Words: CHERYL-ANN COUTO
Photographs: SAMEER MANGTANI
GREAT FROM: Mumbai and Pune
GREAT FOR: A no-frills, high-adrenaline getaway
“Forward! Forward! Forward!” barks the captain, and you fling your upper body almost out of the raft and spear the water with a vengeance. Pelting rain blurs your vision and screaming co-passengers assault your hearing as the river rises to meet you. The seconds yawn as your raft bounces pell mell over River Kundalika’s Grade II and Grade III rapids – evocatively named Morning Glory, Rajdhani Express, Boom Shankar – before thudding back to equilibrium. The river is all placid nonchalance now, and life jacket secured, you’re welcome to throw yourself overboard and let the gentle currents carry you forth.
River rafting in the foothills of the Sahyadris in the Raigad district of Western Maharashtra is bound to rate as one of your more eventful monsoon weekend plans. And, although you’ll have raucous droves from nearby Mumbai and Pune for company, the growing rumble and sputter of the perennial River Kundalika – fed by excess water from a number of hydroelectric projects, including daily release from the nearby Bhira Dam – will be the only noise that stays with you as you prepare for the bumpy cruise.
For those who prefer a more meditative exploration, wander this deep-green landscape on foot. Deep Forest Farms, a three-acre riverfront property in the Roha taluka makes for a scenic base even if it’s yet to find its feet as a professional homestay. Enlist a farmhand to lead the hike – most of the staff are locals from the neighbouring Handewadi and Kharbachiwadi villages, who know the best trails to avoid running into other tourists.
Symmetrical fields give way to swathes of forest bubbling with brooks and streams, which level out into vast embankments along the river’s backwaters. The surrounding hills are draped with waterfalls that gush during the monsoon. A waterfall bath-and-bhutta (Indian-style corn on the cob) is an essential combo in these parts.
The intrepid could navigate the lichen-covered rock stairway near Torankewadi Village – don’t hesitate to resort to all fours to keep from falling – that leads up to a tiny cave temple, where the locals say the Pandavas lived for one day, outside which beats a slender, silver waterfall. A more easily accessible, and therefore more popular, option are the milky, robust falls in Ainwal Village.
All this good air and exercise will make you ravenous, and the property’s rustic Maharashtrian fare, spicy and carb-heavy, really delivers. Ask for the sticky, locally- grown Komal rice or the millet pancakes, and drench them in equally piquant chicken and bean curries. Finish with mounds of semolina pudding as a sweet prelude to a long, luxurious nap. Since cell-phone networks have long abandoned you, shrill cicadas, torrential rain and rustling teak forests will be your lullaby for a change. Outside, a slate sky gathers the land in its brooding embrace as your eyelids give way.