The last trip we took as a family was in September 2019, a 4 generation all women trip to Rajasthan. I had many plans for 2020, but life had something else in store for all of us.
Post the outbreak of Covid, we haven’t travelled anywhere, though we do step out of the house to dine, to the saloon, meet friends on a few occasions. However I was sorely missing that feel of a holiday. We debated travelling to a resort in Lonavala or Mahableshwar but without all the facilities like the pool and all restaurants being open, it made little sense to pay a hefty sum. We also wanted to avoid over crowded places.
Yearning for a short holiday, I came across a post on Facebook by Pune Women Solo Travelers, a travelling experience venture solely for women, created by 2 women- how awesome is that! Sangita Lobo and Prajakta Joshi founded PWST for women who like to travel and meet like minded travelers and enjoy new experiences together. Women from various walks of life, some married, some single, some with kids, some who are just out of college and some who have seen the world but would like to see more of it.
Though I had indulged in solo trips before, those were abroad and were more of business trips where I was alone and that’s when I discovered the joys of travelling solo. I had never travelled as a part of a group where everyone was unknown. It was an adventure and worth exploring, I was also keen for Angel to get out of the house, comforts of her room, books and i pad and the park- and get a whiff of fresh air.
It was set then- a one day trip to Bhigwan Bird sanctuary which is a 2 hours drive from Pune. 31st Jan was the date. Full of anticipation, excitement and the Pune morning chill in our bones, we set off in a auto. The beauty of the mornings, unfiltered, empty roads and a bumpy ride- Angel couldn’t stop smiling with glee.
We met at the pick up point , a group of women- everyone was unknown , we exchanged smiles, small talk- one thing that was common is the excitement of embarking on this journey together. The mini bus arrived and we boarded, the bus had many other women and a few kids who had boarded in prior stops.
The journey was fun as we sang and danced, listened to songs and dozed a bit. We finally reached the village of Indapur and famished as we were, enjoyed the simple yet tasty breakfast of poha and tea.
It was time then to start the bird watching tour by boat. A short walk and we reached the backwaters of Ujanni dam where the wetland hosts many birds, including the eluding flamingos with visit during winters. It was scorching hot, and we had to use our hats, caps, sunglasses, dupattas to protect ourselves from the sun rays. But what an exhilarating ride it was! It was the first time in 6 years of her life that Angel was sitting in a boat. The best was yet to come.
Very soon, a flock of sea gulls came by, they circled around our boat as we threw nibbles at them. Angel was besides herself with joy. As we moved further on , we spotted some other species like the the painted stork which has a colourful beak with hues of orange and pink, egrets and herons. We did not spot the flamingoes, the major attraction of the season, it was a bit disappointing but there were many other highlights to keep us engaged.
Post the boat ride, we were treated to some lip smacking food- pitla bhakri , fish thali which had the local fish – chilapi – fried crisp and a spicy fish curry with rice. This was a meal we thoroughly enjoyed.
It was time to leave then, on the way back we stopped at Bhuleshwar temple. Its a Lord Shiva temple situated on a hill- the journey uphill is picturesque , cherry blossoms growing in the wild adorn the mountains. It was truly a treat to the eyes. The temple is beautiful in itself, a short walk through a mini forest kind of structure which Angel looked at as an adventure, steps that went on and on , reaching the summit was rewarding as gusts on wind blew in our face. The temple in itself was splendid, with carvings and the Nandi bull which greets us as we enter.
As we descended, it was time for sunset and some gorgeous sights – we couldn’t miss the opportunity to take pics.
It was finally time to head back. We enjoyed the evening breeze rustling through our hair and were glad for a day well spent.
The best part for me was how Angel took this whole thing- I was apprehensive as she has always lived a very comfortable and protected life. Taking in the scorching heat, using an Indian toilet, away from the comfort of your room and devices, and simple meals at a eatery-how would she take it all? I wanted her to experience the life I lived when I grew up as no doubt its nice to have comforts , but its also good to gain different experiences and be able to adapt to what life throws at you. To my utter surprise or perhaps this was me underestimating my girl, she enjoyed the trip thoroughly. She ate the local food ravenously except when she mistakenly ate a chilli with breakfast and couldn’t eat any more. The only issue I faced is her refusal to pee- trying to make her pee in a Indian style toilet was failing miserably. I tried multiple time , coaxed, pleaded, intimidated- nothing worked. This is when I almost gave up but a wonder woman came to my rescue. Sangita , the tour organiser and co owner of PWST whom I had shared my plight with, found a western style toilet for “Her Highness”, she could relieve herself and left me feeling relieved. Its a trivial thing but I was touched by how Sangita cares and goes the extra mile to make the trip comfortable for everyone and that’s a 6 year old girl too.
I met some nice people in this journey- a good photographer Savita whose pics I have used in the blog post, generously permitted by her, an artist Mother and her daughter Sneh Vaibhavi, the jovial Harmeet and Manjita, sis in laws travelling together Jyoti and Rhea and a baby boy, Vaishali and her daughter.
All in all, this was a wonderful experience for both Angel and me in travelling solo at the same time meeting new people on the way and the joy of unknown is what made this memorable.
Pic credits- Savita Kanade, Sangita Lobo, Vaibhavi.