Monday, July 11, 2005

Matheran - Day 1

I went to Matheran for the weekend with some of my classmates. This was the first trip outside Bombay. Unlike the other hill stations in India, which have all been built by the British (except for Kodaikanal, built by the Americans), this seems to have been built by the Parsees living in India.
I started from my home in Andheri at around 4.30 pm on Saturday and went to Dadar station. We first went to Kalyan and got another train to Neral. There is a narrow gauge train from here to Matheran. Unfortunately, the train was cancelled that day due to fog and light rains. So, we took a taxi up the hill, at Rs. 50 per person. We reached the taxi stand within 15 minutes, and some sections of the road were steep. There were a few waterfalls along the way and people were wetting themselves under it. It brought back memories of trips to Gangtok and Darjeeling, where the ‘hills’ were much higher and the roads were very narrow. The view of the valley below was gorgeous, and there was this single Adivasi village down, below. The actual hill-station of Matheran was closed to traffic and only men and horses were permitted up, after paying Rs. 25 for adults and Rs. 10 for children as ‘capitation tax’. The sight of rickshaws pulling up old people and people with luggage appeared as an anachronism. We started walking up the dark, cobbled road through some light drizzle. One of the power cables had fall down and the area plunged into darkness from time to time. We saw a bunch of ‘youthful’ tourists walking down, which gave us an idea of the tourists we would see there.
After 30 minutes of walking, we reached the market place, and the place we stayed at was quite close by. The room was not all that great – we had concrete platforms instead of cots and a bed placed on it. There were 4 such ‘cots’ in a room and we had a 50% off-season discount – Rs. 550 for one room. Once you go up the hill, the cost of everything increases by Rs. 5.
We went to our rooms and went to this place ‘Hookahs and Tikka’ in the market for dinner. The place was not that great – tiny portion of food at more than the normal rates in the plains. Moreover, there was a blackout and there were gaslights into which thousands of insects created hara-kiri. After seeing the toilet facilities on the hills, I took some tissue papers from the restaurant, just in case, which proved immensely helpful on Sunday. Some of the guys went to get drinks – they got a bottle of vodka and came back to the room. Surprisingly, only three guys drank and we crashed soon after.
(continued...)

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