I was all planned to do a bike trip to Firefly festival in Purushwadi village of India. However, the things didn’t go as expected but the consecutive events ended in a wonderful experience and adventure.
Fireflies. Amazing creatures they are! A single firefly can make tens of children running on their feet. A lone nomad firefly can make the boring night interesting. Can you imagine the thrill when not hundreds but millions of fireflies dance around you? Yes, you heard it right.
And when they cover a tree to perform the dance of light you just watch them dumb folded. It seemed so surreal so fantasy and like a fairy tale.
The city folks asks, where are these fireflies? Well, if you stay in Mumbai, Thane or Pune you are very close to them. Although the place is not a popular tourist destination but they are worthy to be featured in the list of must visit places near Mumbai, Thane and Pune
Let’s start the story
One of my friends told me about the Firefly festival organized by some NGO in Purushwadi village around 200 Kms from Mumbai. I went on the NGOs website http://www.grassroutes.com to collect more information about the event and came to know that June to July is the best time to visit there. They have their campsite in Purushwadi and offer tent accommodation and homemade foods. But you are supposed to book in advance.
The date was fixed 20th June 2015. Also, 21st June 2015 happened to be World Yoga Day, massive celebrations were planned throughout India. What then, we chalked out a plan to make our contribution to IYD.
The early shock
4 people 2 motorcycles and a fine Saturday morning. It was less than a 5 Km of the ride when my bike started misfiring and losing power. Pushed it some meters to a garage on the highway. After a basic check, the motorcycle mechanic said rectifier needs replacement which costs around Rupees 500.
I asked him whether he is sure of the problem coz I felt there is some sort of short circuit in the coil. He went back and opened the case where chain ring connects to the crankshaft. He raced bike monstrously to check the misfiring. This stupid act mistimed the Valve and Piston which broke the Valve rod.
I asked him to stop immediately. The damage was already done. Rajkumar and I were heartbroken; we knew it was difficult for us to continue. Replacing the valve would need at least 4-5 hours. Called Shyam uncle to tow my bike to his garage.
It was 11:30 AM. Other two folks had reached Atgaon which is around 110 Km from where we were standing. Somehow managed a CBZ Xtreme from Rajkumar’s uncle and started the journey.
We reached Atgaon at 2 PM and met the other two friends Sachin and Saurabh Shetye. NH 3 or Mumbai Agra Highway was nothing more than a buttery ride. Took right turn from NH3 towards Ghoti after crossing Igatpuri.
My final round of interview was scheduled at 4:30 PM today. But the joke was it was 4:25 PM and my mobile wasn’t showing any network. I was riding fast hoping to find network ahead. Watch showed 4:30, 4:35, 4:40 and my mobile was still motionless. Suddenly my mobile rang. The interviewer was late. I was saved. Next halt was on the bridge of Pravara river. The sky today was deep blue in color and clouds spread like white cotton balls. Took photos and moved to Rajur.
Rajur is a town in Ahmednagar district which connects multiple villages nearby. Post snacks break at Rajur we left for Purushwadi which was another 15 kilometres from here.
Rajur to Purushwadi
15 Km route is almost ghats. Riding in the dark on the ghat roads have always been Fun Filled Fear. The evening was getting chilly in the hills. Around 7 PM, we reached Khadki, a village some 1-2 Km before Purushwadi. Took the katcha rasta in the right and in 10 minutes we were in Purushwadi- The land of Fireflies.
First sight of the yellow-green lights of Fireflies
Our eyes popped out when we gave a look in the thick bushes down the road. Hundreds of yellow-green lights dangling down. We were satisfied with the scene we saw, but the thirst for yellow-green lights was getting unquenchable.
The Bad Argument
Next on the list was to look for a favourable spot to pitch our tents. Sachin approached the Grassroute campsite guys and don’t know whom he talked to, he said to come up with our bikes. At the entrance, a lady stopped us and asked ‘Do you people have registrations?’ Certainly, she was not from this village.
‘No’ we said.
‘Then I am sorry you cannot stay here’ she replied.
We said ‘We have our tents and we are only looking for a flat ground to pitch in’.
‘No we cannot allow you to stay here’ she spoke with her head moving left right and popping her eyes.
‘Okay! No problem, not at your campsite but certainly we can stay in the village or on the hills’ we said.
‘No sorry, you cannot stay in the village also. There are chances of snake bites and scorpions we cannot allow you to pitch in the village or nearby the village’ she said.
What NONSENSE! Had I paid 2000 everything would have been just fine. I felt she is acting over rude and her words claimed the whole village was hers. If anyone from the village had denied us it would have been fine. But she claimed like she had the sole rights.
Then she said ‘you can go back to Rajur or Bhandardara which is 40Km from here and arrange for accommodation there’
I felt like, have we come here to go back 40Km and in this rainy night on the treacherous ghats road.
The NGO showed what they are and now it was the time for uncomplicated, less educated, less rich villagers of Khadki.
Took a U-turn from Purushwadi and returned to Khadki. Asked a man standing next to the road if we can pitch our tents here some distance away from the road.
