On a real high!

On a real high!
Highlights

Seated on a wooden bench, I sat overlooking a sea of clouds. Darkness had not yet completely disappeared. The sky was no longer an abyss of black, nor did it appear blue. Instead, it emitted a metallic grey hue, glistening as the occasional spear of light pierced through the clouds.

Mount Abbott, near Lohaghat, in eastern Uttarakhand, was a British summer retreat. The place was founded by and named after John Harold Abbott, an enterprising English businessperson, who set up this tiny hill station in 1914

Seated on a wooden bench, I sat overlooking a sea of clouds. Darkness had not yet completely disappeared. The sky was no longer an abyss of black, nor did it appear blue. Instead, it emitted a metallic grey hue, glistening as the occasional spear of light pierced through the clouds.

Slowly sunlight in the form of unadulterated but scattered rays filled the sky; their hue illuminating the distant snow peaks lining the horizon. Birds chirped an explicit background melody. With paused breath, I wished time to halt. The trees shone as if they were wearing crowns of pure gold. The valleys below my feet were still mist wrapped while in front were the vast and magnificent Himalayas, completely awe-inspiring.

Although time continued to flow, the imagery and emotions that emerged got entrapped in my mind. Forever!

I had managed to squeeze out a couple of days to spend away from the noisy and dusty din of urban life. My first and only choice was the mountains, where you have all the time for yourself. In addition, if one is based in the northern part of India and if the idea is to go to the mountains, is there any place to think of other than the Himalayas?

Usually, I prefer to go on a trek when in the Himalayas, but this time I had only three days available -- insufficient duration for a trek. So I headed to the tiny hamlet of Abbott Mount located an altitude of 7,000 feet from where one could witness the snowcapped cliffs of the mighty Himalayas in its fullest glory.

This momentous hilly resort on the eastern side of the Kumaon Hills unravels a magnificent vision of the massive peaks from the Gangotri cliff to Dhaulagiri range. The views of the Himalayas here are visible right from October to June.

The peaks, which can be seen from here, include (west to east) Pir Panjal, Bandarpuch, Chaukhambha, Neelkunt, Nanda Ghunti, Trishul, Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot, and Panchachuli Peaks of the Central Himalayas. Even Dhauligiri, Annapurna, Manasulu of the Nepal Himalayas and part of the Assam Himalayas can be spotted from this place.

Like many other hilly resorts of India, the hill station of Abbott Mount nestling in the lap of the verdant Kumaon Himalayas too was the handiwork of the British. The place was founded by and named after John Harold Abbott, an enterprising English businessperson, who set up this tiny hill station in 1914 to create a retreat offering respite from the heat of the plains.

He bought 1,000 acres of Raikot Tea Estate from Rev. Bose, to create an exclusive European settlement. Kot in Kumaon language means fort and there might have been a fort on top of Abbott Mount in ancient times.

Abbott Mount is just a cluster of thirteen British era cottages set in the midst of acres and acres of dense forest. This hamlet also houses a lovely church, which provides an ethereal appeal to its magnificence. One can opt to visit this hilly resort at any time of the year. If you prefer slower and easy-paced vacation, you can choose the summers when the entire surroundings are filled with the diaphanous shades of large variety of butterflies.

However, hold on, before you plan your vacations, let me reveal that this place also has another peculiar claim to fame. Abbey Hospital in Abbott Mount was featured on Zee TV’s popular haunted show ‘Fear Files’. The episode was based on the eerie Story of Abbey Hospital - a supposedly haunted bungalow on the Abbott Hill, which was converted into a hospital in 1920’s after the demise of Abbott.

As per local folklore, an evil doctor called Morisson, who worked at Abbey Hospital, was responsible for this reputation. Morrison had the powers of predicting others future, which only included announcements of sudden deaths.

Whenever any new patient was admitted to the hospital, Morrison, just by having a look at the person was able to predict, whether the person will live or perish. He even used to tell the exact day of death and a few days before it. The patient was sent to a special ward called “Mukti Kothri” (Freedom Ward), where he was found dead the next day.

Till date, nobody has been able to decipher whether the patients used to die naturally or Morrison killed them to boast of his predictions. As per the locals, the spirits of those who became the prey of the monstrous doctor still haunt this place. The popular place for ghostly sightings is “Bhoot Ki Daang”, a spot where two spirits are supposedly seen walking on the road side by side at the dead of the night.

We, however, during our short stay, thankfully did not have any unearthly encounter. Our accommodation was booked at “Abbott Mount Cottage" situated on a small table land on a hill. Wow! What a place and what a view! For the entire duration of our stay, we feasted on the fabulous views and soaked in the tranquil, salubrious and serene environment.

The mountains tell us their story and help us create ours. It has been quite some time since I returned from Abbott Mount and I can still visualise the spectacle of the Himalayas being lit by the first rays of the rising sun. It simply refuses to fade away. Even in the midst of cacophony, I can hear the sound of the wind rustling through my ears. The mountains are calling me to visit them again.

Location: Abbott Mount is about 350 kms from Delhi, the nearest airport.
Accessibility: Drive from Delhi via Moradabad, Rampur, Rudrapur, Khatima, Tanakpur and Lohaghat. Tanakpur to Abbott Mount via Lohaghat is a 90 km ( 3 hr) hill drive.
Accommodation: The place boasts of beautifully restored British era cottages
Outings: Mahseer Fishing in Pancheshwar is a big attraction for serious anglers as Abbott Mount happens to be the base for them.
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