Friday, April 29, 2011

Grabbing Travel by the Horns

I had meant to write about my Matheran trip, but it happened during my dry spell and when I got back to blogging, it seemed like it was in the distant past (if two months can be called that). Then just today, I happened to read The Mad Momma's post about her recent travels and decided to write about this very unique trip I took.

Our book club decided to shake things up a little and do our February meet in Matheran, with families in tow. I checked with Jai a couple of months in advance and he committed to being in town on that weekend. But it was not to be, and two weeks before the upcoming weekend, something supremely important popped up on his work calendar and he backed out.

I had made up my mind to cancel but Sonya, who runs the book club, would not hear of it. My biggest issue was that I really could not see myself doing the 3-hour drive (some of it on scary, winding roads) alone. She nipped that objection in the bud by offering to take us along with her family in their SUV. I was still a little freaked out at the thought of traveling alone with the two kids, but a sudden spurt of adventurous spirit had me saying yes.

A few friends suggested I take one of the maids along to ease the burden but at a very basic level, this traveling with maids business just does not appeal to me. I never take my maids to restaurants either. It is just too weird - they would be uncomfortable sharing the dining table with us, I would be even more uncomfortable asking them to wait outside. It is very socially awkward for all concerned, to say the least. Moreover, I like to believe that when push comes to shove, I have the ability to manage the kids on my own and holidays are my one chance to prove this.

The first challenge was having the troops packed and ready to leave at the crack of dawn. This was not such a big deal since my kids are early risers in any case and Sonya and family were running late, so we were actually waiting down for them when they drove up at 7 a.m.

The drive to Matheran was relatively uneventful. Sonya has three lovely daughters and the youngest is just a couple of years older than Ayaan and they got along like a house of fire. They spent much of the drive in the back of the Scorpio, reading, chatting and generally fooling around. Tarana sat in my lap and was reasonably low maintenance. We stopped for breakfast at a little restaurant on the way, which happened to have fishes, geese and chicken so the kids had a gala time checking them out.

Those of you have never been to (or heard about) Matheran have to know this - no motorised vehicles are allowed beyond the parking lot, which is a good 45-minute hike from the town. There are essentially four ways to get there. You can take the toy train from a place called Neral but getting tickets can be quite a challenge, especially in the tourist season. Or you can drive up to the parking lot and then make the final ascent in one of the following ways: ride a horse, hire a manually-operated rickshaw or walk.

With the kids, the horse or rickshaw seemed to be a more sensible option but I decided to walk, with Tarana bundled into a sling. Ayaan was having a good time with Sonya's girls and since they were walking, I thought Ayaan would enjoy that more and the longish hike would be a good experience for him. I could have let him walk and taken Tarana on a horse or rickshaw with me, but he can be quite a handful and moreover, I wasn't sure he would agree to go without me. Also, I have a problem with hand-drawn rickshaws - they seem somewhat colonial and exploitative - and managing Tarana on a horse wouldn't have been easy either. So yes, we walked. My back and legs were seriously achy by the time we reached, especially since Tarana fell asleep and got about twice as heavy. Ayaan was a pretty good sport about what was probably the longest walk of his life, though he did get whiny towards the end.

We were staying at this lovely hotel called The Verandah in The Forest. For those of you who were reading me in 2006, we had been to this place when Ayaan was a toddler. Anyway, after a refreshing drink and a quick snack, the older kids went off to play while Tarana toddled all over the verandah with me in attendance.

There were eleven children in the group, including mine, and it turned out that 10 of them were girls!! I wondered if Ayaan would get bored but I don't think it bothered him at all. Barring two incidents, I barely saw him as he traipsed around the place with the other kids - hanging out in the treehouse, throwing pebbles into pond on the property and swinging away merrily.

The first incident happened when he got into a fight with one of the girls. For some reason, the two took an instant dislike to each other and before I knew what was happening, Ayaan poked her with his pencil. There was no harm done but he refused to calm down so he was hauled off to our room. He had a nuclear meltdown there that shook the very foundations of the place but once he was done with that and the accompanying fit of the sulks, he was ready to go back and play.

