Forests are beautiful and its dwellers are even more. So is the Chorla Ghats. Situated at the intersection of three states of Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka provides an excellent opportunity for rejuvenation. This was our much-anticipated nature and wildlife watching tour.
With loads of eagerness and excitement, we set off for our destination. We started from Panjim on a hired bike. We were joyfully moving through the beautiful roads of Goa’s hinterland when we met with a minor accident. Which left my husband with bruised knee and elbow and minor strain and pain on my legs and shoulder. The rest of the journey through the curvy Ghats became difficult with these injuries without any first-aid.
Two injured bodies moved on to the destination without admiring the amazing roads and the quaint surroundings. The hinterland with water bodies here and there, the old Portuguese Villas, the white Church, the winding roads, the mangrove forest, all passed by silently, without any wonderment and sadly, sans photograph.
The loud chirping like sounds of Cricket like insects welcomed us on the winding tracks of the Mhadei National Park. The cool shades of the overlapping foliage on the either side guided us to our destination – The Wildernest Resort. The sound and smell of the forest intensified as we moved on through the dirt track to reach the reception area.
Wildernest Resort is an eco-friendly accommodation with all facilities, nested within the forested valley of Swapnagandha, overlooking the Varza waterfall and the entire North Goa. They follow an inspiring concept of being one with the nature, in various ways – as following organic principles, practicing in-situ conservation, maintaining a plastic free zone, practicing garbage disposal through effective microbe composting, sewage disposal without chemical effluents, rainwater harvesting, obtaining woods (raw materials for the eco-cottages) through social forest sector, practicing the concept of dimmed and covered lighting (only illuminating the track) to prevent any disturbance to the wildlife around. The resort also provides employment to a good number of local villagers. In this way, they provide an excellent example of staying within nature and merging in too.
The infinity pool is a major attraction of this resort. The cascading pool is constructed on the edge of a slope overlooking the valley on the other side. The loungers beside the pool are placed under the thick covering of foliage. The eco-cottages are built in a scattered way within the woods. This endearing ambience with the sight, smell and sound of the forest had cast a spell to erase off our physical pain caused by the accident.
The Cloud 9, the small garden bar beside the restaurant is built in a typical wooden pub style while the restaurant is a big hall decorated with traditional kitchen items of the native villagers. Buffet meals are served in earthenware with a spatula made of coconut shell connected to a wooden shaft as the handle. Meals comprise of local vegetables and fish and chicken, cooked in an indigenous way.
Namdev, a resident of the nearby village, and an employee here was the guide for the forest trek and the birdwatching trip. Our forest trek companion was a jovial group of four ladies from Russia. They were enthusiastic and highly energetic on this rocky, hilly, thick forest track. They managed to communicate well with us in broken English. The forest was mostly green with few dry patches around. Some Malabar whistling thrush (Myophonus horsfieldii) were whistling some sweet tune, perched within the thick canopy, obscure from the human eye.
Namdev familiarised us with some of the native floral species. The Slow Match Tree (Careya arborea), ‘Kumbhi’ in Hindi was seen all around with guava like fruits. The hot favourite of the macaques… they eat and disperse the seeds and thus helps in maintaining the lifecycle. The pink plastic like flowers which we walked over were the real ones. By looks, touch and fell it all seemed to be artificial, later when we saw it in the trees we realised they were real. So strange is the Nature, it never fails to awe and surprise us.
The ever active weaver ants were busy in their nesting while the termites were resting within their forts… Yes, the mound were like mini forts 🙂 . Meanwhile, various species of Genus Calotes (forest lizard) made its appearance. The air was heavy with the smell of ‘Kokum’ (Garcinia indica). This is an indigenous tree mostly found in the Western Ghats of India. Known by various names in the different region, the fruits are used for culinary purposes. Our friendly guide was giving us a good overview of all – be it Kokum, or fig, or wild Berries, or Blueberries, or some local medicinal trees – all known to him.
After a little rock climbing, we reached the dry bed of the otherwise full, strong and roaring – Varza waterfall. During monsoon, this dry bed overflows with gushing water and the stream flow by to form a cascading waterfall beneath. The comparatively narrow gorge at the base of the falls had little sign of water. Water was sprinkled on us from the top (the origin of the waterfall) in droplets. Taniya, our Russian friend gave some extraordinary poses on a coracle parked there.
As I was preoccupied in capturing the vibrant Rangoon Creeper, I missed the Malabar Giant Squirrel, that paid a visit to the trees near the restaurant. It was a rare sight and I repented on my mistiming. But I guess luck was favourable to me. The early morning bird watching trip the next day, again with Namdev, showered me with luck. Although the birds eluded, the Giant squirrel showed up after a good run through the thick forest. The pricks of thorns and bites of mosquitoes were rewarding enough.
Reaching the sunset point was yet another short steep trek. This place offered an excellent view of the valley, the Anjumen Dam, the far away Mandovi River and on clear weather – even the Sea. This was a summit of a hill and the base for standing was narrow. High winds and the subdued colour of the sunset was creating a magical atmosphere.
Our adventure filled holidays in this forest was over. Now we have to return. To me, it is the most hated part of any trip. Our wounds became a bit bothersome without proper treatment. We chose not to ride back to Panjim but get dropped by some vehicle from the resort. Our return from Panjim was at night. So we spent the whole afternoon, rediscovering the roads of Panjim (Read about my walk through Panjim), limping and panting in the scorching sun.