Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Matheran- A Perfect Monsoon Destination

Monsoons are the most cherished of all seasons with feelings of joy, romance, fun and awakening of a child within each of us. The pitter patter of rain drops, smell of earth, makes you crave for a hot cup of tea, a book in your lap instead of gadgets and getting drenched in rain, rejoicing the moment and forgetting all your worries.

If there is a place to experience sizzling monsoon in India, it is Matheran. This Eco friendly hill station has successfully managed an unimaginable feat by banning automobiles and it was only in the recent past that an ambulance was introduced. This summer retreat of the British era literally means "Forest on the forehead."

Since it is a vehicle free zone, at Dasuri, starting point of the hill station, one needs to park their vehicle if they are on a road trip. From Dasuri, a couple of hundred meters walk and you reach Aman Lodge. There are four options from Aman Lodge to reach Matheran- toy train, trek, horse back or hand pulled rickshaw. We highly recommend the Toy train- chugging on the tracks at its own pace, criss-crossing mountains offering spectacular views of green hills, it would be a 20 minute breathtaking joy ride. Choosing to trek is also a welcome option and would take close to 2 hours but the sights are worth the effort.

The trekpaths are the best way to explore this place, it gives you a feel of an explorer out in the jungle which is thrilling and exciting to say the least. A cup of chai, munching on garam garam bhutta and nature for company minus pollution makes life awesome. The occasional drizzle and thunder showers makes the moment romantic. The rains, green natural archways on red sand, fresh breeze, mist, and view of the waterfalls and valleys is something that makes this a vacation of a lifetime. This is the best way to rejuvenate by disconnecting with technology and connecting with yourself and your loved ones.

Though Matheran is the tiniest hill station in India, it still gives the other much hyped and commercialized hill stations run for their money. There are over 30 scintillating view points spread across 3 sq mile. Each view point has its own beauty with some offering captivating views of the deep gorges. For the adventurous soul, zippling allows you to reach the top of another hill in a matter of seconds passing through clouds making you feel like you have super powers.

And do not be surprised if you are accompanied by the most adorable and well behaved dogs tagging along and guiding you all the way. Yes, you would make some new friends and these little guys nudge you to climb up a few rocks for better views of the valley :) Without their help it might be impossible to find these hidden treasures offering stellar views.

The rest of the points offer great view of the waterfalls and the lake. Once you cross the path around the lake you reach Cecilia Point. Here, do stand on the rocks at the far end and feel the mist of waterfall all over. The wind blows with so much force that the water defies all laws of gravity, splashing you wet from head to toe. This feeling could only be experienced.

Matheran is a great place for trekkers as well, there are way too many mountains to hike and the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the hike fills you with pride. At lion's head point, the wind speeds gain massive momentum that they almost drag you along to the bottom of these magnificent valleys.

For a place that is vehicle free, it would be good idea to try and have as many signages as possible so that while walking along the trek-path people do not get lost. At every fork, we could see a bunch of people looking confused and not knowing which road to take. Of course, we took the one that was less traveled but on a serious note signages would be beneficial to avoid getting lost or walking miles in circles.

Also, do check out their Post Office, the most undermined department that has never received its share of due credit. At this modern age of digital era, we would never be able to truly appreciate their services. It is the only department to successfully reach the length and breadth of India. For ages this department has tirelessly carried messages fighting harsh climates, political turmoil, storms, riots and at times even bullets. Mighty Respect for this department and we would like to extend a huge thank you and gratitude for their services.

It is pretty easy to reach Matheran, Neral town is very well connected by train and road from Mumbai and Pune. We took a train to Neral junction from Mumbai and a quick shared taxi ride (INR 70 per person) took us to Dasuri town. On reaching Dasuri town one has entered Eco sensitive zone of Matheran. Capitation tax of Rs 50 is collected here and once past the booking office we were greeted by langurs, birds, pleasant & unpolluted cool breeze. It is fascinating to see an entire hill station in the 21st century without tarmac. The red sand adds so much life and charm to the surroundings.

If you plan to trek Matheran, set aside 3 days to cover all views points leisurely. One can also hire horse to visit the view points. In this case a 2 day trip is ideal. If you are a couple do carry an umbrella and when it pours step out for a romantic walk.

There are way too many stay options in Matheran. Radha cottage is a perfect resort in every possible parameter and is a 15 min walk from Matheran Railway station. This huge property is tucked away in a quite corner and almost all view points are accessible easily by walk. The best part about the cottage is the lush green around. And when it rains it takes the look and feel to a whole new level. The cottage serves lip smacking vegetarian & non-vegetarian Maharashtrian food and the variety they offer is rich. We stayed for 3 nights and not once did they repeat any dish which seems a pretty common thing with resorts. Their desserts are to die for. Their service is par excellence, the staff are courteous and very well behaved. They pay personal attention to all guests requests. The cottage also has TV and WiFi for those who cannot survive without technology, we did not connect to WiFi as virtual life can wait.

When in Matheran do taste honey & chikki. Another thing that stands out in Matheran is the street art focusing on Global warming and pollution. Matheran town is painted beautifully by moss in bright green that feels like velvet. At times mist seems to engulf the entire valley. The graffiti on the wall talks a lot about their interest in art and how they use art to drive down strong messages.

Matheran itinerary one- Radha cottage - Race Course - St. Xavier's school- Belvedere Point- One Tree Hill- Chowk Point- Rambaug- Alexander Point. This will take any where between 2 to 3 hours.

Itinerary two- Radha Cottage- Charlotte lake- Shiv Temple- Lord Point- Cecil Point- King George Point- Edward Point- Echo Point- Louisa Point- Malang Point- Coronation Point- Porcupine Point & Reach Radha via market.

A good pair of trek shoes are a must, rain gear & torch goes without saying.