Tempus fugit. It is already time to leave Mumbai. This might be quite a good day to go as the forecast is for 41C. We have enjoyed our stay here in a city that is quite different to the others we have seen in India. They even have bin motors here and as far as we could see they collect rather than deposit rubbish on the streets. One thing that isn't different here is b*^%$ railway porters. The guy who takes our luggage tells us 300 which is pretty outrageous. At the far end of the platform he says 500 - for about 5 minutes work. D has no change and after a bit of a row the porter gives 100 change for a 500. These guys are a menace. D swears never to use a railway porter again.
R is left on Platform 8 while D goes to explore. We are at CST - the place where they film those amazing scenes of people hanging out of moving trains. It is a bit early and the rush hour has not really kicked off yet so D's photos are a bit tame. Our train (12920 Konya Express) comes in nice and early and we are able to get our mountain of luggage on the racks of our pretty basic Chair Class coach. At least the AC is working. When we get moving the train makes good progress out through the suburbs and delivers us to Neral Junction on time.
Neral is the starting point of the Matheran Railway - another narrow gauge line up to one of the Raj era hill stations. The first class coach is a bit of a relic and the only one that we have seen in India with outward opening doors. Thankfully we have a compartment to ourselves - there isn't much luggage space so we have to pile it on the seats. There is no great hurry here and it is ten minutes after scheduled departure before they even couple up a loco - NDM3 class number 603 - the same type of diesel that they use on the Darjeeling line.
The line winds its way up a rather barren mountainside, rapidly gaining height. The permananent way is not as heavily engineered as the Kalka-Shimla but is more substantial than the Darjeeling. A man makes his way along the outside of the moving train selling cans of pop. Part way up we stop at a station to wait for the downhill train to cross. There are more vendors with drinks, ice cream and kola nuts touting for business. Once the other train arrives we are off again, still climbing steeply and rounding some distinctly unprototypical curves. At times we can see stretches of the line on the mountainside below us as the track runs along narrow ledges cut into the mountainside.
After one more stop we arrive at Matheran station where there is a great gaggle of porters, hotel touts, rickshaw men and the like. They all get short shrift. We pay our Rs 25/- admission fee which allows us into the village (good racket this one) and set off along the main street to Lords Central Hotel. It is hot and the bags are heavy but D perseveres and makes it before collapsing. The staff at Lords quickly show us to our room which has views of the valley below and then we are ushered into lunch which is a lavish 3 course affair. We have generally been doing fine on 2 meals per day and have to go and lie down to recover for an hour. We wake up just in time for afternoon tea to be delivered to our verandah.
Lord's is another Raj era throwback with quaint, rather than chic rooms and a list of rules and mealtimes but the people seem friendly enough and there is a pool which we make use of after tea. The pool is by now in total shade and the breeze is on the cool side so it is really a bit of a token effort. Back in the room we realise that one of the rules is Hot Water for Showers is only available 7.30 a.m. until 10 a.m. So cold shower it is.
We take a promenade along the main bazaar to see what there is. The answer is mainly shoe shops and sweetie shops but we do find a hotel with a pleasant beer garden so there isn't much else that we will require. We get back to Lord's as dinner is starting - again 3 courses. We opt for non-veg which is mutton chop and butter chicken - very tasty. After supper we have a game of chess on the giant outdoor board and then return to our room. We have no power and appear to be the only ones in this fix. We are offered another room to sleep in so we move a minimum of kit and get our heads down.