Here's a new eco-friendly holiday destination in Lonere
The Kokum Tree is an eco-friendly homestay that offers a slice of sustainable living to city folks
Standing under the canopy of towering coconut trees, it's hard to tell that this sprawling orchard in Lonere, 150 km from Mumbai, was once nearly barren. It's due to the efforts of 78-year-old Shobhana Joshi that the land is verdant and thriving, and home to 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables.
The transformation from arid to fertile inspired Joshi's kin, Anuja Phadke and Sneha Mahashabde, to quit their corporate jobs and launch The Kokum Tree, an experiential, eco-friendly homestay at the location. We snuck out of the city over a weekend to spend time relaxing in this nest, that the duo launched two months ago.
The plunge pool
A three-and-a-half-hour train journey in Mandovi Express takes us to Mangaon, from where it's a 25-minute rickshaw ride to the homestay. While it may be sweltering outside (41 degrees), the temperature at The Kokum Tree feels significantly lower. So much so, that we set out on a tour of the farm with Phadke 15 minutes after reaching. But, not before downing a glass of kokum sherbet, made with farm-grown fruits. "We have been visiting aaji since we were children and have seen her dedicate her life to making this farm what it is. It's not that the land lent itself to vegetation. She worked hard to irrigate it and make it fertile," says Phadke, a former management consultant. The results are for all to see: the plantation is filled with chikoo, bhindi, cashew, jackfruit, banana, pineapple, watermelon, brinjal and bitter gourd. We even pick dill for the day's meal. Lunch (charged additionally at Rs 500 per head) usually consists of a traditional Maharashtrian meal, while continental cuisine is served for dinner. Most vegetables are picked from the farm itself.
(From left) Owners Sneha Mahashabde, Shobhana Joshi and Anuja Phadke
As we make our way through the woods, Mahashabde draws our attention to the birds chirping overhead. We spot the white-breasted kingfisher and the grey hornbill. Turns out, there are crocodiles in the nearby river as well.
If the outdoors are breathtaking, the indoors don't disappoint either. The four rooms are tastefully designed, spacious and spotlessly clean. There's a balcony that allows you to sit back and stare into the wilderness. In terms of activities, the duo has ensured there's enough to keep you occupied. Curated workshops are organised for pottery, yoga, painting, dance and photography. In the evenings, they even hold a movie screening on the projector in the open-air pavilion with a steady flow of appetisers on the side. There's a fishing deck, and a plunge pool to dip your feet.
Overall, the homestay is idyllic, with the warmth of the hosts adding to the charm. "Please treat it as a home and not like a hotel," reads a circular in the room. So, that's what we did.
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