Matheran: Keep Walking

Barely 171 kms from Mumbai, Matheran, discovered by Hugh Mallet, collector of Thane district, in 1850, has long been a refuge for humidity-stricken Mumbaikars. All motor vehicles are prohibited in Matheran, so the air is squeaky clean. However the only mode of transport, other than walking, is on horseback and hand-pulled rickshaws.

Keep Walking, 2 simple words nevertheless a good quote; Inspiring words for someone who is
down...words that spring an image of mahatma Gandhi for his dandi march or the famous punch line
for Johnnie Walker
. Matheran is the next best thing which justifies those 2 words. Some wise
humans decided to ban all vehicles from this hill station and make this place a paradise for
nature freaks. On a Friday night we 14 of us accompanied by a nature group called Nature Knights
set for a 2 day visit to matheran. The trip started on a hectic note as we ran to catch the CST/VT
bound train from andheri. Similarly we had to hurry and catch 10:30 Karjat bound local from

Comfortably seated people had started cracking jokes, pulling legs while others tried to know the
new comers better. In the conversation i discovered that actually we were gonna drive to matheran
instead trek by foot at night. I thought i was going to miss the very thing most people come to
matheran in rainy season; to trek by foot at night. Later this turned out to be a blessing in
disguise. By 1am on saturday we had reached Neral station where Asif our leader gave a brief
introduction. A fresh deep breath gave a clear indication that we were miles away from any
polluted place.

During the nice 20 mins drive to matheran we got glimpses of milky waterfalls and foggy valleys. A
board titled "Welcome to Matheran" and under that board iron bars to prevent vehicles entering
gave me a feeling of pureness. The short walk to our woodlands resort started in the chilled air.
The fog around the neon lamps was beautiful. As we walked the neon lights ended and torches came
out. We walked and walked only to realise we had lost our way !!! The leaders forked and came back
leading us to the right way. We checked in the resort and had a quick coffee, another brief
introduction of all and we retired to bed by 3 AM but reluctantly.

Next morning we got up by 8, breakfast was ready. The aroma attracted the monkeys who captured
vantage points to make a strike at the table. A caretaker with an air rifle was posted to take
care of the monkey, but it turned futile. A smart monkey out from nowhere jumped on the table,
grabbed 2 slices of bread and then jumped again wotever came in his hands and ran away. Smart.
Really smart. Similarity with human genes was obvious here. And Greediness too.

We started out for one tree hill point and walking there would cover most of the points in
matheran. We started crossing the bazaar. Morning time was hustle bustle as one day trekkers has
also landed. There were people on horsebacks, walking thru the rail tracks, oldies preferring the
hand pulled rickshaw. Amongst the various groups the ear caught a familiar laughter. Alas it was
an old friend who had come with his office group. Meeting a friend anytime is a joy of life.

As we chugged along we let the chatter groups move ahead and preferred enjoying the silent trek.
Usually my treks are around forts, there is a destination, there is a first transport to catch and
a last transport of the day to come back; thats adventure. But there is a destination and time you
are bound to. Matheran, like the spirit of life, was more about strolling; enjoying the walk, the
nature, the chilling rain, the green grass, watching horses gallop in the fog, hear the beautiful
singing birds and enjoying the scenes around.

We reached our first point and all we could see in the valley was white milky clouds. Cameras were
out and the click click started. Someone spotted a huge mushroom and it was simply beautiful.
Assisted by enthusiasts i made it to the akward place to take pics. We moved on to a path which
was more denser and foggy.

"Hey Ghost tree, Ghost tree" someone shouted wildly. Surprisingly it was the usually cool but
observant Asif. He was pointing excitingly to a tree across the valley. By the time everyone could
get their line of sight right it became foggy. We climbed down the main road to get a clearer view
and waited. As the fog gave a slight clearance we saw was simply surreal. Definition of surreal is
"Resembling a dream" and thats wot it was all about. A long spread out tree with white barks,
green leaves sprinkled over the top was standing majestically on the edge of the valley. The brain
tried to relate it with some movie scenes but the senses advised to see what lay before us. As the
wind danced with the fog it made a circular clearance like a halo and we could just see the tree.
It was unbelievable. Wanted to pinch myself to believe it.

We moved ahead, and it started raining. Cameras were packed inside and rain gear came out. We came
across a huge horse race course and like kids we circled for no reason. After that the rain was in
its full fury and the visibility came down to 3 to 5 meters.

We came across a parsi cemetery. The adventurous decided to explore it while others stayed back.
Rain was menacing as ever. Dodging the small streams we continued walking till we reached a chai
wala. By that time everyone was shivering due to the cold rain and winds. After a long wait we got
our tea and Parle-G biscuits, an irresistible combination and a must "trekking energy supplement".

We saw some beautiful scenes at chai wala point and continued walking till One Tree Hill point.
One tree hill point was totally engulfed in the fog and the routes to it were too confusing so we
skipped it. Everyone was hungry too and we were just half way in our trek.

