If the idea of a surprise visitor in the form of a giant spider under the quilt covers does not bother you, plan a trip to Abbott Mount and stay in Abbott Mount cottage. It is nearly as perfect a get-away as you can imagine, and your experience of staying in this cottage will only leave you desiring for more (not spiders!!) when it is time to head back.
About the spider first: If you go visiting little-touched territory, surrounded by forests and peaks, it can only be a sanctuary for all forms of flora and fauna. Beautiful flowers, exotic birds and spiders are all included in these. I found this creature in my bed when I went to the room at night, but it was easy to put away. Watch your step, and you will do fine.
About the cottage: It looks from the time of the earlier twentieth century when John Abbott ‘discovered’ this place, subsequently named Abbott Mount (sorry, can’t help writing so many Abbotts – but don’t let that confuse you), and got on with the business of making cottages here. The Abbot Mount Cottage (this is what the accommodation is called) is located on the site of one of John’s cottages, but it was actually rebuilt in 1959-60 by an Army Colonel who bought this for his personal use. It was subsequently sold to a Jaipur based jeweler in 1967 who needed this environment for his asthma and arthritis. The family still owns it, but they converted this into an accommodation for travellers a few years back by entering into a management partnership with Asian Adventures.
Here’s a review based on my stay in the last week of May 2008:
- The Location: Located 23 km from Champawat when heading to Pithoragarh in the Champawat district in the eastern part of the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand (formerly Uttaranchal) in India. Off the main highway, the cottage is set amongst rich forests and other vegetation, with valleys all around and an undisturbed view of the peaks in front.
- The Accommodation: Four guest rooms, of which all are en-suite except one which has its private bath but located in the corridor a few steps away. A common living room and dining area with comfortable sofas to lounge and books to read allow you to sit around with tea and chat amongst yourselves and with other guests.
- The Rooms: It was refreshing to enter a relatively spacious room smelling fresh, with bright clean bed linen, clean towels and a homely feel. On one corner is a wood/coal fired heater with an exhaust leading out for the fumes to be used during the very cold months.
- The Baths: Ample room to move around, with uninterrupted running cold water. Hot water is delivered on request in buckets in the morning hours which is heated in a wood fired cylindrical heater called a hamam. Clean towels are provided. But water is an issue in this area, and it could become a ghost town if supply stops. Residents have come up with innovative means to collect water, including building tanks for storing rainwater. A local politician has bought a property here recently, and residents are hopeful this may lead to water pipes being laid in this area to please the legislator.
- Food: A kitchen with flexible hours, and they can customize the menu to suit guests. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian selection are available. The cooks are competent, put together a tasty fare and understand instructions (like making an omelette with less oil).
- Electricity: Did not face any problems. The management has sensibly installed inverters to keep the lights on at any given time, which is essentially all that you need power for here. No fans or air-conditioners are needed here.
- Lawns: The cottage has very well maintained lawns to sit around in on a sunny day and for children to play. You will find a variety of flowers and fruit trees, including apricots, apples, saunf (a digestive Indians have after meals), rhododendrons, sunflowers, roses and more. You can also sit in the verandah with its old fashioned lounging chairs and read a book.
- Housekeeping: The place is kept very clean, giving one a sense of comfort. It is not easy maintaining a place in the mountains, with damp, cold climatic conditions. Full marks here.
- Connectivity with the world: Mobile towers, sure to turn John Abbot in his grave, have come up at Abbot Mount ensuring all networks work here, and not just the state owned BSNL. You can connect to the net if your phone is GPRS enabled. There is a television set but only broadcasts the state run Doordarshan channels.
The final word? Visit Abbott Mount for its virgin beauty and silence, and stay at this location to feel good too. And remember, don’t go if you are going to be in a rush. This is a place where woodpeckers do not like to be disturbed, and the kitchen does not work at the speed of Mcdonalds. But then again, why would you go to Abbot Mount if you were a regular tourist.
B-9, Sector-27, Noida 201301. India.
Phone: (+91 120) 2551963, 2524878, 2524874
Fax: (+91 11) 9394878.
E-fax (USA): (305) 574 6230
Note: Information given here is correct at the time of posting, and may change over time.