Tales from Matheran Trip
Most of the people working in US multinationals like us, take the holiday season very seriously. We know that this is that one time of the year when you can easily take the last break of the year – whether it is relaxing at home or stepping out on a road trip, this is best time and we too wanted to make the most of it. We were in Pune for the holiday season and along with our wonderful hosts we decided to drive to Matheran on the Christmas Day.
Just the night before 25th, when I was looking up on Google, I realized that most of the travel blogs/search results talk about a trip to Matheran from Mumbai. (Just to share Matheran is 120kms from Pune and 60 kms from Mumbai.) We had a lot of questions on our minds and I will try to answer all of them in this post. Some of them were:
- Is it possible to explore Matheran in a day?
- Will we get a ride on the Toy Train?
- How to book the tickets for the train?
- Will it be risky to drive due to the ghats?
- How much time should we spend in Matheran and what will be a good time to head back to Pune?
The Travel & the route: Yes, Matheran is doable in a day from Pune. To beat traffic or any other roadblocks, we started early around 6:30am and in no time we had already hit the Mumbai-Pune expressway. The roads were good and the surroundings picturesque. The valleys and the tunnels on the way was a great experience. Since we had started early, we also saw a lot of cycling enthusiasts on the road indicating that Pune is not far behind Bangalore when it comes to health. A lot of heavy vehicles also ply on the roads so I would advise cautious and safe driving. There were winding roads that I would call “hair band” curves – not the usual hair pin ones like en-route Kerala.
Reaching Neral: Neral is around 110kms from Pune and that’s the place you need to stop and decide how to reach Matheran. You could:
- Drive in your car or bike
- Hire the taxis that ply
- Take the toy train
We had planned to take the toy train so we reached around 9:15AM and were hoping that we will be able to catch the 10:30AM toy train. What we realized when we reached the booking counter in Neral that tickets are not so easily available. The seats in the train are limited – Only 4 tickets per person are allowed and the seats get filled by the time the seat count hits a 110-120. Also, the counter opens 45mins before the departure of the train so the line to get tickets was a long one and we realized that we will not be able to get them for the time that we wanted. Any timing later than this one would have meant even more waste of time. Plus, taking a train would imply that on the way back we would have to deal with similar queues in Matheran to come down to Neral. So, we decided to drive up.
We heard the locals say that the drive is difficult but we kind of knew that it was a way to get tourists choose the local taxis that ply. My cousin was confident of driving the uphill and like many others tourists, we had hit the ghats in no time. It’s around 15 kms up hill and took us quite some time. Yes, I agree it was a little difficult and much different from the ghats sections of Kerala that we had experienced before but trust me, it’s possible. Just drive safe and don’t try to overtake. The local taxis were Maruti Omnis and the drivers drive recklessly. If I had to take a taxi , I would have preferred to trek.
Matheran: Matheran is a hill station in Maharashtra and the word Matheran means “forest on the forehead” (of the mountains) of Sahyadri Hills. The best time to visit this beautiful hill station is during Monsoons and Winters are a good time too cos the weather is pleasant yet you will miss out on the greenery. There is an entry ticket to Matheran and it is the only hill station in India where no vehicles are allowed.
The entrance to Matheran is a classic one and good for pictures for keeps. Well, I too could not miss a chance to get on clicked. Behind the gate you can see is the railways station where the toy trains reaches from Neral.
Matheran is an automobile and eco-sensitive region declared by the Government of India. Though the usage of plastic bags is not checked, I saw tourists behave responsibly towards this fact. The only way you can get around the city is on foot, or a hand pulled rickshaws or on a horse. Get your walking shoes if you intend to explore the city on foot. While in the city you will realize it is small one and if you love to walk like I do, there was so much to see other than what the geography of the city had to offer.
The food offered in restaurants is great to taste and the one we picked up was a good choice. If you are in Matheran, try this one out. We tried Kanda Poha, Poori Bhaaji and later had lunch at this place. Quick service, reasonable price and good to taste food – all in one!
There are multiple view points, two lakes along with the woods and once you get in the city, after the market area, you can cover them one after the other. You need close to 3 hours if you are on foot and trying to cover all points. It takes time but it is fun. While on the way back, we tracked the path of the Toy Train and SB loved that part. For her the highlight of the trip was this walk along the railway track. It’s fun cos you literally see so much of the forest, the points and yes, the monkeys on this path. It’s not through the hustle bustle of the market area and pretty scenic walk.
After visiting a couple of points and walking close to 15kms(up and down), it was around 3:30PM when we decided to head back and call it a day at Matheran. The trip was one which will remain on our memories forever. It had almost everything to offer – scenic points, good food, opportunity to collect some souvenirs, great weather, and of course one of the most unique hill station I had ever seen. Sometimes I feel India is so rich when it comes to the natural beauty that a lifetime to explore all would be less.
We were back home in Pune by 7pm after spending a day that was awesome and this was how my blue jeans and bright red shoes looked! 😀
Not sure whether life will give me another opportunity to visit Matheran but if I do get one, I will trek from Neral and wear my walking shoes. 🙂
New Year, New Possibilities. Thank you Readers for making 2014 such a great year and encouraging me to blog. Your comments, likes, shares and tweets keep me going. I promise to write better!