Goa and the Art of Self-Discovery

I have has been to Goa a few number of times, thinking of each visit is like deep diving into memories of various phases in my life.


Of caves, impregnable forts and the poor man's Taj..


Of foggy woods, gurgling waterfalls and rains that painted the hill green..


Of ferry rides, seagulls and (almost) private beaches...

Andamans (Part 1)

Of Island hopping, underwater adventures and different shades of the sea...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Matheran: Of foggy woods, gurgling waterfalls and rains that painted the hills green..

Matheran, one of the most beautiful hill stations near Bombay, in my opinion is I guess what resulted when God dropped his green paint all over the canvas (Then again, so is Kerala).

It is weird how my first memory of Matheran is...Well, not mine. My sister had gone on a night trek to Matheran a few years back and what I remember vividly is her saying how wonderful it was to look down from the top and see the valley all lit up with the many many fireflies. 

I have been to Matheran twice, once last year right after the monsoons and this year during. 

The first time I went was right after the monsoon and it was just a day trip. We left early in the morning, after a series of unfortunate events including mixing up Neral and Nerul stations, 5 hours later we reached the foothills of Matheran. A horse ride to the market and a light lunch later we decided to walk around. 

There was the lake, the wild yellow flowers all around, the breath taking view from Louisa point and the echo point. There was rappelling going on, scary, between two mountains and only one among us had the courage to actually go through with it. 

The highlight was the Louisa point. We walked and walked through the dense trees and we had absolutely no idea what we were in for. And then, we were there! Beautiful meadow with flowers scattered all around, you can almost hear people on the other side, the echo point. It fills you with serenity, that all you want to do it to be quiet and be there, in every way. We left after watching the sunset.

This time around, we made sure it was during monsoon and we stayed for two whole days. 
The cab drive till the foot hills gave us a little preview of what we were in for. The clouds looming over the mountains, the tip you can hardly see because of all the fog. We walked in the drizzling rain (oh the joy!) and the fog made sure we couldn’t see beyond 50m at times and reached our hotel by the time it was dark. The roads were all slushy and slippery with all the rain and the horse poop (trekking shoes please, unless you want your feet to smell like horse shit), but it is pleasant on your ears that the only sound you can hear besides the swooshing of the leaves are the horse’s clip-clop hooves every now and then. 

The next two days were kept aside for exploring Matheran. 

The market was about ten minutes from our place and from there we decided to move towards the charlotte lake. From the last time, I remembered a cliff near the Charlotte Lake, this time around the fog was too thick, we could just see the shadow of the lake and the going to the cliff edge was outta the question because the earth was too slippery. We missed the beautiful carpet of flowers that people were going mad taking pictures of last time. 

Walking along, through the woods, one realizes Matheran is one of the best kept hill stations just for the reason there are no vehicles allowed. There are roads diverging all throughout and with hardly any signboards, you just have to go by your gut feeling.

So, we just kept going. The walk in the woods is the best part about Matheran I feel, because take away the horses that come your way every now and then, it’s just you, him and the whole wide world. We walked for hours and yet the cold/fog keeps you fresh, the woods keep you going. 

The Louisa point as I remembered from last time was a beautiful stand alone meadow with yellow wildflowers and trees scattered around. The air is that of silence and contemplation and you can see the echo point across the valley. I was in for a surprise when we reached Louisa point this time. The monsoon had drawn a sensual blanket all over. The long tall grass had dew drops on it making it slippery and dangerous as it was sloping towards the valley, not that we could see it because of the fog. There were people venturing into it carefully, but we weren’t too plucky and choose to sit around watching the fog play hide and seek with the valley.

Nearby is the Lion’s point which true to its name has a large rock shaped like a lion’s head. From the lion’s point also there is a fabulous view of the valley and the river below. We sat around next to the lone leafless tree, squinting our eyes trying to figure out the ‘lion’ in Lion’s point.

Then we were on our way to Sunset point, lost our way and ended up somewhere else. It looked just the same; there was a couple happily clicking away each other’s pictures to glory. Not wanting to be ‘kabab mein haddi’ we left them in their own world and moved on. 

Matheran apparently is one of the favorite weekend getaways for couples and it is pretty obvious if you observe the crowd as well. With plenty of ----around, the various points and the paths that lead to it are beautiful and deserted; the crowd is small compared to the other options from Bombay. Then there is the cold that makes you crave for warmth. Hmm, I guess I can see why.

Finally, the Sunset point. Not that we stood a chance of witnessing sunset with all the fog. But you can see the several mountains that close in on Matheran and because it was monsoon, the very many waterfalls- the small ones, the tiny almost-there ones, and then there was this really long/high one. It is indeed one of the good things in life to watch from a distance a waterfall take life, go in and out through the rocks and join the lake down below. 

And me, come December chills, I will be packing a good book, a cozy blanket and good music to go with the mood and be off. Again. 

How to get there: Get down at Neral station on the central line. Matheran is around 20 km from there and there are plenty of share cabs available from the station till the foothills (Rs.60). From there-on no vehicles are allowed, the options available are the toy train, horse ride (bargain. A lot!)  or a healthy hour trek till the market (recommended).

Where to Stay: We stayed at Hotel Woodlands (around 2k per night) which is a ten minutes walk from the market. Decent place, with good food. There are lot of not-too-expensive places providing good home food. 

What to see:  There are almost 35 points to see around Matheran. The map is printed on the back of the ticket or you can pick up a copy of the hotel. And half the fun is walking from one point to another, getting lost in the woods. One full weekend would give you perfect time to see everything at your own pace.