Monday, October 12, 2009

Matheran - the forest on the top

This time Mahatma Gandhi's birthday on October 2, ( a national holiday in India) fell on a Friday.

Tired of the concrete jungle that Mumbai is, we decided to take off with the kids to a short 2 day holiday to Matheran to rejuvenate ourselves.



At 800 metres above the sea level and only 108 kms from Mumbai, Matheran is the smallest hill station in India. It's proximity to Mumbai makes it a very popular weekend retreat.

Mumbai to Matheran takes about two and a half hours by road. Alternatively, one can also take a train from Mumbai to Neral, ( a tiny town at the foothills of Matheran) and then take a taxi up. But after 8 kms or so of a winding, narrow road, you have to park the car and go the rest of the way up on foot.There are horses and rickshaws available for those who do not want to trek. We walked to our hotel but arranged for a rickshaw for my mother in law. There is also a toy train that chugs and meanders to the top but the tracks were closed for repairs.


Matheran in local dialect means 'the forest on top.' This small hill station, almost fell prey to unscrupulous builders who wanted to convert this region and build amusement parks, discotheques and concrete roads. The pristine forests would have disappeared forever had the Ministry of Environment and Forest not stepped in. It declared Matheran to be an eco-sensitive region and it is one of the few places in the world where vehicles are not allowed.

There are 38 designated look out points in Matheran that provide excellent views of the surrounding hills and valleys. There are no metalled roads and the walking paths are made of red laterite earth. The day we reached Matheran, it rained heavily. The forest was misty. The heavy fog did not permit us to see the spectacular view of the valley below from any of the points. But the unpolluted and crisp air, the red winding paths through the thick forest, the old styled Parsi bunglows, made the place pretty as a picture.


This region has a large variety of medicinal plants and herbs. People have occasionally sighted panthers in the hills. Deer, rabbits, squirrels, monkeys and wild cats are often seen. This place is also home to a large number of birds and beautiful butterflies.


The original inhabitants of Matheran, the Dhangars, the Thakurs and the Katkaris still retain some of their old practices. The Dhangars supply milk to the visitors. The Thakurs are mainly farmers. They also gather honey and fruits from the jungle. The Katkaris are mainly hunters. Now- a- days, a lot of these people have opened up shops in the market areas and sell shoes, leather goods, home made chocolates, fudge, variety of fruit flavoured drinks and chikki (peanut brittle).


 The locals are extremely friendly and love to talk to the scores of tourists that throng Matheran every day.


My city bred kids had a lovely time exploring the forests and spotting the snakes and rare butterflies.



My children christened this tree as the 'Mushroom tree'.






However much we progress in technology and science, there still is no teacher better than Mother Nature.


Photographs courtesy Sourendu Gupta.

29 comments:

  1. What a beautiful place. That snake is also beautiful and unusual looking. It must be fun to ride around on horseback through the woods.

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  2. I, too, am fond of riding on horseback in the country on my island of Oahu. David and I haven't done that in years. Our fave spot was Makaha. We should take the time to do it again soon.

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  3. Have been hearing about d beauty of Matheran for quiet sometime now..have seen d opics of my frnds..this article describes d wonder of d hills so beautifully..brings in joy wid d and d pics add to d wonder.

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  4. simply lovely photos, thanks for opening the wonders and beauties of your country to so many of us who will never be able to travel so far.

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  5. Beautiful!

    Are there any mosquitoes or chiggers in those woods?

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  6. What absolutely stunning photos. I am so glad it was left natural.

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  7. so peaceful looking place. That snake blends in with the green around him.

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  8. An interesting place to visit... noted down and would be looking forward to visit this palce someday! not sure if I wold be able to do the horseriding bit of it

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  9. lovely pictures.i remember visiting Matheran as a kid...about twenty years back. I'm pleasantly surprised to know it still retains some much green.

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  10. Oh my!
    What a beautiful place!
    The pictures are wonderful.
    Thank you, I so enjoyed your post!

    Margie:)

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  11. बहुत ही प्यारी जगह है यह। जानकारी के लिए आभार।
    ----------
    डिस्कस लगाएं, सुरक्षित कमेंट पाएँ

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  12. Back to Nature. Yes, we all like to return and learn and feelthe wonder that is Nature. Nice pics. Saw that green snake last week on discovery channel.

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  13. i was trying hard to find my size in that shoe rack.....

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  14. wow its bwautiful.... didnt know a place like this is near Mumbai... it will be really sad if this beautiful place ever gets into the cluthes of industrialists...
    thanks for sharing with us :)

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  15. Looks like you had a lo9vely mini trip.

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  16. Excellent pictures and narration. I feel like packing my bags and visiting Matheran.

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  17. Those mushroom are edible right? I love the snake and the butterfly. I bet its very cold there..

    By the way, I am trying to generate some support for our daughter. I entered her into a Smile Contest, so if you could please vote for her (just once), the contest runs until October 31st. Your vote would be so much appreciated.

    To cast your vote, please go to this link. Please look for Jillian Rylie Cottrill.

    Thank you very much for your help!

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  18. I was born and grew up around Matheran, however never discovered it the way you have...you hae some amazing shots of the place, the forest life and as usual...lovely naration :))

    best
    -nivi

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  19. Your blog is wonderful. What a nice, peaceful place, Matheran.
    It`s like a miracle of mother nature. Amazing photos.
    I`ll visit you more.
    Thanks for this post. Great !
    Hugs
    Regina Goulart - Brazil - Rio de Janeiro.

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  20. Aparna,i was waiting for your come back...what a wonderful place to spend a good time with our loved ones.The pictures are very impressive and i don't need to compliment you on your narration...great as always!!My fav. is that shot of colorful bottles and the woods.

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  21. Dear All, Aparna, who wrote this post is away for a while, and hence is not able to convey her thanks to all of you individually. On her behalf, I thank each one of you for writing in and expressing your views on the post.

    Sujata

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  22. Beautiful, beautiful photos. Everything looks so alive! Glad you all had a nice time and, thanks for sharing this with us. I love going vacationing with you guys! LOL

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  23. If you are the one who have clicked them, then have to admit that you have a good eye for details. Keep more coming about places.Thanks for visiting me

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  24. So many years in Pune, and yet to see Matheran.

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