A family member I treasure, not long ago, cited that I have wanderlust. ‘til that time, I always took that word for granted. And on that day, I looked up the word and my definition of it changed. And thus begins a new blog channel and a blog post, a really really long review post.
I had read about Grassroutes.co.in and their offered trips online, a year back. I wanted to desperately go on one such trip, but couldn’t make it that year. Well, this year I did. It was a revelation of sorts for me and my wanderlust expectations.
Every year, around the rainy season, they market their most popular trip called - A Million Fireflies. And the fireflies were exactly why I wanted to take this trip.
Their booking experience is smooth. The team at GrassRoutes helps you at every turn. Especially Naomi. It’s effortless. Post booking, they provide you with directions and travel arrangement choices you could make to reach the place. And a checklist with some do’s and dont’s.
On this trip, it was the 3 of us. The family member mentioned above, her cousin and I. We drove down there, in her car. It took us around 5 hours each way, from Mumbai to Purushwadi and vice - a - versa.
On our way there, we were filled with excitement, at least two of us were. We were supposed to be shacking up with the villagers. Soon to be witnesses to a million fireflies, glowing, lighting up the trees and the village in their mating season. Awesome rainy weather. Greens, every where you looked. Hardly any one around.We were really looking forward to a magical place and time. The third had her one feet in and the other out.
The drive there was one of the best I have undertaken so far. After turning off at Gothi - not the only weirdest name of a place I have come across - (see map below), it suddenly became just the 3 of us and the car, the air and the earth. With gusty winds promising rain and heights that promised cleaner air. The best end to the day and the drive would be an awesome sleep at the end of it, all tucked in with coolness around you.
On the way there we shared some experiences, neither of us are bound to forget. Especially the Cherry picking ordeal. ( you both know what I mean ).
When you reach Rajur, the last place you will have phone reception, you are met with a guide from GrassRoutes. This guide is one of the local villager, assigned to you, for throughout your trip. A very nice thing indeed. We were impressed.
He/She will then guide you through the way up to Purushwadi and the Registration office. The registration office is small shack, kind of a canteen, a sit-down mess hall, staff quarters and a souvenir shop all rolled into one. It has to be, with resources so limited. And all the guides during their waiting/off hours hang out here.
The road from Rajur to Purushwadi is, at certain points, steep and narrow. And beware, ST buses ply up here. So if you are a rash driver, slow down. Enjoy the sights and the quiet. Talk to the folks sitting with you. Strike up a conversation with your guide and take it slow.
Purushwadi and the local people.
The camping ground is clean, lively, and if I may, loud, with children running around and families chirping like newly born birds. The view from the camping ground is breath taking. And the rains just add to it all. On the way to the camp ground you see a lot of villages and village folk going about their daily lives, at spaced out intervals. You see them herd, plough, and do the things that villagers do.
After we parked the car; Yes there is a parking ground at the camping site. We got out and wanted to freshen up. The camping site has some really, really clean bathrooms. And we made the most of it. The cousin was not prepared for nature. She freaked out when she saw a Cricket in the bathroom. Nothing to be afraid of, its just a Cricket. And you do your work, and he does his.
After the freshening up, we were given typical Maharashtrian hats. Love ‘em. And a nice warm welcome by Sushma, our liaison from GrassRoutes. We were told we will be taken to the rooms at the guesthouse prepared for us. Wait!!! Guesthouse?? We were suppose to live with the villagers. At least that’s what we were told.
I had also asked Sushma and Naomi, both from GrassRoutes, to keep an option open for us, either the camp or living with a villager. And was told by Sushma that, that would be fine. And on enquiring about the camps, we were told they were all booked. I get that the guys have to go ahead and book, but a friendly email or a call would have been nice, telling me that “*hey, we can’t do that*”.
Anyhoo, we were then told that we would be going for lunch to a villagers home first and then to the guest room prepared for us. And we were excited. It was a small trek getting there. Our guide, Maruti (his name) helped us along the way. I have a knack for walking trails, at least I think I do, but the cousin, hell no!
Thus came our first experience of meeting the locals, eating lunch in a villager’s home, cooked by her family and her. And it was one of most simplest, tastiest and healthiest meal I have had in a long long time. Absolutely loved it.
While eating lunch, we chatted up our neighbour. And were subsequently told that breakfast and dinner both will be served up at her home, by her. The presentation of the food, the hospitality shown by the family that gave us food, was another, out of the world feeling of this trip. Something I will always remember.
Post lunch, we were told we could rest and at 4 ‘o clock in the evening some tea and biscuits will be served. This is time we reached our humble accommodation. And boy, we weren’t ready for it!
When we were told that instead of staying with a village family, we will be staying at a guest house, we were surprised but we took that in our strides. Upon entering our room in their “guesthouse”, I really had expectations that it would be as clean and well taken care of, as the camps on the camping ground.
Boy! Was that a blow to my wanderlust filled ego.
All three of us were shacked up in one small cubby room. Which was okay, really. What was not okay were the smelly sheets, the mould and mildew covered pillows and dust filled blankets. The windows refuse to stay open or say shut for that matter.
