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Matheran (Four Points and a Lake)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

This trip was special to me as it was the first one that I had organised under the banner of merwynsrucksack the adventure co. I decided to go to Matheran as it was close to Mumbai and promised to be an easy trek.
I put up an announcement regarding my upcoming treks on my blog to see if anyone was interested in coming along.
Shawn signed up along with his wife Perpetua and a cousin, Savio. Shawn had earlier accompanied me on my trip to Madh Fort, Erangal Village and Mandapeshwar Caves. You can check out that post HERE.
Flature, who had never gone on a trek before, also joined us.

Group Pic - Savio, Shawn, Perpetua, Me and Flature
As planned, we decided to board the 7.03 am train to Karjat from Dadar on the Central railway line. Matheran is a hill station which can be accessed from Neral station, two stations prior to Karjat. Alternatively you can also get there from Panvel, but this route is a bit difficult, so most people opt for the first route.
The train was 10 minutes early. Luckily Shawn and his party were in time to board the train. They managed to board the bogie next to the one Flature and I was in. Later at the next station they got into our bogie.
Our bogie was crowded, and everyone was loaded with bags.  I guessed that they were going for an outing, either a day trip or an overnight trip. And all were having fun in their groups. Luckily we got a place to stand near the entrance of the bogie, where we made ourselves comfortable, in spite of the crowd.
I was hoping to get a good shot of the sunrise, but the train was moving so fast that I could hardly get a clear shot. I needed to take many pictures before I finally got a good shot.  Yippee.  
As we were standing at the entrance of the compartment, we could feel the cold wind against our jumpers and monkey caps. The winds were so strong that they penetrate through our woolen gear and made us shiver from within.

Finally at 8.40 am we alighted at Neral station. Half the compartment exited with us. Moving through the crowd, we got on the overbridge that would take us outside the station.
Matheran is clearly visible from Neral, as you travel towards Karjat,. It can be sighted on the right hand side. As it was broad daylight we could see the hill range. If you travel at night, the only way to recognise the hill range is by spotting two street light poles up at the entry point to Matheran.
There are four ways you can reach up here, mini train, cab, private vehicle and by walking.
View on the way to Garbut Point

I don’t know the price of the train ticket but I know that it takes 2 hours by train to reach Matheran and the station is near the Market area. But the view from the train is amazing, much better than the road view.
The Taxi stand here is very well organised. Each taxi accommodates 5 people. The cost of each seat is Rs.60. The arrangement is such that two passengers sit with the driver and the remainder sit on the back seat. The person sitting next to the driver sits in a weird position with the gear box right between his legs.
There was complete chaos at the taxi stand when we got there. Our driver had been given a receipt to take us up the hill, but we couldn’t locate him. We thought we had lost him in the crowd. As we were trying to locate him, far away in the distance we saw a hand waving out to us and then calling us. That’s our ride, yelled Shawn and we went on to board his taxi.
The taxis are mostly Maruti Omnis. For those of you who live outside India and are unfamiliar with this vehicle, let me inform you that it looks like a rectangular box on wheels. It is not a very comfortable ride but it is the only way up if you don’t have a vehicle. The other option is to trek it up. It is a 3-hour climb up to the entry point to Matheran, which is Dasturi Car Parking.

Toy Train to Neral from Matheran

The roads are not in good condition but they are not bad either, though bumpy rides are guaranteed no matter how powerful your vehicle’s shock absorbers may be. The taxi will take you up the winding roads with the hill on one side and the deep valleys on the other. On the way the road was so steep that the driver had to switch gears to climb the hill. Finally after 30 minutes we were up the hill.
We immediately decided to have breakfast at the entrance, at Dasturi Naka. Here we were welcomed by monkeys. Their number kept increasing. After a few photo sessions with the monkeys we decided to go have our breakfast at a small joint outside the entrance.
This place is very small and it serves omelet pav, vada pav, tea, packaged water and packed snacks and biscuits. No coffee is served here, sorry coffee lovers. Inside all over the place there are instructions put up stating “Self Service.”
As we were the first to enter we immediately placed our orders for 5 omlette pavs (a pav is a loaf of bread) and 4 teas. Flature did not want any tea.

Me at Garbut Point

Soon after we arrived it seemed as if the hotel was suddenly bustling with people. The owners of the hotel should thank us, as we gave them so much business. We had our omelet pav and tea and headed off to Matheran.
While making the omelet, the cook asked us if we wanted chillies in our omelets to which we all readily agreed. It was only later that we found out that all the chillies were in the omelet which was served to Flature.
After having our breakfast we headed off to buy our entry ticket to Matheran at a cost of Rs.25 per head. At the entry we were given a map of Matheran with the points and places to see in Matheran.
No vehicles are allowed in Matheran. The only modes of transport are walking, horseback and hand cart. Though there is an ambulance up there in case of emergencies.

View from Garbut Point

You can hire horses and go up to see the points, but only the famous ones will be shown to you. If you plan to see all the 33 points up here then I guess walking would be the best option and a trip of 2 to 3 days is required to cover Matheran in its entirety.
The roads are all muddy and dusty. The moment a horse passes by dust rises. The place is covered with red soil. In the rains, the ground gets rather mucky and wet. For a change it was not at all cold up here. The weather was pleasant.
We set off to see Garbut Point. This point is isolated like the Panorama Point in Matheran. It is a good 1½ hour journey to Garbut Point passing through the jungles and the edges to reach this point. Finally we were here.
The view was amazing; we could see Matheran i.e. the market area of Matheran at one end and many other hill ranges. Just the five of us were here. We were totally isolated and the feeling of being on top of the world gripped me.

