Memorable Matheran

It was my last weekend in Pune and wanted my make my visit most memorable, so we chose to drive to Matheran. 

Day 1:
It is about 120km from Pune and we started relaxed at about 10am and had a stopover at the Khandala Valley view point on the Pune-Mumbai highway for a photoshoot. It was about 12.30pm and we continued our journey. 

Khandala Valley
We had another stopover at the Highway over the bridges at the Khandala valley ghat. Here you can get amazing views of the Highway with its bridges surrounded by deep valleys. 
NH4-Mumbai Pune Highway
After an hour journey we started to ascend through the Matheran hills and we passed through a small waterfall on the roadside and had another break playing in the cold water and then started our final stretch of drive. Another 30mins drive took us to the parking area before the entrance of Matheran. Yes you heard it correct, there is no entry to motor vehicles inside the Matheran town. Although there is no designated parking place here, but the small mud routes which descends inside the forest is safer to park. Unlike the Western Ghats, the forest here has no wild animals; it was hard to spot birds also here.  Since it was a peak season we had to drive a long way inside the forest to park our vehicle and had to walk back a long way to enter Matheran. 
Mud road used for Parking inside the jungle
We had not expected the weather to be hot here; to our thought it was like any other hill station. But our expectations went wrong, the temperature here was warmer than Pune. We were dehydrated by the time we started walking inside Matheran in search of hotel. By the time we reached the entrance arch of Matheran it was 3.45pm and we were exhausted and hungry and in search of hotel to stay and relax.
Horses do the job for transportation here.
The hotels over here are overpriced and in less numbers, since we didn’t do a pre-booking we had to struggle to find a hotel. It was about 2.5km walk to the city center, which was most tiring and not at all pleasurable. The reason being hot sun, humid climate and dusty road. There is no separate walkway here, the road is filled with thick layer of dried horse dung which often rises when wind blows. So we choose to walk through the railway track to avoid the dusty roads filled with horses and carts. We had some snacks and juice on the way to get some energy till we reach to the hotel. We could manage to find a hotel to stay and relaxed a while and started towards the city market to have our dinner as it was already 7.30pm.
Everything in Matheran is overpriced and the hill station itself is overrated. After the dinner we started towards alexander point which is another 2km walk from the city market area. We could get a glimpse of the valley in the moonlight and we relaxed here for some time. It was total silent here with no signs of humans or animals here. What turned out to be a disappointing day, to our surprise gave an amazing end for the day with beautiful stars above. We were unaware that Matheran is one of the most popular spot for star gazing in India, unfortunately we forgot to carry the camera, but the experience was unforgettable. After gazing through the stars we started to walk back to hotel.

Day 2:
It was Sunday morning and our plan was to trek to Panorama Point to experience Sunrise, we started very early at 5am. The earlier day we had Googled the sunrise timing at Matheran which was at 7am. The trek route on Google shows about 5.5 km from Matheran city railway station. We started to walk towards the entrance arch as it was shown on Google, but when we asked the route to the house riders they had to say its 7km walk and few of them even forcing us to take the horse rides saying it is impossible to trek so far in dark. They were charging about 600Rs/person one way, which is way expensive and not worthy, we choose to use our foot instead. In fact few of them misguided us to take the wrong side to see the sunrise at the Khandala point, we decided to stick to our initial plans and started to speed up towards the parking area, and when we reached the parking area, we enquired with the guard and he directed us to the right path inside the parking area route. We had no choice rather to follow the advice from the guards. We used our mobile phone torches as it was dark inside the forest area. The trek route took us inside the forest and when the time was about 6.30am we had a glimpse of a valley which we started to believe is the east side(from where the sun rises) of the valley, we had no clue about which is the ultimate panorama point. Some of us even believed that we arrived at the destination, but later we were not satisfied and we continued to walk further and we entered the woods again further and later trek route started to deviate on the other side. Finally we reached at some point where we could get a view on either sides of the hill, and we started believing this is the panorama point. To our surprise what we believed till now was the east side was actually west side of the hill, after seeing the light coming from the other side of the hill. 
Signs of sunrise on the other side of the hill
It was about 6.45am and we started to take some snaps and wondered what’s beyond this place and trekked through the final part of the route and we were surprised to see a lot of people at this place. Till this point of time we were all alone and believed we were the first to arrive (in fact we were the first to arrive by trekking in the morning, as the rest had camped here over night).
If you see this on your way to Panorama point then your on right path
Overnight camping
The trek route ended at an ultimate point which is supposedly the actual panorama point, it was about 7am. We were in a belief that we reached at the perfect time for sunrise and trust me this was a perfect panorama point with 360 degree view of the valley both on east and west side. 
The trek route ended here, the ultimate panorama point
It started to get brighter and we were disappointed as no signs of sun being visible with an impression that sun is hidden behind the morning mist. But we were amazed to see the sun ascending from the bottom in light orange color. It was the first time I seen a sunrise like this. It was amazingly beautiful, had never imagined sun rise can be so beautiful. 
The beautiful Sunrise
Some poses with the Sun
In love with the beauty of sunrise
Finally our mission was accomplished after a lot of hustle and bustle. 
The valley down with the toy train track as seen from the panorama point
Horse stand waiting for passengers down the Panorama point
This was our way back
We then headed back towards the city and decided to go to Charlotte Lake which was about 7km walk. The trek back to the city was tiring as the sun was getting hotter; we had our breakfast at the market area before we reached the Charlotte Lake. This was a total disappointment; we then walked to the Lord Point. 
Charlotte Lake
Lord point is unprotected with fencing so can be quite dangerous as it is a cliff end. There are a number of viewpoints here, all of them giving the same view of the valley. 
View from Lord point
We started descending towards echo point passing by the cilia point, King George point and Edward point. The echo point is about 600m from Charlotte Lake. This was another disappointment as there was no noticeable echo coming back as we screamed, but the view from here was worthy. 
At the echo point
Louisa Point as seen from echo point
close up of the Louisa Point
There are a number of viewpoints further from here like Louisa Point, Porcupine point, and Monkey Point, all of them facing the same valley on the west. So we skipped them and stepped back to our hotel to checkout and started back to Pune at 3.30pm. I believe Matheran is best experienced in monsoons and by Train from Neral to Matheran and back. 
On our way back we had our last stopover on the NH4 to enjoy the sunset.
Sunset at the Mumbai-Pune expressway
This could have been a perfect end to our journey at the panorama point and an unforgettable last weekend in Maharashtra.