He replied ‘kahi bhi laga do. Yaha koi problem nahi’ i.e ‘pitch anywhere there is no problem here’.
A mid-sized man with moustache came and asked ‘You do not have a reservation and you are returning from Purushwadi right?’ Yes, we said. ‘Okay. Did you people eat something?’ he asked.
‘No, but we have items to cook for our dinner’ we replied.
He said ‘You won’t get dry wood in this monsoon. I have just put my vessels I will cook for you all.’ Humble indeed!
Who was he? We don’t know. Probably a simple man from a simple village of India with a big HEART!!
We thanked him for his offer of dinner and accepted to stay in the Lord Shiva temple in the village some meters away from the main road.
Temple seemed a perfect spot. Before we could place our luggage he opened the gate of a small hut and gave the key to us. He said this is yours till tomorrow; keep your entire luggage here. It has utensils, chulha and everything you people will need for cooking and staying. And don’t worry I won’t ask for money’ he said playfully.
That man was Shri Bhangre, a teacher in Municipal school and resident of Khadki village.
Adventure was on its way
Meanwhile, his two friends came and said let’s go to the river. Out of curiosity, we asked why river, now.
Bhangreji said the rains have started and crabs must have come out. We are going on a Crab Hunt by the riverside.
‘Can we join’ we asked. ‘Why not. Get ready, remove your jeans, wear shorts, don’t wear shoes take out slippers, sandals. It will be muddy and slippery down there.’ he said.
On a Crab Hunt by the riverside in the Dark of the Night
We all were excited and were ready for the night walk in the Jungle by the riverside. It was around 9:30 PM. We started following them on the rugged slope which descended continuously. Reached a small contour field. Bhangreji told us ‘See they are going to catch’ Suddenly one of them jumped on something on the ground. It was a big one.
We could not see our legs such was the darkness, how could they spot a Crab on the ground? Bhangreji explained they just run the torch on the ground and if there is any moment it is the crab. We asked how many would they catch. Bhangreji’s friend showed a big cloth bag and said we will fill this. We kept following them for another one hour also getting closer to the river.
It was getting difficult to walk on the slippery rocks and slush mud in the dark. Bhangareji helped us to go through. Finally, we were on the river. Bhangreji’s friends separated from us and went into the thick bushes to continue the hunt while we took a different route.
The Surreal Night and the thousands of Fireflies
We crossed the small check dam on the river and walked in the ploughed fields. Our sandals were heavy with the soft sticky farm soil. While walking on the boundary of farm plots, our eyes went on the tree cluster down the river. It was glowing with yellow-green lights.
Bhangreji asked us to be quiet and just watch. It seemed every leaf of the tree was playing hide and seek with us. Our mouths were open and eyes struck on the dreamy scene. Nobody was ready to move ahead. We stood there for a good amount of 15 minutes. I was cursing myself for not bringing the camera. For photos follow this link
I was cursing myself for not bringing the camera. For photos follow this link Purushwadi Firefly Festival. Bhangreji said now, the Kajwe or fireflies as it is called in Marathi are less when the rain gets heavy they come out in numbers.
Midnight and Shamshan Ghat
The night was silent and we were approaching the road. We could hear the splashes of river water made by Bhangreji’sfriends footsteps. Meanwhile, he invited us to the Shamshan Ghat or Hindu cremation ground in the midnight.
It was a good test for us. We went with him and sat there. Bhangre ji started narrating incidents where he probably encountered with ghosts close to cremation ground in the river. Taking a small alcohol sip, he said ‘You people know this is the new cremation ground. Earlier bodies used to burn down the road from where we entered. But the sad part is jab se ye naya wala shamshan ghat bana hai sala koi marta hi nahi hai i.e. nobody has died since this new cremation ground is built.
He looked damn serious and rolled his eyes through us. We were taken aback. After a brief pause, he started laughing heartily which relieved us.
We returned as soon as his friends arrived. Went back in the hut and lighted the fire to cook our meal, shared our meal with Bhangreji, pitched the tent in the Lord Shiva temple and took off from the day.
Thank you Bhangreji and people of Khadki village for all the adventure and support you extended to us.
Some information about the Firefly Festival
1. Purushwadi is not the only place where Fireflies can be seen.
2. Places in the radius of 10 Km of Purushwadi are equally and somewhere more filled up with Fireflies. They gather in numbers near tree clusters close to water. So lookout for such conditions.
3. Fireflies come out only after a spell of rain. Best time to watch Fireflies is from June 3rd week to July 3rd week.
4. Best time to watch Fireflies is from June 3rd week to July 3rd week. They gather in numbers near tree clusters close to water.
5. If you want to photograph do NOT forget to carry your TRIPOD.
6. Finally, respect the culture and the people. Please do not litter plastics.
7. No hotels, lodges, resorts are available in this area. If you are planning for camping in Purushwadi, these NGO guys won’t allow unless you register with them. Ask villagers for help they are quite generous. But do not make them feel unworthy or poor. They are much richer than us, it’s just the perspective.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any help in planning.