Lost and found explore India's tiniest hill station

May 10, 2012, 07:05 IST | Fiona Fernandez

India's tiniest hill station might also be one of the most frequented; here's a fresh take on Matheran by a trio of frequent explorers who have compiled a book about its lesser known sights and sounds. The authors, Shailendra Patil, Sunil Patil and Yogesh Chavan have zeroed in on five must-do experiences in Maharashtra's favourite weekend hilltop destination

Various approach routes
Typically, to reach Matheran, people travel by the tar road or the mini train. But besides these, there are several approach routes to the hill station. We suggest a few trekking routes that make for a great way to reach the top: The first is via Bhivpuri station to Garbut Point, the second is from the south side i.e. from Chowk village, through Ambewadi and Nigdichi Patti, to emerge at Matheran’s One Tree Hill. The third and most interesting approach is via Dudhani village to Sunset Point at Matheran. This trek follows the route from Northwestern side. These treks offer beautiful, scenic views of Matheran, and as you climb upward, you can snatch glimpses of its picturesque villages, surroundings and valley down below. As you gain height, observe the remarkable changes in the flora and topography of Matheran’s landscape.

Mango Spring
Mango spring is an aloof spot, which is less frequented by people but more by winged visitors. Bulbul, Drongo, Paradise Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, Indian Blue Robin, Brown Cheeked Fulvetta, Red Spurfowl, Asian Palm Swift, Grey Wagtail, Jungle Babbler are some of the many common and rare birds, which visit the Mango Spring everyday. Once in a while, the South Indian Tree Shrew also appears to sip water and quench its thirst from the spring. It’s a perfect location to spot birds, particularly in the wee hours of the morning. The view that one gets from here, of the various birds is breathtaking.

Yellow Thigh Spider and South Indian Tree Shrew

Vetaleshwar Valley
Situated along the Northwest side of Matheran, this valley is one of the less frequented portions of Matheran. While most tourists prefer to explore Vetaleshwar on horseback, the path to Vetaleshwar is best experience walk on foot. The Vetaleshwar valley offers a wonderful view of the Panorama range; if you're lucky enough on a clear day, you might be able to spot the tiny caterpillar-like mini train worm its way on the extreme bend of the Panorama range. At the far end, you can soak in a breathtaking view of the deep valley down below. Depending on the appropriate season, you will be able to spot see a variety of rare wild flowers. Butterflies and birds are also a huge draw in this valley.

Matheran in the rains
Though the last few years has witnessed a spurt in the tourist numbers to Matheran in the rains, the general view is to avoid the area at the time. On the contrary, Matheran is at her natural best during monsoons, especially if you decide to trek via the approach routes. Crystal-clear streams, gushing waterfalls, a flurry of rare insects and wild flowers welcome you at every bend. Getting soaked in the monsoon downpour and walking through cloud clusters make for a heavenly experience. The cool weather of Matheran won’t tire you and makes for the perfect weather for endless treks. Besides, Matheran being at such a height allows for water to flow off the sides with no water clogging uphill whatsoever.

Points to remember
>> Best time: October-May
>>  Avoid: Littering en route or when you reach Matheran; it’s an eco-sensitive zone; dispose your trash at the end of the journey
>>  Carry along properly-charged torches with spare batteries for your night forest trails. Take the help of a local expert/guide. Matheran’s forests appear more dense at night.
>>  Avail of the GPS-generated maps from this book, which have been enlarged and provide detailed zone-wise mapping

What to carry
>>  Walking shoes w Sun block/ Rain gear w Safe drinking water w Energy snacks, biscuits w Torches w Extra batteries w Cameras

Night Life of Matheran
What is hardly known to most travellers is that Matheran’s flora and fauna has a nocturnal side as well. Some flowers bloom only at night. Reptiles like the Deccan Banded Gecko and snakes like the Common Wolf Snake and the Bamboo Pit Viper can be spotted after sundown. Mammals including the Bat, Indian Field Mouse and the Palm Civet emerge from their homes can also be spotted. Insects like the glowworm and several species of moths can be seen around midnight. Owl species as well as eight-legged creatures like the Yellow Thigh Spider and the scorpion are best seen at night. Extreme care should be taken while looking out for these nocturnal creatures.

Rare and precious
Matheran is a protected forest area where no vehicles allowed inside its limits except for hand-pulled rickshaws and horses. Matheran is 2,570 feet above sea level. It’s forests are mostly dry, deciduous, which are home to diverse flora and fauna including several rarely species like the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, White Rumped Shama, Brown Wood Owl, South Indian Tree Shrew and the Giant Squirrel.

About the book
Matheran: A Practical Guide, Yogesh Chavan, Shailendra Patil & Sunil Patil, published by Rainbow Adventures. For a copy,  log on to www.rainbowgroups.org or send an email request to yogichavan @yahoo.com or call on 9324716956. 

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