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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.

Bombay Point in Matheran

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A little ahead of Sunset Point is Bombay Point.

Again there is no signpost to indicate that this is a point. If the horseman doesn’t tell you, you will not know.

On a clear day, one can see the city of Mumbai in the distance. Today was not that day and so we couldn’t see our beloved city.

Sunset Point in Matheran

Monday, April 8, 2013

This is one of the biggest points in Matheran. There is a boundary around this point, which offers a 360 degree-view of Matheran. It also offers a beautiful view of the sun setting behind the hill range ahead. 
View of the Sun setting at Sunset Point in Matheran
 A big crowd gathers here to see the sun going down.

The monkeys come too, but the ones here seem to be quiet and keep to themselves. 
View of the hills and valleys at Sunset Point

Neha tried her hand at feeding grams to the horses. It was an effort that was duly appreciated by the horses.

Chenoy Point in Matheran

Friday, March 22, 2013

Once again there is no signpost here to indicate that this is a point. If it weren’t for the horseman, no one would have any idea about this point at all.

There is a small podium made of stones where the British used to sit and enjoy the view of the countryside. Today the forest cover has grown so extensively, and that’s a good thing, but it doesn’t let you see the place at all.

Rustomjee Point in Matheran

Friday, March 15, 2013

Again there is no signpost or boundary here to indicate that this is a point.

The horseman told us that Rustomjee, whoever he was, used to sit here and read books and that he lived very close to this place.

In the evening it offers a beautiful view of the sunset, but not as beautiful as the one at Sunset Point.

The forest towering above this point makes it difficult to see the valleys below.

Coronation Point in Matheran

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Coronation Point offers a view of Louisa Point.

There is no signpost here to indicate that it is a point. Nor is the view it provides very appealing, owing to the thick forest cover.

Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

Photos I clicked at Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2013


Louisa Point in Matheran

Friday, February 8, 2013

This is one of the biggest points in Matheran.

It offers a 360o-view of Matheran. This point is fenced with a few cutouts for people who want to shoot pictures of themselves on the hill rocks.
View from  Louisa Piunt
 There are many monkeys here. I guess they all migrated here from Monkeys Point, as many people visit this place and they know that they can get food here.

I was attacked by a monkey here. It wanted me to part with my pouch but I refused to let go. Fortunately, for me, one of the locals intervened on my behalf. My pouch and I were let off easily thereafter. The monkey went its way.
Me at Louisa Point 
A golden plated binocular nicely rested on a tripod here offers a view of five points at a price of Rs.20. The binocular looked like the ones used by the sailors from the 19th century.

Malang Point in Matheran

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Malang Point offers a beautiful view of the hill ranges and the valley and some points at Matheran. This Point is like a plateau of loose mud with no fence around it. So if you have shaky legs, please stay away from the border.
View from Malang Point. Can you spot the tiny houses in a distance?
The point offers a beautiful view of the village below. Though the village was far away the bell ringing in the village sounded crystal clear to our ears. Sound travels really fast.

Honeymoon Point in Matheran

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A series of steps from the horse park take you to Honeymoon Point.

From here you can see Mini Echo Point and Malang Point.
View from Honeymoon Point

This point offers an amazing view of the valley. There is a valley crossing setup here, the biggest in Matheran. Sadly it is operated only on weekends. The adrenaline junkie in me had been looking forward to crossing the valley with a camera in my hand. What an amazing feeling that must be!

I don’t know how much it would cost, but I guess it should be somewhere between Rs.250 to Rs.500 as the distance is rather long.

Walkers Tank in Matheran

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A little ahead of Landscape Point, there is a diversion. One road goes to Honeymoon Point and the other to Walkers’ Tank. This is actually a small pond full of dirty polluted water. The horseman told me that they use this pond to immerse statues of Ganpati during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival.
Walkers Tank
There’s nothing to see here other than this polluted water tank.

Landscape Point in Matheran

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On our way to Honeymoon Point, our horsemen showed us Landscape Point. There is no signpost here to indicate that this is a point. The forest cover has grown so thick here that you cannot see the valley at all. So I couldn't take any photos here. :(

Lumley’s Seat

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Our guide-cum-horseman took us to Lumley’s Seat.
Horses don’t go right up to the highest point, so one needs to walk there. The ground there is made of loose soil, causing it to become slippery. Imagine the conditions during the rains.
View of the hill range and valley from Lumley's Seat
Lumley’s Seat offers a 360-degree view of Matheran. It also offers a beautiful view of Louisa Point.
We then headed off to see Honeymoon Point.

