Monday, 14 November 2016

Matheran - A quick getaway from Mumbai

There are few trips that you make because you just need a break from your everyday schedule…. A break from the daily home to office and office to home..

I recently made such a trip to Matheran. Our Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi had just announced the demonetization of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 note. There were crazy lines in front of Banks and ATMs, but we were on our way to Matheran.

Early morning – Andheri to Neral

With the alarm ringing we got up at 04:30am. We were very tired after a late friend’s get together last night and wanted to sleep for few more hours. After willing away some time in bed we decided to finally get out of bed. I had not packed last night and therefore dumped two t-shirts and other essentials for a one night stay in my back pack. Assuming that it’s going to be cold I dumped one sweater and one shawl in my back pack.

Nikki and I got ready in top speed and were out of the house by 05:30am. Our plan was to catch a 6:35 am train to Karjat from Ghatkopar. Since we din’t have 100 rupee notes (I had Rs 270 only in my wallet) we decided to first go and withdraw some money from the nearest ATM.

After visiting 8 ATMs (non of them had any money) in my locality we headed to the metro station. We took the metro to Ghatkopar station and just about manage to catch the 07:14 fast train to Karjat from Ghatkopar (were not able to catch 6:35 as were trying our best to look for a ATM which had some cash in it).

Pramod boarded the same train from Dombivili and we got off at Neral (two stop before Karjat) around 9:00 am.

Neral to Matheran

Just outside Neral Railway station we boarded a shared cab from Neral to Dasturi (Rs. 70 per person). The drive from Neral to Dasturi starts with straight roads but soon you will be on steep winding roads. After a 20 min scenic and adrenaline drive we reached Dasturi. No vehicle is allowed post Dasturi. If you have come via your own vehicle there is a parking area where you can park your car.

A saw a girl handing over the new note of Rs. 2000 to the cab driver. The cab driver had a big question mark on his face as he was seeing the note for the first time. He was not sure if the note is genuine or fake. The girl was explaining him that she has got this note yesterday straight from the bank.

Before heading to Matheran, we went to a small shop near the entrance gate to Matheran to have some vada pau and tea. You will notice that the red mud here and large no of monkeys.

After paying the entrance fee (Rs. 50 for adults, Rs. 25 for children) we headed to Matheran on foot. Everyone was trying the old 1000 and 500 rupees note at the window to pay the entrance fee to Matheran, which was politely refused by the official.

You can reach Matheran through one of the three options – horses, hand carriages or your own foot. 

Horses at Dasturi
Horses at Dasturi
It’s a 30 to 45 minutes simple trek (not including stoppages for clicking pictures). A slow and steady walk to Matheran takes you through an isolated and very beautiful jungle full of lush green woods. The walk up to Matheran is wonderful. 

Trek to Matheran
Trek to Matheran
You will find benches on the way wherein you can sit and take a break from the walk, relax and enjoy the beautiful landscape. Occasionally you can hear the buzzing of the insects when you are walking in the jungle.

Matheran
Resting on a bench

The trail is comfortable but full of small stones and red mud. Use a good pair of walking shoes with sturdy grip.

Matheran      

Once we reached Matheran, we decided to first head to our hotel, alight our bags have some chai and then head to the main market of the small hill station. We had already booked our one night stay at Spring Wood Heritage. The room was huge with three beds, TV, attached bathroom, geyser. Our stay was inclusive of breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The hotel had the facility of swimming pool, carrom, table tennis, badminton.

Spring Wood Heritage, Matheran
Spring Wood Heritage, Matheran
After check-in and some tea we headed to the main market of Matheran. The main market was bustling with activity and people on the weekend. The road was filled with travelers and couples alike. There were shops selling chikki, footwear, bags, sunglasses etc.

Wax Museum
Wax Museum

Kolhapuri Chappal Shop
Kolhapuri Chappal Shop
After a good long walk in the market we decided to return to our hotel for lunch. After resting for two hours we played carrom in the hotel. In the evening we walked towards Lake Charlotte to witness the sunset.