The other incident happened when he landed up in the pond. I wasn't there when it happened, but I think it was an accidental shove by one of the other kids and I went rushing over when I heard him screaming. The pond was less than a foot deep, so the only harm done was to his ego. I quickly handed Tarana to the first willing set of arms I found and rushed him in for a bath and a change of clothes. He was a bit subdued for the rest of the evening but thankfully, it was almost time for dinner when his bath was done.

They served the kids dinner first so after they had eaten, I put them both to bed and came out and joined the adults for the only bit of real adult conversation I got throughout the trip. We had dinner and then sat around discussing the books. It was good fun. I excused myself at midnight, knowing that my kids would be up in a few hours.

The next day, the kids were up by 6 and I had to keep them entertained in the room for a couple of hours. When I heard sounds of the other guests stirring, we went out and Ayaan headed straight to his favourite spot by the pond, where the other kids soon joined him. After breakfast, we headed out for a small trek. I came back early but Ayaan went on a longer jaunt with a group of kids and their parents. By the time they got back, it was check-out time. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant in the main town and started the walk back to the car park.

I think Ayaan had had his fill of walking by now and he complained endlessly on our way down. 'Mama, how much longer?', 'Mama, are we there yet?', 'Mama, I want to take a break' and so on and so forth. This was the hardest part of the trip for me. I was achy, sleep-deprived and exhausted and it took an almost super-human effort to stay positive and keep encouraging him to walk and keep up with the others. Once down, we drove straight back to Mumbai and though Ayaan was hyperactive and Tarana was cranky, we made it back in one piece.

Would I go on a holiday without Jai again? Probably not, definitely not till the kids are a little older and more self-sufficient, especially Tarana. She had just about started walking when we went on this trip and would refuse to stay put in one place. Having no other back-up, it meant constantly following and monitoring her and even with me watching, she managed to take a few spills, eat some mud and break a plate. So, it was not much of a break for me and I watched enviously as the parents with older kids (Ayaan and Tarana were the youngest in the group) lazed around in the planter's chairs and read their books or chatted desultorily.

I am glad I went though. I think Ayaan had a fantastic time. He got to spend some quality outdoors time, learned to get along with a diverse bunch of kids, and exceeded my expectations on his ability to walk. And me personally? I have to admit I felt a great sense of accomplishment at having flown solo and done a pretty good job of it. The only regret; I had my hands too full to take any pictures and the camera stayed comfortably ensconced in my backpack.


  1. awesome. so proud of you .. and the babies. i think we should go on holiday with you. Ayaan and the Brat anyway play together well. T and the Bean will eventually learn to find something in common i am sure.

  2. blinkandmiss11:54 am

    Way to go, Ro! Even though it was exhausting, there is some thrill and fun in an impulsive 'adventure' like this.

  3. - Courageous :)
    - I totally agree with the maid bit.
    - I guess it was too short a trip...when ur traveling alone with kids I suggest u go for long stay trips and avoid the one day trips..the kids need time to settle in..and so do u :D

  4. thing to do..can empathize with you not getting the break, yet it must have been worth it. hmm..your post seems to have set the holiday looking forward to my trip to Ooty next weekend..

  5. Wow you're a total rock star! I haven't had the guts to do even a day trip without the husband in tow yet. Heck I even head to birthday parties filled with trepidation when I have to go alone! What with Nikki's enduring stranger anxiety she gets quite a handful to manage in social situations.

  6. Wow... with what you seem to describe, I am not sure I would have had the courage to take the step and go anywhere with kids on my own. ( And this is when I am just gonna have my first... I think I am super worried how I am gonna handle everything )

  7. Sounds like quite an adventure! And she is walking already - but she was just born the other day no?!

    And brought back lovely memories of a trip there long ago, and that trek up as well :)

  8. Good job Ro ... kids will learn to entertain themselves most of the time ... sometimes unalike adults (read like me)

  9. Anonymous4:53 am

    There you girl, you did it..That too you managed Tarana alone through the hike, I am so impressed. I know sleeping babies weigh double, I experienced that recently when I had to travel alone in 26hr flight from India to US. This sounds very interesting Hike, I really want to try. Ayaan walked all by himself, he is really proving to be a good companion for your travel. Good Roh, you did it all by yourself, well done..

