A trip to Matheran

I have traveled recently to Matheran, a hill destination close to Mumbai. We have planned this as part of the travel to Mumbai since it is a place very close to Mumbai and still away from city rumblings.

During onward travel, we decided to take local train of Mumbai. All of us coming from various destinations, got down at Dadar. Next, we took local train to Narel from here. It took nearly 1.25 hrs. Next leg of travel is from Narel to Matheran. We were looking for taking the Toy train. 3 of us have taken a local train to Narel before the rest of the gang.

The toy train has limited capacity and travels roughly per hour. It cost INR 65/- per adult and INR 40/- per child. Rush picks up after 9AM. It is likely the best to catch the first train in the morning. Its timings are also not hard bound. It waits for it to fill up. for example – we reached around 8am and saw the 7-30am first scheduled train depart. ticket man was calling for last 3 vacant seats. one family got those seats and then, the train departed. only 4 tickets are given to a person – we were 12 adults + 2 children. so, it did work out for us. but the ticket man did not co-operate to give us sitting place for the kids. We just got the tickets for them without seat number. The toy train actually has quite cramped leg room and two people above 5-9″ will find it hard to sit next to each other. Especially people who are above 6″ need to help themselves next to the gate.

Speed of the train is pretty slow and fun. TT for the train was quite a funny man. We saw him jump from one boggy, run and catch the next boggy. Half hour during the travel, a kid in the group dropped a lady purse out of the window. Our fun-loving TT saw, smiled, got of the running toy train, ran, picked the purse and boarded the train. We all cheered for him when he was back. Some views from the toy train were pretty good.

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though we were talking among us and likely missed few of the good snaps.

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Taxi walas at Narel did warn to us that Toy train takes longer. Expected time as per railways schedule is 2 hrs. They claimed to take us to an intermediate stop in straight 30-40 minutes. We had decided instead to take the joy ride of toy train. Unfortunately, the train broke down after a halt at watertank station where it takes 10 min stop. The train driver took multiple repeated tries to get the train up the hill slope but the engine simply gave up and could not pull train beyond 100m from the watertank station. This kind of adventure was unique. I have not seen train in reverse gear coming back to station, speed up to climb a steep slope! Some of us whine – we should have taken the taxi route recommended by part of the gang.

While some of us did like the one hour travel in the toy train, but we found that taxi walas were kind of right. We called for two taxi from below. They charged us INR 70 per person – that comes to INR 350 per taxi. They came to the stop in nearly 20minutes from down and took another roughly 10 minutes to get us to the taxi park area. This is the last place where any motored vehicle can be driven, including your own car. From here, there is choice of travelling on foot, on horse, or take a shuttle train to Matheran market place; carry your luggage self or hire a porter with yourself. From taxi area to the shuttle train stop, it is 5-10 minutes walk. Having bitten by the Toy Train and already lost time, group was in not a mood to try the train route again.

The horse walas are quite pricy if you are in a 10+ group. They started the bargain at INR 400 per person. Eventually, they came down to 250-300INR. Some of us were in love with horse ride and just joined the horse. one of our teenager got scared as the horse moved his front leg up once. so, she joined the trail walker group. Part of us who decided to give trail walking a shot, hired porter service for the luggage. Porter took INR 200 up to the hotel instead of matheran marketplace though I think there service is easily worth higher for walking a hr with luggage. They seem to not win in the bargain much.

I was part of the trail walking group. My phone battery gave up by then unfortunately. Trail was covered with long tall old trees. For nature lover like me, who has not traveled in recent days, it was really nice. I enjoyed it. After few minutes, porters informed us that rest of the trail is going to be shaded by trees. We pretty much travel along the shuttle train tracks as suggested by the porters. Horse riders took a different route.

We took roughly 1 hr+ plus walking at slow pace to reach Matheran market place and another 10 minutes to our Hotel – Usha Ascot. None of us lost breath or anything. The walk is mostly flat and does not require lot of stamina as such. My kids 4+, 5+ who did not opt to take horse ride, need to also walk for 1 hr. At matheran marketplace, we hired a hand pulled rickshaw for INR 150 for the two children and their mom, up to the hotel. By the time, we reached hotel it was 1:30pm and horse riding group has already sitting in the hotel restaurant. We also decided to straight go for the buffet lunch (part of the hotel package) after quick wash and hold going to rooms yet. The food was very nice – mango juice (aam raas served in Gujarat), fried snacks (gurarati farsan), dokla, tasty two vegetables, rice, daal etc. Everything in the menu was quite tasty. Everyone mostly over-eat and did not count calories; just got the refill.

