Floating in River Ulhas: A Bonding Trip to Vangani with Cousins
|Enjoying my time in the tranquil Ulhas river|
My maternal cousins and I had not been on a trip till date until my eldest cousin got married. Things changed and his significant other is a free-spirited person just like me. She invites us home on multiple occasions and had recently called us for my cousin's cake-cutting. When my mom was abroad, she had welcomed us on a Sunday for a meal. My eldest pair of maternal cousins needed a woman in the house solemnly since their mom––my maushi––passed away a half a decade ago. To add to it, both the brothers are introverts and gel well with elders than with their cousins.
The situation turned around as my sister-in-law entered their house. Even earlier, she had asked me to join her on a trip to the serene Konkan but I had to reject because I was travelling to Goa right after.
I am glad we went on this road trip...
On a casual night, as I was composing a post, my youngest cousin Pratik excitedly asked my plans for the next Sunday, to which I replied I had none. He happily announced that we were going to Vangani with Sameer dada (the eldest cousin), Tejaswi vahini (his wife), Saurabh dada (my sibling) and himself. I was unaware my cousin had a farmhouse in Vangani, though I knew he had a second home somewhere close to Mumbai. I was thrilled because travelling anywhere with anyone not just meant amusement but also discovering a new place.
The plan was finalised and the timing was fixed. We woke up at 5:30 am, though I had slept at 3:00 am the previous night. I am a person who cannot fall asleep when there's a travel plan next morning. I am just so keen to travel that I keep on imagining the place and creating dreamy scenarios.
I was too sleepy to open my eyes next morning. But when it comes to waking up early, I am someone who wakes up on time no matter the situation. I am someone who calls every other person coming on the trip until I'm confident they're truly up and awake.
For breakfast, I grabbed an apple and made tea as a morning beverage. Pratik too is someone who is always on time. Punctuality runs in our blood and is inherited from my mom (and for Pratik, from his dad). I showered and changed into a new set of clothes while I heard a doorbell. It was Pratik, ready to scream in excitement as he always does after seeing me!
I did not hurry up my pace and continued dolling up and packing my bag with a snail's speed because at the back of my mind I knew Sameer dada would be late, as usual!
|Sitting atop a rock with my cousin and his wife|
It was 7:15 am when we called the recently married couple to ask about their status; meanwhile, I dug out the places in and around Vangani. I learnt there were a couple of waterfalls and forts nearby. I realized visiting forts in March was highly impossible and what remained was a waterbody––something like a waterfall––though it was doubtful since the water could be all dried up. I asked them to pack an extra set of clothes in case we got lucky.
We reached their house at 7:30 am and finally left on our road trip by 8 o’clock. My eldest cousin is recently learning to drive, for which, he wanted to try his hands on the roads to Vangani. My brother is his additional trainer apart from the driving class he has registered himself to. This seemed like a perfect trip and was like hitting two birds with one stone––or rather, make it three birds. First being my cousin's driving practice, second, the visit to their Vangani house, and the third, to have a good time with cousins.
I had a lovely experience shooting a vlog with my maternal cousins since it was the very first time I was doing it in their presence. I am glad they supported and helped me shoot whenever I needed a second person. We reached the outskirts of Vangani and halted for breakfast at a small eatery. My sister-in-law suggested this shack for its crisp vadas and flavourful kanda bhajjis.
We asked the lady there if she knew any Bhagirath waterfall. She did not know of any such but suggested a waterfall instead, which was called as Vangani waterfall by the locals. She directed us and off we started the engine.
She had warned us that the water would have been dried up. However, we wanted to see it with our own eyes since my cousins would visit their house frequently and would require a nature spot nearby. The Vangani waterfall was about 15 minutes away from the shack.
|Revived after a swim in the clean and emerald Ulhas river|
We came across smaller houses and bigger bungalows that were owned by Shelars. We immediately knew who were the influential people in that area. We crossed a couple of more houses in the row that appeared warm and welcoming. By trusting and following Google Maps, we reached an open land. There was a small house near it, which was the last one in the row. We asked its residents the way to Vangani waterfall and they guided us very well.
