Saturday, February 29, 2020

Day trek to Matheran with Senior Citizens & Kids

I cannot believe that being born in Mumbai and spending all my 30 years here, I had never been to Matheran till now! Had thought about it many times, visited hotel websites to check prices too - but there was so much confusion around how to go, till where are cars allowed, where does the toy train begin, how much is too much walking and so on. Finally my family made an impromptu plan on Saturday night to go to Matheran the next day!


Our original plan was to take a Karjat train from Bhandup station that would drop us at Neral. But then we decided to take our own car - and I am glad we did so! Because the toy train does not start from Neral, it starts from Aman Lodge/Dasturi Car Park and goes till Matheran station/market area. Which basically means - if you take a train - then you have to take a share cab from Neral station till Aman Lodge/Dasturi Naka. And the cab drivers - they drive like crazy people! The roads/ghats are quite steep and you definitely need a powerful car and good driver to manage that. If you are not confident of covering the ghat area on your own, interesting fact - there are drivers at the start of the ghat whom you can rent at Rs.200 for driving you up till the ghat. I am not sure how reliable or comfortable that is though.


So Mulund to Aman Lodge took us around 2 hours - good roads, no traffic. There was a lot of crowd - being a Sunday I guess. We parked the car (You have to pay Rs.30+Rs.50 tax=Rs.80) and then had to take entry tickets. Entry tickets is Rs.50 per adult and Rs.25 per kid (They take this to maintain the hill station). We soon started hiking (around 12 noon). There are horses at the starting point which you can take to go up as well. They charge around Rs.350 per horse (there is scope of negotiation). If you are in time for the toy train, you can take that as well. Even though it was 12noon and relatively hot - because the whole path is covered with trees and lush greenery, the hike was not tough and we managed to climb the 3-odd kilometers in an hour. 


4 senior citizens and one 5 year old kid with me. Both my mom and aunt could not walk all the way and took a cart-ride (2 men carrying people in a hand-cart) till the market. My father and uncle and kiddo managed well. There are places where you can stop to rest as well. One you reach the main market/station area you will see crowd, monkeys and joints/restaurants to eat. Food options were okay - not so great. My advise is to book a hotel/lodge incase you want to explore every nook and corner of the hill station - all the points etc. We were only here for a day, so had made peace with the fact that we may not get to see all of it - after all, there should be something to see when you come again, right?


There are 2 points nearby the market-area from where you can see good views of the Sahyadri range - Madhav Point (It's inside a kid's park) and Khandala Point. Beware of monkeys everywhere - they spot you with food or drinks in the open, they are going to come and grab it! They are not scared at all. I held kiddo's pack of chocolates and literally threw it away when the monkey came towards us - you should have seen my kiddo cry at this. ROFL.


Since kiddo is a train-enthusiast I absolutely did not want to leave without making him experience the Toy Train. So while the others headed for a late lunch, I headed to the station to book the tickets. You cannot pre-book tickets or book them online - you have to simply stand in a long queue. Unless you are booking first class tickets - so if the 6x cost does not bother you and you don't want to spend an hour waiting in the queue, then ask for 1st class tickets before they're gone.


The toy train is a narrow gauge train that slowly makes it way back to Aman Lodge/Dasturi Car Park. The scenery is nice, and it's a good experience - but not as great as the claims were online. Maybe it's enchanting in peak winters when there is fog. We wanted to be back to the car point before sunset as we did not want to drive the steep ghats in darkness, and we were back home by 7pm! I will definitely be back during a better season to visit the points we missed out - specially Echo point. And try the horses this time.

1 comment: