When the only internet in the whole hotel is in reception and the little cafe, that’s where you’re pretty much forced to sit. Y’know, where people go. People that will talk to you whilst you’re busy trying to be slightly intoxicated and miserable. My brain has developed a fabulous coping mechanism whereby, when it reaches a certain level of sadness, it just goes numb. It still functions, it just doesn’t feel. The “more than 5%, less than 8%” beer I was consuming helped with that pesky functioning part.
But there I was in the cafe, drinking Kingfisher Strong from a water bottle, feeling rather sorry for myself and trying to decide if I should move on to Udaipur tomorrow or if I should at least try and do on of the nature trails I’d come here to do if I could find a guide without a two person minimum, when an American bloke called Sage started talking to me. I put on my best hospitality face and talked back. Conversation ensued. Then one of the hotel owners came over and started telling Sage about a sunset walk they were doing. No, not to the ridiculously commercial Sunset Point in town where hundreds of Indian tourists flock to ignore the fiery sky ball and take photos of the hugely rare Western tourist in Mt Abu. They had their own.
The little demon inside my head pointed out to me how he was telling only Sage. Not me. He didn’t even look at me. They hadn’t told me about it yesterday, they certainly weren’t going to tell me today. They didn’t want me at their precious sunset point. They didn’t even want me in their hotel. Clearly they hated me. I should probably just go.
He looked over and said, “And you. If you like you can go there too.”
Oh. Yeah. Ok. That’d be lovely. It’s a free mini-walk they lay on most evenings, probably to give you a taste of the bigger walks one of the brothers, Ashok, leads for ₹500 a pop. It’s very, very definitely uphill too. Aaaaall the way up for some gorgeous views of the tiny town. Ashok handed me a stick for the downhill parts on account of the fact I can’t walk downhill without help or simply sliding down on my arse, and once we were at the lookout, you could see the official sunset point. Couldn’t just see it off in the distance, we could fucking hear it! There were so many people. This was so totally a better idea.
There was me, Sage and a German guy whose name I’ve forgotten but who I really really want to call Gujurat, which is the neighbouring state. He’s not named after an Indian state but he does have a name beginning with G. I shall call him Gujurat anyway. Me and Gujurat decided to go on one of the nature walks the next day but Sage wasn’t so sure. He wanted to rent a motorbike and have a look around the area. He’d seen a couple of places in town but Ashok was like, “They will not rent to you. You are foreign, they only rent to Indians.”
Hmm. This could have sounded like one of those, “road is closed, come to my tourist office” scams, but back at the hotel one of the other brothers said the same thing. They’re just not set up for foreigners apparently. We so rarely go to Mt Abu that they simply don’t have the permit required. They said he was welcome to try but he probably wouldn’t have any luck. This was believable actually, when Sage arrived in the town he employed the time tested method of walking from hotel to hotel until you find one that suits your needs and they were all either really expensive or for Indians only. Shri Ganesh pretty much has the monopoly on affordable accommodation for overseas visitors.
You also know you’re not in foreign tourist country any more when your food is served without a fork, just chapati with more on standby should you require it. Oh, and every single employee will stand and watch you eat. If I wasn’t used to it by now it’d be really overwhelming here. You also don’t get hassled at all, just the usual one time ask if you require a taxi, or if you want to look at a shop. None of the restaurants will try and coax you into their place either which always leaves me feeling confused. If no one tries to drag me in I’m never quite sure if I’m welcome or not. And when I was buying beer I was charged the price shown on the board. No one tried to overcharge me, no one added a few rupees onto the price without explanation. Weird shit, guys. Weird shit.
Though to be fair, with some of the views we sat and looked at I wasn’t overly fussed about the lack of fauna. We rounded one corner and were met with the kind of view that results in you having to pick your jaw up off the floor and brush the grass off it. A massive, panoramic view of hills and little townships. So we sat there for a while.
The last place we stopped was a lake where a couple of crocodiles were just hanging out in the sun as crocodiles like to do. Apparently they’re not dangerous to people unless, y’know, you poke them with sticks or some shit, so it’s ok to be at the water’s edge. I wished I brought come crocodile food with me to tempt them closer to shore for a better photo. A chicken or a small child or something. I absolutely love crocodiles, they’re just the perfect design. I think when you basically haven’t had to evolve for a few million years nature has pretty much just gone, yeah, job done on this one, lads.
But I was feeling way better by this point. Don’t get me wrong, I know what depression is and I know it’s not feeling like everything in the world is shit for two days. I’ve struggled with depression my whole life and when you’re in The Pit it can last weeks, months, even years. It’s not just depression though, I don’t always cope well with everyday things and things that are inconsequential to one person can trigger a whole range of negative emotions in me. It’s like living on a fucking roller coaster. I’ve developed a lot of coping mechanisms over the years so when my brain does decide that it wants to spend a few days in the cupboard with a blanket over its head I can generally use the rational thought I learned in therapy to bring it out, I’m a lot better at this Real Life thing than I was a mere 5 years ago. Everyone has bad days. Everyone. It’s just that mine are clearly worse than yours because, bitch, they’re mine.
Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India
Stayed at: Shri Ganesh Hotel