Mumbai for kids: Camping at Bhatsai River

Updated: Dec 07, 2016, 15:29 IST | Vinitha |

You think you are an outdoorsy person. You think, until you go camping. So here we are, close to dusk with a bag on our shoulders and another in hand, trudging down towards a water body and ... nothing

Camping at Bhatsai River
You think you are an outdoorsy person. You think, until you go camping. So here we are, close to dusk with a bag on our shoulders and another in hand, trudging down towards a water body and ... nothing.

And nervously we want to go back. But it is a knee-jerk, city-dweller reaction and the olive-green tent being put up looks cute. It is the first time I’ve seen a tent in real-time, and we sit on the red plastic chairs on the rubble-y banks of the Bhatsai and ... eat junk food. Balance. If we eat junk food, we can scuttle back to ‘civilisation’ as soon as this stops being cute, right? Mumbai is just 60 km away.

But there is solace, and as the evening chill gathers, so do the stars. Staffers of Big Red Tent, organiser of this trip, give us foam sheets to lie back on, with a promise that we will see at least one shooting star. When the sun starts to dip, mosquitoes gather and we remove our repellent ammunition — we are still on the brink. Miraculously, as soon as the sun sets, the mosquitoes disappear.

We cautiously explore our new interiors for the next 12 hours. It’s Enid-Blyton-meets-Nat-Geo and soon enough, we are handed solar-charged torches and are nudged into a walk in the woods with other fellow campers. We walk through fields and narrow mulch-wooded tracks with just enough light to see one step in front of us. The crickets are making a din, and we worry about snakes and creepy crawlies, ready to shriek if a cobweb’s gossamer strings touch us. After the walk, there’s a barbecue. Later, we watch the stars after we’ve recounted tales over a campfire. We are fast asleep before we know it.

The morning is radiant. The Bhatsai river flows tranquilly, and fog is lifting off the water. The river is smooth with the trees and ice blue sky reflecting on it. We wade through the water unshod and spot shoals of tame needle-thin fish darting in the shallows. We can go fishing or kayaking. Or do both. A local is sitting aboard a plank of thin wood across a tyre, using his slippers to row. He is across the bank quickly. How hard can it be? So, we pick kayaking. By the time we figure how to not rock the kayak and how to steer through, because one boat can only take one adult’s weight, we are all achy. A staffer is close by to help.

I now know that no matter how many outdoor activities you’ve done with your kid, if you haven’t gone camping, you’ve not done it. Period. Camping is calming and soothing and, clichéd as it sounds, it brings to the fore all the skills you need to have to live and learn.

Fact file

Where: Big Red Tent (BRT), Bhatsai Road, Patil Nagar, Vasind. Best for: Boys and girls, age 5 onwards, accompanied by adults

How to reach: Board a local to Kalyan, get off at Vasind, ask any local; BRT is a 10 min walk from the station.

Timings: 4 pm check in, 2 pm check out

Budget: The Little Nirvana Explorers package charges ` 4000 for adults and ` 2000 for children below eight. Covers all meals and activities during camping. Food: Yes, delicious Water: Yes

Rest Room facilities: Modern, with heated water-bath facility, open to the sky. Very cool. Where else to go: No need; lots to explore

Parent Poll: Loved that we were in nature with basic modern facilities
Rating: ****
Kids' Poll: Loved it. Ammol: Can I work here? 
Rating: ****

What's Good: A solar-powered site; useful dos and don’ts list from BRT.
What's Not So Good: Campers must not litter the place, even as BRT cleans up

Safety Tip
Kayaking is done solo, but everything during camping is supervised by the staff. If you adhere to the rules set in place, you should be fine.

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