I recently visited Matheran on the occasion of my first wedding anniversary - June 29.
While Goa and Mahabaleshwar remain popular choices for most couples, I chose this lesser favored destination as I’ve never been there before. Also, I’ve never heard people really talking about Matheran as a tourist destination so it beckoned me, adventure sake.
Adventure, it sure was.
Hubby dear and I slept a little after 2 am after packing our bag on a Thursday night, rather Friday dawn. We were going to catch the Sahyadri from Pune to Neral at 6.50 am from Pune station. Reaching Matheran is touted as a challenge, so we did not want to take any chances. A train to Neral followed by a taxi to Dasturi and then a ride or walk up to Matheran was our plan.
We awoke at 5 am and got dressed and ready in no time. (That's what I admire about Akhilesh, always on the go.... unless he's in his timepass mode and I need to snap him outa it.) A quick glass of milk and we were on our way. Thankfully, the rain god had mercy on us so we got to the station in a dry and comfortable state. Sahyadri normally departs from platform number 5 so we purchased tickets and stood waiting for the train to arrive.
Indian railway stations are not a very pleasant place to hang around, but hubs insists on being at a place before time when we are traveling. That hour long wait was something I’d like to forget but the stench and sight of poop and mice is not something that will fade from memory easily. My husband’s love and company were the only things that made that wretched hour pass.
When the clock showed 7 am, we were looking at the tracks anticipating the train to march in any moment. Suddenly, Patidev tells me that he heard something about Sahyadri being on platform 2. We looked around frantically at the display boards, but nothing for the next 3 minutes. I asked a vendor if there was any news about Sahyadri, and imagine my horror when he frantically said, “Go quickly, the train is about to leave from platform 2!” Hubby was right! We made a dash for it, and bless our youth, managed to board the train just as it was about to chug out of the station. Crazy start to the holiday!
The train journey was very exciting – the gorgeous waterfalls and greenery made my Reader’s Digest snippets short-lived and rare. Three and a half hours later we alighted at Neral train station and took a shared taxi to Dasturi as decided. The short journey (which seemed longer on the way back) was full of steep turns and tricky falls. I am glad we were not riding or driving up by ourselves, better to be driven by a local pro. We then hired two horses to scale the 2.5 km ride up to Maharashtra’s smallest hill station. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite choosing to walk down on the way back on the slippery tracks in the mud and rain.
The red soil and used-to-tourists monkeys along with horse shit are important highlights of Matheran. There is nothing much to do in Matheran apart from visit a few tourist locations (that are spaced far apart, and seem farther as there is no means of transport apart from Bus # 11 and horses) or relax in your hotel. Most hotels are homes converted into B&B’s but there are also other relatively posh places that charge a bomb.
We had already booked a room in the Horseland Hotel, so we were spared the effort of hunting for accommodation. While the service and rooms were nothing worth writing home about, we were happy to be staying a stone’s throw from the market place in a hotel that had various activities planned everyday for the guests.
In a nutshell, Matheran is not for people who cannot enjoy a brisk walk or deal with some discomfort. It is not as easily accessible as Goa and Mahabaleshwar, nor is it half as fancy or lively. I went there despite a whole lot of negative and neutral reviews merely coz I wana tick off every tourist location on the map, and my adorable partner-in-crime is happy to do what I want. Don’t blame us if you plan a trip to Matheran and return disappointed.
Here are some snaps to show you what a lovely time hubs and I had….
|In the train... that we almost missed!|
|Pretty waterfalls on the way|
|Mum and I|
|Walking back to Dasturi|