Posted by: getaway2india | August 6, 2012

Magic of the Matheran Hills

 

Welcome to Matheran

Matheran is the closest hill station to Mumbai in the Sahyadri hill range in Raigad district of Maharashtra State. It is situated at a height of 803 m above sea level. Although it is so close to a vociferous city like Mumbai the truth that Matheran is relatively unpolluted is a feat in itself.

Matheran Station

Motor vehicles are completely banned in Matheran. Besides the buses, cars and other four-wheelers and two-wheelers such as motorbikes, even bicycles are not allowed inside Matheran. Venice, The Prince’s Islands of Istanbul, Texel-Netherlands and Matheran are the only places in the world where motor cars are banned.

Narrow Gauge Train from Neral Station to Matheran

It has a narrow gauge railway line connecting it to Neral Station.

Matheran is quite peaceful despite the thousands of visitors that come here, mostly from Mumbai. There are a number of lookout points that provide spectacular views of the surrounding hills and valleys. Matheran is a plateau with a reasonably dense forest cover. Being a hill station it is pleasant almost throughout the year.

There is a magic about Matheran… people fall in love with it. If it gets to you… you return here year after year like a sacred pilgrimage. But it never got to me… I still laugh at the guys who go there year on year… but then I don’t hold any grudge …lol. One of the reason people frequent there might be it is over-conveniently located very near the city and an easy and economical getaway…. Its almost as easy as going to office. Many people who live in Karjat find that the Station Neral is on the way to work in VT and just half an hour away from their house.

In winter, the nights can get a bit chilly though.

Matheran in the Rains

The best time to go to Matheran is post-monsoon. It is truly spectacular at that time of the year with lush greenery, waterfalls and the lake full with water.

In November 2002, Prof H.Y. Mohan Ram, Chairman of a Government Expert Committee, declared Matheran the cleanest hill-station of India.

There are only 3 ways to travel once inside Matheran:

  • Walking. All the trails have signboards marking the way and the locals are quite helpful.
  • On horseback
  • Man-pulled Rickshaw

The Map of Matheran

Location

Matheran is 110 km, about two-and-a-half-hour drive, from Mumbai. The road is good and motorable round the year. But as vehicles are not allowed inside, you have to leave your vehicle at Dasturi Naka, 3 km from Matheran, which has a good parking lot.
Next you either walk up to Matheran or hire a pony. The journey is really enjoyable. The narrow, shaded pathways winding through dense forests rejuvenate tired lungs with fresh air.
Matheran is perched amidst the Sahyadri hills (Western Ghats) 803 meters above sea level. The 7.35-sq-km town has a population of around 4,000. Surprisingly, it also has a railway station.

Matheran in the rain

History

Matheran was discovered by Sir Hugh Poyntz Malet, the Collector of Thane district, in 1850. But it was Lord Elphinstone, the Governor of Bombay, who made Matheran popular. He visited the place in 1855 and literally fell in love with it. He built a bungalow named Elphinstone Lodge and introduced roadways.


Getting In

There is a entry fee (of Rs 25 for adult visitors and Rs.10 for children) while entering into Matheran. The proceeds from this is used for the upkeep of the place considering its fragile ecosystem.

Get down at Neral Station

By train

You can catch a Karjat bound local train from CSTM(a.k.a. VT Mumbai, India) on the Central Railway to Neral Station. From VT the trains stops at the following Stations:

  1. VT
  2. Masjid
  3. Sandhurst Road,
  4. Byculla
  5. Chinchpokli,
  6. Currey Road,
  7. Parel,
  8. Dadar,
  9. Matunga,
  10. Sion
  11. Kurla,
  12. Vidyavihar,
  13. Ghatkopar,
  14. Vikhroli,
  15. Kanjurmarg,
  16. Bhandup,
  17. Nahur,
  18. Mulund
  19. Thane,
  20. Kalwa,
  21. Mumbra,
  22. Diwa,
  23. Dombivli,
  24. Thakurli,
  25. Kalyan
  26. Vitthalwadi,
  27. Ulhasnagar,
  28. Ambarnath,
  29. Badlapur,
  30. Vangani,
  31. Shelu,
  32. Neral,
  33. Bhivpuri Road,
  34. Karjat

