>Travel Pictures



September 2007

Matheran is a 'hill station' outside of Bombay, a place that the British upper class used as a retreat from the stifling heat of the city. It is located on a mini-mountain that took us about 2 hours to get to, but that must've taken more than a couple of days back then. We went up to check it out for the school's upcoming "Week Without Walls" trip, and then spent a night enjoying the nature trails.

It is a pedestrian town, so we had to take a school van to a parking area 3 or 4 km away and then either hike or take a horse up. With the group going, we all walked (as that was what the students would be doing), but we promised the kids that we would be riding horses later. We did, however, hire a porter to carry our bags up for us (that just sounds exploitative, doesn't it?)
It is a timeless place that thrives on tourism - mostly by Indians, but occasionally others make it up there too - so finding friendly faces was not too difficult. We were welcomed by the people up and down the main bazaar, and felt very much at ease as we got ourselves settled. We saw refreshments that ranged from from roasted corn to juices and sodas to little tiny fish that are kept alive by being wrapped up in damp leaves (yup, that's what they are pouring out below). YUMMY!

And the white people are always a fun attraction as well. We had 4 or 5 people - usually couples - come up and want to get their picture taken with us, and many of the kids in the town would ask us to take their picture. 

The boys were, of course, usually the most boisterous about it - shouting out from below the footpath that we were on. But it was always done in a fun manner - especially when we'd walk over to shake their hands!!

Never once were we asked or harassed for payment - they were just excited about seeing themselves on the video screen afterwards.

The other crazy thing about Matheran is the monkey population. There are rhesus monkeys all over the forests surrounding the town, and they have learned to be very bold, approaching people and demanding (or taking) things from them. We saw a couple who were out eating in our hotel verandah attacked by some monkeys who were after their food. They grabbed the steel bowls right off the table, spilled food everywhere, and then screamed and chased the guests away.
One came after Susan as she was carrying a bag of sweets that she bought, but Breck and dad threw rocks at him and chased him away before he grabbed the bag. (The monkeys also set the stage for the best quote of the weekend. I'll leave it to you imagination what was going on when Breck shouted out, "Look, Dad, that monkey's giving the other one a piggyback ride!!" Bareback ride is more like it...)

We spent most of the time we were there wandering through the many trails that crisscross the woods. 

Saturday afternoon, we went to 'tea' with a family that bought an old British retreat home. Built in the 1800s, it had been abandoned for more than 30 years when they purchased it. 

Lovingly restored (quite a feat considering there is no motorized transport to the town or their home), it was a super jumping off place for us to walk to Monkey Point. 

While the Monkey Point views were fantastic, 
and the wildlife gorgeous,
the place didn't quite live up to its name as there was not a monkey to be seen.


As we headed back through the forest, we were set upon by a herd of cattle. The kids had fun petting them as we went by, but Breck was a little worried when one of them started following him around! 

When we finally made it back to town, the kids and dad had fun climbing trees and watching a goat demolish (and eat) a cardboard box while mom bought some candy for the evening.

Back at the hotel for the night, we were able to splash around in the outdoor pool for a while, although it was pretty darn cold.

We had to wait until 8:30 before dinner was served (and even then it was spicy vegetarian Indian food. We kept saying to ourselves that we should go elsewhere for food, but never got around to doing that. Mom and the kids lived on breads and rice for both days!!).
Walking to the mess hall, we stirred up hundreds of tiny frogs along the way, so that completed our wildlife quota for the day (Breck had counted 157 monkeys as well - quite a record!!).

The next morning was spent teeter tottering, as the kids played on the equipment in to corner of the hotel (and took turns bouncing each other high into the air!!). We decided to take advantage of the (relatively) cooler morning and get some exploring in before we had to head back, so we picked the path heading to Ragbam Point. 

a path leading right past the old pasha!!

and into the depths of the jungle!!


Apparently that applies to humans as well, as - just past the "New" hospital - we came across the old 'infectious cases ward' way off at the edge of town. Hope there aren't still some long living germs floating around!!

Passing the tumbled down remains of houses that really weren't all that old emphasized to us how quickly things in a tropical environment can fall apart. 

When we got to Ragbam Point, Breck decided to do a little rooster hunting after slipping on a wet cliff's edge (giving his mother an instant heart attack), and Alea modeled a beautiful flower garland we picked up along the way.
At Ragbam Point, we looked out over a haze settled valley and tried to imagine what life must be like for the woman we met there washing laundry at the edge of the chasm. The difference between our lives and hers is almost unimaginable, and the appreciation of that fact is one of the most important gifts we'll probably get from our time here. 
We passed several other women coming and going on the path, and each time it was a reminder of just how good we really do have things, despite our petty complaints and worries. Pretty deep thinking for a lovely Sunday morning.

Our hike took us around Charlotte Lake - a brown reservoir - and past several other lookout points. We stopped for a cold drink at the Barr House, which apparently is the hoidy-toidy place for foreigners to stay in Matheran. While we were there, we met another new teacher at the school (you can check out his website about life in India), as well as one of my students. So much for anonymity in the woods!!

Ready to call it a weekend and head back to Mumbai, we saddled up our horses (ok, we didn't saddle them up) and started the trek back. That's our luggage porter above - Alea wanted to keep her backpack on.

I suppose we weren't too far out of line - next time I come up, though, I want to ride in the human-drawn cart!!

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