As I walked up the hillock past the green iron gates, the house gently revealed itself. A charming white building with an impressive red-tiled roof slowly unveiled behind the rolling mist. I had stumbled upon what I had been devoutly wishing for — a house in the clouds. Perched on the fringes of Matheran, closer to One Tree Hill Point, Fleetwood House promised to offer me what I needed most — peace and seclusion.
It didn’t hurt that the entire villa was dripping with colonial charm — with white framed French windows, high vaulted ceilings and arched doorways everywhere. I was curious to learn the history of this institution which recalls a cosy English bed and breakfast rather than a typical hotel. Unfortunately the property’s past remains shrouded in the mists of the Raj — though I did learn that the villa was built in 1871.
It must have sheltered a few generations of happy sahibs before finding its way into the hands of the Nihalani family who have enjoyed it as a weekend retreat for the past 50 years.
The half-hour walk along the laterite path from Dasturi Naka to Fleetwood House had left me famished and wet — and very grateful for a hot bath. After a comforting candle-lit dinner, I finally settled down for the night. My room, albeit a tad damp and musty thanks to the deluge outside, was clean and cheerful with a turquoise palette, an antique dressing table with fresh towels and a pair of clean house slippers.
The next morning, I headed out to do what I had really set out to achieve — enjoy the rains! A 10-minute hike led me up the slippery path to One Tree Hill point. As the clouds parted I was rewarded with sweeping views of the valley below — lush green and glistening in the sun. But even rain worshippers can only take so much. I found myself back very soon yearning for creature comforts and couldn’t wait to tuck into a hot breakfast of omelette, toast and fresh cut papaya.
A brief lull in the rain allowed me to explore the property. There was a gazebo by the side of the villa, which seemed to be an ideal place to hang out with a travel companion. Further down was a small temple, built by the family. The adjacent cottage with two sets of three bedrooms and shared bathrooms was comfortable enough but looked modest in comparison to the villa. I followed the sound of neighing horses to find four handsome steeds and a donkey in the stable, being perfectly pampered by their grooms.
The five-acre property is really an idyllic world of its own — dotted with jamun trees and rows of spider-lilies dancing in the breeze. I was aching to take up residence in one of the hammocks draped around the garden but I’ll save that for sunnier days.
Where: One Tree Hill Point, Matheran (90km from Mumbai)
Accommodation: The Villa: 4 rooms; The Cottage: 6 rooms
Tariff: The Villa: Rs 1,500-1,750; The Cottage: Rs 1,250-1,500; includes all meals
Contact: 9820502326, www.perfectplaces.com