End of the year. Not in a mood for the usual parties. My husband searches for offbeat holidays with an intention of staying in a village and finds this village that are on a mission to save the turtles. VELAS, about 250 kms from Borivali, sounded very interesting. Bookings made in a home stay and we were on our way.
The drive itself was very pleasant as there was a slight nip in the air, in order to avoid heavy traffic roads, we took alternate long winding empty roads with trees forming an arc on both sides or some places sea shore on one side like the drive from Revdanda to Murud is truly a shoreline. On one side of the road there are mountains and on the other a long stretch of pristine virgin beach. And then more adventure, we drove into a barge to cross creek at Bagmandla near Harihareshwar. Drive in with our vehicle onto the barge. Park it and then enjoy the sea breeze on our face as barge moves from one side of the river to other side which is Bankot. It is very exhilarating. Driving into the barge, waiting for others to drive & then those 20 minutes in the barge with most tourists including your truly clicking away, the sea gulls creating a racket, the cool air hitting you hard really sets your heart and mind for the oncoming days. We disembark and start driving on a narrow village road. After Bankot another edge of the sea drive the beach takes your breath away. Probably you may see a lone person walking or a single boat chugging in the waters. The sea tumults into waves, rolls onto the beach and then recedes quietly. While driving we just wanted to stop and sit quietly, but then realised we were making too many stops. It was important to reach destination as our host was keen we reach before it darkens.
We reach our destination. Our host was Mr. Sunil. We were welcomed with piping hot cups of tea. Our room was spacious. Yes, as we wanted a village stay, we had to sleep on the ground. But the host had ensured small comforts to city bred. He had provided clean mattresses with bed sheets and bed covers. The restroom was western style. Dinner was either you are vegetarian or non vegetarian. My husband a typical Manglorean is a non vegetarian was thrilled with the array of coastal food. Prawns, fishes, crabs, fried and curried, ooh la la he said. Our host ensured that vegetarians also had a very good array. Two tasty vegetables and one curry was a staple. Steaming hot chappatis/ rice bhakris……Wow…..could one ask for more.
Can you believe on a vacation we are up at 6 am the next day to see the newly hatched turtles. (OLIVE RIDLEY TURTLES). We meet the volunteers from the local NGO. These volunteers educate us on the behaviour of the turtles. They scout for the turtle eggs early morning based on turtle pug marks & then relocate these eggs to a safe hatchery in order prevent loss due to dogs, hyenas & other animals. The hatchery where the eggs are kept below the ground level replicates similar conditions but is made safe from natural dangers then tagged & basket kept to cover it. An 8 foot barricade is built around to ensure that no dogs/fox/hyenas eat the eggs. Earlier even the villagers would eat the eggs since it was very rich in protein. However from the time the NGO has been working in the village they have managed to garner huge support from the village. It takes about 60 days for the eggs to hatch & when the eggs are hatched the new born turtles would crawl into the basket. The basket would be opened at twilight time early morning or late evening. When the basket is opened if one is fortunate, then one would see the turtles coming out. For us it was no luck. No turtles came out on days we were present. However to make up for that we saw beautiful dolphins jumping out of the sea. They make one graceful leap out and then dive back. Too fast for the camera to catch it.
Mr Sunil, our host and his family ensured we had sumptuous tasty food. The beach stilled our mind as we would just keep strolling in the evening.
On the night of 31st December 2014, we wished each other and the other guests. 1st January 2015 was just another day as the calendar was turned. We were at peace with ourselves and totally in the laps of the environment with all that it had to offer. The parties were not missed as we were very happy.
Olive Ridley Turtles were reason enough for us to drive all the way from Mumbai to VELAS. But we realized that irrespective of the fact, whether we got a chance to see those sprightly little turtles or not, this holiday had created a place in our heart which we would always remember.
Jyoti Y Gujaran (firstname.lastname@example.org)