While ideas for a trip were being discussed and google searches done, Mahesh found a farmstay near the Malvan coast that looked promising. This involved a long road drive and being near the sea. It had been 6 months since our Kolhapur road trip, so for the yellowperiscope team another one was on the cards. Thus, the plan for going to Maachli was passed. As soon as we browsed their website www.maachli.in and read about the concept behind it, we knew it added another dimension to the road trip; that of experiencing a real living with nature.
Growing up in India, I often visited family friends or distant relatives in different cities and stayed over at their homes and vice versa. During the stay, we got to know them, their lives and of course they cooked amazing stuff for us! Some of them owned farms and visiting the farm was always a fun getaway. I was particularly looking forward to experiencing the joy of that earthy and simple life again.
The road to No-Network-Land
Our exciting but demanding drive to Maachli farmstay started in the morning from Mumbai, continued through Mumbai-Bangalore highway and then got us to Amboli ghat by the time it was pitch dark. We were driving through mountains on one side and a hollow on the other, where the not to be seen valley was, along with approaching headlights on high beam!
Once we descended the ghat (a mountain pass), crossing into the lowlands, we sensed the sights and sounds changing. We were now driving through narrow roads, complete silence, silhouettes of coastal trees on both sides and an occasional vehicle passing us. Prathamesh, our host, called us for final driving instructions and informed us that we will soon lose mobile network connectivity. Though, offline google maps contributed to the excitement as countdown to location continued. Every 15 or 20 minutes, a little hut with a small light or a deserted village square would appear, confirming that we were amidst civilization.
Transporting to a different scenario
Maachli, our farmstay is like a hidden getaway, located in a remote part of the village with no signage or boards around. But following our hosts instructions we soon reached our destination, a house on the Sagari Mahamarg, near Parule village. We were escorted with torches, through steps leading into a farm. Then a small stream with a bridge appeared.
On the other side of this magical bridge was a shaded hut (the dining area), a dense plantation and cricket sounds. We reached a well and then steps made of stone led us to a beautiful and welcoming cottage.
Build local, think global.
The name of the farmstay is inspired by Maachli, a word native to Konkan, for huts made by local farmers to store produce and stay on the farm. It is living with what they do for a living.
The design is based on this idea. The cottage is a triangular structure that uses local materials like laterite stone (locally known as chira) and wood. The high ceiling along with innovative natural ventilation keeps the room cool and there is no need for air conditioning. The triangular structure also provides good waterproofing, an important feature for this area that receives high rainfall during the monsoon.
The makers of Maachli decoded the divide that exists for urban travelers – while we want local experiences of staying on a farm and country living, not many of us are really prepared to let go of our western toilets, the shower consoles and hotel style beds. So they came up with what is a good example of glocal design.
My favorite getaway images: A sit-out area with easy chairs, surrounded by a forest, with a stream flowing nearby and cup of tea.
Waking up to a ‘screen saver’
After a sleep that should follow a very long drive, we woke up next morning, refreshed. We woke up to bird sounds. And woke up to a huge window with a view that brought the farm inside.
During our stay, we spotted many birds that Mahesh helped us identify. The malabar pied hornbill, kingfisher, Indian pheasant crow (bharadwaj) or greater coucal, shahi bulbul, fork tailed drongos, golden oriole at the farm and last but not the least, a white bellied sea eagle at the nearby Nivati beach, were some of the species we spotted. The night sky here, is a perfect place for stargazing, if you are into it.
Malvani food – the fame is well deserved.
The food from this region is called Malvani food and it has earned its place as a separate cuisine on restaurant menus. We got the real taste of homemade and authentic recipes. Although the cuisine is famous for its seafood, we were delighted to discover how flavorful the vegetarian dishes made from farm-fresh produce were.
I also noticed that earthen pots were used to serve the food along with wooden spoons and lids. I noticed beautiful coconut ladles being used to serve the food. The drinking water served to us in the room was stored in a copper vessel, an Indian tradition that is known to infuse medicinal properties to the water.
When interacting with the host family, there is a wealth of stories and knowledge about their local culture that I gathered. Their son, Prathamesh told us about the farm and the activities they organize. We made short trips to charming towns and pristine beaches, nearby. In the evening we went for a walk in the village. And much to the surprise of villagers, Mahesh went for a jog. Dhruv did not like the idea of sharing a farm stay with insects. But the bridge and trips around the farm were a big hit. The food was relished by all three of us .
We visited Maachli in the first week of June. So, on our last evening, when we were driving back from the Vengurla port nearby, the rain gods decided to smile, then thundered and lastly showered us with a downpour that announced the arrival of the Indian monsoon. That night at the farm was full of different sounds, mainly the loud sound of toads, almost like a bark.
After the thrilling rain drive, when we were back to the farm, Mahesh went for a jog in the rain. One of the cooks at the farms kitchen spotted him on the village road, and could not restrain herself from questioning “why are you are running in this rain?” And he answered, “because I don’t get to do this in Mumbai”.
One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.