A last minute planning and not sure where to head, me and my cousin had already made up our minds to visit pristine nature once again to satiate our love of green . Mahabaleshwar was ruled out since it would be too crowded and cold too. The second option was to go in south direction. I chanced upon the idea of a homestay. Miraculously I could recollect reading about it in National Geographic Traveler a few months back. I must say I was lucky because most of the times I cannot recollect the things when they are really needed. A quick call to the owner of the homestay made it clear that travel would be five hours and we could stay overnight. Personally I felt sorry for such a short time with so much travel and expense. On the way we thought we lost our way since our belief in GPS system was still not established. We made numerous calls to the owner to get the exact the direction. The road was clear with hardly anyone driving or walking (at times it was scary too with the thoughts of car breaking down in the middle of the jungle and one man to drive and responsible for the rest of the kafila).
By the time we reached it was 8pm. There was not much traffic even in the last few kilometers in the jungle although road was motorable. Owner Mr. Bhat was waiting to greet us at the entrance. Welcome hot drink of herbal tea was readily and cheerfully accepted by one and all. Once inside the campus it was pitch dark and only inhabiting places had electricity. To walk from one cottage to others or dining area required a torch. All I could feel was thick forest, pitch darkness and silence interrupted by crickets calling. Once we saw the eco-cottage, we were elated. Inside walls were lined with big coarse bricks specially used in coastal areas of Karnataka and Maharashtra. Big bed too was different made using similar bricks.
It was cold on the way. We all were hungry and looking forward to sleep in the warm blankets after dinner. Dinner was simple, delicious and hot. Nobody spoke for few morsels. After that we were all on our own. Although it was cold we could not help at the gazing stars in the clear sky. Had completely forgotten how a starlit sky looks in polluted, glittering concrete jungle. Once inside the cottage we all chatted for long time and dozed off one by one.
It was bright by 5.30am and the windows were all misty. During tea, Mr. Bhat explained our itinerary for the day which included – a jungle walk, come back, breakfast, herbal bath and wander around followed by hot lunch.
During jungle walk Mr. Bhat explained patiently about old tress, some of them more than 100yrs old and animals in the jungle. There was a water reservoir on the way where animals come for water during summer. Our destination was a tiger rock ( a spot for tiger mating) where one can have a good view of the jungle. I saw interesting patterns of the cobweb on the way.
He also explained about various herbal trees on his estate and gave interesting lecture-demonstration on honey bee harvesting on our return. The best point was of course herbal bath. Water along with many herbs was boiled on the chulha(hearth) and the bath was really refreshing.
It was a simple stay with lot of nature and soul recharging.
Few kilometers from this place one can find multiple commercial resorts near the water body with choices of tree huts. We did end up going there for boat rides but it was not the same as Mr. Bhat’s homestay. We did not see much fauna (saw wild animal’s excreta containing hair mostly of deer) during our jungle walk and a snake on the estate. One can spot hornbills. We saw them flying all the time in the resort and king spiders. There were multiple varieties of Tulsi(Holy Basil). I was so used to see tiny leaves of urban Tulsi that was shocked to see such large leaves here. It was soothing and humbling to see big trees – tall with large trunks. Mr Bhat has named one long and old tree “white lady” due to its white bark.
Definition of vacation has changed now. We pay for things nature had given us free. Our parents would have a hearty laugh at the idea of squandering our money on things which they had as a way of life without much choices. We long to be in green and quite places after staying in concrete jungles and people in green places want to be in city for the lure of city life. Of course each one defends how other life is so better and easier.
Mr. Bhat truly follows the ecotourism concept using local supplies, giving employment to local people and conserving the flora in the area. If one wants to stay in tranquility and close to nature without any city noise, such places are choices. Bird chirping was the only sound during our stay. These less than 24hrs stay were blessed ones.As of now the estate gives glimpses of local and green lives and I pray that it continues to be this way. It would not take much to be commercial money-wise for such places and then comes all the paraphernalia of entertainment to attract more customers. Thankfully Mr Bhat still gets the customers who are not complaining of deficiencies of digital life and nor does he seem to be in a hurry to do so. Amen!!
Location : Near Dandeli Forest