21 May, India – ‘All Over The Place – Asia’
Up here in Mount Abu they have a Summer Festival once a year to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday, and things were clearly getting off to a flying start when I woke up to the sounds of Major Lazer thumping away on a sound system somewhere. After another curry based breakfast we left the confines of our delightful, romantically crumbling hotel and weaved along a bendy track that twisted through the valley until we found ourselves in a large dusty expanse on the edge of a town. It’s an old parade ground from colonial days, and there was already a crowd gathering to watch a small band with a moustachioed bagpipe player toot and drum along to a group of kids playing musical chairs. After that there was a competition to see who could smash a pot with a stick blindfolded, and a tug of war, both of which we were asked to participate in. It’s not important who won (Chris did).
We were attracting a lot of interest from locals who don’t often see a Western face, and we were constantly stopped along the way and politely asked for “selfies” (a word that’s clearly stuck over here). Making our way through the town to the lake we were stared at by everyone in the same way that I guess immigrants to the UK from India were stared at (and probably still are in some places).
The reason Chris and I had to get to the lake was for our main event that day – the pedalo boat race. The lake is one of the jewels in Mount Abu’s crown, and one of the main reasons people come up to hill stations like this – to escape the heat of the Indian summer, as it can be up to 10 degrees cooler up here (no evidence of that today – it was boiling!). Once we’d selected our pedalos and found a couple of volunteers to pedal next to us we lined up with the other entrants in the water and started pedalling with all our might at the blow of a whistle. We had to pedal out round a temple on an island in the middle and back again, which my team mate Sandeep and I managed in just under 13 minutes. Chris took slightly longer due to his team mate’s insistence of steering them into the side of competitors’ boats like a bumper car. I celebrated my win in traditional AOTP fashion – by ungraciously rubbing my competitor’s nose in it.