Saturday, June 13, 2015

One Tree Hill Night Trek Notes, Matheran

People tend to have a gap year from work/ studies. I had a gap year of a different kind. It was from treks and 2014 was one such year. So, I was pretty excited for the first trek of 2015 and also a trek after a very long time. A night trek to 'One Tree Hill Point' at Matheran was planned, leaving 23rd January’15 evening and returning back by 24th January’15 evening. The hill station, Matheran is at situated at a height of about 800 meters above sea level and is located in the Raigad district of Maharashtra state of the Western Ghats range. The word 'Matheran' means 'Forest on the forehead' of mountains. The close proximity to Mumbai and Pune makes it one of the most popular spots for a weekend getaway. Matheran is an eco-sensitive region and it is Asia's only 'Automobile-free' hill station. 'One Tree Hill' as the name suggests is just one of the 38 points that one can cover in Matheran and funnily, its named after a small cliff that has just one tree on top of it. Talk about naming someplace literally! 

The gang at Karjat station
I came to know of this trek through a common friend who could not make it and I decided to join the group for this trek. Planned by Salman, there were 8 of us including me on this trek. The group assembled at CST station to catch the 7.55pm fast train to Karjat. Since the train travels on the central line, Kurla station being closest to my place, I decided to hop on from there rather than meeting everyone at CST. Coordinating I did get onto the same coach, but due to the rush hour, I could not meet the group until the crowd thinned past ‘Dombivali’ station. The usual pleasantries and we reached ‘Karjat’ railway station at 9.30pm. Couple of people; Adesh and Apoorva were biking it down directly to Karjat from Panvel and were running late and finally did arrive by 10.50pm. Since, there were no vehicles available, Salman coordinated with the nearest wine shop dealer to arrange 2 rickshaws to drop us off till the base village ‘Ambewadi’. The rickshaws agreed to only drop us off till ‘Boargaon’; 3kms prior to ‘Ambewadi’. Departing Karjat at 11.15pm, we proceeded on a 45mins ride to ‘Boargaon’.

Start of our trek
3kms isn’t much for the rickshaw to drop us off considering they were headed back to Karjat town, nevertheless, we did have to walk down the cemented road. There were couple of poultry farms en route and the stench of a cramped up coop was unmistakable. We were equipped with just a rough directional map suggesting the route to be taken to reach the base village and after a while, we were quite skeptical whether we were on the correct path considering that the only company we did have apart from us was village dogs barking in the distance and no passersby to confirm. Initially, it is always quite tough to walk down a dark road, but the eyes accustom to the darkness and it’s quite simple. It was very pleasant as well walking under starry skies that have an eerie mix of calmness and a continuous blanket of silence. A 200 metre detour and quick team meeting suggested we had to continue down the original road till the base village to actually start our trek to ‘One tree hill’. The village fresh water well is the last source of water if one does wish to refill their bottles.

The team meeting discussing our route
Once you arrive at the village fresh water well, there are two paths; one that goes to the left and the other that goes to the right. The path to the left needs to be taken since the path to the right leads into the village. It is a very gradual and easy climb and bodes well for beginners. Doesn’t tire one out easily, but again we were on a night trek; heat wasn’t a factor for us. One of the village dogs and her pup followed us on the trail and we assumed that they would let go the moment we passed the village perimeter. But, the passion for a trek hit them too on this clear starry night and they decided to accompany us as well. The pup was quite energetic at first, but the gradient was a bit tough even for her. There was one tricky rocky patch that comes in between that we passed around 2.45am. I cradled the pup in my arms as we climbed this patch. The pup dozed off in my arms with my body warmth providing comfort from the chilly winter weather. 

Pup sleeping whist we trek :)

Post that patch, we decided on pitching our tents and camping for the night because we were running quite late and would have reached the summit only by 5-5.30am and would not have had time to set up barbeque and eventually sleep. So, at about 3.30am we started on pitching our tents and setting up the fire for the barbeque.

BBQ being set up :)

Jyotsna, Nivedita and Manish were the vegetarians and were busy assembling their stuff. Adesh and Salman were collecting the stones, firewood and dry hay for the fire and Amey was being assisted by me in setting up the tents. Amey had a 5 person tent and Salman had a 3 person tent.  I carried my 2 person tent, but wasn't required since these two tents were more than enough. Salman carried the marinated chicken as well as coal for the BBQ. It took us about half hour setting it up and everyone settled in. Considering it was a night trek, the mandatory ghost stories formed a feature though it was not received well by the girls. Being two days post the new moon night, moonlight wasn’t much of a feature on this night, but the innumerable stars provided quite a spectacle. The climate was quite pleasant with the occasional wind providing the chills. 

BBQ :)

BBQ in full glory
Dawn was setting in at around 6.15am with devotional songs being played in the villages below. We noticed a group of villagers trekking towards Matheran town for their daily work schedule either as guides, horse ride jockeys, street food/ chaat dish sellers, small general store owners, helpers at small eatery joints, etc. Deciding that the time was right, we decided to call it a night or rightly, morning and slept off. Lots of village passersby were quite intrigued by the campsite and we could hear loud whispers and giggles as they kept peeping into our tents passing by. The wind was quite strong and it was quite difficult to catch a wink with the added screeches and screams of the monkeys and ‘langurs’ who had woken up. The pup had woken up and fearing that the monkeys could harm her, we pulled her into our tent and zipped it up. Initially, he was quite comfortable, but after a while, we had to let him out as he started getting restless without his mum.

