I am privileged to have been to many interesting places. Many times, people ask me about my favourite place. Well, here is my answer – if you ask me to choose one place where I would like to go back again and again and again, it has to be Matheran.
Matheran (literally ‘forest on the forehead’ of the mountains) is the smallest hill station in India. The unique thing about the place is that there are no vehicles allowed – you can either walk or take a horse. This keeps the hill station in its pristine state.
Located at a distance of just 90kms from Mumbai and 120kms from Pune, this place is no less than heaven on earth. Though most people come in the winter, I always love to go there during the monsoon (which actually is the off-season) to enjoy the pitter-patter of rains and the sound of the flowing streams. Long walks getting drenched in the rain is the best part of being there.
We took a train a train from Hyderabad to Karjat and then a local train to Neral. There are lots of local taxis that can take you to Dasturi Park, the last point beyond which no vehicle is allowed.
We stated walking…
The toy train from Neral to Matheran is closed during the monsoon. Fortunately, the service from the station – Aman Lodge (about a kilometer from where the taxis are allowed) to Matheran was operational. We decided to walk and meet the train halfway.
We checked in our hotel – The Byke, one of the best places to stay in Matheran. We bought some chikkis on the way. They are not locally manufactured but sourced from Lonavala.
The evening was spent sipping tea watching the rains.
And as we expected the rains got heavier and heavier. It was a bliss watching the heavy downpour.
We started our walk the next day. There was a light drizzle.
There are several old and abandoned bungalows in Matheran, most of them belonging to the Parsis.
The rains gained in pace.
We stopped at a shot to drink Kokam sarbat. The lovely cats of the owners caught my attention.
The whole of Matheran is full of monkeys. Its fun to see them them doing their acrobats.
There are some lovely horses in the place. For a lot of people, the source of livelihood is carrying people on horses.
The view from Belvedere Point was absolutely breathtaking.
The One Tree Hill. There are lot of people who stay in the villages below. This man is going back to his village.
A village down below.
We saw a ‘water-rise’ – the wind was so strong that the water was not falling down, it was rising up!
Due to the incessant rains, there are streams everywhere. This is one of them.
The roads were filled with a carpet of green shrubs.
One of the schools in Matheran
We finally finished our walk for the day and return back to our hotel – The Byke.
There was heavy downpour the whole night and we expected the same to continue today.
The scene, when I opened the door… There were monkeys around looking for shelter.
This one was sleepy in the lazy weather.
There is no better time to give a hug than this weather.
Then the third one comes… he is however driven away soon.
View from our door…
We left the monkeys at peace and left for our days walk in the heavy rains.
Today was magical! Rains and mist all over!
This man was patiently waiting for some people to come and play his game.
An orchid on the way.
These people are quite fond of their horses. There is a horse tournament held on 21 May. This horse’s name was Passion Power.
It was time for a hot cup of tea. It couldn’t have been better!
We reached the Pisarnath temple.
The Charolette late, which had almost no water yesterday, was now looking beautiful.
We spend sometime at the lake and return back and saw this beautiful scene.
It was the day when we had to leave. This time we thought of going by train.
This notice in the train was a bit scary, particularly the part – “the bogies may get thrown”.
A shot from train…
We reached the station. It was time to bit adieu to Matheran.
The trip was not over though! Descending the hills was another experience.
Frequently the roads crossed the railway tracks in lush green enivirons.
Waterfalls were ubiquitous.
We finally reached Neral and then to Karjat to take our train back to Hyderabad.
What to see in Matheran: There are several view points you can see there. There is a well defined circuit you can walk.
What to shop?: Chikki, Chocolate fudge and leather goods – shoes, belts, etc.
Where to stay: There are lot of hotels of all budget range available. We stayed at The Byke, one of the oldest hotels and is also a herigate property. Its an awesome place to stay.
How to reach Matheran: Neral is the nearest rail-head from where you can get the toy train (not operational during monsoons) or a shared taxi.
Karjat is a main station on the Pune – Mumbai route. There are frequent local trains from Karjat to Neral.
When is the best time to visit Matheran?
Matheran is wonderful in every season. Winter is the peak tourist season.
Personally, I love to go there during the monsoon. Matheran received heavy rainfall. The whole environment turns green. Its a pleasure walking in the heavy rains enjoying the monsoon.
Most of the hotels are actually closed during that time as it is not the tourist season. Also the toy train is not operation during the monsoon.
Due to its vicinity from Mumbai and Pune, its generally crowded during the weekend. To avoid the crown, go during the weekdays.
Tips for Photographers
Matheran has opportunities for photographers for all genre. You will find amazing landscapes. For a macro photographer, there is a plethora of insects and reptiles (a lot of snakes). You can also shoot people who come from the villages. There is an annual horse competition where people interested in horses or sports can shoot. There are several waterfalls, so if you love shooting waterfalls, this is the place to be.
What lens to use?
If you want to shoot landscapes, a wide angle lens is recommended. For macro, a macro lens or extention tubes. If you want to shoot snakes, a macro lens with a high focal length is recommended.
For the above pictures I used a D600 and a 24-85 f4.5-5.6 lens (the kit lens)
Protecting your Equipment
Shooting in the rains can be damaging for the camera. It is of utmost importance to protect your gear. There are lot of rain covers for dSLRs. I just use a polythene sheet. I insert the camera through the open end and make a hole on the closed end, enough for the lens to peep out.
Additionally, I also carry an umbrella for myself and for additional protection of the camera.
I also keep a lot of silica gel in my bag for the absorption of moisture.
A Humble Request:
Matheran is a ecologically sensitive region. With the increasing popularity, the influx of tourists is increasing exponentially. Nature is there for us to enjoy but it is our responsibility to preserve it for the future generations to relish.
Please take care of the following points to help preserve it in its pristine condition –
1. Do not litter. Take back the garbage that you brought. (It was disappointing to see a lot of cold drink, beer bottles and wafer packets.)
2. Don’t make noises – listen to the sounds of nature.
3. If you have kids, please teach them the etiquette to respect nature and preserve it.
Thank you for reading. I will soon be back with another interesting place. You might like to read my previous posts.
This article is written by Saurabh Chatterjee. He is a travel photographer and a photography trainer. He strives to ‘make every camera-owner a great photographer through his Photography workshops and Photo Tours and Photo Walks