I thought Matheran would be the easy trip. It is only 3 hours from Pune in the mountains. A peaceful place….what was I thinking…
My driver, Vikram is wonderful, he stops the car whenever I want to take a photo; and, there are so many amazing photo opportunities.
As we near Matheran the road becomes very bumpy, very steep, and very narrow. It reminds me of an old wooden rollercoaster. My stomach was doing somersaults.
The entrance to Matheran is a madhouse. Hundreds of people are standing there, crowding around the car, yelling in Marathi asking if you want a horse or rickshaw. My driver tells me to make sure my cameras are hidden. A wave of fear hits me…I am going to be left alone in this madhouse……
Vikram speaks to a number of people and finds someone who speaks enough English to get me to the hotel…I leave with him. His name is Laxman. He asked if I knew how to ride a horse. Nope, I don’t. This is real riding, not ‘following a trail’ riding. “I’ll teach you,” he says. “Hold on tight, don’t let go.”
He finds the tallest horse I have even seen and puts me on it. I can tell by the look in the horse’s eyes it knows I’m clueless. It doesn’t listen to me at all. Laxman has to keep coming back to make the horse move. Then, of course, the horse runs unexpectedly and I almost fall off… I’m glad I listened to Laxman and was holding on tight.
“The Lonely Planet Guide to India” says it’s an easy trek to the city from the entrance…not really. It’s an hour horseback ride (some of it galloping) to the hotel. You have to wait on your horse until everyone before you is on their way. A lot of the ride is through forests with beautiful views and the rest of the ride is through the town itself. I almost ran over someone…really! I turned my horse just in time. Everyone was yelling for the poor man to jump out of the way. The locals were incredibly amused by my lack of horse riding skills.
When I get to the hotel, the owner tells me I never confirmed my booking….
But I have this sheet right here..
That’s just a quote sheet…
But I told him on the phone I wanted the room….
Oh, you have to confirm by email…
Don’t worry…we have a room for you….and by the way, we don’t take credit cards.
Oh, don’t worry, there is an ATM about 10 minutes down the street. Just ask anyone you’ll find it…
I am the only non-Indian in the entire town. Everyone is staring at me. A few people grabbed my arm to look at me and ask where I’m from. People stop and take my photo. I have seldom been this uncomfortable. I smile, bow, and say Namaskar and the stares break into smiles and nods. But, I am exhausted after so much bowing and nodding!
I finally get to my room, it’s sparse, and relatively clean. I have adjusted my expectations to more reasonable ones while I am in India. Tomorrow I am taking a horse tour around the Matheran forests…no galloping! I never realized how much your abdominals and inner thighs have to work when riding a horse! I feel like I have done a thousand sit-ups.
As I am writing this there are insects the size of horses banging on the windows trying to get into my room. And, some of them have found their way in…shiver…
With all this being said, I wouldn’t go back and change this trip. It’s a ‘must experience’ while in India. I do, however, recommend you don’t do it alone. It’s a safe town, but can be very overwhelming.
Day 2 in Matheran.
I got up early and went for a walk to one of the many vista points, Alexander Point. Monkeys are everywhere! The views are spectacular!
After coming back from my walk I sat down to have breakfast on my deck. A monkey comes down and steals my sugar. Now all the monkeys know I have food… and they’re coming after it! Of course, I have a video of my intense conflict with these Matheran thieves. There was screaming (by me and the monkeys) and spoons thrown! They are fierce!
At 9:00am Laxman arrives and takes me on a horse tour of the Matheran vistas. It’s just amazing! I am a little more comfortable in Matheran. I’ve gotten used to the stares and the numerous people stopping me to take photos of the “American on a horse.”
The horse liked me a little better today and Laxman encouraged me to have the horse go into a full gallop… Man this horse can run! Getting him to stop was the hard part and considering there are steep cliffs everywhere, I’m lucky I didn’t run him off into the valley.
Laxman took me to the Matheran Valley Crossing where you pay 250 rupees to hang from a harness and zoom across to the other side of the valley! Its 900 feet across and a 1000 foot drop! A complete blast!
It’s 2:30pm and it started to rain again. My horse-ride back to the parking area will be a wet one.
Words and photos cannot capture the incredible beauty and uniqueness of this town. I had some wonderful, once in a lifetime experiences, during this visit!
If you go Matheran, ask for Laxman Nagu Akhade 94 04561631 or his brother Naresh Akhade 94 21966313. They know the best places to go, and their horses are very well taken care of.
If you need a driver you can call or email Vikram. Email: Vikram_more@yahoo.com Mobil: 98 50508756 or 98 81060505. He will take you anywhere and will keep you safe too!