In my pursuit of the details of Maharashtrian Food and ingredients I make short dashes into the countryside and am always on the lookout for places to stay within a few hours drive of Pune.
Several of these have been delightful finds like The Hidden Oasis near Saswad. More about that later.
Recently a friend and I took off for Matheran, a place so near and yet -so far. It is impossible to get accurate information online on how to get there. So many conflicting accounts of trains and timings and distances exist, it was difficult to plan the journey.
To help those poor souls sifting through the chaff here are the grains:
Be warned : THERE IS NO TOY TRAIN RUNNING BETWEEN NERAL AND MATHERAN. Just a short 2-3 km portion at the end of the line.
From Pune: Take the Sahyadri express which leaves at 7 am. Get off at Neral. ( 10.10 am) Just outside the station is a cab stand. Hire a full cab for Rs 350 or a seat in a shared cab to Dasturi for Rs 70 .
Dasturi is 8 kms up a very steep hill and is the last point for cars. There is a Forest Car Park .
An Entrance fee to Matheran has to be paid here. Rs 40/- as of today.Tickets for the train can be purchased here as well. Rs 35/- per person.
300 metres from Dasturi is Aman Lodge ,the boarding point for the toy train. It takes you 2 ½ kms up to Matheran station. The train does not run between about 11.45 and 3 pm in the afternoon.
You can also take a coolie to carry your bags and walk along the mud pathway to Matheran. Another option is a bone shaking ride in a hand drawn rickshaw. Place for 1 person only in the rickshaw. The third option is a horse ride up the last bit to Matheran.
Be prepared to shell out between Rs 150-250 for the coolie or the rickshaw. If you are not taking the train, any of these other options provides employment for the locals and we were happy to hire a delightful woman porter called Lata who cheerfully hauled our backpacks up the path.
The same options exist from The Matheran station to The Verandah in the Forest. Its about 1 ½ km ( 20 minutes of a leisurely walk) down an uneven path or a 10 minute horse ride away. It is not advisable to take a rickshaw….unless you want to feel the effects for several days after.
It’s best to travel before dark because it is pretty difficult to find your hotel thereafter. Remember to carry a torch, a stick to chase off monkeys, band aids for sore feet, a first aid kit for all other minor problems and beer for the major ones. There is no wine shop in Matheran and very little in the way of alcohol available anywhere else.
Return to Pune: The last toy train in the morning hours leaves Matheran for Aman Lodge at about 11.15 am so get there in time. Take a cab down to Neral as before Rs 70 per seat. Take a fast local to Karjat from Neral …12.45 pm./2.03 pm , 4 10 pm, 4.45 pm
Catch the Nagercoil Express 1.50 pm or the Hyderabad Express 2.15 pm, or any later train to Pune.
To and From Mumbai: Take a Fast local to Neral. Return the same way. Fast and slow locals ply to CSTM every half hour or so. Follow the route as defined above.
Matheran is a lovely place for long and quiet walks with incredible views of the surrounding valleys.