 

Please note that there are “Fast” and “Slow” trains starting from CSTM. The “Slow” Train stops all all the 34 stations and the time taken to complete the distance will be more while the “Fast” train stop only at the Bold Stations above and the time taken would be only 40% lesser than that of the slow train. For a new visitor and if he wants to try the mumbai local train he should get in at Mumbai VT itself… better if he can buy a first class ticket…. and jump in and find a seat the moment the train stops. The seats will be free for a few moments before it gets occupied. Also note that there is a basic courtesy that the sitting passenger is expected to get up after half the journey or Dombivili and let the standing passenger sit for the remainder of the Journey.

Getting to Matheran from Mumbai is not very difficult even if you do not have train reservations.

Get to Mumbai CST station.

There are two sections.

  • One for mainline trains platforms 8 onwards. (Deccan Express and Koyna Express leave from here)
  • One for Local suburban trains platforms 1 to 7
  • Look for the ticket windows. They are cleverly hidden opposite platforms 1 and 2. Ticket window numbers are 7,8 and 9
  • Ask for a ticket to NERAL. On the Karjat line. (NOT “Nerul” on the harbour Line)
  • II Class tickets Rs. 36, I Class tickets Rs.210
  • Now go back to the platforms and wait for the indicators to announce your train
  • The local train you need will arrive either on platform 3, 4 , 5, 6 or 7.
  • What you should look for on the top of the indicator is “S” (“S” is the code for the karjat trains.) and train Destination as “Karjat”
  • And the platform number will appear next to the code.

Suburban Train timings from CST (MUMBAI TO NERAL)

am 4.15, 4.40, 5.19, 5.41, 6.50, 7.39, 8.39, 9.34, 10.44, 11.17, 11.56

pm 12.52, 1.40, 2.49, 3.17, 4.10, 5.32, 6.24, 7.00, 7.47, 8.13, 8.51, 9.54, 10.40, 11.28

Some Early morning trains from CST to Neral.

  • Make sure you get off at neral.
  • CST TO Neral is about a 1 hour 40 minute journey.
  • Stations on the final approach to Neral are Badlapur, Vangani, Shelu and 5 minutes later NERAL.
  • You can also get to these trains form the following stations: DADAR, KURLA, GHATKOPAR, THANE, KALYAN, DOMBIVILI, AMBERNATH, SHELU.
  • At Neral use the foot over bridge and get to the other platform.
  • Inquire about the toy train and whether tickets will be available.
  • If not… walk out of the station and turn right. This will lead you to the Neral Matheran taxi stand.
  • Taxi rates are Rs. 60 per person sharing (2011)
  • The taxi will not leave unless there are a minimum of 5 persons paying 50 rupees each. If you are in a hurry or there is no one else you can pay Rs. 60 x 5 = Rs 300 and take the full taxi.
  • If you want to ride in the Matheran toy train then make sure you have booked in advance.

 

The Toy Train

Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy conceived the imaginative idea of a 2-ft narrow-gauge railway from Neral to Matheran (20 km). He imported three specially made engines from Germany in 1905. The railway was opened in 1907. This train, became 100 years old on April 16, 2007.

The train chugs slowly along the age-old track, passing through dense forests, grassy hillsides, vertical cliffs, plains and rolling plateaus.
The torrential rains and landslides of July 26, 2005, badly damaged the tracks and the train service had to be suspended.

The Toy Train

From Neral Station the toy train runs to Matheran about 4 times in a day. This toy train is not operational when railway route is under maintenance or when there is a perceived hazard e.g. the monsoons. The only way to know whether its operational is only at the Neral Station. The train is normally full, so turn up in good time to ensure you get a ticket.

