We were driving from Goa to Kochi and picked on Kannur in Kerala, as a mid way stop over for the night. After some searching around, we discovered Amban Heritage Home. And boy, did we love it!
Amban Heritage Home was built in 1904. The rooms are small, very affordable, but very clean and so are the bathrooms. The property is run by the family and the food is excellent. We had some awesome prawns, fish, rice, chutneys, veggies etc, all true Kannur traditional style.
We changed our plans of driving to Kochi, Kerala, because of the terrible traffic on NH17, and decided of going to Kotagiri in Tamil Nadu instead. Suresh was kind enough to suggest an absolutely beautiful drive to Coonoor, something our mapping devices could never think of. Thank you Suresh!
Having delivered a couple of films, and a hectic round of pitching etc, we decided in November last year, to drive down to Diveagar and Harihareshwar. The drive itself was extremely scenic, and we booked ourselves at the MTDC ‘Exotica’ in Diveagar. We were very apprehensive about the quality of stay and food, (we always look for a clean, dry room with a non-smelly dry toilet, but it seems its too much to ask for in most places) but were pleasantly surprised. More so with the food. Not having much time on hand, we stayed only for a night at Diveagar, and left the next morning for Harihareshwar. We really wished we had spent another day at lovely Diveagar though. Its a tiny but beautiful sleepy little beach town, and we had one of the most amazing meals at a home stay kind of place called ‘Patil’s’.
The drive through coastal Maharashtra is divine, and I hope it never becomes too touristy.
We had the most amazing experience on the way back, via Pali (since we don’t like driving on NH17, we are always looking for alternate routes). The sun had set and the remaining light was fading fast. While driving, we saw a shadow fly past us and overtake our Skoda Yeti. We slowed the car to realise it was a Barn Owl, which had sighted a rodent on the road ahead. I stopped the car so as not to disturb the hunt, and also to get a better view. The Owl swept down and landed in a pool of light from my Yeti’s headlamps for its kill. A few seconds of chase, and the Owl flew away with its dinner. We were too mesmerised to even think of taking photos. Moments like these make such road trips unforgettable.
In June last year, we headed towards Purushwadi, a small village near Sangamner in rural Maharashtra. We had heard the valley at night turns into a heaven of fireflies at the onset of monsoons. Having been deprived of firefly sightings thanks to rampant use of pesticides and habitat destruction, we were really keen to see ‘the million fireflies’ that were promised. The promises were delivered! And how!
Finding the village was easy, we were asked to meet someone at a particular Petrol Pump on the Sangamner road. This person from the village sat in our car and guided us to the spot. The journey was beautiful and at one point we had to cross a river via a rusted bridge, which was so narrow I was scared it would scratch the car. But it was just wide enough and we soon reached Purushwadi, 1000m above mean sea level. Grassroutes, an organisation of nice people, “committed to helping the urban world meet and discover rural India” (though I am not sure urban tourists in untouched rural India is a load of good), runs small tent accommodations in Purushwadi. They are clean, with clean toilets. The highlight is eating with a village family in their hut, and tasting the pure village food. Dal, farm fresh sabzi, (vegetable) , and rotis made of pearl millet (bajra) flour. The simplicity of the meal and way of village life is absolutely wonderful. The best part is that village folk apparently benefit from this as rural tourism.
The economy of the village runs on agriculture, (which made me very happy) and lies between rivers Murkundi and Mula. The landscape is hilly, lush green, breezy and, well, just awesome! After lunch, we walked through the village lanes and reached a mango tree. We then plucked fresh ripe mangoes and trekked downhill to a beautiful quiet stream. This was the most mesmerising moment for us, with out feet soaked in cool stream water , and hundreds of small fish nibbling our feet giving us a natural foot spa, and we relishing our juicy mangoes. A perfect idyllic village moment that I have always dreamt of.
As the sun’s heat mellowed down, we trekked our way up into the valley and took a walk around the damn. Village goats and stray dogs kept our company through these trails. The open fresh air was totally rejuvenating. Then we started heading back reaching the village hut well in time for our dinner. Soon the sky began to turn dark. And there it was, our first sight of one firefly. Just that one firefly that hovered around us, leaving a disappearing trail of light in its path was so beautiful to watch and that we were not even thinking of what was coming next.
Soon one firefly became many and we saw hundreds of them around a tree right outside our tent, in the same trailing action. It was time to go into the valley with our guide. It was absolutely dark, no contamination of artificial light. Only a half moon shone above us. With every blink of our eye the number of fireflies kept on increasing. In no time we found ourselves amidst a carnival of fire flies all around us, and unbelievably standing as though decorating our entire path. Was this real or were we imagining these surroundings, it was truly a shot straight out of James Cameron’s Avatar, and better. Their soft blinks and fast but magical flights left us speechless. We kept walking and finally reached the narrow bridge. As we stood at the centre of the valley, we saw something that will remain etched in our minds for as long as we live. There were hundreds of trees, each tree was dotted with a million fireflies. They were blinking together but in a choreographed rhythm. Like disco lights that would go up on one tree and then the next one and then the next. This was nature at its best performance and we were mere spectators. This was music. This was magic! The swarms of firefly families had painted an unforgettable image before us that no photograph can ever capture. We were there with our eyes wide open, dazed and amazed while the time stood still. An now as we write about it, we feel an urgent need to go back and relive it all over again. Don’t think we will ever check Purushwadi off our travel list. This is definitely a place where you want to keep returning to.
[box type=”note” width=”100%” ]We strongly feel such a beautiful phenomenon must be preserved, and would love to nominate Purishwadi as a Firefly Sanctuary! The best way to preserve a habitat is to leave it alone. Even if you do visit, please minimise your eco-footprint. Ask your organisers to help preserve the habitat.[/box]
Best time to visit Purushwadi for fireflies in the first week of June, just before the monsoons!
From Wikipedia: Lampyridae is a family of insects in the beetle order Coleoptera. They are winged beetles, and commonly called fireflies or lightning bugs for their conspicuous crepuscular use of bioluminescence to attract mates or prey. Fireflies produce a ‘cold light’, with no infrared or ultraviolet frequencies. This chemically produced light from the lower abdomen may be yellow, green, or pale red, with wavelengths from 510 to 670 nanometers.
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