Wednesday, April 17, 2013
If you want to be away from the noise and air pollution, then the best place to be in is Matheran.
Matheran is the only hill station which does not allow vehicles. So the air here is pure and totally unpolluted by toxic gases. The way to travel in Matheran is on horseback, on human carts and by walking. Walking is the best exercise known to man as it helps to keep one fit for a lifetime.
Nor are there any factories here to emit toxic gases from chimneys. What’s more? As there are no vehicles, there is no honking. The only sound you hear is that of people talking, horses neighing and galloping and birds chirping in the forests of Matheran.
Matheran is the smallest hill station in India and is located 2,625 feet above sea level on the Western Ghats at a distance of 90 km from Mumbai and 120 km from Pune. It is a weekend getaway for people living in Mumbai and Pune.
History states that Matheran was discovered by Hugh Poyntz Malet in 1850. It was later developed by the British as an escape from the summer heat. Matheran railway station was built by Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy at a cost of Rs. 16,000,000.00. It offers a beautiful view of the hill ranges around Matheran.
Matheran can be accessed from Neral railway station on the Central line, plying between CST and Karjat. From here we have the following travel options to reach Dasturi Naka located at an hour’s distance from Matheran market. The distance between the two is 2.5 km. For the train timings, please look up the railways site.
- Take a cab (Maruti Omni) to Matheran; it costs Rs. 60 per seat and takes 30 minutes to reach Dasturi Naka. The capacity of the cab is 5 seats.
- Private vehicles are allowed up to Dasturi Naka. A separate parking charge is levied for parking two- and four-wheelers in Dasturi Naka.
- MSRTC mini buses ply between Neral to Matheran at a cost of Rs. 25 per seat.
- The mini train from Neral to Matheran market is available at a cost of Rs.25 for second class and Rs.210 for first class. It takes around two hours to reach Matheran Market. No stop at Dasturi Naka.
- Trek all the way up to Dasturi Naka; it takes around 3.5 to 4 hours to reach Dasturi Naka. Alternatively many trekkers also trek from Panvel to Matheran or from Karjat to Matheran. Trekking from Panvel and Karjat is like a haven for professional trekkers and not for those not used to trekking.
The entry fee to Matheran is Rs.25 which is collected at Dasturi Naka. From here starts the red mud terrain. It takes around an hour’s time by foot to reach Matheran Market. Alternatively horses and manually drawn carts are also available. The rates of horses and manually drawn carts are negotiable but can be quite steep during the peak seasons.
The peak seasons in Matheran run from April to May and November to January. Weekends attract huge crowds to Matheran.
There are many places to stay here, lodges, hotels and cottages. There is room for everyone from budgeted travelers to lavish spenders. Again the rates are negotiable and change as per the season.
There are hotels both near the market and in the interiors of Matheran too, in case you want to be undisturbed when you are with Mother Nature.
Matheran has around 30 points from where one can see an amazing view of the hill ranges in the vicinity. It also has a Race Course (Olympia), Panthers Cave and a few water tanks up here. These can be seen either on foot or on horseback.
Matheran has grown commercially over the years. As there are no factories and farms here, the only source of income here is through tourism.
The Valley Crossing at Honeymoon Point is a must but not for the weak hearted. There are many small valley crossings done at various other points too across Matheran.
At Matheran there are many bungalows owned by Parsis. They are in the middle of the forest. From the forest road they are so deep inside that you can’t even see the houses, thanks to the thick forest around them. Wow! Imagine staying right in the middle of the forest. Waking up every morning to the sound of the birds and seeing greenery all around you. What a life that would be. I wish I could have stayed in one just for a night. Please note: NO trespassing is allowed on private properties here.
There are many ruins of structures built in the early 19th century along with the houses of the locals which are also a must-see.
There are many villages here at the base of many points in Matheran. The view of them nestling in the hill ranges is amazing. Villages at Gabut Point, One Tree Hill and Maldunga Point are a must-see. The children from these villages travel all the way up to Matheran for their schooling. A trek every day, no wonder people in the villages are so fit.
Land Pollution is increasing around here. Discarded plastic bags and gutka packets are seen dumped around the countryside. A humble request to my readers is, please carry water or drink lemon or kokum sherbet here instead of aerated drinks in plastic bottles. Plastic bottles don’t decompose and pose a threat to nature. If we don’t take the initiative, no one will.
I enjoyed my trip both walking and horse riding in the forest. The sounds made by the horses’ hooves, the birds chirping in the forest and the funny sounds of the monkeys are very soothing to the ears.
The weather in the forest is so pleasant and cool. The thick forestation cuts out the heat in the forest and the breeze keeps one cool.
Matheran should definitely be on the agenda of any person who enjoys communing with Nature.