Weekend get-away from Mumbai
Last weekend I was off to Matheran. Matheran is a small hill station on the way to Pune from Mumbai. It‘s approximately 90 Kms from Mumbai central. There is something special about this place which I have not seen in any other hill station. They do not allow any kind of vehicles to this place. About 3 Kms before Matheran, there is a place called Dasturi, which is the last point where one can drive up to. People have to park their vehicles at Dasturi and from there either hike up, take a horse ride or sit in one of the man pulled cart. I wonder if they allow an ambulance. Anyway it‘s good to see a place free from vehicle pollution. Living in India, this is a blessing.
About the place: Located on a narrow north-south ridge, 800m up in the Sahyadri Range, sidetracked plateau of the Western Ghats that overhang the Konkan. The name is a Marathi term, denoting the “Mother Nature”. It was discovered by a British, Mr. Huge Mallet, the then Collector of Thane, in 1850.
Varied types of plants and herbs, having medicinal value are found in abundance in the mountain jungles of Matheran. Probably the number of monkeys in these hills outnumbers the human population, and both the red-faced breed, as well as the black-faced ones are found here.
How to get there:
Road Map: Mumbai Central to Vashi (30 KM) to Panvel (20 KM) to Chowk Phata, Karjat (20 KM) to Neral (10 KM) to Dasturi (7 KM).
From Mumbai take the Pune highway. After Vashi/Panvel catch the old Pune highway. Do not take the express way to Pune.
Train route: It is well connected by rail both, from Mumbai and Pune upto Neral Junction Station, a station at the bottom of the hill. From Neral a small Toy Train (Narrow gauge) takes you through a zigzag route of about 21 kms. to Matheran in 2 hours time. Some marvelous valley scenes can be observed during this journey. Three small stations called Jumma Patti, Water Pipe and Aman Lodge are on the way to Matheran.
This is recommended for people who are not used to the crazy Indian roads and traffic. The ghat section from Neral to Dasturi is really amazing. It must be at least 75 year old road. And will guarantee you a rollercoaster ride, with some real adventurous moments. Why not give it a shot?
What did I do?
I left Mumbai at around 5:00 AM in the morning, drove up to this place. Reached Dasturi at about 7:15 AM. Parked the car there and took a horse ride till Matheran. Its amazing to see the number and kind of people waiting to welcome you and become your guide. It gets quite irritating after a while, so the best policy is to keep quite. Behave as if you were deaf and dumb. It took me about 30 mins to reach Byke, the hotel where I had my booking. I must say, Byke is a good place to stay. Quite expense, but worth the experience. They have quite good facilities and amazing food.
Saturday was mostly relaxing time. They have a health club where they give you an hour‘s massage. It‘s quite different from the massages I have had so far. The massage is followed by sauna bath and steam bath. After all this relaxation, I can bet you would want to hit the bed.
Sunday morning I decided to go for a small trek. I walked towards the Charlotte Lake. From there I turned towards the Lord point and started following a thin foot trail. As I was walking on the edge of the mountain, it was a beautiful view. Without knowing where I‘m headed to, I just kept following the path. The path was getting narrower and narrower. I could sense that this was an off-beat track; it had a lot of spider web. The forest was getting thicker and the whole atmosphere was just sucking me in. On the way I could see a lot of broken houses. It was getting a bit scary as there was not trace of humans. I saw some beautiful birds on the way. Finally I reached a point called Belvedere point where there were some signs of civilization. This is motivating enough for me to continue. I followed the same path and reached one tree hill point. This had a very beautiful view. At this point I decide to head back. Now I decide to take a different route back. After searching for sometime, I found a huge track going back. Just followed it and reached Byke. The whole exercise too me about 4 hours.
Reenergized, I reached the resort and pounced on the breakfast, like I had rediscovered food. Towards the afternoon I took a stroll down to the market. It was fascinating to watch the economics of this place.
In the evening I headed back to the concrete jungles of Mumbai. Mission accomplished.