Matheran!! I come

1st May 2008, 7:00am, we reached Pune station. As usual we were not aware from where we are supposed to buy tickets... :) We had decided to board the Sahyadri express which comes at 7.50am since it’s the only train that stops at Neral. After standing in multiple queues and a couple of visits to the information counter, we got 2 tickets for the general compartment. Blissfully unaware of what lies in a general compartment, we were happy about it.

The train arrived at 8:00. It was a bit late... As usual... :) On arrival we found that it was extremely crowded. We ran and boarded the general compartment after lots of dhakka-bukki. Saumi being the gentleman as he is did not fight for a seat. But I was determined to get one... :) I managed to get the fourth and fifth seat on the couch supposed to be seating 4 persons. It was so crowded that people were sitting on the upper berths as well. The train journey was a great experience. It lasted for almost 2 hours. Saumi read newspaper all the time and I was getting bored, sleeping, observing people... :)

We reached Neral at 10.15. That’s the time the toy train to Matheran departs. Since we did not have pre-booked tickets, we were not able to catch it. Now that we had our own time to reach Matheran, we decided to have some breakfast. What better option than a fresh garma-garam wada pav!! ... :)

From Neral we travelled to Dasturi car park by a shared cab. After reaching Dasturi car park, we have to take an entry ticket into Matheran. These tickets need to be preserved for the duration that you are in Matheran.
From the car park there are 3 ways to travel to Matheran town centre. You can either ride on a hired horse or rent a planquin which is then carried by 2 people on their shoulders.

The 3rd is the usual ... trek up to the town centre and that’s what we did. The road is indeed beautiful. Even in the month of May it was totally green. The entire road has huge trees on either side making a canopy through which you can walk without fearing the sun. The only irritant however are the horses which ride by painting you in dust every time.

We were booked in a hotel called Richie Rich which was just about 2 mins walking distance from the town centre. The hotel is a great place with damn good food... :) We reached around lunch time and were greeted with a glass of refreshing kokum shurbut. After unpacking in our room we headed for the lunch. It was a grand meal. Rajasthani/Gujrati thali right from their snacks like dhokla/karanji, sweet dish of gajar ka halwa, garma garam fulke... I had almost 7 of them. Saumi dint count!! .. I bet he had more than 20... :)
In the evening we headed to the sunset point and the lake ... we went on foot to all these points. The way zigzagged across the forest and it was a lovely scene... Green is the only word which can describe it... :) Although we were late for the sunset, the view from that point was amazing. The lake and the forest beyond it looked pretty scary. Being a small town in the middle of a forest, most of the market area closes at sunset. So we were not able to have a look at the markets. The dinner back at the hotel was again a grand affair... with chat, dosa and chinese you were spoilt for choices. Followed by a choice for the desert as well. We had a puppet show to go with it which made the evening just perfect!!

The next day we had to cancel our morning site seeing as we required booking the tickets on the toy train. With holiday season going on and so much of demand for the toy train it was pretty crowded. We had to spend almost an hour and a half to get those tickets for the next day's early morning train. We had a complete morning for shopping then. I bought loads of Matheran famous chikki ... half of which was finished even before we left Matheran. I also bought some hand knit jute purses to gift my mom and in-laws. And I got those painted hay flowers ... which could not fit into any of our bags and Saumi had to carry them around!! .. :) Evening again we went out for few more sight seeing points and were back early as we had to leave early next morning...

The toy train journey was equally breath taking especially at the early morning hour. The train also zigzags across the forest and it’s the same track that was laid by the British so it was pretty historic. We had a single signal man who used to run down the slopes while we travelled across it to give signal at the next turn. It was an amazing journey and we returned with loads of amazing memories... :)


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