New Coach of the Matheran Toy Train

Now Matheran also has new coaches with transparent roof for 3D feel of the mountains and comfy seats . This allows one to get a three-dimensional view of the green surroundings as the train climbs about 2,500 feet from Neral to Matheran. With broad windows on both sides and an open to sky roof.

You can also book the ticket online through IRCTC:

http://irctc.co.in/

The toy train times (as of Feb ’08) are:

Matheran -> Neral:

  • depart 0700, arrive 0840
  • depart 0945, arrive 1125
  • depart 1340, arrive 1520
  • depart 1625, arrive 1810
  • depart 1445, arrive 1625

Neral -> Matheran:

  • depart 0730, arrive 0930
  • depart 0850, arrive 1110
  • depart 1015, arrive 1210
  • depart 1705, arrive 1900
  • depart 1215, arrive 1405

 

 

Matheran Toy Train Motorman Cabin

 

Road to Matheran

By Road

There are many share-a-cabs which take you to Matheran from Neral. The distance from Neral to Dasturi Point (last point to which vehicles are allowed in Matheran) is 11 km. The drivers that ply through the roads have good driving skills. So just enjoy the breath-taking views as you climb up towards the Dasturi point. (Charges are INR 50.00 per person as of July ’09. Also make sure you take the rearmost seats as it will provide a relatively more comfortable travel) Once you have left the taxi, you can take a horse ride or get the help of porters to carry luggage up to the town.

Mini-Bus Shuttle

There is a newly introduced mini bus shuttle from Karjat or Neral railway stations upto Dasturi. From Dasturi you must take a 40 minute horseback or man-pulled rickshaw ride to Matheran along a mud track.

Hand pulled Rickshaws

Alternately you can walk from Dasturi along the rail line & make your way up to Matheran – 20 minutes to half an hour. The rail track route is slightly shorter, more scenic and very much more comfortable than the rubbly, dusty main road route. Coolies or porters are available at Dasturi to carry your luggage. Remember to negotiate rates in advance.

 

Matheran Market

On Foot Starting from Neral

There are several walking trails which ascend the Matheran Plateau. These are used by local people commuting to the hill station as well as the occasional intrepid holiday-maker.

From the Eastern side, trekkers start at Neral (see above).

You can also approach from the Western side, which has the distinct advantage that you can be in the shade for most of the ascent if you start early in the morning.

One route recommended during monsoon starts from the village of Dudhoni and brings you to Sunset Point in Matheran. It is suitable for beginners, and the ascent only takes 2 hours or so. Dudhoni can be reached by auto rickshaw from Panvel (accessible by bus or central line train). The trail is obvious in most places; when in doubt, ask a local.

Matheran

The truth is that almost all the points offer pretty good sunrise, sunset, mountain and valley views, so walk or horse ride or take a rickshaw to whichever you prefer. Remember that the more popular points will be crowded, especially at sunset.

Matheran

Watch out for the aggressive Matheran macaque monkeys who will not hesitate to snatch your belongings especially anything remotely resembling food!

Some of the popular sights include: Lake Charlotte – a spectacular waterfall overflows from the lake during and shortly after the monsoons. At other times, it is peaceful surrounded by dense evergreen forests, bird song and pretty butterflies.

  • Panorama point – This point is a very beautiful one, for you can see a panoramic view of the hills on the left and a beautiful Ulhas River to the right. This point is quite far from Matheran station / market, but you can negotiate a good price for your travel if you do not feel like walking. This point is perfect for Sunrise and is also called “Sunrise Point.”
  • Heart Point – Here one can see a beautiful scene of the valley and this point looks like heart, so it is named so.
  • Monkey Point – Here you can see the monkeys in large numbers and their mischief life-sized.
  • Malang Point
  • Luisa Point – The view from here to the waterfall (run off from Charlotte Lake) during the monsoon is spectacular.
  • Honeymoon Hill
  • Echo Point