The chilling rain had made me a Thakur of Sholay. I was walking with my hands totally cutoff from
outside world as they retracted back in the windcheater. Slowly the rain decreased and the the fog
cleared a bit. Actually it was because we were descending the terrain. We again had a cuppa and we
reached our hotels, hungry like a wolf.

We hogged and then some decided to have a nap. Me and a few decided to just talk and enjoy the
climate. Rain on the roof was music to the ears. So were some birds whom we coudnt spot. It was
lunch time for some langurs and monkeys. My camera tried to follow them but it was in vain as they
jumped across tree branches. There was no city sound. No people in sight. World Peace Day should
be like these.

We had tea at 5 PM and we headed for Monkey Hill Point. We had no alternatives but to slip in wet
clothes as we had another day to go. The thick foliage made the evening darker. Me and asif
strolled slowly as we passed some historic bungalows of which 1 belonged to the person who built
the railway to matheran decades back. Asif and me then went into a bhoot (ghost) bungalow. It was
spooky when we saw small plants covered the rocky stairs. It looked prehistoric. We moved to
monkey hill point.

It was a fantastic site; huge expanses of land lay before us. Huge mountains could be seen at a
distance. Some got their pencils and paper and started sketching, some practiced yoga and
meditation while others like me sat on the edge and just stared. Suddenly we saw something
beautiful which was for a change not green. It was the sky with fiery colors and shades. They
changed their colors and patterns like a kaleidoscope. It was getting darker and we stared back to
our hotel.

On the way back came the irresistible bhoot bangla. Everyone went to check it out. It was really
dark but our "spirits" were high. We closely peeked into the broken windows and eventually
trespassed in the bungalow. It was damn spooooooky. The corridors led us way way deep. The
corridor was vibrating and we saw a well and shinning eyes of a fleeing cat. We took quick snaps,
ofcoz the spooky ones and quickly left the bungalow. But let me tell you that something had
grabbed us there which made me and many uneasy for a long time.

We had a nice dinner at 9 PM and it was hard to believe that we had just spent 18 hours together
in matheran, It felt like 18 days.

Asif then showed us a leech which had got in his socks. Blood sucking leech looked liked a small
slim earthworm, but its way of transport was magic. I felt something uneasy around my thigh and
decided to have a look and was shocked to see blood all over. A leech attack. Obviously a quick
pic and an education class on leech bite i went clean it with a soap and water. The blood didnt
stop oozing for around 45 mins thereafter.

After dinner we became prehistoric humans playing dumb charades. The game lasted till almost
midnight with the scores amicably settled at 1 all. Jyoti's dance clue for "" was fantastic. At
that moment a plan was devised to guess jyoti's birthday in form of a movie name. It clicked and
there was wishing, cake cutting and smearing and pics taken forever stored in time. In a very
unique way we celebrated the birthday. I retired in sometime with background of laughter and

Day 2 had 2 purposes for everyone, return back to mumbai and take a dip any form of deluge. Sunday
had brought tons of people to the hill station and people were engrossed in all kinds of picnic
games with a innovative group who got a volley ball field ready with leaves as marking lines and a
floating plastic ball. We passed through a garden where swings and a huge slide lay rusted. We
entered into a beautiful petit tower. It had a freshly painted gate in black and the artistry on
that gate was beautiful. A recently painted tower looked a bit different which was covered with
moss all over. After some filmy pics we headed for echo point.

Echo point was engulfed in fog again and the attempts to produce an echo were futile. We moved to
Charlotte lake. We tried a shortcut which turned out to be a damp squib as we ended up walking
through thick forests and some landed up with minor injuries. Charlotte lake was totally crowded
and we didnt see any lake as it was sleeping with a blanket of fog. We went to the Pisarnath
Temple to say a hi. Coming back it was a beauty to see the fog cleared up on the lake. Some folks
even had a swim. After that we went to edge of a huge waterfall. It was risky but the scenes were
fantastic as we saw water drop down thousands of feet below us into the fog. It was again like
heaven. I spotted 2 langurs close by watching who monkeys had come there to take a cold water dip.
I took out my camera but they were distracted and they disappeared into the wilderness. DAMN.

We started back to our hotel, shopping for chikki, fudge and some footwear. Meanwhile we went to
the famous matheran toy train and took some pics. Incidentally the engine in the museum was
exactly 100 years old. A Salute to heavy engineering. We climbed into the driving seat and
realised that it was very well preserved. We walked a bit through the old railway track. Some
rails lay there rusting and blending with the red soil.

We came back to the hotel with the "oh we have to go back" feeling, had a quick lunch and left
matheran. As we came out of matheran we experienced the blissfully forgotten cars, car horns and
as the city life it was now about keep RUNNING.

In just small span of 36 hours we felt like we had spend 36 days, and friends turned out to be
friends we had never met. Nature again taught the joy of walking, slipping and falling and then
walking again. Except the television everything there reminded how it would have been a century
back, people happily and peacefully living with nature. Relearned a lesson, respect nature and in
P.S. Next time i write this much i hope its about keep talking rather than keep typing.

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