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 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 :)|
|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 :)|
|Matheran Railway No. 740 preserved in the UK at Railworld in Peterborough|
|The engine used presently :)|
|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.
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