Charlotte Lake

  • Charlotte Lake
  • Lords Point

One Tree Hill, Matheran

  • One tree Hill
  • Olympia
  • Paymasters Park
  • Mount Barry
  • Artist Point
  • Khandala Point
  • Alexandar Point
  • Rambaug Point
  • Little Chowk Point
  • Chowk Point
  • Sunset(Porcupine) Point
  • Garbut point

Matheran

Things to Do

There are only 4 things to do –

  1. Trek/walk,
  2. Enjoy Horse rides
  3. Sight seeing, capturing the sights.
  4. and Valley Crossing

Due to the prohibition of cars, Matheran is a relatively peaceful place. So walking is an activity that will be richly rewarding, especially for nature lovers, and more so just after the monsoons when wildflowers are in full bloom with their attendant butterflies. When the mass blooming of Karvy or Strobilanthes Callosa takes place, it is a spectacular sight.

It is not uncommon to sight Golden Langurs, snakes and the Matheran Giant Squirrels. Apart from the ubiquitous bonnet macaque or aggressive Matheran Monkeys! Don’t give them food or show them you have food….they could flock to you!!!

Matheran

There are numerous points all over Matheran, many of which provide some fantastic views of the valley below. While the central area and marked vistas are crowded, it is quite easy to find yourself all alone if you step off the beaten track. There are numerous forested trails leading to most of the Points. Wear thick soled footwear and carry a walking stick for greater comfort as some of the trails are very rubbly, nothing more than dry river beds.

 

Horse riding is also quite popular way of getting around in Matheran. Finding a horse is not very difficult, as there are many of them around. It is a great way to travel for people who prefer not to walk, but rates must be negotiated in advance.

Valley Crossing:

Lastly you can try the Valley crossing which is from Honeymoon point to near Louisa Point. Its basically an U- shaped mountain and you have to go from one side to other side (approx 900 feet) hanging on rope and body harness only with a 1000 feet drop into to valley below. From higher level you slide slowly towards the lower level, so its one way and you can come back by walking or you can ask your Horse-Man to come to that point to pick you up. Mind you – Its definitely not for weak-hearted. But you get a bird’s eye view of the valley. And its definitely a once in life-time experience. Make sure your spectacles, shoe, car keys, mobile etc are properly secured as you wont like it to drop into the valley.

Youtube Video link:

Sightseeing

Mahatma Gandhi Road, the town’s main thoroughfare, is lined by shops of all shapes and sizes. You can buy the famous local sweet chikki, as also honey; riding boots, shoes, sandals, slippers, walking sticks and local handicrafts are available too.
Matheran has around 33 lookout points that offer spectacular views of the sunrise and sunset, and of the plains below and across the Western Ghats.
Alexander Point, Charlotte Lake, Chowk Point, Coronation Point, Echo Point, Hart Point, Khandala Point, Lord’s Point, Louisa Point, Monkey Point, Mount Barry, One Tree Hill, Panorama Point, Porcupine Point and Shivaji’s Ladder are some of the interesting names given to these spots.
You can hike to these points or hire a pony.

Eat

There are all kinds of restaurants in Matheran serving various cuisines. Most hotels offer packages including all meals.

Try the Gujarati Thali, or the Maharashtrian style Vada-Pav (Indian Potato Burger) which is available at the various points.

Try the sweet – “chikki” which is available in different flavors in the main market.

Meat is available in some restaurants, notably in the popular and modern Khan’s, which does very good Kebabs.

Diwadkars opposite the station does very tasty non veg and veg thalis, kababs, etc at a reasonable price, they also serve alcohol.

Shabbir’s Biryani House is very famous for it’s meat preparations, but it is not a very neat place and if you are looking for a proper restaurant with people waiting on you then Shabbir’s might not be the place. A plate of mutton biryani at Shabbir’s costs Rs.75 (As on 19th April 2009).

