"Better carry your warmest sweaters and shawls... Its a HILL STATION... It'll be way more cold than Pune... Why do we need an AC room... ? "
These were the snippets of conversations that were taking place as we were planning our Matheran trip. With bags loaded upto bursting point with blankets and jackets, we caught the early morning train to Neral from Shivaji Nagar station. Taking video shootings of trains going past and hollering in the tunnels as our train sped through them were just a few of the crazy things we sleep deprived maniacs thought of. After feasting on omlettes n cuttlets with great music for company (courtersy AirWind's speakers and power output of first class train compartment!), we finally reached Neral.
Unfortunately for us, we couldn't get tickets for the toy train to Matheran. Hence we hired a van to take us. A short drive awaited us during which I was sure I was going to fall out of the window of the van as I sat on my friend's lap for lack of space. (Yeah yeah I know I wouldnt have fit through that window, but still!!) We reached Matheran and we are bombarded by people from all directions to hire a horse or a coolie for our luggage. We shook them off with a smug expression and a haughty look saying "We'll walk it." If I remember well, one of my friends gave a a threat of physical danger to those guys harrasing us to take a horse. 5 mins with our really light bags in the wonderfully cold weather of Matheran and we were panting like donkeys carrying 10 times their weight. We started looking back longingly the way we had come, hoping we'll see some signs of those horse walas.
Mercifully we caught one guy with 2 ponies. Me and Saya were chosen for the dangerous mission of carrying the heaviest bags and sitting atop the horses. That was the first time I was sitting on the horse and all I remember of that trip was my involuntary head banging and my fingers turning white because I was holding on to the saddle for dear life. In the midst of this life threatening journey, our lovely friends decided to stop for wine where in our horses started getting troubled by flies and threatened to start running around if we didnt get moving again. Although we were on horses, and the others were on foot, I cant sympathize much with them because the mental strain that I had to go through was much more intolerable than any physical strain that I might have faced. ;) Our ordeal got over soon enough and we finally reach Byke resort. After much discussion we chose our cottage which was a charming condo having a bedroom upstairs. Surprise! We actually used the AC throughout our entire journey! I mean, bless the person who thought of getting AC rooms. Hill station my ass, Pune was 10 degress colder than Matheran. And oh yeah, my cough which was not going away for a month finally got cured. Some use of the horribly hot Matheran weather!
That day we just chilled out at the resort. "Non-veg toh nahi milega" with some gujrati word added at the end ensured us that we're going to get total Gujrati style thali. The food was excellent and I think we all gained at least a kilo or two. Oh, but the weather and the jacuzzi ordeal made us lose more I'm sure. As it was dark by now and no one was in the mood to go out, we ended up playing catch in the swimming pool. An unsuccessful attempt to thrown Anup into the pool was followed by kicking AirWind out of it as he was shivering to death. With playful monkeys to keep us company and a chalta firta teddy bear Yohaan (not you Motu!) we had a great evening. Finally after dinner, it was time to get out the drinks. After 2 medium vodka pegs bottoms up, I apparently couldnt walk in a straight line. Throwing my chappal at anyone who spoke crap seemed like the most attractive option, hence I asked for my chappals to be hidden away. Thus separated from my weapon, I invented the famous "I hit you with sock!" attack. Anybody who spoke crap witnessed a lightning quick removal of my one sock, getting hit by it several times and by the time they realized what hit them, it was back on my leg. :D Priceless expressions I tell you. The kick made me fall off to sleep and miss the most interesting part of the night. Pyromaniacs with deo and flames were lighting up the night and waking up the town by screaming (Saya: "leave my hand!!", Sangeeta: "Anup come back!!!", Anup: "Can laamb dhar baulat!!")
The day probably ended with everyone huddling up in the warm blankets provided by the resort and going off to sleep in the comfortable hum of the AC. The next day we decided to "explore" Matheran. Battling against various gastronomic disorders, we set off on our better-forgotten journey of exploring Matheran. As we decided to walk it, we also had to battle lots of red sand and hot sun. Though it was tiring, there were some high points. And I just mean altitude wise.. We visited Lord's point, Charlotte Lake and Echo Point. At Echo Point, a monkey's memory will be forever changed as AirWind the great waved at him. The monkey popped its mouth open and ran off into the stream of obnoxious oncoming schoolgirls who was then pelted by stones.. I'm sure he was running to get his autograph book. Poor monkey...
We finally headed back and with some persuasion everybody was asked to bathe and freshen up. The only reason we got up was lunch I believe. A short nap later, we all rented horses to see the sunset at Sunset Point. As we set off in pairs, it was a most scary ride with patches where there was only 2 of us, the horse wala and our horses. Plus it was getting dark really fast. As we reached there we found out that the sun had given us a nice thenga and disappeared even before we'd reached. We then just explored the point and left as it was getting too dark. The ride back was somehow soothing as all of us were traveling together. AirWind's horse made it's owner proud by behaving like the wind. It felt like running behind every girl horse it saw and at once showed his grace by rearing up on 2 feet. AirWind was then asked to shift from the horse's bum back onto its saddle without touching his feet to the horse's stomach.. In all, a horse ride he won't forget in a hurry. We were dropped off near the market where we started shopping for chappals and purses. After collecting gifts for all we'd promised, we made our way back to the resort to avail the jacuzzi facility of the resort.
The jacuzzi ordeal was the most terrible of encounters as we almost passed out inside. The water was too hot and anything touching it was instantly turning red. AirWind finally figured out why his mother called him her "laal". Some of us took ten minutes just to adjust to the temperature but when we did it felt great. The floating sensation was just awesome and the warm water was soothing (though it was still turning our skin red) The caretaker offered us 15 mins for 200 bux but we fought with him for half an hour. I dont know what he did but we ran out in exactly fifteen minutes. There was no bloody exhaust and 4 people were dangerously close to passing out. Would've been extremely enjoyable if the last part hadnt happened. Again we headed back to our rooms and changed for dinner. Dinner as usual was great and was followed by a most enjoyable visit to the resort's disc. We all went in tracks and pyjamas and Sangeeta's white pyjama was glowing in the uv lights. Only 6 of us were dancing and all uncle aunties were watching. We had a Dharmendra, a Nagina and a Sapera, a Britney Spears (Saya ;)) a doped out head banger (2 actually, thanks Air Wind for the company ;) ) and a Michael Jackson on the dance floor! After thoroughly entertaining the uncle aunties and ourselves, we headed back to our rooms for some more pyromania.
The next morning dawned with the thought of travelling on those dreaded horses again. The party split and 4 of us had to go walking quite a bit for tickets from Neral. We left the hotel with grace and dignity (a minute away from being physically thrown out for being 2 hours late for check out!) and made our way to the market for lunch.. After buying really low quality chappals (mine have broken after 1 use), we all had lunch. At this point the party split again and 2 people stood in line for tickets for toy train while 4 went back to the resort for our luggage. It seems they didnt have to ride horses at all as they caught human ridden carts (dont know what else to call them :P) After quick thinking and dhakka bukki we finally got tickets for toy train from Matheran to Neral.
While coming back we had to switch multiple trains. We got down from the toy train and crossed platforms on the tracks (first time in my life!) It was a bit funny with all of us trying to clamber fast with our heavy luggage (as some people had mistakenly thought it was a 3 weeks journey instead of 3 days) We left the local at Karjat and then caught Konark express. As evening was dawning we were getting closer and closer to home and that started depressing us all. I guess the only reason we all didnt burst out crying (ok that was just me) was because there are hopefully many more trips like this to look forward to... :D