Travel: Camp by the riverside at Vasind near Mumbai
Barely a two-hour drive from Mumbai is scenic Vasind, flanked by the Mahuli range and Bhatsai river. Enjoy the view, stare at a starlit sky or simply, chill
As we sat huddled around a little bonfire, wrapping the shawl tightly over our sweatshirt, sharing stories with fellow campers, it didn't feel like we had met the cheery lot just a few hours ago. A bottle was opened using the might of our teeth, as we joked that the 25-year-old dentist, also present at the camp, would treat us if we lost a tooth. We also chided how a mushy couple who had signed up for the trip to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, ended up spending all their time with us. Four couples and a family had joined us at a quaint tent camp at Vasind, located right beside the calm Bhatsai River. While Vasind already has a cameroon set up by the Big Red Tent (BRT — a professional camping company), the location of the new site is its USP, with two tents set up right on the bank, a hanging tent, suspended from the branches of a tree and two more tents set up one level above the river bank. A couple had even brought their tent and pitched it on the site.
The campsite at Vasind. Pic courtesy/Big Red Tent
We boarded an Asangaon-bound train (you can also take a train that goes to Kasara) to reach Vasind, which is the fifth stop after Kalyan station. The journey takes about an hour and a half; keep extra time due to infrequent trains to Asangaon and Kasara. After getting off a packed local, we were greeted by our tall, lanky and gracious host, Wayne Brown, who drove us to the cameroon, which was 10 minutes away from the station. As we reached the site that had opened on the day we visited, we couldn't help but stare at the glistening Bhatsai River and the tents set along its bank. After dumping our bags in a cosy tent, we freshened up, grabbed our personal tray (it included a bottle of water, a flask of warm tea, a mug, plastic glasses and napkins) and parked ourselves on a bench by the river with a book. As we watched the evening sky turn amber, we also felt the temperature dip gradually. Soon, we were to discover that Wayne, a professional a camper, had a dry sense of humour. When a fellow camper said the water wasn't too cold, he told him with a straight face trying it out will give you a better idea. "A few years ago, villagers could walk across the river to cross it. It has a slight drop in the centre now," he told us. The mood was set.
A group of campers pose for a selfie by the river. Pic courtesy/Big Red Tent
The kids had a blast — they built sand castles, had pebble-throwing matches and scampered around the five-acre property. The adults settled on outdoor mats beside a bonfire to play a game of dumb charades that turned out to be the perfect icebreaker. Soon, the grill was set up on red bricks for the barbecue. Freshly cooked tandoori chicken and barbecued veggies were served before dal, rice and papad and Jain options too. "The menu will change. For the new site, we plan to introduce an authentic village meal for lunch at a villager's home, and an European or Asian meal for dinner," informed Ritesh Kadam, a wildlife photographer and also a host at the site.
Bonfire at the camp. Pic courtesy/Big Red Tent
The awesome outdoors
While the original plan was to go kayaking in the moonlight, most of the campers preferred to chat into the wee hours of the morning, unwilling to budge from warmth of the bonfire. The couple celebrating their anniversary had chosen the hanging tent, which can easily take the weight of two people. When we retired to our tent, we found two fluffy pillows and a sleeping bag placed on a comfortable mattress. The washrooms, located a minute away from the tents, were clean and remained so till the end of our stay.
Kayaking on the Bhatsai river in Vasind
Surprisingly, though we were told to carry insect repellents, the site had no mosquitoes and very few insects.
We woke up the next morning to the sound of dewdrops on our tent, and the carefree laughter of kids. Wayne had already set up his Kerala coffee brewing in a cowboy kettle beside the river. After a breakfast of Poha and Egg Bhurji, the adults went kayaking solo on the river while Wayne and his team accompanied the kids on the kayaks. We preferred to take a walk with Ritesh, who gave us a head's-up of upcoming plans at the campsite. "The butterfly garden is almost complete; we were planting more flowers to attract them," he shared.
Approach to the Bhatsai river in Vasind
"Urban folk come here in search of the authentic rural experience. They are also interested in farming. We help them interact with farmers, and participate in growing our vegetables," he continued, pointing to the patch where the team grows fresh produce. "Wayne's grandfather came here in 1968, and trained the villagersin agricultural practices. His mom has been teaching children here ever since," he revealed. The site will also promote waste management as well as a centre for those studying Botany. On the commercial front, the camp will offer luxurious activity options like exclusive bush dinners, complete with wine and music, an open-air library and a silent zone where one can just soak in the sounds of nature, which will set it apart from the other site. We enjoyed the sounds of the river, the friendly banter around and left with a New Year resolution to return soon.
At: Big Red Tent, Bhatsai Road, Patil Nagar, Vasind.
Cost: Rs 5,000 Aprrox.
From Mumbai 62.8 km
By road: After paying Rs 100 at Pagdha Toll (22 kms from Kalyan) Take a diagonal right after JSW Steel factory. Proceed straight and take a right after the HP petrol pump.
>> Cross the subway, and then take a left towards Bhatsai Village (look out for a yellow XEROX sign to your left). Proceed for 5 km till you see two red arrows pointing towards right on the right hand side of the road, to where the campground is.
>> You can also ask for Wayne’s house in the village.
By Train: Board a Kasara or Asangaon-bound local. Call BRT once you cross Kalyan station. He will arrange for an autorickshaw to pick you from the station. Get off on the east side of Vasind railway station, and wait outside Hari Om Jewellers (opposite the railway station).
>> Carry warmers
>> Carry an extra set of clothes if you wish to go kayaking or swimming
>> Wear comfortable shoes
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