Drink

There are all kinds of restaurants in Matheran serving various drinks, try the unique Kokam Sherbat there. Liquor is available only in certain hotels and restaurants. Another place to find alcohol is “Pramod Bar”. Their rates are as follows:

  • Beer Rs.100
  • Old Monk Rum Rs.5 (30ml)
  • Bacardi White Rum Rs.5 (30ml)
  • Signature Whisky Rs.5 (30ml)
  • Smirnoff Vodka Rs.5 (30ml)
  • Fuel Vodka Rs.5 (30ml)
  • Shark Tooth Vodka Rs.5(30ml)
  • White Mischief Vodka Rs.5 (30ml)
  • Rivera Wine Rs.30(180 ml)
  • red rum Rs.5 (60ml)

Place to Stay:

During the peak season, when it is very busy, prices are often as high as four times the off-season (winter) price. As it is a popular weekend trip from Mumbai, mid week is less full so you should be able to negotiate better prices. While there are many hotels in the centre of town, there are more secluded hotels down the paths away from the central buildings. Given most hotels can offer food, it needn’t be an inconvenience being out of the town centre. Due to the space in Matheran, hotels often have extra facilities from ping-pong tables and swings to swimming pools.

There are several resorts to suit all budgets.

Other resorts include:

  • Brightlands Resorts,
  • Lord’s Central,
  • Regal,
  • Royal,
  • Rugby,
  • Usha Ascot
  • Verandah in the Forest.
  • A good place to stay is the R. B. Curumsey Damjee Arogya Bhuvan,

Ph +91 22 22070548 (admin@matheran.org). [2].

A health sanatorium in Matheran run by a public charitable trust. All the proceeds from this sanatorium are used in maintenance of the property and for other charitable purposes only. Situated near Monkey point it is equidistant from Dasturi (Car park) and the Market away from the crowd where there is just you and nature. Two old heritage bungalows have been taken over and remodeled and two more bungalows have been added. All bungalows face a lush green forest. Each bungalow is divided into 2 or 3 units. The place is vegetarian and alcohol is prohibited. The trust’s rules apply.

One of the most wonderful place to stay in Matheran. May not be the most luxurious around, but it’s a charming place whose owners bend over backwards to make you feel at home. It has a well placed pool, small library, bar, dining room and a giant chess board. Per head rates (Rs.600-800/day) include three fabulous meals.

  • * Very (Barr House), Barr House, Matheran-410102, District Raigarh, Maharashtra,

Ph +91 2148 230296 (sales@neemranahotels.com, fax: +91 2148 230811), [3].

This heritage bungalow has been converted into a first-rate guest house by the Neemrana group. A favourite with expats and the well-heeled Mumbai crowd, it is generally full on weekends. Well away from the crowded centre of Matheran town, and not far from where the road turns from wide dusty horse-path to quite footpaths. Walk just a hundred meters or so down one of these trails and you will be on your own exploring the views and relics of colonial bungalows.  edit

  • Byke One of the oldest resorts; definitely the oldest 3 star resort in Matheran. Its well away from the crowds and has been around for 20 years. Mainly consists of several colonial style cottages and has managed to preserve some of the old world charm & character. Has a mid sized swimming pool for adults and a baby pool for kids, rain dance area, restaurant, tennis & badminton courts, a small hall like discotheque with a stage, health club, games room, several swings that you can relax on. Its nice & green and the food is decent as well. Definitely worth checking out.
  • Another good budget option for the families is Woodlands Hotel. Situated in the forest as the name suggests but just 10 mins walk from the Station/Market. Homely atmosphere with good food and service. Animal lovers will be happy to know that pets are more than welcome here.
  • There are plenty of hotels to suit all budgets. Maharashtra Tourism’s site MTDC has a list of home stays as well. Most Matheran hotels and resorts advertise in the local Mid Day travel classifieds so it is easy to compare prices. The MTDC holiday resort is located near Dasturi Naka.