Hamlets below the Gabut Point

From there we could see another village a few feet below on another hill range with an access road from there. Someday I’ll go camping there, I thought to myself.
After a few photo shoots we headed off the Market area. Again it took us another 1½ hours to reach the Market. Market area, as the name goes, means a place where everything is available, i.e. footwear, fast food joints, crafts etc and places to stay.
As it was lunch time we headed off to Gujarat Bhuwan Hotel, to have our lunch there. As we were going to do a lot of walking I chose this place as it serves unlimited veg thali for just Rs. 200. But the timings are 1130 hrs to 1400 hrs.
Our lunch consisted of 3 vegetables, dal, rotla (type of chapati), puri, rice, papad, and samosa and fruit salad, unlimited servings. The food was very good. We enjoyed it.

Flying Fox at Echo Point

We then set out to see the other points nearby. All the points are far away from one another. It is to be noted that all of Matheran cannot be viewed in one day. But it was ok. We then headed off to see Echo Point.
One the way to Echo Point we met another school friend of mine, Hansel who happened to be Flature’s first cousin. He had come there with another friend. He told us that they had trekked for 3 hours from Neral to Matheran.
The view is the same from most of the points; it’s just the angle which changes, but if you love hills and panoramic views then you will surely enjoy Matheran.
The locals have put up flying fox, valley crossing and Burma Bridge facilities all over the place. But the rates charged are extremely high. I don’t think the ride is worth the cost. But for first timers it ok if they want to do it.

View from Echo Point

There was a huge crowd at Echo Point. People were trying to see if their voices really did echo. We passed up the opportunity and walked on the edge of the cliff to reach Charlotte Lake. We walked on the dam. The water level was quite low. During the rainy season, the water overflows from the dam into the valleys below.
After crossing the dam we went on to see Lords Point. The view from here was also good. There were some rowdies here, who were a competition to the monkeys as they kept swaying from the trees for their photo sessions.
On the way we kept ourselves refreshed by having lemon juice. The locals charge extremely high for the same. We had one at a price of Rs. 20 per glass. But it was ok, need of the hour.
After inquiring with the locals we headed off to see some more points. It was around 4 pm. As it was winter when we visited Matheran, we knew that it would get dark by 6 pm. That meant that we had only another 2 hours at our disposal. Then we would have to head to the market. There are no street lights in Matheran other than the market area.

Charlotte Lake

We walked and walked, to meet a group coming from the front telling us that they couldn’t locate any point and so they had turned back. That did not dampen our spirits and we headed off to see the points. After about 45 minutes we reached Belvedere Point. We checked the same on our map to find out how far we were from the Market area.
Again we were rewarded with an amazing view of the hill range all around. Quickly we moved ahead to see the other point at One Tree Hill.
One the way to One Tree Hill we met two foreigners on horseback who overtook us. One Tree Hill is beautiful. It is a very small hillock on the edge of the cliff with one tree on it. I saw the hill and thought that no one could climb up there.
But I was wrong. One of the foreigners who had overtaken us climbed up there; though it was steep she still managed to go up there. What was mind blowing was that, she was dressed in a kurta, and wore glares on her eyes and chappals on her feet. And she carried a handbag. Later she told us that climbing up was easy, but while getting down she had to rely on her rock climbing skills.

View from Lord Point

She told us that just a small patch of rock was difficult on the way. None of us dared to follow in her footsteps. Savio and Flature were keen to go, but we dissuaded them as they didn’t have any rock climbing skills. I told myself that the day I learned how to do rock climbing, I would come back here.
Finally after covering One Tree Hill we decided to head back to the Market area as it was 5.30 pm. After walking for an hour we were finally at the Market Area.
Perpetua, Shawn’s wife, was tired from having walked for 7 hours and so she along with her husband Shawn and Savio decided to stay back. We respected her decision and Flature and I headed off to Dasturi Car Parking.
Now it was dark and we didn’t have any torches with us. But it was a full moon day so we went off to the car parking area under the moonlight. We walked to the train tracks as we were under the impression that the trains don’t ply at that time.

View from Belvedar Point

All of a sudden we heard the sound of engines. We wondered where the sound was coming from. Suddenly we saw the train approaching us and we stood by the side to watch the train go by.
Soon we were at Dasturi Car Parking and from there we boarded a taxi to Neral station. Again within 30 minutes we were down. We picked up some food and water for our journey back to Mumbai.

One Tree Hill
Up there we had seen Garbut Point, Echo Point, Lake Charlotte, Belvedere Point and One Tree Hill. Though it took its toll on our legs we still enjoyed the trip.
Thanks to Shawn, Perpetua, Savio and Flature for making this trip a memorable one.


Sherwin Rebello said...

after reading you post i know i missed a hell lot. Matheran is a place i have been dying to go for the past 3years now. Hope to make it some day soon.

Ameya Gokhale said...

dude, very good write-up and excellent pics. although i have been here countless times, i still enjoy being there. wishing you good luck for further treks.


Sherwin, I am planning to cover Matheran in entirety along with the forts in its range, so can join me there.

Thanks Ameya

R Niranjan Das said...

Beautiful place and well written.

Avinash Lasrado said...

After reading about Garbut point now I am big time curious to see this place. beautiful shots too! and excellent writeup as always.Will hopefully join you on some trips soon ;)


Hey Anivash, I am plannin to do a three day trip to matheran to cover it in entirety plus the forts in the matheran range, You can join me if you have the time :)

critiz said...

Wow i loved reading this. It filled me again with excitement

TravelNina said...


Indeed a very interesting blog post

Would like to share a similar experience , here---

Anonymous said...

I really like your post.
Thanks for sharing such great information. It is very informative and provides knowledge of matheran sightseeing

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