Let me begin by saying that I’m not a tourist, but an avid traveler. A tourist visits places, whereas I experience them. For places such as hill stations, one has to be physically prepared for any kind of environment and mentally ready to even miss some amazing sights if the clouds decide to cover them up.
The end of monsoons is near for us, but the rains choose to stay longer at hill stations. Matheran is no exception. This experience was one of the most memorable ones, considering the fact that it was the first trip with one of my very close pals. Since college days, we have not been able to go for any trips together due to our differing schedules. One would plan, but the other wouldn’t be available at the time.
The planning for this Matheran trip began a week early, but that too got postponed as we decided to make the best use of the three-day long weekend of Ganesh Chaturthi.
We booked for a day at Westend Resort. We had planned to leave in the afternoon and requested the hotel guys to set our check-in and check-out times accordingly. The hotel manager agreed to this and gave us an exception.
Also Read: Review of the Hotel
Once our hotel bookings were done for the 2nd of September, we were both relieved and excited. As if to fuel this excitement, our adventure began even before we stepped our feet in Matheran.
After all preparations and bookings were done, my friend realized that it was ‘Bharat Bandh‘ on the 2nd. Then we were contemplating if the transport system would be affected by this. I immediately started checking different news channels and was relieved to see that the Bandh affected only few cities.
When I reached the bus station, the area was completely deserted.
I was the only one traveling from Pune. Others were traveling from Mumbai. Initially, I was going to travel to Neral by train via Karjat. But thinking about my past experience in the general class, and the reservation situation, I thought it would be best to avoid train altogether. So, I finally decided to go to Mumbai via Shivneri bus and meet the rest of my friends at Ghatkopar station and then from there head to Neral.
When I left my house in the morning at 10, I didn’t have the slightest idea of what awaited me at the bus station. When I reached the bus station, the area was completely deserted. There wasn’t a single bus in sight. A handful of people at the ticket counter and no bus timings displayed on the monitor screen. Analyzing the situation, I decided to take a share taxi just outside the station premises. I had to wait for almost an hour for the taxi to fill up. This was really annoying. Time was ticking away and it was already 12 PM. The train at Ghatkopar station was scheduled for 4 PM and I was keenly hoping to make it just within time.
As there wasn’t much traffic on the expressway, I managed to reach Ghatkopar station at around 3 PM. One of my friends also reached the station at the same time. Our eyes glistened seeing each other and the upcoming excitement was pretty much visible on our faces.
We were a tad disappointed, as initially there were total six of us for the trip but at the very last moment, two of them backed out. Finally, the other two made it and we were all at the station ready to board the train. With the humongous rush, it was going to be a challenge getting on the train because one of us had gotten his guitar along. When the train arrived, we got ready for the ambush and somehow, we managed to get in.
We now had to hire a taxi to reach our final destination on the hill top.
We reached Neral station at around 6:15 PM in the evening. The weather was pretty overcast but it wasn’t raining yet. We now had to hire a taxi to reach our final destination on the hill top. But to arm ourselves for the fun ahead, we decided to reload our wallets with some ready cash from the nearest ATM.
We managed to get a taxi and four of us decided to keep it private and not share it with more passengers. The steep elevation of the hill and the sharp bends around the edges made the taxi journey a roller coaster ride.
It took us around twenty minutes to reach the Matheran junction, and the moment we exited the taxi, it started drizzling. As if the rains were awaiting our arrival. We already knew that the toy train was out of service, and so we decided to trek it to our hotel, rather than taking the horse ride. The rains did not dampen our spirits.
My friend was quick to take out the guitar and we started jamming right away.
Our destination was 4 kms away and we decided to take the longer route instead of walking on the rail tracks. The walk was tiring but the views, the atmosphere, and the excitement did not let us feel it. We were greeted by a lot of monkeys (Matheran’s prime residents) and numerous birds with their chirping as they were retiring to their nests.