Parrots on a Wire

Friday, January 18, 2013

I was sitting near the windowsill, when all of a sudden I noticed these two parrots sitting or should I say balancing themselves on this wire. The wire runs from  12th storey of my building to the 3rd storey of the neighbouring building. Had this amazing snap taken from my Panasonic Lumix TZ 11

Panther's Cave in Matheran

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Most of us, even those that haven’t been to Matheran, know that Matheran is home to a number of points that offer some amazing views. Few people have heard of there being any caves in Matheran.
If you ask the locals about Panther’s Cave, they will not know about it, but if you ask them about "Waghachi Gufa," which is Marathi for the same, they will guide you to this place.
Panther's Cave
I like to get lost in a place. I believe that it is only when you allow yourself to get lost, when you allow yourself to escape the trappings of maps and GPS and other man-made things that you find just what you are looking for. That is what happened in this case.
This cave is located on the other side of Olympia race course. Behind the podium is a water tank. A path from this water tank leads you to the cave.
Gold Croft is a landmark here. The cave is located very close to the Gold Croft bungalow.
Panther's Cave from the inside, now a Temple
At first glance, Panther’s Cave didn't even look like a cave. There were huge rocks everywhere. Rocks, rocks and more rocks.
Ravi had told us that an old lady who lives in the vicinity always sits there as a self-appointed guardian to the caves. We met her and she told us to keep our footwear outside as there was a temple inside the cave. She also informed us that the cave had got the name, Waghachi gufa, because a tiger used to live there at one time. She added that the cave had been naturally formed; it was not the work of human hands.
We took off our shoes and inspected the caves from the inside. We clicked a few pictures inside and then left.

Journey Neral to Dasturi Naka

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Getting out of a crowded train at Neral was a pain.

I was lucky enough to get a seat in the fast train to Karjat. The plan was to alight at Neral as my destination was Matheran. The next train was after a gap of 50 minutes, so I was sure that this train would be very crowded.

As I suspected, it was. I could not imagine having to travel so far to work every day of your life. And yet so many people have to do it, just so that they can earn a living.

Neha got in at Ghatkopar in the Ladies compartment of the train. We met at Neral at 8:29 am and decided to trek all the way to Dasturi Naka.

We kick-started our trek at 8:45 am at Neral on the road leading to Matheran.

A number of cabs going to Matheran overtook us along the way. The people in the cab appeared surprised to see us walking on a hot, sunny day. More than one of them must have thought we had lost our marbles to even consider walking all the way to Matheran in that heat.

We were supposed to reach Dasturi Naka at 12:15 pm as per our calculation. But the heat and the strain of walking along the Ghats took its toll on us and we had to take many breaks along the way. Our 2-litre bottle of water saved us.

As we walked, the climb began to get steeper and the heat more and more unbearable. We were lucky enough to get a lift from a troupe of people all packed up in a trax. There were 14 people already in it and the two of us added to the already-strained ‘comfort’ levels.

Finally at 2 pm we were at the parking lot at Dasturi Naka. It had taken us 20 minutes by Trax to get there. Had we tried to walk the whole distance, it would have taken us a little less than two hours. The roads right on top were extremely steep; all the vehicles have to shift to the first gear to manage this tricky stretch.

A big thank you to the family who helped us out.

It was a mistake on our part to even consider trekking up the road in the summer. The winter or the monsoon would have been less hard on us. The summer skimmed the cream out of us.

3 Fast Cars and a SUV

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A few of my favorite cars, all under one roof.  Starting from the left, Audi A1, Ford GT, Lamborgini Gallardo and Audi  R8

Hand Cart

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Cart is a  mode of transport desiged in such a way that it has two wheels and pulled by domesticated animals. A Hand Cart is pulled by one or more humans. I spotted these hand carts on my trip to Matheran.  Didn't see many takers for it. 

Dasturi naka to Matheran Market area

Monday, January 7, 2013

Having finally reached Dasturi Naka, we raised a toast to ourselves. That is, we had cold drinks and bought tickets to Matheran at a cost of Rs25 each.
From here began the muddy dirt road to Matheran. No vehicles are allowed here. The only way to travel is to walk, or ride a horse or hire a manually pulled cart.
As the railway line intersects the road leading to the market area, we decided to walk on the tracks. There was no mud or dust here, and it would get us to the market much faster. But we were not lucky enough to see the mini train on our way to the Matheran market.
Many people walk along the tracks to reach either the market area or Dasturi Naka. It takes around 30 minutes of brisk walking to reach either of the two destinations.

We checked into the first lodge we saw. At Rs 600 for two nights, it was a sweet deal, offering us spacious rooms that accommodated five beds. That is why I love off seasons.
We took a short nap as we had 28 points, Panther’s Cave and a few water tanks on our itinerary for this trip.

Pay Master Park

Friday, January 4, 2013

Pay Master Park, as the name suggests, is a garden.
I was shocked to see the sad state of this garden.
It had statues of prominent British and Parsi men. Had these statues come to life they would have died of a shock on seeing this garden.
The garden is not maintained well. The flowers and bushes are not trimmed and some parts of the garden have become a dumping yard for used plastic bottles and discarded plastic wrappers.
Incidentally Matheran is air- and noise-pollution-free. If only there was some way to rid it of the littering problem.
We then proceeded to see Lumley Seat.

Photo fo the Day - Falooda

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I had this amazing Falooda at Badshah at Crawfort Market

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