The supposedly upside of staying in the guest-room is that you share the bathroom and toilet with just another family staying in a room right next to yours. The bathroom was unclean, with things outdating the construction of the bathroom lying about in there. Again, travelling with city women, you need certain “amenities” available for them, to them. Since we, city dwellers, are not used to the village life. A lesson learnt here by the GrassRoute people (the trip organisers) will go a long way, both, for them and for their guests.
The entire guest room gave you the feeling of unrest. Told you to get out, instead of staying in and resting. And I think thats what we did. While the cherished family friend took the time to nap, her cousin and I, went to the camp site around 4 in the evening. I wanted to have some tea, and post that we were contemplating going for a trek up on a slope to see the sunset. But we opted against that trek, since it was cloudy and drizzling. You couldn’t have seen the sunset any way. We instead chose to trek down, to a river. A small trek and a good one too.
Post that we came back, rested some more, mind you not inside the room, but out on the porch. The wind was gusty, and that coupled with the silence all around, was serene. It was the perfect weather to put your feet up and breathe. Then the sun set. We couldn’t see it set, but dusk had come. And we started straining our eyes out, to catch some glimpse of the fireflies promised. My sole purpose for opting for this trip.
The night and the Fireflies
As night began to climb, we started seeing small sparks of light (life). Flying around like electrons scattering. Around trees and shrubs, close and far. At this point, I was feeling let down. We were promised a million fire flies! And I could only see a few.
We were told that, it was uncommon for them not to show up or to be out in such small numbers. This was stressed upon a number of times by our guide. So much so that, we began to wonder if the fireflies bit was a marketing gimmick.
It was 8:30, when we began our trek to get us some dinner. We were accompanied by our immediate neighbours, staying in the next guest room.
One thing to note here is that, there is no electricity here, so almost no electric illumination is available, save for the solar lamps and torches. And that, I think just adds to the mystique of the place.
While on our way up to the village home of the lovely chef, we kept switching off our torches. And we found more fireflies! Every where around us! Sure, not as many in number but still a good lot of them. And their sight was magical.
The dinner was, again and as usual, simple, filling and awesome. Post which we came down back and decided to hunt for fireflies, we kinda had to push our guide into taking us to a spot where there would be many! And he was reluctant when I asked him, since once they take you for dinner their day is done and earned. But, when the cousin asked him, he immediately said a yes!
And I thank her for that! It was one of the most brilliant sight. One that I had longed for a while. Little lights, pulsating all around. As if you are in the emptiness of the universe surrounded by stars. Don’t take my word for it! Get up there!
We headed back, I think after about an hour. Again its a small walk to some really good spots where the fireflies gather. At least on days like this, when they are not out and about in numbers.
Fateful night of natural slumber.
The night was again not meant for sleeping. The room still wanting to throw us out.
Throw my cherished friend out, by allowing the wind to rattle everything that was in the room. Throw the cousin out by having insects in her bed sheet, she hates creepie crawlies and throw me out by having smelly, mouldy and mildew filled pillows - I am allergic. I had to use one of my spare tees as a pillow cover.
But I think we prevailed. And I did sleep rather comfortably, once I got sleep that is. I can safely say this for the other two too.
All in all, it was a good trip. And it had the potential to have been a brilliant trip. GrassRoutes, could do so much more to help out the village folks. There is a certain resentment you feel from them. And on asking some of them I came to know that they weren’t paid well enough. I really hope they do get paid well in the future. Grassroutes could also go ahead and buy a reliance based mobile phone with a prepaid number, its not expensive at all, since there is no reception available from any other carriers in the area. This would do them well incase of familiar emergencies, back home or in Purushwadi. A number where families can be kept informed of unfortunate events. Along with that, I would suggest to get the guest rooms in order. Nothing fancy, just the basics. Keep the toilets as clean as the ones on the camping ground. Keep the sheets and pillow/pillow covers clean as the ones in the camping area. This would definitely make the people in the guest rooms not feel that they haven’t paid enough to earn their stays. One last recommendation would be to make sure to deliver small things which were promised. These small things go a long way. For e.g. we were promised tea with milk during breakfast, but that wasn’t the case. We were looking forward for a good cup of tea with milk, yes two out of the three of us, like tea and with milk at least once a day. Small things like this were promised aplenty and never delivered. But the Nature, the Greens and the Fireflies made it all good.
Things of Note if you are planning a trip to Purushwadi.
If you plan to book this trip. Opt for the camps. Close your eyes and opt for the damned camps on the camping ground. Carry a torch, may be two.
The best time to visit is during the last week of May and/or the first week of June. This is time when the Fireflies are out and about in abundance. Carry a sleeping bag, if you can. Carry soap, toilet paper and any other sanitary things you need. For those of you who think there’s a convenience store around, there are none.
Plan a trip so that you are there at least for 2 days. Makes it worth while. And incase you don’t like the place, give it sometime, it does grow on you. A lot!
Be courteous to the villagers. They are simple and nice folk. Definitely opt for the various activities, they will definitely do you some good.