The Mumbai-Pune Highway stretched out in front of us. Its sides were beautifully lined with the red sparkles of the Gulmohur blossoms. Ahead of us we could behold the mountains that rose shyly from the embrace of the clouds as they lazily caressed their crevices. Our trip to Matheran had begun and we were getting ready to be ensnared by its magic.
Lying coquettishly on the gorgeously green Mumbai-Pune Highway Matheran is quite the idyllic getaway that lures tired souls on wet monsoon weekends. Though the cool and pleasant summer months helps this eco-sensitive hill station witness a fairly large footfall on its pristine geography, it is the monsoons that make it definitely more alluring. Perched at an elevation of 2,625 feet on the dynamic western ghats, it beckons and cajoles visitors to fall prey to its irresistible seduction every monsoon. Wet and dripping with mists that hang from every bough and ledge, it helps to soak in your weariness and exhaustion like a sponge and leave you breathing fresh and energised.
As we alighted from our car, we walked into the eager arms of the ‘Ghodawalas’ or horsemen, Matheran’s very own version of the Uber service. Being well-known as an eco-sensitive hill town, Matheran authorities are very conscious of maintaining its pristine surroundings. Therefore cars are not allowed after a point. You will either need to hire a horse, a hand-pulled rickshaw or if you are a fitness freak, walk up the cobbled paths. With a bad back pain, a horseride on a bumpy mountain road did not quite appeal to me. I decided to walk. As my husband busied himself by chatting up with the horse man leading our daughter on one of her first horserides, I trudged along huffing and puffing behind them. There were moments however when I felt luckier as I beheld the poor rickshaw pullers panting along the sharp bends. I could not help feeling sorry for the poor men as they pushed and pulled their grinning passengers seated regally in the tin carts. Nevertheless, they did amaze me. While I almost skidded in the red slush squishing beneath my sneakers, these men had the earth firmly beneath their feet.
I stopped at times, to get my breath back that was being snatched away mercilessly by the beauty of the surroundings. As I panted up , my path was frequently blocked by the clouds that broke out in a mystic dance twirling and twisting around me and leaving me dazed and bewildered. Was this heaven? I wondered.
The rain pattered down incessantly leaving us happily drenched. Other than keeping our camera dry, none of us felt the need to cover up. The path went through deep vegetation on one side while the other side showed signs of habitation. The hotels and lodges therefore overlooked the forests and some were also set amidst these lush greenery. It sure is a haven for botanists who love studying its diverse flora.
Our hotel was a disappointment! Nevertheless, we did not let that deter us from making the most of our weekend. Post lunch we set out (with my daughter yet again on horseback!!) for exploring the reasons that made Matheran the enchantress casting her spell over one and all. Our first stop at the Charlotte’s lake and the valley view adjacent to it gave us the answer. The sheer drop into the valley below gives you goose pimples. Nevertheless, sheathed in an emerald green carpet of lush greenery, the valley below presented a mesmerising vista.
Every turn we took and each glade we crossed was magic. The honeymoon point (I guess every hill station has one!) hidden away in a small little nook amongst the hills, was another beautiful surprise. By the time we reached the spot, the sun had decided to peek out from behind the clouds. As we turned the corner, the gilded clouds painted a unique picture.
On our way back, we were engulfed by a fog thick and opaque. We almost saw it approaching slowly till it almost embraced us in its dense embrace. If it was not for Ram, the horse driver we would have probably lost our way in the woods. Not that we would have objected though. Nevertheless, we returned safely to our rooms tired but refreshed. A feeling we have never experienced before. Matheran no doubt plays its magic in more ways than one.
The next day we started our journey back. Before we were half way down, the rains started. This time it was not the gentle pitter patter of the day before but a strong torrent. It drenched us ignoring the feeble pleas of our umbrellas. My sneakers were ill-equipped to bear the torture and threatened to give way to the slithery slush that having being fed generously by the rain, had slowly started to create havoc. It was getting increasingly difficult to keep my balance. As I tiptoed down the slippery path, my speed decreased making me an easy target to the onslaught of the rain. Drenched, soaked and dripping in slush I reached the car parking point surprised to find myself smiling despite everything. Matheran was not a hiking trip nor a trekking expedition. We never planned to indulge in adventure sports while we were there. However, somehow we managed to get a little bit of everything. Hence our simple family holiday was liberally endowed with an all new thrill. Is this then the Matheran magic? I wonder !!!