I was landed in Bombay for the first time in the year 1978 and immediately fell in love with it and its surroundings. In fact one travel just 100 km away from the city one feel that he is very close to nature. After shifting to Bombay I had visited almost every hill station of India except the closet one to Bombay i.e. Matheran which is only 90-95 km away from the city. It was only yesterday we visited this hill station.
Our journey started from Lokhandwala at 6 AM. First reached Andheri station by auto rickshaw, then local to Dadar. From Dadar we took a Karjat bound local train, got down at Neral. It was a hot sultry morning at Neral. Neral is a junction of Central Railway, the place from which Matheran Light Railway (MLR) start its journey to Matheran. The railway line was a dream of Sir Adamji Peerbhai who was Sherif of Bombay. The work started in the year 1902 and Peerbhai’s vision was translated into reality in five years time. The project costed him approximately Rs.16 Lac, which was a princely sum at that point of time. It is situated on the top of hill surrounded by dense and deep forest . This narrow gauge train takes 2 hours to reach Matheran. The serpentine train route covers 22 km. in high and low of hill. During the rainy season for four months the train service is suspended for The track has the maximum number of curves on the zig zag hilly terrain.Not surprising, this rail route has been recommended to be listed as UNESCO heritage site.
In case one wishes to go to Matheran by a car, shared taxi or minibus, it takes only 25 minutes from Neral but lacks the thrill of Toy Train. Another problem is the vehicles can not go inside the Matheran town, the vehicles are allowed upto Dasturi Naka, which is 3 KM before the town, the only means of reaching the town is riding on a horse ala Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, man pulled cart or simply walking on foot or just walk the distance along the railway tracks to reach your preferred destination! The walk should not take you more than an hour from Dasturi Naka. A huge parking lot is maintained by the Matheran Municipal Council at Dasturi Naka to facilitate tourists.
Matheran town is very small in size , the entire activities are centred around market close to tiny railway station. The main market is the place to do all your shopping for leather goods particularly ladies chappals, purse, Chikki/fudge for which Matheran is famous. Kumar Plaza, Ketkar, Ramkrishana, Garden View are some of the restaurants close by to Station in the market area serve good food at reasonable price. vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian food at moderately price.
Once in Matheran you again have a couple of options – go for long walks in any direction and you are bound to visit some ‘point’ or the other or refer to the map that is printed on the reverse of your entrance ticket to visit all the 38 points marked therein. Our research revealed that a max of 5 points are worth the visit and while visiting them you will visit maybe 20 others by default! So, to begin our point visitation, decided to visit the Sunset point aka Porcupine Point. If you wish, you can take a minor detour and visit Lords, Eco, Louisa points . If one has more time andpatience, then visit Alexander point ,Rambaug point ( considered to be a fine sunrise point) , Chowk Pt. (southernmost), One tree Hill point and Panorama point (northernmost).
Last but not the least, Matheran is one of the most eco friendly place. You will not find any concrete or damar road inside the town. There is no petrol/ diesel run vehicle except lone emergency van in town hospital. Definitely all these endeavours have helped purity of air, serenity in the area. But in the name of eco conservation, lot of depleted structures are left as it in the market area,tourist place needs some face lift. Each and every tourist entering in the town has to pay Rs25/- are charged from every visitor to the town but still nothing substantial is done for them, on the entire market road, main park no proper loo is there. God knows, where this entry money is spent ? To me lot has to be done to improve civic facilities so that the tourists should go back with pleasant experience.