The Hiker's manual
Matheran has for over a century provided respite from the chaos that is Mumbai. Carpeted in emerald-hued forests, it's a great spot for hiking and trekking. A new book, titled Matheran: A Mountaineering Manual by Swati Mahajan, Dr Rohinton Mehta, and his wife Rupa, acts as an exhaustive guide to 60 routes that snake through the area.
"The book took us about four years to research and document as it required extensive networking with other senior mountaineers, villagers and local guides," shares Rohinton. Each of the 60 routes is classified according to the technical difficulty and the endurance level required to complete it. "Once you start climbing, you will want to keep discovering newer ways to go up," says Rupa.
Rambaug Forest Ramble
(Pokharwadi to Rambaug Point) GRADE: Easy | TIME: 3 hours
With no steep climbs, this is one of the most gentle routes in the area. The path begins at Pokharwadi (you can take an auto here from Chowk or Borgaon Phata). From here, take the mud road that heads north, towards Burujwadi.
After about 10 minutes of walking, you will arrive at a bridge over the Katwan stream. This will be followed by a short climb to the right, after which — just before Burujwadi — you will reach the first of the four plateaus en route to Rambaug Point. From Burujwadi, the route climbs gently towards the main Matheran massif (via Chowk Point). Once you're at the second plateau, you will encounter wild karvanda (bush plum) trees, where you can indulge in juicy berries if it's the summer.
From this point, the route moves onto the third plateau, then the fourth. Here, you will find the enchanting Rambaug Forest, locally called Chowki, which offers splendid views of Morbe Dam and, if you walk a little further, of Alexander Point in the north. Here onwards, the route continues up gently and brings you to the viewing galleries of Rambaug Point.
One tree hill
(Ambewadi to One Tree Hill) GRADE: Medium | TIME: 3.5 hours
It was in the year 1850 that Matheran was discovered by Hugh Poyntz Malet, the then collector of Thane district. And this is the route he used to first make the ascent.
To traverse this historic path, take the tar road from Chowk to Ambewadi. The route from this point is a straight walk of around 1.5km up a long ridge. You will then enter a small plateau with a well and a cemented boundary, after which you will find yourself in the lush Varosa forest, to the right of the well.
The trail will now start going upwards. Along the way, stop by the open-air Ganesha temple. From here, take a right into a long nalla towards the rounded hillock that is One Tree Hill (also known as Shivaji's Ladder; features steps cut into the rock). From this point, the top is at a distance of 500m. Matheran Market is about 3.5km away from here.
Experienced climbers may also attempt going from One Tree Hill to One Tree Hill Point, which, although only five minutes apart, can be quite treacherous.
The beatrice cliff assault
(Burujwadi to Beatrice Cliff) GRADE: Difficult | TIME: 5.5 hours
"We are not aware of any other hikers who have attempted the Beatrice Cliff assault route. It is a first ascent by us," shares Dr Rohinton Mehta. And there's a good reason no one takes this route lightly — there is no real path; only a nalla climb over the Katwan river waterway, over rocks and boulders.
This route is best attempted between December and May, when the nalla is dry. Don't venture here during the monsoon, as the gushing water from the nalla will make your climb slippery and dangerous. If you're starting out from Burujwadi, the authors also recommend taking the help of a local guide from Katwan village to negotiate the final 30 minutes of the tricky hike.
It's a straight path north from Burujwadi, along the main nalla. At one point, you will find the route going under a large boulder — scary yet thrilling. The hike ends at Beatrice Cliff, at the railway track.
* Although Hugh Poyntz Malet is credited with the discovery
of Matheran, it is believed that Captain Henry Barr of the Bombay Infantry had already made two ascents of the hill station before Malet attempted it.
* The first telegraph connection in Matheran was established in 1857, and water taps first made their appearance in 1927.
* One Tree Hill gets its name from a large, battered jamun tree that once stood at the top.
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