I, like everybody else in Mumbai, am in dire need of a break come weekends.
The fast life takes a toll on you. Even five days of commuting to work, slogging in a heavily air-conditioned workspace, breathing in the occasionally mysteriously stinking polluted air, sweating and walking shoulder to shoulder with millions of people trying to make ends meet, just like you… Just five days of this are overwhelming enough to make you scamper away for a while, just to gain perspective on life.
There are several tiny weekend getaway places around Mumbai. The more popular ones get so crowded that you find yourself right in the middle of the chaos you ran away from. But that doesn’t mean that these places aren’t beautiful. The only thing is, timing is essential to enjoying and soaking in the richness of these places.
Matheran is one such place, a popular little hill-station just a local train-ride and a cab-hire away. It’s so close to the city and yet such a contrast, that you forget about the city you’ve been calling ‘Home’ as soon as you reach. One of the most noteworthy things about Matheran is its No-Vehicles Policy. There are no vehicles allowed in Matheran beyond Dasturi Point. In Mumbai, sometimes I wear my headphones even without music, just to cut out the traffic noises. In Matheran, wearing headphones feels like a sin because the only sounds you will be drowning out would be the wind and birds and the clip-clop of the horses passing by.
There are two means of reaching Matheran from Dasturi Car Park- walking or horse ride. Alternately, there are also hand-carts for older people or those with a lot of luggage. I have never ridden a horse before for more than ten minutes, so I jumped at the idea of riding one for almost 4 kilometers, to the hotel. D, my travel partner, and I found a guy with two horses and started our journey through the mulch and trees. During the horse ride, the horse-owner talked all the way to our destination. He talked about how people like him, from the mountains, feel suffocated in cities. He told us about about the prices of the horses, how they are traded in Nagpur, how they are brought all the way to Matheran and trained… My horse, named Abhimanyu, was a favourite amongst tourists, he told us. D’s was called Mowgli who was a little stubborn but was liked by kids because of his name.
The horse ride was one of my favourite things about Matheran. There was a nip in the air and I could smell the trees and the wet, red mud. These smells are hard to describe but those who know how a forest smells in the monsoons, know how precious these little things are.