We started walking and that’s when a local called us from behind and volunteered to guide us. On that, my brother jokingly replied that if he wanted to come with us, he should come as a friend and not as a guide. We laughed and started following our new friend.
Nobody had expected such a long route to the falls and were definitely underprepared for that. I was wearing a pair of flip-flops, that too, the cheap ones you get in clothing markets like Sarojini, Delhi. I was a cent percent sure of the thumb-loop detaching and being helpless amid the amber grass and skeletal trees.
We finally arrived at a point where we could see the exact location of the waterfall. Our newly made friend, who was an apt example of shyness, coyly asked if we wanted to go near it. But the location was so distant that going all the way near it meant walking a kilometre more and descending a steep slope crammed with minuscule stones and dried grass as well as facing the strong afternoon sun. And considering our footwear coupled with our laidback frame of mind only meant avoiding it. We could have still compromised on these factors and gone ahead to the waterfall anyway, but there was no water at all. A dense waterfall, covered with green trees would have easily lured us into walking an extra mile but a dried up pool made no sense whatsoever.
We started our way back to where our car was parked. The route seemed shorter than before as in no time we could spot the car. I was disappointed as I wanted to dip in a cool, fresh waterbody. My cousin suggested the Ulhas River, which was 10 minutes away from his house.
|Alas spotted: Tired after a walk in the quest to find Vangani waterfall|
We reached a cliff that was connected to the main road from where we could see the emerald river. The beautiful lush green backdrop and its clean, tranquil water made me ecstatic. After parking the car, we hurried towards its banks. We required to descend down a little since the river went under the road/cliff we were standing on.
We noticed two ladies washing their clothes and not once thought about water being contaminated. The scene was so picturesque and pleasant, that we ignored everything else. The couple did not get in the water since Sameer dada was down with a cold and his wife decided to give him a company. They, therefore, stayed back on the big rocks while swaying their feet in the river.
After clicking some lovely shots, I handed over the phone to my sister-in-law and struggled my way towards the deeper side of the river. The stones on the riverbed were sharp and uncomfortable to walk on. We splashed water, floated, and swam in until we realized it was time to get out.
My whole body, except my hair and face, was drenching and I felt revived and rejuvenated. The boys changed their wet clothes by the roadside whereas I wrapped a towel around my lower body. We sat in the car and drove towards the house.
After crossing a bridge that overlooked the river, we reached the gates of the house in no time. Just outside the house, a horse was tied to a tree. I was taken aback to see a horse out of nowhere and I went near it to strike its forehead. The horse either was a mule––the love child of a horse and a donkey––or was just a young horse, that was not fully grown. It, however, looked sad because it was tied and could not taste freedom. Its white fur was turned to a dull, off-white shade and his head was low. It appeared as though the horse had never experienced happiness before.
On entering the property gate, towards my right, I saw a small cottage that rather looked like a shack at the first look. The caretakers of the house lived in it. And not just a lady or a man but the entire family including a dog. I am guessing the horse that was tied outside too belonged to them. The first thought upon seeing the sight was the unruffled standard of living. I thought such a beautiful way to live life! Your workplace is right in front of you and you don’t need to travel in a local train amidst thousands of sweaty people or get stuck in traffic in order to reach your office. You go, work, come back for lunch and always have your kids by your side. Nobody lived in my cousin's house, which means it is empty prevalently. The vegetables and the fruits grown in the garden are used in the caretaker's meals, which implies that they are not only getting the food for free but also earning by growing it and taking care of the house. I simply adored the overall feel of the entire abode and imagined myself living in the house for a month's stretch.
|A candid captured as I stand ahead of the beautiful yellow house|
What I learnt later––and what amused me––was that the property lied halfway in Thane district and halfway in Raigad. It was beyond imagination that Vangani would be so close to another district.
