Rackety processions blaring music that go by late in the night, accompanied by firework explosions that sound like a mini-war, make the Ganesh Chaturthi period hellish for the non-human denizens around here. On the animal welfare groups on Facebook and WhatsApp, the days around Ganesh result in a deluge of posts about pets that have run away, strays that have gone missing from their usual spots, injured animals, and other tales of woe.
Visarjan nights are terrifying for our dogs, too, who spend them trying futilely to find some shelter from the storm of noise. Over the last couple of years, our tactic has been to try and take them to quieter spaces during the period. This year, we chose two places in southern Maharashtra, just across the border to our north.
The first couple of nights we spent at Golven Resorts, a set of 10 beachside huts in Vengurla. The wigwam-like cottages are built in mildly landscaped grounds off the Sagareshwar beach, set back the CRZ-mandated 500 metres from the waterline. They are well-constructed using wood, bamboo, thatch, cloth and mud, and are very comfortable, if a trifle cramped. But our priority is simply that the place allow us to take dogs — they don’t care much about the amenities.
What they do get excited about are the surroundings, and Golven generally had the right elements. Wild, green patches to sniff around — and pee and crap — in. A comfortable walk, no doubt replete with scents for them to pick up, to the beach. The beach itself was quite uncrowded at this time of year, and the gently sloping sand allowed us to walk quite a way in without overwhelming the dogs.
About the only challenge was the presence of a pack of dogs in the grounds, but we didn’t mind that. In fact, we like places where they let the strays be — in our eyes, it speaks of their tolerance and compassion. How it affects us is that we have to put up with a bit of a struggle keeping our pack and theirs from going at each other, but that’s something we have learnt to handle.
From the point of view of us humans, the resort has the most comprehensive menu we have ever come across — it was a veritable book. The food — we stuck to the local Malvani fare — is good, and though there’s a dining hall, you can be served in the huts if you want. Given that it was raining, even if mildly, most of the time we were there, that helped. The young chaps manning the place were very nice, and really took pains to ensure we got what we needed.
Besides spending our time lazing around, walking on the beach with the dogs and eating, we also took a drive down the coastal highway, which is a picturesque road to drive on.
After two nights at Golven Resorts, we drove up the same highway to Bhogwe, where we had booked a stay at the Aditya Eco-Village. Run by the Samant family, this is a bunch of huts perched high up on a plateau overlooking the Deobagh and Tarkarli beaches and their backwaters. The view is spectacular, and it would be very pleasant to sit out on the deck of the hut gazing down at it, but because of the rains, we had to largely stay indoors — and keep the door closed because of the dogs.
Arun Samant, whose son Chetan runs the place (he was away at a relative’s on Ganesh duty when we arrived), pointed out to us when we arrived that one could even see, deep in the distance, the island fortress of Sindhudurg and the town of Malvan from this vantage point.
Chetan’s wife Ashwini and his mother organised a sumptuous thali lunch for us on arrival, made entirely from locally grown ingredients — Anjali got a fish thali, while I had a vegetarian spread. Ashwini’s daughter Dhanashree was quite mesmerised at having dogs as guests. We learnt later that she had called up all her aunts and uncles and told them that Hero, Sungta and Soulkadi had come visiting their place. She had also taken the opportunity to tell them that she had a dog named Melya.
In the evening, as we were having dinner, Chetan came home and it was a delight to spend some time talking to him. Like his father, he’s very knowledgeable about local matters — ecology, wildlife, agriculture of all varieties, food. Gradually, as it’s wont to, the conversation drifted towards politics, and we were quite pleased to find that, in the midst of what we assumed must be a BJP stronghold, Chetan and his father were quite outspoken in their views against the right-wing party. Though they would intersperse their sentences with “we are not for or against the BJP, but…”, it was clear their sympathies didn’t lie with the policies of the ruling party.
We were also later joined by a couple of other members of the extended family — a father-and-son duo — who had been enticed by Dhanashree’s account of the travelling dogs, and come to see them. They came and checked them out through the glass doors to the hut, which of course, sent Hero into a paroxysm of angry barking.
“Dangerous, hunh?” the older man asked, evidently quite pleased at the prospect. He was a little deflated when I said they weren’t, and that the barking was because it was dark and the dogs didn’t know them.
Though we had planned to stay a couple more days, we curtailed the Bhogwe stay to just a day. Because of the wet weather, we were being constrained to quarters, and that had begun to tell on the dogs, who were becoming rather whiny. We gambled on the possibility that the main Ganesh celebrations and visarjan ruckus would have happened on day two, and what remained wouldn’t hassle the dogs too much. (As it turned out, there was just about half an hour one night that was disruptive, so not too bad a decision, I would say.)
We drove back via Kudal. The landscape around the Vengurla-Bhogwe area is quite unusual. You’ll be travelling on twisting ghat roads through thick forests, and suddenly breast a ridge to find yourself on a vast, flat plateau with the road a long, straight ribbon slicing through. In both circumstances, there were many good spots to stop and give the dogs a walk, and use the opportunity to take some photos as well.
Some more photos, if you’re interested, on my Flickr feed: https://www.flickr.com/photos/11052243@N02/albums/72157686143776483