Off the Tourist Trail

Bundi | Mount Abu

India

I’m in full on meltdown mode. We’re trying to get from the area around Ranthambore to Bundi, a smaller city in Rajasthan. I’ve reached the end of my patience with India. With the noise, the pollution, the hassling and the disorder.

We’re heading off the tourist trail slightly, to some smaller cities and in search of nature and quiet.

Our first stop is Bundi, an area famous for step wells. The city is small and the palace high on the hills above a small lake. It’s the perfect place to decompress from the frenzy of India.

We spend days wandering through the old fort and exploring a few of the step wells. Most step wells have trash piling up at the bottom of these unused artifacts.

PalaceStepwellOur trip to Mount Abu is on an overnight bus. My history with overnight bus rides are abysmal. I’ve been violently ill on overnight bus rides in Vietnam and forced to strip to my underwear in Turkey when the driver refused to turn the heat down to anything but max. This bus ride ranks up there with the worst.

We’re dropped off on the side of a highway at 10:30 p.m. Our rickshaw driver is staying to make sure we make it on the right bus. Several buses slow down long enough for him to figure out that they’re not ours. The right bus arrives and we run to jump on board and find our seats. These are sleeper buses with lay flat beds. People are sleeping in the aisle. When we ask about our luggage, they shrug and we dump it in the middle of the aisle.

We climb into our double bunk and begin the long journey to Mount Abu. The weather has turned cold and the walls of the cabin are glass windows that don’t close. Throughout the night, the rattling opens the glass windows slightly and lets a current of cold air in.

The rattling is also something I’ve never experienced. This bus has no suspension. At one point I’m bouncing so high off the bunk I smack my head into the ceiling.

We arrive early in Mount Abu on the national holiday. It takes a while to locate the taxi stand to navigate the one hour trek up to the top of the mountain.

Mount Abu is off the western tourist trail. It’s a popular destination for Indian tourists from neighboring states.

We’re here to hike through the hills. The guidebook informs us that a guide is a must. That police will turn away tourists who venture into the hills alone due to risks of being attacked by sloth bears or humans.

The next day we’re off with our guide and a group of other Indians into the hills. One of our hiking partners is a blind man. He navigates the path with the help of our guide and his travel companions. He’s a self described YouTube sensation who overcome cancer, full body paralysis and went blind five years ago. He’s also not afraid to ask for help.

With a bit of balance back, we’re ready to tackle the rest of Rajasthan.

Mount AbuMount Abu