One Tree Hill Trek
Matheran at 800 m (2,625 ft)is a popular hill station, accessible by road and train. It was discovered by Hugh Malet in 1850 and is around 100 km from Mumbai. Matheran is a protected forest area where only emergency vehicles are allowed inside its limits. Main mode of transport is hand-pulled rickshaws and horses. British-style architecture has been preserved in Matheran and most structures are now heritage structures. Matheran has been declared an eco-sensitive region by the Union Environment Ministry (GoI) and is home to diverse flora and fauna. There are also several rare species like the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, White-Rumped Shama, Brown Wood Owl, South Indian Tree Shrew, and The Giant Squirrel. It is also home to a wide range of snakes, from the harmless ones to deadly and venomous snakes.
The trail to One tree hill from Ambewadi is also called the Shivaji ladder route. Midway through the trail near the end of the thick forest, you come across a mass of boulders and rocks into which the trail disappears. This is known as Shivaji Steps or the Shivaji Ladder. According to local legend, Shivaji rode up this route on horseback. From here, it’s 500m to the top, up a stream bed that’s dry except during the monsoon.
Matheran is referred to as ‘paradise’ by locals there. For a family get-together or camping with friends, in the summer there are very few places where one can venture to and Matheran is one of them. I have been to this place several times and have explored four to five different trails. This time we were to explore the trail that goes down from One Tree Hill all the way to Chowk- commonly known as the Shivaji ladder route. Matheran market is 2.5 kms from Dasturi Naka and it takes around one hour to reach. There are sign boards all through the mud path that indicate direction to the different points in Matheran.
Author: Vinita Chhatwani
A rare trek that is close to the city
- One Tree Hill is a trek that is untouched and serene.
- Each season brings in a different flavour and a vivid experience.
- Matheran is described as ‘paradise’ by the locals.
- The trail is easy and can be attempted by trekkers of all age groups, during any season.
One Tree Hill is a trek for all seasons and all age groups.
Day 0 – 20 April 2013:
Summer this year was exceptionally hot, so we decided to hike in the evening. We hiked from Dasturi Naka to One Tree Hill. Our plan was to get to Matheran through One Tree Hill from Dasturi Naka, and camp at One Tree Hill for the night. Then we’d get up early in the morning and trek down from One Tree Hill point to Ambewadi village near Panvel / Chowk.
We started from Kalyan at 10:30 am. We took the Karjat local train and got down at Neral. We took the 10:33 am fast local and arrived there at around 11:15 am. If you plan to camp there then all the necessary things can be picked up from Neral or you can get cooked food at Matheran. You can either carry sufficient water or buy water at Kadam tea stall, at One Tree Hill.
Our plan was to take the narrow gauge train to Matheran, but unfortunately the 12:00 PM train was cancelled. You can hike 7 kms up to Dasturi Naka or take a shared taxi. We decided to take a taxi till Dasturi Naka and reached Dasturi Naka at around 1:00 pm. You can then either follow the mud path or railway tracks to the Matheran market. There are also some small shortcuts through the forest.
Matheran market is 2.5 kms from Dasturi Naka and it takes around one hour to reach. There are sign boards all through the mud path that indicate direction to the different points in Matheran. We enjoyed a variety of delicious fruits sold by locals on the way. We reached Matheran market at about 2:30 pm and had delicious homemade Maharashtrian Thali. At around 3:30 pm. we decided to hike to the less crowded points like Khandala, Alexander, Rambag, Olympiad ground, Little Chowk point, and Chowk point which are on the way to One tree hill point, around 5 kms from Matheran market.
All the points offer different views. One can see the Garbet plateau from Alexander and Rambag point. The trail from Rambag point to Little Chowk point is through the thickly forested stretch which is soothing even in the summer heat. From Little Chowk and Chowk point one can get a view of Morbe dam, Irshalgad, and the trek route that comes from Bhorgaon.
Views from different points – all demonstrating different trekking routes that come uphill.
We finally reached One Tree Hill point at around 6:00 pm. It is a place where you can see only one tree on a hill, literally. We rested and had refreshing tea at Kadam tea stall. We camped at the cemented porch of the Kadam tea stall after taking permission from the owner.
Day 1 – 21 April 2013:
The next morning we planned on taking the trail down, from One Tree Hill to Ambewadi. It takes around three hours to ascend from this route and roughly two hours to descend down.
We had a quick breakfast and started descending down at around 6:45 am. The trail to Ambewadi goes between the ridge that connects One Tree Hill and Matheran.
On the way we met a lot of villagers who were carrying mangoes from Ambewadi to sell it in the Matheran market. The trail descends through steep rock patches and boulders. There were some dry waterfalls that are a wonderful sight during the monsoon season. At some places we found steps cut in the rocks to make it easy to get down. We could see Irshalgad and Prabalgad towards our left all throughout the trail. After around half an hour, the trail then passed through thick forest. It continued through the rock terrain, and in around half an hour we reached a small stone temple surrounded by boulders.
Towards our right we could see a trail coming from Varose village. You can go to Irshalgad / Prabalgad from there. We continued straight on the trail through the forest. In about fifteen minutes we reached a point where we came across a bifurcation one trail goes to left which goes to “Nigdichipatti”, a small tribal village. We continued on the trail that went to the right. After another ten minutes we reached an open space from where we had a clear view of the range around. There is also a small well on the left. This is the only water source.