We reached our hotel at around 7:45 P.M and headed straight to our room to freshen up. My friend was quick to take out the guitar and we started jamming right away. He played our favorite numbers, we sang together, recorded a few songs, and some hilarious bloopers as well. At around 8:30 PM, we went for dinner. The food was both delicious and filling. The ambiance of the place with the mist covering the entire area was truly enchanting.
We went back to our room and continued our jamming sessions till midnight. We had a long day ahead, so we took some rest for the walk. But the excitement within us didn’t let us sleep.
Deep in the night, the lights went out and it was pitch dark with pin drop silence. We all woke up and a friend began frantically shouting out for some light. That gave us a hearty laugh after which we again made an attempt to sleep.
I woke up to the mellifluous chirping of some rare birds. It was 6:30 AM. The view outside our room was just breathtaking. It seemed like trees had trapped the clouds and the clouds were enjoying their company, tightly hugging onto them.
A perfect way of having a dialog with nature is by striking a chord with the environment.
We got ready and had a sumptuous breakfast before we embarked on our way to see various points. The rains started again as we began our journey. We knew that we were not going to see anything as the entire location was covered with clouds. But the atmosphere outside and the excitement within us pushed us forward. The location of our hotel was close to few points. We had to walk quite a bit to make it to the first point, which was Charlotte Lake point.
Just before we reached the point, we were welcomed by a beautiful site of water gushing to the formation of the starting point of a waterfall. Getting down to the place was challenging as it was continuously pouring, and the mud was slippery. Still we managed to get down and stayed there absorbing the picturesque beauty of the place.
Just ahead was the lake in all its glory. The clouds covering the lake water looked like a perfect stage setup for a horror movie.
Our next destination was called Echo Point. When we reached the place, we could see only clouds in all directions. We also made an attempt to shout out loud hearing our own echoes talking back to us. It was quite eerie with nobody around us.
as the name would cause fear and visitors would avoid it, it was changed to Honeymoon point
We went back from where we came as the other points were in another direction. Next in queue was the Honeymoon Point. The name is actually misguiding, as the history speaks of something else. It is believed that a Britisher once arrived in Matheran and with his binoculars spotted a lot of honeycombs from this particular point. The point was earlier named Honeycomb point. But as the name would cause fear and the visitors would avoid it, the name was changed to Honeymoon point. (Suggesting that the moonlight would fall on those honeycombs at night).
Next we headed towards Malang Point. The point seemed to enter into a flat table land-like place from where we could get a beautiful view of the mountain range. There was a slim path going even higher up but it seemed too risky to go ahead due to the rains.
Our final point was called Louisa point, also known as Suicide Point. It is said that a girl named Louisa had committed suicide by falling from the cliff. The area gave us the chills, as the depth of the valley from that location looked really fatal. We spent a good half an hour at the place before heading back to our hotel for lunch.
On our way back, we stopped at a small hut to have some coffee.
On our way back, we stopped at a small hut to have some coffee. We spoke with the woman there and asked her how they managed to make a living in such a dense remote place. She was living there for over 40 years and was quite happy and comfortable about it. It was also delightful to know that their children were going to school.
We got few more scoops out of this lady. With regards to wildlife apart from monkeys, the lady said that there were panthers in the area who snatch away the dogs in the midnight. We were told by the woman that the panthers don’t attack humans and stay away from them. The area did have snakes, though not many poisonous ones, and the snake bites could be treated efficiently.
After gathering some knowledge and interesting facts about Matheran, we reached our hotel and headed straight for lunch. The food at the Westend Resort continued to be awesome even on the next day. The ambience of the place and the hospitality of the staff made our experience even more memorable. Before we checked out of the hotel, we spent some more time in our room, digesting the wonderful experience we had throughout.
The clouds covering the entire hill station didn’t dishearten us. In fact, these clouds made the grayish landscapes look like pencil sketches, which will remain etched in our memories for a long time.
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