Matheran – Mother Forest

Oma H. Barnett

Matheran is the smallest hill station in India. It is nestled atop a slender ridge in the Western Ghats mountain range. It’s located near two major metropolitan areas, Mumbai and Pune. Its serene beauty is accentuated by its prohibition of motor vehicles and marred by the habit of tourists to commit suicide.

The word Matheran means Mother Forest. It was a popular tourist spot in the early 1800’s; tourist traffic is slower today. Still, it is common for people to visit for a day or two to slow down and unwind from the urban bustle of the nearby metro areas. The march up road to the plateau where Matheran is located will get your heart pumping and the endorphins flowing. The abundant and dramatic scenery will give you plenty to look at while you make your way uphill.

Matheran is a city frozen. It has not progressed beyond the colonial period. The people of Matheran have carefully preserved its old world charm. The buildings are of the Raj Colonial style.

Matheran is a placed of forced healthful exercise; well, you can also hire a horse or pulled rickshaw. There is an abundant opportunity to hike the hills and gaze at the beauty of the surrounding Mountains. Even within Matheran, natural beauty abounds. The forest grows up to the very doorsteps and Matheran has a rich animal population, including the Matheran macaque monkeys. These devious little thieves will snatch food straight from your hands as well as any belongings that they think might be edible. So, be cautious if you decide to take a walk to Charlotte Lake for a picnic.

One of the famous suicide points at Matheran There are no vehicles. No roads in or out that allow them. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry declared Matheran an eco-sensitive area. Most visitors reach Matheran by train. The nearest train station is located at Neral Junction; the walk to Matheran is 20 kilometers uphill from there. There is a toy train that runs to Matheran from Neral several times a day. It moves slowly and takes around two hours to complete the journey. You can make reservations and it is advisable to do so for a first class compartment to protect your assets, as first class seats are padded.

The absence of air pollutants and the high altitude, make Matheran an exceptionally good place for stargazing as the air is crisp and clear and the stars seem to pop against the night sky.

Just like the forced exercise. Matheran forces you to relax; mainly, because there is nothing much to do, but relax and enjoy the scenery. And the scenery

is spectacular. Matheran is surrounded by sheer cliffs on several sides. These have names like Porcupine Point, Honeymoon Point and Panorama Point.

The one ugly spot on a vacation to Matheran is that you cannot reserve a hotel as a lone traveler. Hotels will only book to groups of two or more. The reason for this is that in 2005, the local Municipality told local hotels that they should refuse to book in single male guests because so many came to Matheran to commit suicide. A single traveler is automatically thought to be a suicide seeker, and refused accommodations. The statistics are something like a suicide every other week. There are several speculations why there are so many suicides no one actually knows why it happens.

Visiting Matheran is a unique and breath-taking experience.

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