We continued on the trail straight with Irshalgad to our left. After around twenty minutes we saw the enthralling view of Irshalgad, Ambewadi village, and Morbe dam right ahead and a ridge that lead us right to Ambewadi. The trail again took us through the forest before it opened into the ridge. The way from here onwards was barren with no trees around. From this point it took around forty-five minutes to Ambewadi village. The overall experience was wonderful and enjoyed by all. It took around one hour from Ambewadi village to reach Panvel / Karjat station from where we caught a train back home.
- Respect Nature – No littering, also while camping, dump all the organic waste in once place preferably in a pit, do not spread it all over the campsite and carry back the inorganic waste like plastic wrappers.
- Matheran range is huge and there are many options and trails to be explored. There are numerous routes to get in or out of Matheran, as well as many long pleasant walks around the hill station itself. You can come up with your own combinations. Here are a few ideas:
- Peb – Matheran trek. You can climb up to Peb Fort aka Vikatgadfrom Neral and then traverse to reach the Vikatgad station on the Neral – Matheran railway line.
- Another interesting range trek is to Prabalgad and Irshalgad (or Vishalgad). One can either start at Irshalgad and then climb Prabalgad, come down to Varosa and climb up to Matheran or do the trek in reverse
- Another enjoyable but long range trek is (18-20 km) is from Vangani Station. From there you can hike to Vaghachi Wadi, cross the Nakhind-Chanderi colony and walk to DodhaniPanvel Lake. From the lake, there are two routes up to Matheran. The first is via Porcupine Point; also called Milk Trail (locals use this to bring fresh milk up to the markets). The other route brings you to Hashachi Patti, a tribal hamlet, and then into Matheran via Monkey Point.
You can also climb up the Garbet Point from Bhivpuri Station. This is a long trek (12-14 km) but enjoyable in the monsoon.
The secret to ascending any trail lies in building your cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Ideally, you should be able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Start slow and increase your pace everyday. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too. Strength This is another area you should work on. You will need to build strength in your muscles and in your core body. You can do some squats to strengthen your leg muscles. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set. Apart from this, you can add planks and crunches to your work out.
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek. Working out indoors
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.
No, stuffing it all in isn’t the right way to do it Packing a backpack correctly saves precious time that you might waste trying to find your things later. It is wise to spend some time on learning what really goes into packing a backpack.
What should I pack? On a trek, you only get what you take. Something as simple as a forgotten matchbox can cripple your cooking plans throughout the trek. So, it’s essential to prepare early and prepare well. To begin with, make a checklist. While shopping, remember this thumb rule – keep it light. “Every item needs to be light. This ensures that your backpack, on the whole, stays light,” says Sandhya UC, co-founder of Indiahikes. Balancing out heavy items with light ones isn’t going to have the same effect as having all light items. “Always opt for good quality, light items,” says Sandhya.
How much should my bag weigh?
“Your backpack for a weekend trek should weigh between 8 and 10 kg,” explains Arjun Majumdar, co-founder of Indiahikes, “To break it down, your tent should weigh around 2.5 kg, your sleeping bag, around 1.5 kg, and the ration, stove and clothes should constitute the other 5 kg.” The best way to plan is by concentrating on the basic necessities – food, shelter and clothes. Gather only those things that you’ll need to survive. Do not pack for ‘if’ situations. “That’s one of the common mistakes that people make – packing for ‘if situations’. It only adds to the baggage that you can do without on a trek,” says Sandhya.
One good way to go about it is to prepare a list of absolute essentials. Start with the most essential and end with the least essential. That way, when you feel you are overshooting the limit, you can start eliminating from the bottom. Another tip is to be smart while packing clothes. Invest in light. wash and wear fabrics. “Replace a sweater with two t-shirts,” adds Sandhya. Layering is the mantra when it comes to trekking. Refer to Sandhya’s clothes list to pack smart.
How to pack The thumb rule for this one is to eliminate air spaces. Make sure that everything is packed tightly, especially clothes and jackets, as they tend to take up maximum air space. Put in all the large items first. Then squeeze in the smaller ones in the gaps. This ensures minimum air space. A good way to pack clothes is by using the Ranger Roll method.
Where to pack Bottom Sleeping bag: Make this your base layer. Sleeping bags tend to be voluminous, but do not weigh much. They’re perfect for the bottom of the bag. Tent: Just like the sleeping bag, even tents are voluminous and light. Keep the tent poles separately and place the fabric at the bottom of the backpack. Middle Heavy jacket: Roll up the jacket in a tight ball and place it in the middle of the backpack, close to your back. The middle region of the backpack should always have the heaviest items. You can store other things like ration or mini stoves in the middle. Other clothes: Roll other clothes and place them in the remaining space, to fill air gaps.
Top Water: Water, although heavy, needs to be easily accessible. So put it in the top most region of your backpack. Medicine box: This is another component that you wouldn’t want to be scavenging for when in need. Poncho: It could rain at any time in the mountains. So, ponchos should be accessible easily. Also, having a waterproof poncho at the top of the backpack provides additional waterproofing to items in the bag.