“Every time I see something new,I feel alive a little more.” This is the reason why I love travelling so much.
On 24th Nov,2015 I went on a solo trip to Matheran. I have always wanted to try solo travelling and know if it is as liberating as everyone says it is. The idea hit me during my exams,late night when I was cramming the notes which never got in my head. “Travel more,travel solo,live life to the extreme,”this is what I would always go around advising. It was high time that I took a taste of my own medicine.So that was it. My solo travel days were to get a kick start.
Initially the idea was to go to Rajmachi. I did my research and the trek difficulty was a little high. Being unsure of myself,I started looking for more places to trek around Mumbai. Then came across Matheran. Now every trek guide blog/article will mention that Matheran can be explored in a day and it is actually very true! It is the smallest hill station in India,located on the Western ghats range. I planned on going early in the morning and coming back by night,as I thought a small trip would do to give me confidence for bigger solo trips.
So the night of the last exam when everyone was busy getting sloshed,I slept early. I told my friends about my plan,they all called me crazy first. “What will you do alone there?”,”Are you okay?”,”Don’t go alone,what if you get robbed/raped/kidnapped?”,”Bhai!You can’t even walk straight. You’ll fall down from the hill and we wouldn’t even know where to look for the body.” Period. No one encouraged me for this.
I woke up at 5 am and for an hour I was struggling with getting reception on my phone. I was considering this as a sign from the universe warning me not to go alone. But the little voice inside me was just screaming to get me out and explore. Went with my intuition and headed to the station. From Parla reached Dadar station and I realised that here getting on train is the first priority and next is your life. From Dadar you have to reach Neral station and from there to Matheran. A train ticket from Dadar to Neral costs 120/- Really doesn’t matter because no one checks. I traveled without a ticket. A one and a half hour train journey to Neral,no one to entertain you,not even your phone. You know,it was actually great that I had no service on my phone. I was paying attention to present around me. The variety of life you see in train is very thought provoking. Sometime later I shall describe in detail about it.
MATHERAN JUNCTION,I reached! Finally! I saw the huge line and the toy train. I had two options to myself-First,take the toy train,view the beautiful scenery and reach matheran in 2 hours (Toy train moves at a snails speed. Sit only when you have the time and patience) or take a taxi and reach in 20 minutes. I chose the second one. I chose to go in a share taxi,one in which they make 5 random people sit and divide the money among them. Waiting for the taxi,I asked one couple if they could lend me their phone to make one call. My,my the suspicious look i got. “Why are you alone? Who do you want to call? Sorry,can’t help. You can’t trust anyone now a days.” despite showing them I had no network. Even the taxi driver showed the same suspicion. I understood their concern but I am just 5’2″ and literally look like harmless squirrel. The same couple were with me in the sharing taxi though.
Anyway,the road to matheran is narrow and quite safe. Even then you can see a little glimpse of the beauty of the hills. The taxi drops you at the taxi station and from there the only means of commute are horses,rickshaws or your legs. I stopped at a small dhabha,had a meal of tea and the most delicious misal pav I have ever eaten.
After charging my energy,I got my entry ticket to matheran and headed to the market,exploring the area. There were young people on horses and I saw a couple of old people going up the hill on foot. “Are Beta,we are fit and healthy. Make us walk,run or climb.” They inspired me,getting my adrenaline rush high. I started asking around the way to Panorama Point and if I could get a guide up till there. The thing is you won’t get a trek guide but you can get a horse and a person who can take you wherever you want. Being all pumped up,I decided on going up to the point by foot and asked the guide to come after me with the horse.
PANORAMA POINT- The path up till Panorama point is narrow and because of the heavy rains it is broken with loose stones. It is covered with dense forest on both sides. You won’t see crowd there anymore,maybe because of the broken path. But I’ll strongly advice,anyone who goes to Matheran,must visit Panoroma Point. People would go to Monkey and Heart points,not worth it. Those points look likes ants from the Panorama Point. The fact that it is isolated adds more to its beauty. Once you’ll reach the top the view and its’s feel will just take you in. A 360 degree view of entire Matheran city.
I was glad that I had the horse up there,was too tired to walk all the way down. Took me an hour to reach up and half an hour to go down. Fun Fact:I am shit scared of horses,never sat on one before. This was my first time and since there was no one with me to encourage to do this,I am proud that I conquered this fear on my own.
Coming back down,I stopped at MTDC resort to make a phone call. Again the questions,are you alone? I spin a lie that my parents are in the market area and I have lost track with them and yay!They allowed me to make a call. After this,I with all my strength trekked up till the main market because beyond it all the other points are there. This time,being all tired,I rented one horse which cost me around 1k,agreeing to showing me all the points.
LOUISA POINT: I first headed for the Louisa Point. There are about 118 points in Matheran. The road diverges into two,one for Louisa Point and other for the Sunset point. The mud path is covered with thick forest on both sides with okay condition. Except for Panorama Point you’ll find crowd almost on all the other points. The horse doesn’t go beyond one point and you have to walk from then. My,my,my! I must have said that Panorama Point is the best but the view from Louisa point is 10 times serene. Wish I had someone to click my picture there though(drawback of travelling alone).
ECHO POINT and HONEYMOON POINT: After experiencing the beauty of Louisa Point,I headed for Echo and Honeymoon points which comes in the way. Now Echo point has local shops where you can eat and play games like shooting etc. I personally didn’t like Echo Point much maybe for the fact it seemed a bit commercialized.
“Is this a couple meeting spot or something?”,my first reaction to Honeymoon Point,but no. It is point were there are many many beehives,hence the name honeymoon point. You have to go down for this point and on your way you can spot many tiny bees hovering here and there,so be careful! Also,watch out for the monkeys. As long as you don’t tease them or have food,you’ll be fine.
Charlotte Lake: After a meal of maggi,I headed for my last point,Charlotte Lake. It took me aback. See the sky,the tress and in the clear water of the lake,the exact mirror image of the sky and the trees. It was beautiful. On the road to the lake,you’ll see a old house with angel statues. Had it been foggy,it would have been a perfect horror movie scene.
So,that was it. Charlotte lake my last stop and then it was a goodbye to Matheran. My first solo travel and what an experience. Scared and unsure before the trip,more confident and sure at the end of it. I must be alone but I have never felt so safe before. With only you pushing and motivating yourself to walk a little more,learning to be more aware of your surroundings.I would now like to suggest everyone to travel alone once in their life. Especially females,don’t worry. Just do a good research about the place and be cautious,you’ll be fine. You learn more about yourself,your limits and your strengths. I told you that I was afraid of horses,at one point I was riding a horse on my own. Conquering fears at a time. Check!
Had I had more time, I would have seen the sunset at the Sunset Point,one tree hill point and go stargazing there. I reached back Mumbai by 11 in the night. Slept like a baby,still dreaming about the exhilarating views I got to see.