Monday, July 24, 2006

Matheran Trip

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Walk
because in the end, this has been a very different - and fun - trip.
Chandra's trip to Mahuli got cancelled on the last minute, and just when I was resigning myself to a weekend of TV, beer and overeating, Nair came to me in the guise of an unlikely saving angel asking if I'm on for a trip tomorrow. The hardest part of any trip is getting everyone together to begin, and this was no exception with Tension Trip Tewari (me) arriving precisely 3 minutes before the last train was due to leave. (Interestingly enough, I arrived in the same train that we were supposed to catch.) Why? Because the original plan to meet at midnight at Dadar at midnight suddenly became meeting at VT with 45 mins to go. While I was peacefully having a coffee in the glistening wet orange-black world that's Dadar at night.
Bombay's a monochromatic mirror world late nights in the monsoons, everything with it's inverted doppelganger in the puddles, everything in stark shades of halogen and shadow. Here and there the odd glitter of Gova sachets at the paanwallas, white fluorescents and cops in neon yellow slickers.
Met up, got on, started off. D had a new route to try out; instead of the old well-trodden path from Neral to Matheran, we went onwards till the next station, Sevpuri / Bhelpuri / Panipuri / no, Bhivpuri Road. Apparently this was a path so untrodden that the train driver waited five minutes to see what we were up to before moving on.
Bhivpuri is a classic Station From Nowhere, sitting like an island in the wilderness. We found a samaritan - Mr. Ravi from one of the villages near Bhivpuri. He took us till the village, showed us where to sit around till dawn and left an open invitiation to just yell for him if we needed anything. There are still some people in the world who'll help you for no reason at all.
Cool walk down to the village in pitch darkness and no human habitation in sight, no signs of life. Nair kep saying he could see people coming, he could see people coming, whooo-oo-oo right uptil the point when two figures materialized out of the fog coming from the other side. Gave us almost as nasty a start as we gave them, but no more I-see-people comments from there on.
At the village, we crashed out in the verandah of the village school. Left several cig butts there which must've excited some serious comment the next morning.
We started walking at dawn, and 2 forks later, we were completely lost. We were heading for a plateau called the Garbat plateau. Where we actually ended up was paddy fields, cactii, rain-swollen streams, bush, and all-out jungle where we had to hack through the foliage to get through.
Finally we realized we were close to civilization by seeing a half-rotten pile of rice in a plate.
Then it's just a short step to finding a village, finding chai shop and cigarettes to charge up. Trying to light wet cigs with wet hands and wet matches under a wet jacket is heartbreaking.
From there, just grab autos to Neral, cab to Dasturi, and walk up to Matheran.
Matheran was cold. Cold like you wouldn't believe. The reason we're looking blurred in this pic is because of the high-frequency shiver that's set in... subzero rain and wind. And as we walked up, the wind got colder, the rain heavier, and we arrived at Bazar Peth in a cloudburst and dense fog. The Blair Witch Experience just doesn't want to leave me...
The walk up was also pretty good with Chow getting slapped by a monkey, and me explaining scientifically to him how he won't get rabies. The monkeys, of course, didn't get the benefit of the discourse so avoided Chow like the plague for the rest of the stay.
Breakfast was hot bhurji and chai, greedily watched by either a very bedraggled monkey or an extremely ugly pendulum clock. And a cameraphilic mongrel. (That's the one on the left.)
Finding a place to stay in Matheran is equally adventurous. You get surrounded by touts and agents like barracuda, and get to hear about the bad personal hygiene, vices, failings, and general disrepuatability of all other agents. Finally D got us into the Rangoli Retreat which was class. Hot water, blankets, coffee, and rain and fog outside the windows...
Since I was the only one with a change that was still dry, everyone else was forced to have lunch and dinner dressed in Tshirts and towels commandeered from the Rangoli.
Crashed out and slept like the dead until evening. Then ordered in massive quantities of daru and played Taboo and dumb charades till 2 AM. And with an advertising / media crowd, dumb c's are at another level altogether. Started off with 13-word titles, switched over to alphanumneric single-word titles, had a brief stint with Italian and French names, then finished off with C-grade hindi semi-porn. Watching someone try to act 'Basanti ki shaadi, honeymoon Gabbar ka' when thoroughly smashed is some of the best dumb c's can offer. Got so taken up that we continued till next afternoon; A had to act 'Ghaghre mein dhoomdham' on the platform.
An old man was shocked.
For the trip back, we stocked up on the Matheran rain jacket, which is basically a full-body condom with openings for the arms and head, and crackles and rustles like the icky sections of Fear Factor when you walk.
Here's the mandatory group shot on our way down; note the extremely happy expression on my face with the sprite bottle. Describing its contents will probably get this blog blacklisted, so I won't.
And here we are, finally on track. Would you believe this was an accidental photo?
Trip back fairly uneventful. Hit Dadar at 4, didn't feel tired, so charged off for Pirates 2.

Things to remember from this trip -
Carry a torch
Buy some sports slip-ons or floaters with grip
Carry a map or hire a guide

But we need to do this again. Properly this time.

See the photostream here or d/l the pics here.


Queen of Hysteria said...

Hmm... feel all nostalgic! Having spent 2 years at the foothills of Matherans (campus - MBA), your blog brings back all the memories!

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