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Published: November 4th 2007
My favorite picture
the pack horses going back to matheran junction to get more stuff!
Exit mayhem, enter idyllic peacefulness! I had a very exhilirating 3 hour car ride from Mumbai to Matheran - the excitement ranging from cows and goats in the road (nothing new - HONK HONK!), the driver having NO idea where we are going and stopping for directions at EVERY intersection, and then winding up a tall mountain in the middle of nowhere .... wondering ... what did i get myself into THIS time!?!? We got to Matheran junction, which is where everyone must leave their cars, and my car was literally swamped by people offering tuk-tuks and porter services. Apparently its another 3km to the town, and since no cars are allowed, transporting the people and their luggage is big buisness!
I took a minute to talk to a few of them and evaluate my options, and ended up liking a man named Pramod the best. he was to be my guide, and a 75lb, 4 foot 9 woman fought off a bunch of guys to get the opportunity to be my porter. I am not lying, this woman was no bigger than most 8 year olds, and she lifted my 18kg bag (almost 35lbs!) onto her head and hiked
it up the mountain!!! I felt so bad for packing too much!! Once that was settled, Pramod led me over to my transportation - a damn HORSE! Great. He says its the only option (the tuk-tuks were hand/manual transport and I couldn't have four guys carry me up! GEEZ!) so I sucked it up and got on the horse! Of course, I'm back in cliff terrain and having vivid flashbacks of "the horse INCIDENT" from last year! The entire trip took about 45 minutes and afterwards my thights were aching from squeezing and concentrating so hard!
Once I got to the hotel, Pramod had offered to be my local guide to all the hiking trails of Matheran, but kept insisting that I ride a horse! NO THANKS, I'd much rather walk! I just won't enjoy it if I'm on a horse! But its all steep hills, he says. YEAAAAHHHH, much MORE reason why I'd rather WALK! The trails really weren't all that bad, and he kept asking if I needed to stop, but the hiking and fresh air felt great! I felt like I was on top of the world! And from the pictures, you will see that I
was! About every kilometer or so there would be a lookout point, and we would stop and relax and take pictures. Every person we passed asked why wasn't I on a horse!?!?! I spent the evening doing the hike to sunset point, and the next morning we hiked up to sunrise point (though not in time for sunrise....I was very OK with missing that!) I met a great couple from England, John and Sarah, and we spent both nights hanging out at my hotel pool/lounge area drinking XL Kingfishers and swapping travel stories. (We met because Sarah got attacked by a monkey who wanted her chikki snack and my guide yelled out a warning at the last minute, at least saving her from the SURPRISE when the monkey landed in her lap!!!) They are traveling around India for 3 months and I must say I was very impressed!
You'd think I'd learn from the two misbehaving monkeys I saw so far, but no....before my early morning hike I decided to just grab a piece of toast and eat it on the way to meet my guide. I didn't even get 10 steps out of the kitchen and I looked
up - I was surrounded by about 15 monkeys with the big mean bully one right next to me, eyeing up my toast! I certainly don't want to mess with a monkey bite (not to mention how remote this place is....) so I just threw the darn monkeys my toast and they left me alone!! The next morning, I was eating on the pool deck with 75 screaming 6th graders (there on a field trip!) and I was thinking....safety in numbers....NOPE - one bite into my toast and there was a monkey on my lap, snatched my toast, and took off!!
My last afternoon, Pramod and I just hung out at his local tea hut watching the people, horses, and monkeys go by. It was so awesome! Also, my hotel was all inclusive, so all of my meals were these crazy conglomerations of unidentifiable veggie creations! I never knew what I was eating, but have to say, everything was quite tasty!
The next day I had a long car trip to my next destination, Mahableshwar. Again, it was on top of a mountain and even MORE in the middle of nowhere! I had to spend most of the
trip with my Ipod on full blast because for some reason my driver doesn't notice when the radio stations turn to static! He still listens to the station full blast! I have to say, this destination was most UN-enjoyable. It was a very small town with nothing but vistas to look at - but no hiking - you were supposed to get a taxi and get driven around to take pictures! The town was small with nothing to do, very poor and dirty again, and I started to get depressed after a few days. I was obviously the hottest thing to hit this town since the invention of poker machines (yes, they had little gambling shacks!) and the staring was downright out of control! The restaurant manager at my hotel would stand right at my table, hand on the chair across from me, and stare at me the entire time I ate! (Not to mention all the busboys and waiters staring...at least they stayed a few feet away!) I was also the talk of the hotel - if I wasn't down to dinner at least 30 minutes before closing time, they would call my room and ask if I was
coming down! OK!! Compounding this, I was on day 7 of NO MEAT! That's right, all these places were veg only, so needless to say, I was done with veg Indian food! (It reminded me of China were they ONLY eat Chinese...there are no other options but indian food, indian food, indian food! even breakfast was rice and curry!)
The highlight of this town was when I went into the gambling shack to play race car video games! I got a few tokens and sat down, and next thing I knew, the kid working at the shop sat down next to me to race me! (You all know, big mistake!) It was a close one, but of course I pulled out the victory in the end, and he didn't even look at me! He stood up and walked away, never to be able to show his face in town again!
There are many more pictures to share from India, but I'm at an airport internet cafe and the connection is slow and cumbersome! The USB port is blocked by the keyboard input, so i have to keep switching between keyboard and picture download...anyways of course there will be
many more stories and pictures when I return! All in all, my trips to remote India were both refreshing and relaxing, and stressful and depressing. I have been pleasantly surprised by the kindness and sense of fun and community all Indians behold! I am also astonished at their happiness and sincerity in the face of so much poverty and dirt. They've managed to embrace life for what it is - friendships, good times, and EACH OTHER! A whirlwind to say the least! Miss you all!
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