If a quick weekend getaway is on your mind, you may want to land into the green glory that Koyna is, writes Ketaki Latkar
In the lap of nature
If digital-detox, some quiet time and the pure joy of ambling along tranquil streams and lush greens is on your mind, you’re just a decision away from Koyna. Whether you’re on a shoestring budget, or in search of a luxurious getaway, the place promises to cater to every vacationer’s requisites and fancies. Once you’re there, even before you realise, you’re bound by the charm of the wild; it’s like a tender haze, too sheltered to shake off. And, why not? When nature opens its arms to you in its full glory, a ready submission’s no longer a matter of choice; it’s the voice of instinct.
About 190 kilometres from the hustle and bustle of Pune, and about 40 kilometres from the calm-land of Konkan, Koyna is one of the Western Ghats’ best kept secrets, thanks to its virgin lure. Finding accommodation in Koyna is reasonably easy; it’s a quick pick from among a handful, with the best bet being the sprawling half-an-acre Wind Chalet Resort. Designed along the lines of the wooden chalets in the Swiss Alps, the property is a nature lover’s green-dream come true. More intimate and reserved in its character, the property offers only four suites, perfectly equipped to fit the bill of the ‘nothingness’ aficionados. What else? Open the French windows, and you have a bulk of photo-ops calling out to you, offering a spectacular view of the turquoise waters of the Koyna dam that seem to add rhythmic ripples to the lush green backdrop of the flora and the sturdy mountains.
Adventure, leisure and more
Sufi poet Wasif Ali Wasif rightly said that “the world is ancient, but it has not lost its newness.” So, whether it is to celebrate the history, or with an eye of an explorer, Koyna’s platter is full of options. For every adventurer eager to set out, a hike to the region’s Bhairavgad fort sounds like an ideal morning stint. The journey to the summit, reportedly, is no mean job, but once atop, the panoramic views of the Sahyadris and the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary, only add to the serotonin. Dotted with historical gems, the fort is home to numerous caves and temples, which make the trek a resourceful experience for heritage buffs.
Come mealtimes, and the choicest of the local fare awaits you, with specialties like the freshwater snakehead (murrel) fish curry, black and red crabs, and a variety of infusions made with freshly plucked jackfruits, karvanda (black berries ), and kokum (garcinia indica), to get a taste of Koyna’s culinary delights. And after all the gastronomic indulgence, there’s that spellbinding languor that commands you to claim your share of the lazy, afternoon siesta. But if you choose not to give in to that, and you actually manage to gird up your loins, you definitely wouldn’t regret. Drive down to the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a guided jungle ride would equip you with all the intel on the region’s flora and fauna, with a special focus on the Royal Bengal tigers, King Cobras, gaurs, and the honey harvesting seasons.
All things serene
Go back to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and think about the windmill, an allegory of industrialisation and the controversy surrounding it. Koyna seems to tell a similar tale, nonetheless, the experience of standing under a majestic rotating turbine and hearing the ‘swishing’ sound, is quite enthralling. Our two cents: don’t think twice to go an extra mile, literally and figuratively, to ensure you make it to the bottom of one of the 215 windmills that stand tall in the sanctuary. Dodge the aerodynamics; go for the ‘feel.’
Koyna may not be about too many adrenaline pumping anecdotes. But you’ll definitely get food for soul. Ultimately, all we need is love; however, a pint of beer to go with doesn’t hurt at all. Particularly if, you dedicate your evenings to your suite’s private backyard garden, watching the sun go down, setting the retro play-list on a repeat mode, and simultaneously wondering how the happy forever is only a sum of such delightful nows.
Closest Metro: Mumbai (265 km) is more than a five-six hour drive, while Pune is (about 190 km) a four-hour car journey.
Closest Airport: Kolhapur airport is about 65 km from Koyna, and Pune is about 190 km.
Closest railhead: The nearest railway station is at Karad and a quick search online would offer you more than 12 train routes to choose from, if you are travelling from Mumbai. You could probably try the Puducherry Express or the Sahyadri Express. Booking ahead is a good idea, since the trains are popular. The journey from Karad to Koyna is about an-hour-and-a-half, with a distance of about 60 km.
Getting Around: It’s best to have your own car to drive around Koyna as there is no promising local transport. Though there is a surge in the private jeep drivers who are happy to show you around, you need to be careful with this feat, given that you may end up getting fleeced for more than Rs 5,000 for a day’s travels in and around Koyna.
Where to Stay:
Wind Chalet Resort: Quieter than the quietest accommodation alternatives in Koyna, Wind Chalet Resort is the ideal cosy nest to exchange the special sweet nothings, if on a romantic sojourn. Equally ideal for stag specials or as an only-girls getaway, the place spells calm and all-embracing vibes.
MTDC’s Koyna Lake Resort:
For the minimalists, the resort is the perfect choice, given its modest tariff, commendable room service and the ready-to-help staffers. The 6.5 acre property offers a spectacular view of the backwaters from all its rooms, whether it is the deluxe or the super deluxe suites, or the dorms (for budget travellers), or the spacious two-bedroom bungalow that vacationers can choose from. The accommodation is easy on the pocket, and ranges from Rs 1,650 to Rs 6,000 per night, depending on the choice of rooms and the number of visitors, and of course, the time of the year you are travelling in. It is good to know that the state government-run facility also offers transport and guide arrangements for exploring Koyna, in addition to offering a doctor-on-call facility, and an internet service.
Where to Eat: MTDC, without doubt, is the best bet for meals, regardless of where you are staying. Whether it is Mughlai, Punjabi or traditional Maharashtrian fare, the place seems to get it right.
Apart from that, you always have an option to stroll around the region, and spot some stand-alone hawkers, selling quick bites.
What to Pack: Hiking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, torch, hats or scarves, hand sanitizer and tissue papers (there’s a chance the restaurants and hotels may not have any). Though the accommodation options may promise clean and air-conditioned rooms with television; do not expect LED screens and smart TVs at your disposal. Also, there may be problems with reception from the direct broadcast satellite television providers like Tata Sky. So if you are one of those TV series addicts or love watching a good movie while on a holiday, then carrying a laptop with the necessary sound-enhancing gear would be clever.
(Pictures: Ketaki Latkar)