  10. Wow - walked all the way up! AMMMazing! I could totally relate to having to manage the kids alone. Today even at the park - close to my house - with both kids biking I felt that way - trying to keep track of them. And that place looks incredible!

  11. *Falls on Ro's Feet* you managed to go on a holiday to Matheran with TWO kids in tow all by yourself. Wow Ro you are DEFINITELY inspiration :) and super nice that Aayan walked all the way..sahi!

  12. I read your concluding paragraphs and you know what I found myself thinking? I wish I'd been there, could totally have taken Spidey off your hands at least. Willingly, may I add. :)

    I know it was tough but I'm glad you went. This is the stuff memories are made of. Yay you.

  13. Totally cool the trip sounds! I would never have the guts to even take a one hour flight with the boys alone! Great show, Rohini!

    I totally agree on the maid bit, I have taken them out on trips and to restaurants, but the discomfort is so stressful, you'd rather stress yourself trying to manage the kids on your own!

    Sleeping baby in a sling....Hmmmm.... you ARE amazing! Ayaan is a darling! It is true then, with kids too.... when you have company you can endure much more pain and fatigue!

    Looking forward to your next blog!!!

  14. We had a beautiful trip to the same place in the monsoon two ears back. Misty and with long walks in the forest close by, it was magical. Ofcourse, we were asked why we took the kid along because it was not deemed to be a child friendly place - rain, forest, snails and fallen leaves - from what angle is it not child friendly, esp if we are around exploring with the kid?

    I guess with two kids travelling must be unnerving. With one, i have managed all kinds of travel- bus, train, air, since the time she was less than one. People are helpful most of the time. And kids step up to the occasion when required.

    wishing you many more travels with the kids.

  15. two years ago, not two ears ago, i have both my ears intact, thank you.

  16. [MM] We should. It would be good fun :)

    [Blinkandmiss] Yes, it was worth it. No regrets.

    [Gayatri] No way. Managing young kids (especially Tarana's age) in a hotel is exhausting. If I were on my own, I'd prefer a quick stay any day.

    [Uma] Have fun in Ooty!

    [NMOTB] Birthday parties are no fun for me, either. The brat hates those party games and gets up to all other kinds of mischief!

    [Aathira] Chill. You will be great at it.

    [Choxbox] She is 18 months old. i know, I can't believe it either!

    [CA] :) You need entertaining on a holiday? :p

    [Weourlife] 26 hour flight??! Give me a hike any day!

    [Noon] It is a lovely place. Our second visit there.

    [R's Mom] *blushes*

    [Sue] Remind me to call you the next time I take a solo trip with the kids :p

    [Sai] Short flights are not too bad but you are not likely to find me on a long haul flight alone with the kids.

    [Sur] What nonsense! We took Ayaan to the same place when he was Tarana'a age too. He had a ball. And LOL at the ears :)

  17. Can't imagine myself alone with my one son ...its really brave of u to do so with 2 kids ..but its good that you could manage all that and go on a trip which you were so looking fwd to ..hope Jai is available next time around

  18. Anonymous5:35 pm

    proud of u ro.... and proud of the kids too, time to do a blogging mumma holiday what say?

  19. You are really brave... And you've trained the kids well.

    I feel a lil disappointed you came back without any pictures though..

  20. Wow!! Total admiration from one who would not attempt something like this without hubby.. the most i manage is a vacation at parents-in-law's place :).
    Just about to go for our first overseas vacation and am having all sort of horror scenarios in mind, hopefully it'll go off without a hitch! Will definitely update on blog if i have the energy when it's done :).

  21. Brave brave Ro!!!!! Gugurl:)

  22. [Vandana] He'd better be, if he knows what is good for him

    [MM] Excellent idea! We totally should.

    [Pepper] Me too. What I need is a hands-free camera.

    [Aparna] Holidays with kids are never relaxing, but they are fun nonetheless. All the best for yours :)

    [Dipali] Thanks :D