Most of the above mentioned websites do not mention the following small hotels which allow you lodging and boarding:

  • Hotel Preeti. This is a clean and neat place with considerable space for people to sit outside their rooms on swings and sofas. The rooms are clean and the beds look warm. The price is Rs.300 for one person a day without food. With food, which includes breakfast tea and two meals it is Rs.600 for one person. (Rates on a summer Saturday).
  • Krishna Villa. This place is not the best place to be if you are going with your family, but if you are with your friends and don’t care too much about the rooms being slightly small this place can give you a good deal at Rs.240 per head without the food. (Rates on a summer Saturday).
  • Meghdoot. This is slightly better than Krishna Villa but not as good as Hotel Preeti. The asked for a sum of Rs.700 for five people per day.
  • There are several locals who have turned their houses in the villages into tourist cottages. These are very cheap and clean but don’t expect too much service. You will find these near the “Pramod Bar“.
  • Hotel Panorama [4] – It’s at just two minutes walk from Matheran railway station & bazaar, situated in peaceful location surrounded by natural greenery. Our location is ideal for tourist who prefer to stay in clean cottage type rooms with 4 star amenities.

http://www.hotelpanorama.in/

Things to keep in mind

  • Carry a good pair of comfortable walking shoes. Matheran is quite dusty & there is red mud everywhere.  If the shoe is white colour it will turn red.
  • The roads can be rough with many small stones in them but they are not sharp craggy rocks so wear a good pair of shoes with thick soles and you should be fine. Obviously, if you don’t intend walking much then this doesn’t really matter too much.
  • The weather is truly excellent as you can walk around even in summer without feeling too uncomfortable.
  • Avoid carrying too much baggage with you. You can’t take it up by car & need someone to carry it for you. Some of these porters are women and you may not feel right about a woman carrying your heavy bag. Anyway, it’s quite easy to find a male porter (also called “coolie” in India). They may charge around Rs. 200 – 250 (US$ 5 – 6) for carrying your bags to your hotel depending on where your hotel is. Also they are reliable and you can safely hand over your bags to them and take any route you want. They will be at your hotel before you.
  • There is a government fixed rate for renting the horses which in (May 2008) is Rs. 160 or around US$ 4 per hour.
  • There are monkeys around, please do not feed them or play with them. It could be Dangerous as they could flock around you and they are quite aggressive.

For Horse Riding:-

  • For a package trip to 5 or 7 points Rs 150 to Rs 250. Please fix the rate in advance and specify whether it is per hour or per package.
  • Please wear a pair of trousers while riding. Shorts or a skirt will result in a painful case of totally bruised thighs.
  • Try not to go horseback riding for more than a couple of hours a day. More than this and you will probably regret it the next day.

Charges/Fares (2011):

  • Horse ride charges to Matheran Market Rs 200 TO Rs 250 per horse.(one person per horse)
  • The approx distance will be around 3 km, so if you interested in doing some trekking in the forest, better opt for going by foot.
  • Hand pulled rickshaw charges to Market approx. RS 250 to Rs 350 (one person +a little luggage per rickshaw)
  • Porter- Rs 100 to Rs 200 per porter (not per bag)
  • Above prices are approximate and it is common practice to bargain for a better rate.

 

 

 

Best time to visit

Matheran is pleasant throughout the year. But the best time is between October and May after the monsoons. You will see plenty of waterfalls, mist-covered valleys, vibrant greenery and floating clouds.
The rain clouds swoop down to kiss the Sahyadris. There are heavy rainfalls. The plants and trees sparkle in their finest greenery. Dense mist and patches of clouds play hide-and-seek. The entire vista acquires a fairytale mystique.
Cotton clothing is sufficient during summer. Carry light woollens in winter; and raincoats and rubber shoes during the monsoons.

Some of the trek organizers:

mumbaihikers.com

http://www.natureknights.net

Moombai Hyker :

https://plus.google.com/101587930458456918751/posts

Trailblazers Adventure Club:

http://www.blogger.com/profile/14943271532313093449

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