Words: Sheena Dabholkar
Photographs: Supriya Kantak
GREAT FROM: Mumbai, Pune
GREAT FOR: Recharging your batteries
Mumbai’s first rains always receive the warmest welcome, but the excitement is as palpable as it is short lived.
Across the bay, it’s a whole different story. That freshly-washed feel carries right through the rainy season. Accessible for most of the year via just a one-hour ferry ride, Konkan’s Raigad District is a favourite getaway for many Mumbaikars who make haste toward Alibaug and its neighbouring beaches on weekends. During the monsoon, the boats don’t ply and you have to drive but it’s worth it to get that big dose of nature you need to administer to your city-weary self every once in a while.
Further south in Raigad’s bucolic entrails, Aranya @ Phansad is a farmstay with fields of paddy dotted with papaya, banana and other seasonal fruit trees. It’s an almost painterly sight – a splash of brilliant crayon green fringed by hills against a cloudy sky with a cascading waterfall in the distance. The farm offers nine cosy rooms in four stilt bungalows but you’ll want to spend most of your time hanging in the dining area, an elegant, breezy space by the pool, playing rounds of carom or Monopoly on tables made from carved antique doors.
Or you’ll want to intersperse kicking a football around the property with refreshingly cold dips. There’s plenty to keep you occupied here even if you don’t bring your own entertainment. The meals are another reason to love this place. Expect home-style local food so delicious, you’ll be looking forward to dinner while you’re still eating lunch.
More than anything, Aranya feels like a friend’s farm. The hosts aren’t around, but the friendly staff encourages you to make it home, and you can even bring your pets. Though if you haven’t got any, theirs are happy to keep you company as you traipse about the property. You can also do longer walks, like the canopied trails through Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary, a 20-minute drive away. The sanctuary might not offer much in terms of fauna but it’s perfect for those who love longer hikes with marked.
And, even if walks are not your thing, make an exception for Korlai Fort, a hill-top fortification built in the 16th century by the Portuguese. In the monsoon it is storybook beautiful, filled with lush, windswept grass that makes it look more like the Scottish Highlands than the Konkan coast. After you’ve explored it, skip down the winding green path to the jetty, stroll to the other end to find the shell of a glorious, abandoned Portuguese church and look over the rooftops of the pastel-coloured fishing settlement that calls Korlai home. If the weather is dry, it isn’t a bad idea to pack a little picnic. The panoramic views from the top are nothing short of breathtaking. The fort is a short but fitness-testing climb from behind the Korlai Lighthouse, whose grumpy caretaker offers a quick tour of the lighthouse, reached by a winding staircase within, and helps you understand its role in aiding ships navigate.
If you’re rained in the whole time, don’t fret. Each bungalow has its own sit-out that’s perfect for curling up in with that book you’ve been meaning to read for months, or watching the rain and listening to the knuckle-crack creaking of frogs and the hum of cicadas with a cup of hot tea. After all, you did come here for nature therapy.