Said goodbye to Mount Abu today, taking pictures of more grumpy looking monkeys as we wound our way down the mountain road. With a 14 hour travel day ahead of us we were embarking on a journey getting on for twice the length of the flight that brought us to India! For the first half we chugged along at a steady pace, gazing out at the habitations peppered along the road, some of them quite crazy constructions in concrete, thin and boxy with three or four storeys perched on top of each other like a precariously balanced Jenga tower. The odd family are still living a primitive looking life in straw huts, which I wasn’t expecting. We stopped for lunch in a hotel sitting in the middle of a large dried up lake with a lonely ostrich wandering about – apparently in the rainy season the lake is full of water and you have to make your way to the hotel by boat. Not much water on its way at the moment. India is currently experiencing its biggest heat wave since records began, with temperatures reaching up to an eyeball burning 51 degrees.
The second half of our journey took us down more rural roads, past fallow fields, clearings of eucalyptus trees and through the occasional village where life was bustling away with brightly dressed girls fetching water from stand pipes and blokes drifting around doing an awful lot of not much. Barbers’ huts seemed to be doing a brisk trade of providing Victorian style wet shaves to moustachioed men. Night closed in and we stopped off for a wee at the hotel of a friend of our fixer Ashish. Pictures of tigers decorated the walls as apparently this is prime tiger spotting territory in the autumn and winter months. It was strange to think of them out there in the bush, prowling around.
Once we reached our hotel we were surprised to find ourselves in another ex-palace, once again pushing stately home proportions and made from intricately carved stone. Apparently there are loads of them dotted around and the Royal families who inherit them get tax breaks to run them as hotels. This one had seen better days and didn’t seem to have been decorated since the 70s, with roasting hot corridors and rooms. I lucked out and found myself with the only room that seemed to have properly functioning air condition. Like winning the lottery in the middle of an Indian heatwave!