It all started as an email from Gautham (Visapur, and Peth-Kothligad). He mailed the original Orkut gang about a night trek to Peb, and a 'stroll' to Matheran. I was enticed about sleeping in a cave, walking into Matheran without paying the entry tax, etc. Only Shishir and Aditya did not join this time. The plan was almost cancelled at the last minute as the person who knew the trail was not coming. Fortunately, he (Rohit) confirmed at the last minute and I started packing my bag. This time there was no arranged bus or taxi, we just took a local train from Dadar to Neral, and started walking from Neral station.
It was late in the evening, and the sun was just about to take a dive. We started walking towards Peb fort. We took a lost of rest stops, and as it turned out, it would be one of the easiest patches of the trek. By night, we had reached a patch of rocks, climbed up it and came to a ridge between two peaks. The view from there was awesome. From there, we were saw a huge rock and thought we had reached the peak, but when we went up, we came to another clearing and another cliff, which we thought was the peak. Even that was not the peak, we still had to climb. From this tiny clearing, we climbed up that rock face, and came to another clearing and another rock-face. This was not the peak, yet. We saw two paths circling from that clearing - one to the left was 'blocked' by a jutting rock, and we realised we had to crawl under it to reach a set of caves. The other way was a very narrow path which led to a different set of caves (the main ones), but the path was missing at some places, and only some footholds carved into the rock face. We didn't want to take a risk in the darkness, and decided to camp in that clearing. We had our dinner - bread, butter & cheese, chocolate bars, and teplas. It was beautiful, sleeping under the stars.
The next morning, Gautam and Andre decided to explore the two routes.
They found out one led to a set of caves, and another led to the original caves and a ladder. We decided to take the ladder route and started walking. The ledge was very narrow, and at some places, the trail abruptly stopped and reappeared a feet ahead. We found out that we were at one end of the fort, and our destination was the other end, and we had taken a different route.
We reached the caves. Two gurus were supposed to live in the caves (and they were said to meditate for months together in the other set of caves). We thought they were like those Himalayan swamijis, totally away from civilization, rolling ganja and smoking pot. They were not. We did not see them at that time. We walked through a set of slippery patches, with very little foothold and hand support, and reached the pinnacle. Surprisingly, this pinnacle had a well maintained (with modern tiles) samadhi or something. From up there, we could see Matheran's Panaroma point, a lake in the distance, a watchtower ahead, and lots of monkeys. The pinnacle even had a tall makeshift flagpole attached with a ladder.
We didn't know where to go from that place. But, in the ledge below, we could see some people waving at us, and we decided to walk down. We quickly found out a steep trail, and took that down to what we thought was a village. It was the temple where those swamijis lived, with a heifer, and a dog.
All through this while, we were overcautious about water and carried about 4 litres a head, which turned out to be an overkill. But, better safe than sorry. One of the swamijis prepared tea for us; he turned out to be part-time swamiji, doing his MBA, and had come up for vacation! They told us the correct way to Matheran, and we proceed towards Matheran.
It turned out to be one scary experience. Earlier it used to be a simple trail that went along the mountain, and joined the railway road to Matheran. About a year back, the trail had been washed away in mudslides, and what remained was just a narrow path which went missing at places, filled with scree, and loose rocks. We inched our way towards Matheran, careful not to slip and fall anywhere. Thankfully, the railway people had put up some ladders at crucial places, without which this trek would've been impossible. At one place, Gautam, started slipping down, and Arjun, the unshakeable guy, started shouting for help. Thankfully, Gautam did not fall down, and we reached the railhead to Matheran.
We walked along the rail route to Matheran, towards Matheran. It was a scenic tour. We could also see many places were the rail road was washed away, or covered with mud from last year's mudslide, blocked by huge boulders, etc. Unfortunately, there was one guy who was waiting at the tracks, and did not allow us to go ahead; instead, we had to walk through stinking horse-stables, through the main entrance. In Matheran, we befriended a nimbu pani seller, went to his house (for a fee), had a bath, had lunch, and took off for sight-seeing. We went to most of the places from my first Matheran trip. Unlike last time, it was very dry and dusty this time. Late in the evening, we took a taxi to Neral, and headed off to Mumbai.