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Global travel blog that features travel stories on living, traveling and growing up in cities, villages and towns around the world!
What? A motor free zone in India? Sounds a bit preposterous, right? A country with over 1.3 billion, zillions of cars on the street every hour and a reputation for having a total disregard for traffic rules, you’d expect to be greeted by pandemonium and pollution everywhere you go. For the most part, that is true. But as you travel beyond the burghals, you’ll unravel plenty of hidden gems. One of them being Matheran.
Tucked away in Raigad District (Maharashtra), is a hill station called Matheran, standing at a humble height of roughly 800m above sea level. Though this cozy haven is pint-sized, it’s attributes are quite broad. Matheran is in very close proximity to metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Pune, yet, you won’t spot even a single bicycle up top. Speak of Irony! Instead, visitors are encouraged to amble on foot or enjoy a jaunty horseback ride. In a world where bipeds are destroying the environment, this is definitely refreshing. It’s the one place where you can listen to nature-produced cacophony. The leaves rustling, the wind whooshing, the birds twittering, everything can be heard crystal clear.
I have a tale to tell. Interesting or not, I’ll leave you to decide. But before that, let me give you the lowdown on Matheran’s history. If you’ve already been here, or are in love with the sound of it, make a mental note of thanking Sir Hugh Poyntz Malet. Why you ask? Because back in 1850, when (I’m presuming) you weren’t even born, this man ferreted out the beautiful hillside retreat. He was the then district collector of Thane and, together with the then Governor of Bombay, Lord Elphinstone, he set out to develop Matheran as a hill station to escape the city heat. The toy-train that runs between Neral and Matheran is all thanks to Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy, who built the Matheran Hill Railway back in 1907. All hail the British Raj!
Matheran enjoys a cool temperature all-year-round and in the monsoons you’ll literally feel as though you’re floating through the clouds.SB
Coming back to my own travel tale, I have visited Matheran only twice. I was probably around six or seven years old on my first visit. I’ll refrain from talking much about that trip since I’m sure none of you want to hear a muddy narrative. But I remember coming back with happy memories, deeply impacted by a single incident. A pleasant incident where I first realised that animals live in complete harmony. It’s us humans who do not!
So we were out in the verandah of our room. And from what I’ve mentioned above, you already know that horses are aplenty in Matheran. What you may not know is that our primate friends are aplenty too! We were warned beforehand but, kids being kids, I came out with a snicker bar in my hand, kept it on the table and turned around for just a second. In that fraction of a second, a greedy monkey made its way to the table, grabbed the chocolate and jumped out. Outside was a horse that perhaps belonged to a local. This monkey leaps onto the porch and then straight onto the horse’s back. What a boss! And there I see him, hogging the snicker bar, peeking over the horsie’s face over and over, as if to make him feel jealous, and then playing with him once he was done devouring his sweet meal. Yes, you get to witness these kind of things in Matheran! Now I wish I had joined these critters in their play date.
On my second trip, I was a lot older. After seeing some not-so-attractive, yet motivating pictures of Matheran on my friend’s Instagram profile, I proposed a two day plan during the monsoons to explore the unspoiled highland. My friends and I took the 5:19 local train from Thane to Neral, an approximately one hour journey. From there, we took a cab all the way up to Matheran. Unfortunately, the toy-train wasn’t operational due to a heavy downpour, but otherwise it’s the best way to get to the hill station. Since we were a group of five people, we opted to hike up the hill from the entry point by means of a cart. Within just a few minutes of standing and chatting before getting onto the cart, our shoes turned red, thanks to the red laterite soil you’ll find throughout this place.
Whenever you plan to go here, we’d highly recommend that you make this place your temporary abode. It is a heritage property that was the second ever hotel to be constructed in Matheran by Captain Barr. Although there are about 32 points that you can visit, the must-see ones are just down the red-road from this resort.
After settling in, we decided to go see Charlotte Lake, One Tree Hill, Louisa Point and Echo Point. If I had to take away one image from these spots, it would be that of cloud-shrouded peaks. Matheran enjoys a cool temperature all-year-round and in the monsoons you’ll literally feel as though you’re floating through the clouds. Maybe that’s why those Instagram pictures didn’t look very alluring. There’s mist everywhere, blanketing the verdant slopes and everything else around, and that is best seen in person.
In the evening, we strolled through the market area and bought crunchy cucumbers to munch on. Even a cucumber seems to taste better here! Food at the hotel was simply divine. You can even go to nearby eateries that serve authentic Maharashtrian cuisine; spicy, yet delicious.
The next day, we went to check out the sunrise at the Panorama point. And boy was it beautiful! You cannot compare the sunrise and sunsets in Matheran with what you see outside of your home window. Sadly, we had to leave this gorgeous place in a few hours, but I hope to go back soon! And I hope you do too! If you love waterfalls, enchanting views, sunsets, cozy weather, lip-smacking food and city-detox in general, do NOT wait.