Thursday, January 21, 2016

Slow Life at Coastal India's Farm stay

Hello readers, hope your new year started with bang!
I am having such eventful month after coming back from vacation that I couldn't even update the blog. But better late than never. So let me tell you how we had glimpse of slow life in coastal India, Konkan and how much we enjoyed it.

We wanted to show our son the real India, rural places where they live close to Nature and sustainable. Keeping our tradition of doing sustainable tourism during every vacation, we decided to hit the untouched shores of Maharashtra named Konkan. We selected our base Parule village in Sindhudurga district, very close to Goa. Tourism is picking up in this area but almost zero as compared to Goa.

Our resort in Parule was a hidden gem, Maachli Farm Stay. It is located on the slope of a hill and a natural stream on one side and in the middle of dense coconut, betel, banana and spice plantation. The architecture of cottages is like those constructed in the farm for stay and observations in this region. Maachli is used in farm during irrigation process and cropping process. It is the education place for children with the experienced elders in the family to learn the farming activities and various processes. During the farming time family stays in Maachli for several days. The interior of the cottages is rustic and traditional.

Tunnel Spider
To enter the resort you need to either cross the shallow stream by foot or use the handmade wooden bridge. We had a grand welcome to resort, not only by our lovely hosts Samants, but also the monkeys jumping from the palm trees. That moment I was sure that our little monkey is going to have fun filled 4 days in this rural India. That evening we spent time walking around the resort and relaxing. Our bodies and mind started tuning to that slow paced life. Watching a spider weaving his web can be so much fun, I realized first time in my life.

The night was calm but noisy. We had similar experience previously at a resort in rain forest in Bali. The crickets, other insects, dogs filled up the night air with their constant sound. However after the initial  thrill is over, you get used it very quickly. There were lot of insects around us, so we were using natural insect repellent all times. The night sky was pitch dark and very clear. It would be heaven for sky observation and astronomy.

Pristine beaches of Konkan
The next morning we went to the nearby Bhogve beach. It was almost empty and felt like our own private beach. The beach was untouched, pristine. The water current was strong, stronger than what we are used to in Dubai, Arabian gulf. There are high amount of minerals in these areas so finding complete shells was difficult. The powder of crushed shells was spread on beach, the high amount of minerals and may be strong current might be the reason. There were many crabs running on beach and once you get close to them they used to run and hide hurriedly in their crab holes. It provided our son with a lot of entertainment. I left the boys to run behind crabs as well as colony of seagulls, while I took a relaxed stroll on beach. The green Konkan hills on one side and roaring sea at other, what better place to loose track of time. After we played in water, we left for our resort for yummy malvani food in time. The taste of food and freshness at our resort was unforgettable. The resort owner's wife Samant Kaku takes care of kitchen with few helpers. The food is served in leaf plates (patraval) and in earthen pots with serving spoon made of coconut bowl. The dinning area of resort is right next to the stream. There were few pet cats running around the resort. My son loved one of them, he used to call her, 'friend'. She used to feast on the fish bones after we finished our meals every day! Isn't that very sustainable!

Maachli dinning

My son's real-time introduction to cow!
Late one afternoon we went on a nature trail uphill. The resort owner's son, Prathamesh, took us to another farm for the experience of milking a cow. Until now, whenever my son used to see cows grazing along the road, he used to call them camels! Dubai kids, they are used to seeing camels along the roads! So it was very necessary for us to clear his confusion. He touched the cow and got up close and personal. Milking cow was a great experience not only for our son but even my husband who was under impression it must be an easy task. You need lot of strength in your hands and arms! Finally my son demanded to sit on the cow. The kind farmer did everything my son asked for. He had to hold that beautiful cow's tail all this time, while we were interacting. Cows use their tails to hit us, if we bother them. :D. A lovely couple (guests of the resort as ours) came with us for this trail. It is always great to make friends with like minded people somewhere far from home.

We walked through the dried grass spread over the long stretch of hills. We even threw ourselves in that soft cushioning grass. On the way back, we just needed to use our torch to see the path and check if their are snakes in our path. We even got to see one snake, who slithered away quickly.

Nature trail, Old temple, Kingfisher
Next morning, we went on another nature trail. Prathamesh took us to a scenic old temple near a pond. On the way we got to see different birds. After reaching temple, it felt tranquil and peaceful. The pond was best area to watch birds. I could capture kingfish, little green bee eater in my camera. On the way back he showed us one more small pond near our resort. We along with our new friends from resort came back to this pond to have tea. It was great experience. I remembered my collage days, when we used to go on trekking, camp in caves and used to cook simple food.

During our nature trails, Prathamesh who spent his life in this place, introduced us to many plant species and their different uses in regular life.

My son had lot of fun in those trails. He walked on his own, sometimes holding our leader's hand. He even gave his comments when everyone was expressing their opinion. Shared the excitement when anything new came across our way. It was very educational for him. After the trip, I could see his understanding widen in just few days. I honestly feel now 'Travelling is good education and Nature is best teacher'!

Pottery making on traditional wheel
One afternoon we went to nearby village to learn pottery making. The potter had a manually operated traditional pottery wheel. My son just played with soil clay like play dough, as this was not age appropriate activity for him. Hubby made a car for him, on his demand. But I learned this first time and was happily surprised to see few pots made by me at the end. It was a satisfying experience to learn new skill, but I even felt like meditating while working on wheel. It's now on my wish list to spend some time to learn this skill properly, when possible.

We did few other short trips to forts of Maratha King Shivaji one of which is Sindhudurga sea fort located on an island. Our last educational experience was planation tour on farm. We walked through the farm with the knowledgeable Samant - father and son duo, as they introduced us to every specie of plants on their estate.

Leaving this resort was the most difficult task of our tour. It is that one place we are going back again and again when we could find time! Memories of swishing, swaying of coconut and betel palms, lingering scent of plantation around us, noisy insects at night, natural fish pedicure in stream, long and refreshing nature trails, natural goodies collected by my son and bonds made with new friends these are the things we took with us from this trip.

Coconut and betel palm plantation, stream and natural fish pedicure
Living close to nature day and night, tuning to the nature's slow pace forgetting your travel to-do lists, experiencing small joys, seeing nature and time unfolding in front of your eyes; 'sustainable vacation' is all about it.

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