Writing this post about Matheran, which was my first trip of 2015, because I miss the calm and peace it gave me (even though I love Bombay, sometimes you do need a break) and also well, because I started this blog only three months back..
Matheran is this small, beautiful, pristine hill station in Raigad district of Maharashtra. It is one of the few – and Asia’s only – place where no form of automobile (read as polluting and noisy) is allowed. Except the ambulance, of course.
I faced getting some weird glances from my friends – ‘Do we really have to walk’, ‘This place does not look like US’ blah blah… Only to ultimately convince them to visit a place where there would be no cars and just us walking randomly! (Read, Successful Travel Planner of the future)
Matheran has been declared as an eco-sensitive region by the Ministry of Environment & Forest, GOI even though, because of its proximity to both Mumbai (90 KM) and Pune (120 KM), it attracts large number of tourists on weekends. Maybe they all, like us, visit Matheran with the idea of exploring a city without pollution and leave with an experience like no other?
To reach Matheran, one has the option to drive until Dasturi Naka – at this point you will have to park your cars for a fee and then move ahead.
Another option is to take a local from Mumbai CST to Karjat which reaches in about two hours OR take a Mumbai – Pune train, getting down at Karjat, from where you can take a local back to Neral.
From Neral, there is a beautiful narrow gauge train which takes you until the main marketplace of Matheran. The waiting for it is too long and reservations open only one hour prior to departure. As a result, we ended up taking a shared cab (costing usually about Rs. 60 – 70 per head) hilly ride until Dasturi Naka.
THIS is when the journey really begins!! Well, also because one of my friends was getting nauseous on the hilly drive. YAAY!
So the options are- trekking, horse-riding or hand-pulled rickshaws. About 500 horses are parked here- all ready for the uphill climb! Choosing not to climb upwards with our luggage, we decided to horse-ride until the main market of Matheran.
And, oh, what a ride! We swayed, sang, made fun of one another’s reactions, chit-chatted with the horse handlers and took in the beautiful scenery all around. Feeling extremely cool about the fact that we overtook the slow (and unavailable) train!
Our feet were our ‘transport’ for the remainder of this beautiful journey.
Note – the hand pulled rickshaws are too expensive and the horses do not give you too much leverage to enjoy all the viewpoints at your leisure. ‘Footing’ it all over was the option, and a much better one! And oh boy! What an option!
Out of the 36 designated viewpoints in Matheran, we were able to cover 8, along with the many undesignated (smaller) ones that are to be found at almost every nook and corner. The regular visitors will almost always be found at the latter ones, do make sure to be constantly on the lookout for them. The spectacular views and thinner crowds, render them far superior in overall experience to the renowned ones!
We started Evening 1 with a visit to the Echo Point where each spoken word actually echoes about 4 – 5 times! The view was great too…
Soon, we walked towards Porcupine Point – known for hosting the most beautiful sunsets. At every point we crossed on the way, we could imagine the sunrise and sunset being like no other. At Porcupine, the sunrise was just mesmerizing – in every sense of the word!
Sunsets on beaches are beautiful, sunsets in Coorg are beautiful, sunsets on a hilltop in Udaipur are beautiful – but the sunset here, with no disturbance of a car engine, no disturbance of horns, no polluted air, was an experience like none!
Walking back to the main market place, with hardly any street lights, making our way through the thicket of forest and red laterite roads, we all were feeling relaxed despite spending just about 5 hours on our feet here! Truly, we realized why so many tourists swarm this place on the weekends. It is not just an escape, it is a treat!
Now hungry, we gorged on the food at Khan’s (especially their chicken dishes and Cheese Naan). The market place is the only happening place after sunset and it stays alive till about 9 – 10 PM. There are food stalls, small shops, local handicraft shops and various gaming arcades. We went crazy playing some of the games there and eating the yummy chikkis!
Getting an early (but not early enough for the sunrise, sadly) start the next morning, while walking around, we crossed many Parsi bungalows, rich British-style buildings and many many monkeys! These monkeys will be your constant companions during your time at Matheran. Even though they are friendly- they are not scared even a bit at the sight of humans- it is certain that they will pounce at any food item in their sight!
We had started with the desire to cover as many points as we could, fully aware that we had absolute freedom to sit and relax at any particular point with no one to object!
After visiting the Honeymoon point (skip-able) and ‘discovering’ Suicide point (which was beautiful, see pics), we finally headed to the Lake Charlotte. It is the main source of water in the area and a little away from the main Matheran. On one side, it has this beautiful dam, and on the other – the Pisarnath Mandir! The area is super green, super cool and superrr beautiful- actually an ideal place to sit back and relax- which is exactly what we did. Besides, of course, getting pictures like these clicked –
If you are one of those who love photography, let me tell you it will be extremely hard for you to use any other mode other than Panorama. The beauty all around you will compel you to swivel your head in all directions – along with your camera.
Moving on, we went to Louisa Point which offers amazing (truly breathtaking) 360° views from the huge lustrous open grounds. It was a great photo opportunity, which we gleefully utilized to click pictures like these –
This point is truly panoramic. The man here with his telescope shows various other points and old forts- a huge bonus! Play along with his stories.
Louisa Point is also famous for showcasing the Lions’ Head – the tip of another point – which resembles a lion’s head.
From here we went onto Malang point where we did a bit of balloon shooting and then moved on to the Panorama Point – the farthest point that we visited. Being a famous point, it was crowded and there were shops which served sandwiches and other foods.
It had a lot of people, and despite the beautiful sunset, I wished I was back at Porcupine Point.
We also went to Monkey Point, Lord Point and Coronation Point – none of which were half as appealing as the one’s mentioned above.
Returning to the market place after a looong day, we ate at this amazing place called the Garden View Restaurant.
Food in Matheran is pretty affordable and very yummy. Most of the places have Indian and Chinese and are mostly both veg and non-veg. Do remember to try the various faloodas that are being sold on the stalls along with the kulfis you will find along the way. No need to worry about the weight gain, you will definitely walk it out!
The market place also keeps amazing chocolate fudge – a must carry back home – and many many shoes along with leather and cane items! All at very reasonable prices if you bargain.
The next morning, we rushed to get train tickets for our return journey. It was a long wait, and a slow ride but it was worth it all the way- an unforgettable experience indeed…
Matheran -it made me realize how life must have been some decades ago – beautiful, peaceful and in complete harmony with nature. It was truly an ethereal experience- a blissful change from the usual New Year celebrations!! It took me back in time, to easy and simple living. Despite the heavy crowds, there was this feeling of absolute inner peace. The dense forest cover and absence of cars, all kick-started my year in a way no noisy, crowded club ever could!
Matheran gave me not just serenity and calm, but really kindled in me an amazing and everlasting gratitude for nature. The nature, we are slowly forgetting… but are reminded of, by places like these…
Some very important TIPS-
- Avoid going during monsoon as the area becomes slippery and muddy
- Viewpoints are green and beautiful after monsoons all through February
- Porters are available from Dasturi Naka
- Walking is quicker than being pulled along in a rickshaw
- Carry a jacket, it gets cold at night
- Wear comfortable sport shoes – they are bound to get dirty, and your feet, tired
- Carry a torch and a power bank at all times
- Get a map for Matheran – available at all hotels, food joints etc.
- Carry water bottles everywhere – not every point has shops, and the distances between points is long
- Only one ATM –has issues with cash sometimes. Plan accordingly.
As much as I tried, this post is not enough. Please visit the following two best websites for more information. I did –
All these photos are clicked by a Samsung Camera.. don’t judge! 🙂