After the walk and lunch, it was time to relax a bit, each family got a room. we got into our room. ladies decided to go for a massage at the hotel. It was good, and not good for some – priced INR 350/- per half hour. I took kids to bath, and then – they stick to the TV until all of them decided to go for a swim. My children also developed recent like to swim with the tube. we had carried the tubes for both of them. I blew it with mouth and they went for swim. I joined them for swim later though I don’t know and hence, not like it as much. I decided to stay in the shallower side of the pool to give company to the children.

Like this the first day passed, all of us joined the evening tea time. Tea was really the best I have had outside home with good shot of ginger – what was truly a masala tea. Could not resist and took another refill – typically 1/2 cup is enough for me.   We order a plate of pakoras that were also delight to eat.

Evening dinner highlight for some of us was the live ghazal singer Mr khan at the hotel. He was delight to the ears. We ate, some of us decided to move to room – some of us stayed until the live Ghazal show’s last ghazal. First day he sang many from Jagjit singh. It was kind of awesome for me amidst the natural surroundings. Like this the first day came to an end – we took the sleepy/already-slept kids to room and crashed.

Oh – one interesting thing happened before this in the evening. Matheran and monkeys are made for each other. They reign here and are not afraid of humans. We met our man in the hotel room in the evening. hotel room had a backyard and door was open. One monkey came straight into the room. I tried to shout at him but he simply walked across the room; imagine all of us on the bed with monkey taking a round in the room checking our belongings. we called hotel reception. They were quite quick and opened the main door to help our friend out of the room and we caught our breadth. We came to know then that they (Monkeys) are only afraid of stone thrown by humans, or usage of  what is called indian ‘gulailal’ – we put a stone on the rubber band, pull it back and shoot. Anyway – we made a point to close the doors and I always carried a pair of stones in pockets thereafter. My daughter kept remembering Monkey, woke up couple of times and with reassurance she fell asleep that night.

We saw each day lots and lots of monkey on trees, on hotel windows, balconies and hotel staff with gulailal to whisk them away. They are not harmful. just need to make sure not to carry plastic bags in hand; they come to snatch those bags to find eatables. one of the child lost his pepsi bottle to a Monkey. so, if you are not carrying eatables or bags – they are not interested in you and stay away. They gave lot of pass time to the group – for things like chase them away – run behind them with a stick – who is afraid of monkeys – boolying if someone is found afraid etc.

We did enjoy the hand at the game of badminton outdoor court at the hotel, first day. It was nice. Shake the legs in the hotel disco also for few minutes. Likely more activity than normal on first day – got to me next day. My legs did gave signals next day, and I relaxed in hotel room next day more than the first day.

Next day same activities were there. Also me and one of us, had taken morning walk outside the hotel to nearby trail. Around 30 minutes walk. Ladies went for marketplace during the day. There is likely more to explorer in Matheran outside than we did. Certainly, I think there is more trails to walk. We enjoyed the Ghazals next day as well. Food was nice next days also. Next day we relaxed more. There were also other bigger groups at hotel.

Third day, we wanted to pack early and get back to Mumbai. We had the group chit chat, and breakfast together in the central courtyard of the hotel in the open. Hotel staff is always around to keep Monkeys away. so, it is not an issue as such. They do not come to the table.

Way down – we walked to Matheran market plance, and boarded the shuttle train from Matheran market place to the taxi area (intermediate stop). We hired Taxis straight to the borivali area that costed roughly INR 2.4k per taxi. We feared the morning rush in the local trains in Mumbai. Taxi ride was not pleasant at all but was part of the journey. You never know if the local train journey could have been worse because of the rush or simply ok as local trains in Mumbai are the fastest and reliable way to commute. This ride is roughly 70-90km. It took around 2-3 hrs to reach Borivali area to our residence.

Matheran trip was really memorable one. Especially keeping Matheran motor vehicle free is great step by some real nature lover. It is keeping the sanctity of the place even if it is quite close to the big metro like Mumbai and likely faces good rush of tourists. It was pleasure to watch the town’s children walking to their school in the morning; some of them riding with their father/brother on horse on their way to school. In Matheran, one can walk, take a hand pulled ricksaw, hire a horse; but there are no vehicles, we hardly saw even a bicycle; truly green indeed.

I have to travel out of Mumbai same day night. Though it was a compressed trip, it has some pleasant memories to back on.  That’s all for now.

Any highlights of your trip to Matheran that may be needed by some else looking for a trip. Drop a comment.

 

 

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