Escape from the city and head to Dehna and Purushwadi (like we did) where you can enjoy home-cooked meals, rice planting and immerse yourself in forest lit with fireflies
The heart desires to gorge on unlimited karvandas and mangoes plucked straight from the trees, count nests of weaverbirds... all this and more was promised by travel company Grassroutes — a journey that helps enrich rural livelihoods. The trip to Purushwadi village in the Akole block of Ahmednagar district off Igatpuri (30 kms from Bhandardhara) was sheer bliss amidst nature and among simple villagers.
Flight of fire
While the trip organised by Grassroutes includes various activities, the travel has to be arranged by us. Either board a train to Kasara station from where a village jeep will take you to the location or drive down in your own car, which will take about three hours.
Get your hands dirty with some rice planting
Once we reached the village, we were happy to find that the small village is tidy. Sumantai, a resident, welcomed us into her humble abode with puranpolis, amti and farm fresh veggies, hot out of her firewood chulha. Grassroutes offers two accommodation options: in a tent at their campsite or at a local home. We relaxed inside a neat canvas tent. We took a lazy walk around Purushwadi, which is about 10 minutes away from the campsite. One can splash around in the meandering Kurkundi River and try hands at ploughing (which was tougher than we expected).
Enjoy simple home-cooked meals
All the walking around meant a ravenous appetite was built up. The rice, which the villagers grow in their own fields, tasted yummy, so did the dal and veggies; more so, because all of it is cooked with love. The Mahadeo Kolis, who are residents of this village, are hardworking and extremely honest as well as hospitable. Our local guide, Raju, took us to what we were primarily in the village for: the Fireflies Festival. Though there fireflies can’t be spotted in Purushwadi right now, when we visited the village in June, it was mating season and the forest was lit by countless fireflies. For some bedazzling fireflies experience, one can opt for a trip to Dehna, also close to the city.
Fireflies light up the forest. Pic courtesy/Ruchi Khemka
In the darkness of the deep night, with the help of a torchlight, we were led into the thicket of trees. All of a sudden, Raju switched off his torch. As our eyes adjusted to the darkness, we are stunned by the splendour of the rhythmic flashing of the male fireflies as they courted the female fireflies — thousands, making patterns of light in the darkness. We were speechless, unable to move, stunned at this amazing display of nature in the cool and breezy night.
Try your hand at ploughing
The temperature dropped drastically post sunset, so the no-fan situation didn’t affect us, as the cool wind was enough to put us to sleep. The fireflies also settled down on the netted window of the tent, and one can go off to sleep (one of the best we have had) by counting fireflies rather than sheep. We felt like Hansel and Gretel lost in woods in a good way.
cChop some firewood to cook your meal
We returned to the campsite and Raju helped us settle in easy chairs. The only sound we could hear was of the crickets and a few occasional dogs barking. We looked skyward to spot stars winking back at us while the bright moon lulled the senses into deep sleep.
Next morning, after enjoying the beauteous sunrise at the campsite, we were taken into the village to participate in their lives — sowing rice (currently, the sowing season is over, so one can indulge in some rice transplanting), milking cows and goats, chopping firewood, working on the grinding stone to grind pulses (a few more days stay and regular working out on the grinding stone would certainly ensure supple muscles).
All these activities were bound to leave one famished. And it did! Luckily, delicious poha for breakfast was enough to get us going. Sumantai, our host was a great cook. When one of our co-travellers requested for black tea, she quickly brewed tea leaves with lemon leaves plucked from a lemon tree in her home, and made a refreshing black tea. Many such memories linger to this day. Several visitors opted for the homestay to get a firsthand experience of living with the villagers. As we neared the end of the trip, nature ended up being our soothing balm for a long time to come.
Log on to: www.grassroutes.co.in
Cost: Starts at Rs 2,100 per person for homestay
From Mumbai 220 km
Overview: Grassroutes employs locals for all their trips, be it the guides, cooks or for house cleaning services. It is situated 1,000 m above sea level in the Western Ghats.
Don’t miss: Pola festival, where bullocks are worshipped, will be celebrated in the village next month.
>> Keep the village clean and keep your waste output minimum.
>> It might feel tempting but do not disturb the flora and fauna.
>> The toilets at the campsite are shared, though very clean.
>> Blankets are provided, carry extra if required.