In the Himalayas, from Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir to North East, there are always these beautiful off limits spots that are not reachable by public transport like state buses or motor-rickshaws. Perhaps a quaint lake surrounded by hillocks or an 18th century church on a hill top in a remote village. For solo women budget travelers reaching these non-touristy areas are always a challenge. Since public transportation ply from point to point, and don’t take you to the exact scenic location you wish to go.
I am sharing my experience of visiting two such places alone on a budget.
- Abbott Mount in Champawat district in Uttarakhand
- Parashar Lake in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh
Abbott Mount, Champawat, Uttarakhand
I planned a visit to Abbott Mount during my first SWBT trip to Champawat. Abbott Mount is a small hilly village at an altitude of 7000 feet in the Kumaon Hills. Named after British officer of colonial time, John Harold Abbott the hamlet consists of a cluster of 19th century cottages and an old church. Owing to its location Abbott Mount has remained untouched by mainstream tourists.
Abbott Mount Church, photo courtesy: E-Uttaranchal website
To reach Abbottt Mount from Delhi, take a bus to Champawat via Tanakpur (you may halt at Tanakpur for a day or two, its what I did). From Champawat you have to take another state bus towards Pithoragarh and get down at Maroda khan village, about 4 kms after Lohaghat. Abbott Mount is another 3 kms hike off the main road from this point where buses don’t go.
Marodakhan, small village, the point where bus dropped me
When the bus dropped me at this point, I was surprised. It was my first budget travel and I was going to hills from the metro city, where I can take a bus to any precise point I want. But in the hills, suddenly I found myself alone on a road lined with pine trees, a snow capped Dhaulagiri range in the distance, and a few old houses. There wasn’t even any human to ask what to do next.
The snow capped Dhaulagiri range in the distance
Men at public space – rural or urban the gender and space dynamics don’t change
This was the point from where I had to walk but I had a heavy backpack (I told you it was my first trip), and I was not that physically fit for a trek. So I whiled away my time around the spot. In some time few villagers gathered around me and started getting curious. In particular, an old lady with swag caught my attention.
I chatted up with her, told what I was doing alone in her village, why I travel alone, who else is there in my family. She asked if I was married, I simply said, “Nahi ji shadi kari” trying my best to not make it sound like some sort of a feminist statement, she being a village woman and all. But she took it as one. She exclaimed loudly, “Bahat accha, kuch nahi rakha hai shaadi mein, tum jo kar rahe ho badiya kar rahe ho (Very good, there is no fun in marriage, what you are doing is great).”
I was humbled.
In some more time few young and old men gathered asking me where I wanted to go. They explained the route to Abbott Mount and said that I could either go back to Lohaghat bus stop and hire a private cab or walk from this point. A twenty something man came forward offering a bike ride. The solo woman in me at this point took a step back. Hitch hiking alone on Indian roads was still something I didn’t consider safe. I didn’t trust that man and never reached Abbott Mount. A male backpacker in my place wouldn’t have thought twice but I had to.
I have now learned to push my safety boundaries. Although I still feel hitch hiking can be risky, I occasionally do take a lift from other tourist vehicles or carriers in the hills. I will write about that in another post.
If you want to visit Abbott Mount, make sure you can walk about 3 kms uphill. If you absolutely must visit the place and cannot trek, then the other two options are 1) push your safety limits and take lift from various private vehicles, small trucks going there 2) Hire a taxi for yourself from Lohaghat.
Distance and route from Delhi
Delhi to Tanakpur (362 kms)
Tanakpur to Champawat (73 kms)
Champawat to Lohaghat (13kms)
Lohaghat to Abbott Mount (7.3kms)
Uttarakhand State Buses run on this route from ISBT, New Delhi. Most of the buses are non-luxurious buses with un-reserved seats. However, please check UKSRTC website for avilibility of Volvo buses.
Budget for Local Stay and Travel
The AC bus (non-Volvo) ticket from Delhi ISBT Ananad Vihar to Tanakpur cost around 500 last I checked. Please visit UKSRTC for bus time table and costs. From Tanakpur rest of the journey is in ordinary local buses at very nominal cost (INR 50-150 per trip). The route is a non-touristy place so hotels and dhabas are quite affordable if you stay in Champawat or Lohaghat. If you want to spend time in Abbott Mount, you can check with KMVN Guest House and there are other private cottages.
Safety Level For Solo Woman
Traveling in most parts of Uttarakhand is considered very safe. I felt comfortable most, except the incident I described above. The local buses had very few women but the men were friendly, helpful without being creepy.