A long weekend at Nersa, a village on the Goa Karnataka border
The bamboo tree flowers once in 12 years. And once it does, it’s of no use anymore. The bamboo flowers attract rodents, which also tend to eat up rice grains, thus increasing the chances of a famine. That’s why bamboo trees are destroyed once they flower.
This is only one of the stories that our guide, David, recounts as we walk through the jungle, enjoying the feel of the fresh air, walking under the shade of the magnificent trees around and listening to the different bird calls. It’s rejuvenating, exhilarating and something I can never tire of.
As we walked up what is called Bear Hill, David tells us to wait till we reach the vantage point. From here we can see the whole expanse of the Londa range, a part of the Western Ghats, in the Goa-Karnataka border. I savour every moment; the brush of leaves and branches against my skin, the sunlight filtering in through the trees and the “ra-ta-tat-ta-tat” of a woodpecker somewhere close by.
David is way ahead, climbing the slopes as surely as a mountain goat. He knows these places like the back of his hand, having made this and the surroundings his home around 26 years ago. Following him is Sara, a frequent visitor to India who’s come from Germany. Sara has spent much of her time, money and efforts since the tsunami hit the eastern coast, participating in rebuilding efforts. It’s her life’s cause right now and this is her little vacation before rushes off again on one of her causes.
We walk up single file, stopping to gather around David when he points out a tree or a medicinal plant and gives us some background.
A week or so earlier, when bringing another tourist up the hill, David had a close encounter with a bear (this is Bear Hill after all). This time around, his wife Morvarid and daughter Katrina make sure that he is equipped, just in case of a repeat encounter. David shows us the point he saw the bear and realizes it was quite a close shave!
When we reach the vantage point, we’re not disappointed. The greenery stretches out before us like a green carpet, providing much needed visual relief for our tired eyes. We sit atop the rocks and notice little red crabs darting in and out and David tells us they are residents. They come out in droves at the first sign of rain.
David has another interesting story to tell. It’s like a fairy tale really and could well begin with â€˜A long, long time ago’. David (barely around 21) and his wife gave up the city life (and modern world) so as to speak and took the decision to settle down somewhere close to nature. They found land in a village called Nersa and moved there lock, stock and barrel.
Things were not all hunky dory. For nearly 7 long years, both of them underwent quite a few hardships trying to settle down into an environment alien to them. They had no electricity and Morvarid tells us how they could not listen to music, except for BBC, on a radio that would run on batteries.
Every monsoon, their area would get flooded and communication to the outside world would cease completely as the only way out from their place being a flooded river. They were trapped for those 2-3 months with nothing but some supplies and their wits to survive.
And survive they did : quite well too. The home stay they set up around 5 years ago is a cosy place nestled in the hills. A hidden secret cocooned in the mysterious folds of the Western ghats.
Once the phone signals stop and you’re disconnected with the rest of the world, the sense of ennui and not wanting to know what’s going on out there can settle quite deeply into the senses! The four days we spent there turned out to be pure bliss. Besides lazing around, and going for a walk in the jungle, and a swim, we did precious little.
Morvarid cooked us some fantastic meals and I ate like it was going out of style!
From our little home : a machan on stilts – surrounded by trees, we watched the storm come in one evening. Loud thunderstorm and darkening overhead skies held a lot of promise of violent rain; and we anticipated a lot of it, as we sat in our comfortable reclining chairs, feet up, watching nature’s frenzy.
But apparently, the next village and the surrounding areas got all the rain. We just enjoyed a slight drizzle after all that noise.
Another day, David takes us out in his monster (a modified truck) that sounds and looks like one and therefore the name. He takes us through a village and then deep inside the forest, where suddenly, in the middle of nowhere : there’s a river flowing through, serene and peaceful. And not a soul in sight.
The river has formed into 2 natural pools because of some rocks in between. It’s hard to resist the cool waters and all of us plunge in. Despite the afternoon heat, the river is shaded on both sides by trees, their branches making sure we don’t have to face the direct sunlight. The water is cool and filled with a million tadpoles. But after a while, nothing matters.
It’s a scene straight out of an Enid Blyton novel and it’s only the thought of yet another delicious meal that pries us out of the water.
Another time, we go around a tribal village settlement. David tells us that these tribals live a nomadic lifestyle, building little huts and settlements in different areas and going into the forest to find their livelihood. And soon then they move on to another area. That has been the way they’ve lived for centuries and now efforts are on to find a permanent residence for them. Despite this area being in Karnataka, most people speak dialects of Marathi, being on the border of Maharashtra.
David knows many of the villagers and they greet him as we pass by. He tells us how the villagers used to refer to him as the mad gypsy when he first came to settle down in these parts. He had long hair, a hippie look and looked the part, laughs his wife!
If you’re an animal lover, you can make friends with the 3 beautiful, energetic Dobermans : Scully, Badmash & Bahadur. Between bouts of running like crazy chasing real and imagined animals, or after each other, they’re a source of constant entertainment. Scully, is the mother and is more interested in lazing around though while her pups frolic around.
You can do lots of things out here. But the best part is that you can also do nothing. And I am must admit without any guilt that I did a lot of nothing, indulging in long doses of rest and relaxation.
I would look forward to meals with much anticipation. Morvarid’s lovely flavourful and wholesome food did wonders to my appetite (and weight)! I nearly put myself up for adoption, but I think they have enough on their hands. Three dogs can be a handful.
David and Morvarid shut down their homestay during the monsoon months as it’s too difficult to manage in the heavy rains. The best months to visit are Sept/Oct and you can get more information about the property here. Go only if you’re a nature lover and if you don’t mind being disconnected from the world for a few days. Most days there are no electricity, so you have hurricane lamps for company. Not recommended for young kids, especially the restless types who get bored easily. But if you want to introduce your kids the joys of the jungle, simple living and inculcate their love of adventure, go forth and enjoy!
Yummylicious food, the most serene and blissful place and great company made for the perfect long weekend : there was little I could complain about when we left after four blissful days of quietude!
Nersa is 500 kms from Bangalore and around an 8-9 hour drive. You can also take the train to Khanpur. The place is called Hermitage and is well known in the eco tourism circuits. Recommended only for nature lovers who don’t mind being disconnected and going without electricity.