settling into a similar rhythm here, with a burst of writing energy in the morning, scrambling over the smooth, thorny hills; followed by a lazy lunch & then a spot of writing led on my bed under the cool fan, watching a movie or two & the blanket coverage of the English Premier League. This is followed by a sunset walk & a last spot of writing on the starswept rooftop as I munch on an evening meal. In fact, I have just returned from the sunset, shared by two thousand Indians, looking out over a vast fertile plain, made verdant by the recent rainy season; the sun reflecting off scattered rivers & lakes which will dry up by December. As the sun reached the hazy horizon, a great cheer rose up from the crowds about me, a moment reminiscent of our New Year’s Eve.

I feel very relaxed up here, away from the cities, but almost too relaxed. So, I am setting myself a mad mission to see a few places night-by-night, before reaching Jaipur for the England-Australia cricket match this weekend. If I make it in one piece only time will tell, but it’s gonna be a hell of a lot of fun finding out.

Mount Abu

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