"The silence of nature is very real. It surrounds you...you can feel it." - Ted Trueblood
They say Mumbai is a land of opportunities. Everyone here is in a hurry and the city is always abuzz with sounds of the local trains, traffic jams, vendors shouting on the streets, and people chasing their destinies in all directions. A moment of peace and calm is a much coveted thing amidst this chaos, but this is the one thing the city cannot offer. Luckily, it is possible to take refuge in the little havens lying on the outskirts of the city.
One such place is Matheran, which by the virtue of its location in Western Ghats aptly means "forest on the forehead". Just two hours away from Mumbai, it is often touted as the smallest hill station in India. You can reach it by taking a train to Neral, and then either a toy train or a taxi onwards. As you approach, the difference in temperature is palpable and the open spaces are an instant balm.
This is what the roads in Matheran look like
My first memories of this place are filled with horses and lots of monkeys. I was surprised to see that there are hardly any roads. Vehicles are not allowed inside, and horses and hand-pulled rickshaws are the only modes of transport. The hamlet, with its red laterite soil and abundance of trees, has been declared an eco-sensitive region. There are several viewpoints dotted in the area, all of which are easily accessible by foot; hopping from one point to the other fills up the day. Though some of them offer gorgeous views, it is best to soak in a few peacefully rather than try to cover each one as part of a packed itinerary.
The sun going down at the famous sunset point
Hiking all day in the lap of nature, feeling the slowing down of time as I got lost in my thoughts while sitting at the edge of a cliff, the place uplifted my spirits like no other. With a camera in my hand and feeling far from exhaustion, I was spoiled for choice whenever the path forked. After a long day, my friends and I had a good night's sleep at a homestay, but not before enjoyed the quintessential bonfire in the jungle, complete with spooky conversations and the ubiquitous howling of dogs.
The tranquil Charlotte lake
It's hard to describe Matheran in words, but there's something about the place that isn't there in any other hill station I've been to so far. Its eco-friendliness, virginal, pristine quality, endless wooded paths where one could gladly hike all day and still not feel tired, the ease of going from one point to another, beautiful panoramas everywhere, make Matheran one of the best places to unwind.