On our way to Lake Charlotte
On our way to Lake Charlotte
After a beautiful walk amidst the dense forest we reached the Lake. The breeze near the lake was chilly and the sun was about to set.

Lake Charlotte
Lake Charlotte
We headed to the Lord’s Point, which is a two minutes walk from the Lake to witness the beautiful sunset.

Sunset at Lord's Point
Sunset at Lord's Point
The sun was a blazing orange and was heading down giving way to the dark night.

View from Lord's Point
View from Lord's Point

Another View from Lord's Point
Another View from Lord's Point
Matheran has a lot of “points” – Louisa Point, Sunset Point, Monkey Point and so on… We dint try to cover the points. We went on a walking trail and saw the Lake and sunset from the nearest valley there.

Don’t worry about getting lost in the woods. If you think you are lost wait at a crossroad, you will find someone who will guide you. Usually if you keep walking you will either end up at some “point” or you will find yourself back in the market. It’s like all road leads to Matheran Market.     

Horses ready for a ride
Horses ready for a ride
Since there was still time for dinner, we had time to leisurely take a stroll along the famous and long main market road again. Even after the sunset it was not cold, a thin sweater or even a full sleeves t-shirt was comfortable.

We tried some really economical sunglasses, some kolhapuri chappals, looked for some lunch box jute bags, ate corn, feed some hungry dogs Parle-G biscuits and finally made our way back to the hotel.

Corn at the main market of Matheran
Corn at the main market of Matheran
The hotel was playing some really slow and beautiful bollywood songs and we tried some ball dancing (tried). Next was a part which we truly enjoyed – table tennis. We tried our hands at table tennis and must have played for two hours or so.

By then my shoes sole had given away and we again went back to the market to get the same fixed. Since the cobbler asked for Rs 200 to fix the sole, we decided to buy two fevi-quick and take care of the shoe sole onour own. (All done in Rs. 12).

With the shoe now stuck we had a fulfilling dinner and gulab jamun and two hours long heated discussion on various topics.

Once back in the room we all settled in bed and dozed off in no time.

Pramod was expecting or should I say hoping to see fog early morning. He got up early and peeped out – quite disheartened he went back to sleep after seeing there is no fog. We all got up quite late, each trying to wake the other person.

Matheran to Mumbai

Finally around nine we were up and started getting ready. After breakfast we again tried our hands on table tennis (we all liked this game).

Nikki had to attend a wedding in Colaba in the evening and was in hurry to be back home. After playing Table tennis for a while we started our trek back to Dasturi.

We again enjoyed our trek back and clicked some pictures. Once in Dasturi we took a shared cab and were back to Neral Station. After waiting for few minutes we boarded a slow train to Thane.

The 4 Monkeys
The 4 Monkeys
Pramod got off at Dombivili and Nikki and I boarded another slow train from Thane for Ghatkopar. From Ghatkopar we took the metro and were back home.

Matheran is a hill station which is very close to Mumbai and Pune and thus very popular as a weekend destination. It is an eco-sensitive hill station and is a no vehicle zone. Have you seen any other hill station where vehicles are not allowed? Monsoons and winters are two good season to visit the hills at Matheran.

The red mud of Matheran will stick to your clothes and shoes so be ready to wash it separately. Be sure to wear comfortable and study shoes as there is lot of walking in Matheran and there is no plain roads. 

If you want to try your hands on horse riding - this is the place. You will see loads of beautiful horses in Matheran, you can cover various points on horses too. 

One point that I want to make is that even though we were travelling with less amount of cash, we din't face any difficulty. The hotel is equipped with payment through plastic money, train tickets were taken through smart cards and metro was traveled with access card.  

It is always a pleasure to visit Matheran and it should be on your list too if you have not been to Matheran till now.