Thursday, 10 July 2014

Matheran : The smallest hill station of India

Yes...the smallest yet so large. Matheran may the smallest hill station of India but read on to know why you could spend all your life here just exploring the seemingly endless trails into the woods.  The two to three hour drive from Mumbai to Matheran beats it all. It seems hard to believe that such scenery and lush green lands wait for you as soon as you get out from the hustle and Bustle of Mumbai. And if it's not the Monsoon season (when the toy train remains out of service), the 2-hour toy train journey from Neral Station to Matheran is something you can list down in your 'never-to-be-forgotten' experiences list.

A beautiful hut near the Aman Lodge Station

But if you are a budget traveler, and you don't have your own vehicle, a car or a bike, getting out of Mumbai can be a pain. Spending two days of your hard-earned weekend in your air-conditioned room might sound to be a better option than finding a place to stand in a crowded local train, then a bus and finally a taxi . But believe me, it is not.  Matheran is worth all your hardwork, and you go there once, you are bound to be waiting for your next weekend to go again, although I would prefer to visit during the weekdays due to the relatively lesser number of people.

Matheran toy train track

Just calling it a hill station doesn't do justice to the godly settings of this ecozone. It is an utopia for spending quite time, doing long walks, getting one with the nature, bird watching, listening to their loud chirping and singing, and exploring plant species.
Matheran is an ecozone around 90 km from Mumbai , also nominated for UNESCO's world heritage site status. The best part is that it ts an automobile free hill station, with the vehicles parked a nice 4 km away from the entry point of Matheran. So, you can happily explore the place on foot, without any blazing horns. Horses are also available.

Long Nature walks

Matheran has numerous view points, which can be reached after long walks in the jungle. You walk for a few kilometers in what seems to be a ecstasy, a dense forest, with loud (really loud) chirping of the lots of species of birds, accompanied by the some animals which you can spot (it seems like a big nature's party, all in harmony.), and then suddenly, you are at a 'treat for the eyes' viewpoint, it becomes hard to absorb the happiness and joy of the result of your hard work, which in itself too was a wonderful, refreshing and a lively walk.

Sunset Point

Be it the  Panorama point, the peace of the sunset point , the Louisa Point , everything in Matheran is a real beauty and a photographer's or a bird watcher's delight.So calm and rejuvenating is the environment,you will be relaxed and full of energy. The fresh air is filled with sweet sounds of the cuckoo and the Bulbul. The birds seem to be in a constant conversation with one another. A lot of animals can also be spotted here. And if the skies are clear, don't forget to carry your tent along (if you have one). Camping at the panorama point (sunrise point)  under the starry sky, followed by the most spectacular sunrise you would have ever seen along with a panoramic view of the Neral town, is an experience you will cherish all your life.

How to reach Matheran : Assuming you are already in Mumbai, there are various ways by which you can reach Matheran. I am describing it on detail, since it can be a pain to finding out how to reach, for any new traveler. 

By Road :  Mumbai-Neral-Matheran, 108 kms.

While going to Matheran by road, take Mumbai-Pune Highway(NH-4) upto Chowk Village and turn to Karjat road. From Karjat, the same road goes to Dasturi Naka, i.e. entrance of Matheran via Neral.

By public transport :

The best options depend on the season you are traveling in, whether Monsoon (June- September) or not. 

Non-Monsoon Season: The best way to reach Matheran is to go to the Neral Junction via local trains. If you live near Panvel, it would be better to take a bus from Panvel to Karjat from where you can go to Neral by local train. The 45 minute bus journey is nice with green pastures on both sides of the road.  From Neral, buy the toy train ticket for Matheran, which you can within 45 minutes before the departure. The two hour train journey will take you through curves, tunnels and amazing landscapes. The image shows the Neral to Matheran timetable and vice versa. The first train runs at 6.40 am and the last one at 5.05 pm.

Monsoon Season : During the Monsoon Season (June-September), the option of toy train in not available. You need to reach Neral Station as described above. After reaching Neral, there is a regular taxi service upto Aman Lodge Station, the previous stop to Matheran. From Aman Lodge, the automobile free zone begins. From here, you can reach Matheran on foot (30-40 minute walk) , or you can take a horse . Also the toy train service from Aman Lodge to Matheran continues even in the Monsoon months.
The Matheran toy train