My series of thoughts were broken when my sister-in-law started showing me around the garden. I saw the beautiful yellow house that was too huge to fit in the frame. Its dual floors were royally spread out and the iron bars of the terrace railings summed up the look. The house was surrounded by a garden that had trees ranging from mango to lemongrass and many others. We entered the house to sense the vibe of typical Konkani house, where the warmth and comfort overpowered the style and the decor. Such houses make you feel at home. Even if the house is not yours, you still feel as if you’re at home. Such houses are so welcoming that they remind you of your grandma. Oh! The fragrance of coconut oil from her loosened braid and the beautiful wrinkled skin on her body! I miss my grandmas...
I have always wished owning a house in Konkan, where the veranda is smeared with cowdung, where the cows are mooing in the cowshed, where the hens and her little chicks are tottering around, where an elderly uncle is sitting with his cream vest on, where the decor is simple yet touches your heart, where your meals include a bowl of ambyacha ras (mango pulp) and waran bhaat, where the kids are not as tense as the kids in the cities, where even an oily braid is considered a symbol of beauty, where the life is carefree and the beach is nearby...oh I wish I had a house in Konkan!
On entering the house and glancing elaborately at the interiors, the first thing we did was change into a dry set of clothes. I handed over my wet pair to my brothers who set them on the iron bars across the terrace railing.
The house comprises of four bedrooms and a terrace large enough to occupy more than 25 guests. I thought of wandering about in the veranda so I asked Pratik to accompany me. We were gazing at the plants and the trees when we met a timid yet agile dog that was adorable yet a little startled. It took a while to calm his spirits down but Pratik succeeded in it! Right in front of the house, there was a water pump from which we drank water while Pratik washed his legs too. We went back to the house and my contact lenses started troubling my peace. I had worn a pair since morning 7 o’clock and they started drying. The drying of lenses always made me crave sleep.
I took a nice 20-minute nap in one of the bedrooms, on top of four mattresses that were not even aligned. I needed to sleep gravely so anything that helped me lie down was my bed. I fell asleep before long and could not comprehend when that happened. Though for a half-hour only, the slumber I got was one of the best. On waking up, I noticed everyone was brisk. My brother was downstairs from the terrace, my cousin had finished his weekly dose of Dragon Ball Super, my younger cousin was up and awake, and my sister-in-law engrossed in something unusual. She was seated with the old lady caretaker and was segregating vegetables into three piles: one for themselves, one for me, and one for Pratik. The lady tied a thread around a bunch of drumsticks, curry leaves, and lemongrass tea and handed over the piles to us. This gesture pleased me but in my mind, I knew it was time to leave.
My wit had relaxed but my eyes hadn’t, and there was no alternative than to take off the lenses. I was relieved beyond words when I did take them off. Alas! My eyes were awake.
|All smiles: Posing with my eldest cousin as we sit by the riverside|
We packed our bags and it was time to leave the house. We were yet to have lunch and had planned to dine at Vithal Kamat's restaurant on our way. It was about 10 minutes away from the house and I was glad that it was proximate because I was starving. We had had one vada pav––and I had had an apple additionally––but it was 1:30 pm and I was famished.
Vithal Kamat is a chain of hotels scattered throughout Maharashtra and Gujarat. Whenever you spot one, you stop the car and devour a meal. The food tastes so scrumptious that not only your gut but even your heart is happy. We ordered the usual roti-sabzi and dal-fry, jeera-rice medley and ended our meal with masala buttermilk, which was so refreshing that it brilliantly complemented with sugarcoated saunf after. Happily, we sat in the car and headed for home...
(PS The story would have had a happy ending, but my brand new iPhone 8 Plus, of which, the EMI is still due, slipped from my hands and fell on the ground. A scratch as small as an ant noted on the front screen but what saddened me is the forthcoming fear of using my phone as a vlogging camera.)
VANGANI ROAD TRIP DETAILSDistance from Mumbai (Thane)
How to Reach
Via Central Railways by getting down at Vangani station or by Road
Water and Food Source
What can you expect
Lush greenery in monsoon, Ulhas River, Vangani Waterfall in monsoon
Watch the vlog:
Have you ever come across a running waterfall in the month of March?