Bombay to Matheran was a memorable journey in more ways than one.
Deepak and I took a train from Thane to Neral, a small little village in the suburbs of Bombay. After boarding the train we realised that Neral and Nerul were two different places thanks to google maps. We alighted in the last minute, sold the Nerul tickets, bought two for Neral and ran two platforms away to catch the right train all in five minutes. Thanks to rowing camp and calisthenics!
The train left. At Neral we got off on to a small platform and entered the village. Tourists – was written all over our faces. A heavily built man led us to a taxi stand. Another heavily built man sized us up and down and asked if we wanted an exclusive taxi or a sharing one. Deepak and I usually do low cost travel, one because of experience and two because its not heavy on our limited travel budgets. Sharing it was.
We were led to a CNG fueled Maruti Van which was probably ten years old with a rusty paint job. For those who are new to Maruti vans, they are best suited to be hearses.
In front were two reasonably lean men plus the driver, behind him were us and another couple. The girls were to sit daintily on the edge of our seats while the men plonked themselves on the rear end to form and comfortable curves for us to lean on compensating for our obvious discomfort. Behind us was a man stealing space from the CNG cylinder and our backpacks.
Doors locked, roller coaster drive began. We felt like pieces of pickled mangoes struggling to immerse in the preserve water in agitatation. Half hour of driving up the plateau was enough for our muscles to cry out loud.
On our return journey after a solid two days of trekking the length and breadth of the plateau we had become smarter. Thrifty still to take a full taxi for the two of us, convinced it is more carbon credit, we decided to share again. However, this time it was decided that we would sit in front along with the driver so as to avoid bodily contact with random people during the wobbly drive down hill.
We sat in the taxi. This time the driver was rotund. There were other passengers on the back who didnt mind the discomfort of such physical proximity. Deepak slipped in first, crossed his legs and asked me to sit next to him. As the driver got in from the other side, he looked at us and said – sir, please put one leg on the other side of the gear box! (What?!)
Both of us looked at him thinking we heard him wrong. But he insisted as we nodded our heads to disagree. The driver obviously had the last word here, which Deepak wasnt used to. He knew he was in trouble. I was laughing my ass off in my mind almost unable to control it from bursting out of my seams. A dirty grin refused to get erased from my face. Driver then said – dont worry about anything, I have no problem and you wont either!
The whole drive down was a rollercoaster alright but it was extrmely entertaining as the driver kept changing gears between Deepaks legs!