My Moto E capturing the moment :)

One Tree Hill :D
We woke up by 11.45am and quickly wrapping things up at our campsite, we proceeded to finish our trek. One must ensure not to litter the place and carry the garbage/ waste products till one finds a dustbin. Just before the summit, we noticed a village couple heading back to the village and they informed us that the summit was just 15mins away. The final climb was quite demanding with the heat hitting down our backs. We reached the summit at about 2pm. The views of the valley are truly stunning through the final patch till the summit. The path to climb this small cliff with the tree is possible, but very very tricky. 

Salman leading the way through the forest :)

Me doing the Usain Bolt pose ;)

Amey pointing the summit :)

Apoorva ecstatic

Manish pumped
The tricky path to climb this cliff is visible from base of the tree leading downwards

Salman suggested that we have lunch at ‘Shabbir Bhai’s’ which is considered one of the best biryani joints in the area and quite famous. Located bang in the centre of the market place in a small bylane, the restaurant cannot be viewed from the main market lane and one would need to enquire to locate the place. But, it’s a must visit the next time one does visit Matheran. It has a decent range of vegetarian cuisine as well. The restaurant is at a distance of 5kms from ‘One Tree Hill’ point and we reached the place by 3.30pm. Being an automobile free hill station, the only modes of transport in Matheran are walking, horse ride or one of those trolleys pulled by a person. Walking is the best mode as one gets to soak in the sights and the sounds and there is no time constraint, though one must keep all valuables and eatery items safely tucked away considering the population of monkeys that reside all over this region.

Walking the streets of Matheran :)
We had decided beforehand that our descent would be from the normal road route to enter Matheran that would drop us off at ‘Neral’ railway station. Share cabs from the main gate to Neral are available in plenty. 5 people in one ‘Omni’ van and it’s a 20-25mins downhill cab ride covering 14kms to the station. There is a toy train also available, but that would take about 2-3 hours to cover a distance of 21kms and with the time constraint, we decided to take a cab instead. Toy train isn’t functional during the monsoons for risk of landslides. But, the walk/ part trek up of 21kms by the tracks from ‘Neral’ station in the monsoons is quite special with greenery and spectacular views keeping you captivated. I have done this trek and would suggest it if you have the time on you. Upon reaching Neral station, we all caught the 7.58pm fast local to CST. A wonderful night trek camping under the stars can definitely be termed ‘a night well spent’.

Matheran Railway No. 740 preserved in the UK at Railworld in Peterborough

The engine used presently :)
The toy train was commissioned in 1901 and operational for the public since 1907. The start and end point for the toy train is from 'Neral' station and not from 'Karjat' station. Neral is one station prior to Karjat. The slow ride gives one a lots of picturesque views of the region and opportunity to take a lot of good pictures and to observe nature in full glory as it snakes its way through the forest. The occasional hoot of the engine reverberates through the region announcing its passage signifying glory and victory. Families of monkeys scurry up and down trees and some energetic ones run alongside the train hoping to snatch food carelessly minded by the passengers.

Post trek at Neral station :)
Pup enjoying the view with Nivedita :)

Adesh and Jyotsna

The rough trek route that we took from Karjat station to the summit :)

Costing per head:
·         Train ride from Kurla to Karjat and return  Rs. 50.00
·         Rickshaw ride from Karjat station to Boregaon – Rs. 300.00
·         Lunch at ShabbirBhai’s; Matheran – Rs. 160.00
·         Cab ride from Matheran gate to Neral station – Rs. 70.00
·         Marinated chicken for BBQ – Rs. 100.00

P.S: Some of the pictures in this blog are from my Moto E phone.

Twitter Handles:
Salman - @salmanrangwala
Amey - @ameyjw
Narayanan - @MeanderinTravel
Adventure Lovers - @AdvenLovers

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anjali gupta said...

Nice pictures. Matheran is a quiet, serene hill-station, which has managed to maintain its tranquility despite being thronged by a large number of tourists every year. Also, for tourists accommodation, check out these Matheran hotels available in reasonable prices.

Prash said...

Yea Anjali Gupta! It's a lovely place. Glad you liked the write up and pictures. Nevertheless, we didn't opt for a stay there. Will check out your recommended accomodations :)

Kushal said...

The blog is helpful to very good extend. Thank you for that. And can you help me with any transport details from Karjat to boregaon or ambewadi. It would be real helpful ! Thank you once again.

Checkin Konkan said...

Smallest hill station of India located in Raigad district of Maharashtra state offering mind refreshing sceneries and awesome sunrise and sunset. It is about 90 km from Mumbai and 120 km from Pune. There are 38-40 mind blowing lookout spots in matheran like Louisa point, Panorama point, Monkey point, Rambagh point, Heart point and many more.
There are several Hotels, Cottages, and Resorts available for stay in Matheran. If you are planning to visit this superb destination with your family and friends or solo, visit at below link for more information and hotel booking

Hotels In Konkan
Hotels In Harihareshwar
Hotels In Kashid
Hotels In Diveagar
Hotels In Murud Janjira
Hotels In Matheran
Hotels In Shriwardhan

Ashwin said...

Matheran is a best vacational trip with family. Loved reading this blog. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post in this blog. It helps people to plan for trips. Make your trip in SRS Travels and comfort your journey with family.