Thursday, November 10, 2016

Horsley Hills

Horsley Hills, named after W.D. Horsley, a British collector, is in Madanapalle Taluk of Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh at an altitude of 4000 feet. Horsley had built his home here in the 1870's.

It is just 150 km from Bangalore and promises a very pleasurable driving experience, hardly any traffic throughout the journey on nice, smooth roads. SO MANY biker groups ride to the hill station especially on a weekend because, in less than 3 hours, including pit-stops, you reach a place that is strikingly serene.    
          The silence of the valley is a draw for many. Sit here and enjoy the absolute solitude.

Horsley reminded me of Nandi Hills. The similarities are many - the nice drive up to the hills, the pleasant weather, and many scenic view points. Here are a few of the view points:


Imagine sitting here - watching the sun rise or set - with the only sound being the whoosh of wind blowing your hair...


Sit here in the evening with a book or at night with a drink and let the world pass by.
Walk around on these paved pathways with the monkeys on the trees and the birds on the branches. My solo, early morning walk along here was a cherished one.

The difference between Horsley Hills and other hill stations is that there is no commercial activity here. None at all. No endless rows of shops selling silly winter scarves & hats or kids plastic bat & ball or chaat corners or other assorted hole-in-the wall eateries. We only found 1 guy selling guava on his cycle.  

And that is reason enough to go see Horsley Hills, at least Once, for a Day. 

Ooty is completely commercialized and over-crowded. Horsley caters well to the government officers who come for a conference or office outing and is a favorite among families and couples too. Families love the peace and quiet and unhurried pace of things and couples enjoy the privacy the Hills offer. And with 4-5 engineering colleges in Madanapalle, the closest town just half an hour from the base of the hill, there is no dearth of lovers who throng the Hills or of boy gangs who come here for a quick ride from the town. 

You can explore the hills in a single day because everything is within a 2 km driving radius. 
Walk around and enjoy the quiet, listen to the constant chirping of birds and soak your skin to the warmth of the sunlight peering through thick foliage.
 






   







          Well paved roads, swimming pool, comfortable accommodation and decent food facilities all managed and run by the state tourism board. 

When we went (5-6th Nov weekend) we knew there were a lot of people staying, going by the number of cars parked in various parking spots. Yet, when you walk around the property you won't find them, the sense of solitude and 'me my thoughts and the nature' vibe is very strong.

Enroute to the Hills, there is this beautiful Saibaba Temple. 

It looked newly built. I checked the donation list displayed on the wall. One devotee had donated Rs 15 Lakhs!! The priest gave a biscuit each as prasad !! Marie biscuit ! That was a first for me!
So, for a hill station visit from Bangalore, 1N 2D stay, over the weekend, just to relax and recharge your batteries, fill your car with petrol for Rs 2000, pay Rs 3500 for AC accommodation in the Governor's Bungalow and then head straight to Horsley Hills.
Governor's Bungalow
Rest House


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Matheran



Mathera had been on my mind ever since I first made a list of places I wanted to see in India before I die. Finally after eons when i did get to see Matheran, it blew my mind.  This is why:

The clouds clearing away, slowly, gently, to give our hungry eyes a glimpse of the majestic mountains
The clouds kissing the mountains in a lingering moment of passion, sending sweet chills down our spine.
This was mid afternoon & yet the pace was so misty & cool.
Who wouldn't fall in love with this?
The lovely stream on the way up to the hill station
The forests are pristine. 

The valley below

Being spellbound

Matheran is the smallest hill station in India & the first in ASIA that is vehicle free. Eco-sensitive zone. No vehicles are allowed into the hill station not even the privately owned bikes & cars of people who live there. It has to be parked at the start of the hillock,in a designated space. You explore the hills
on a horse
on a horse
Or this hand-drawn cycle-rickshaw.
or by walk.
The horse, in the pic, is named Lakhan, bought by the owner at Rs 70,000. The ride costs Rs 1100 per person to view 5 popular scenic spots. car drive would have cost us less than Rs 500 in petrol or a bike ride just Rs 100. Takeaway: animals are definitely expensive! But the experience of going on that ride will be etched in our memories for ever, especially for my daughter Tanvi who loved it. She wanted the staff to let go of the lagaam (handle) so that she could ride the horse all on her own! She sat on it like a pro, no fear of falling. She was constantly rubbing the horse’s neck & saying he is responding.

We took the horse ride to go into the hill station. And later walked around & explored the town. We walked back to the parking spot in half an hour. As you can see in the pic above, we walked along the railway track, in a drizzle, suitably dressed in local rain gear which is plastic sheet snugly hugging your body & a plastic hat. The price of these rain protectors Rs 50 only!
The pathway through the lush green forest
One of the waterfalls
There are many beautiful cottages owned by Parsis who visit Matheran to beat the heat, grime & noise of Mumbai. Here is a cottage of the State Tourism Board
The hill doesn't grow or produce anything. Everything you find on the hill is either brought from neighboring big cities like Pune or Mumbai or Lonavla or from the town called Nerul. Horses, smaller ones, by breed closer to donkeys, are used to ferry cement, sand & other building materials and also grocery & household stuff. They are quite simply called the maal-gaadi (maal meaning material & gaadi meaning vehicle). 
The Nerul village
The countryside
Now,let's look at the logistics. Matheran doesn't have an airport. One has to fly down to Mumbai and take a 2 hour/90 KM car drive to Matheran. If you add up the cost of two way flights from Bangalore to Mumbai, two way taxi fare from Mumbai to Matheran, horse ride & sight seeing charges, lunch & snacks expenses, it would cost you Rs 10,000 approx for a one day tour to this beautiful hill station. 
The drive from Nerul to Matheran
We didn't stay overnight here. We chose to spend the night at Lonavla which is another beautiful place with more modern amenities and stay options. but about Lonavla in another post.