Lush green environment flushed with soothing fragrance of lemon grass greeted me as I sauntered across the over grown winter garden of the homestay. Chirping of birds was more prominent as I walked towards abandoned granite quarry.
Oh yes, birds were perched on the trees around Quarry making happy sounds and monsoon water had transformed the empty pit to a pond, water adding to the beauty and lushness.
The house dog followed me, sniffing around to ensure my safety in strange environ. The happy lab was at home with the place and wandered further from me, I too followed suit and explored the green way further. Foliage gave way to an expanse of paddy fields. The entire atmosphere was heady around me. My nose was trying to envisage the smell of herbs assaulting my senses. I was hungry for more so I retraced my steps to the house and got ready. This was a day dedicated to exploring this lovely village in God’s own country.
As I checked my camera, water bottle and notebook Radhamani, village school teacher arrived to escort me through the village. The early morning walk through the Coconut plantation, fruit orchards and paddy fields was an ideal start to the day.
While I was engrossed in capturing beauty and bounty of the place my guide Radhamani replaced my water bottle with the one she had carried for me. As I sipped warm water I was pleasantly surprised by the cinnamon flavored water, looking at my expression she explained the culture to have warm infused water as healthy practice.
Upward climb at the end of paddy fields was an arduous journey, narrow road had coffee plantation on both sides with black pepper climbers climbing coconut trees. The lemon grass growing in abundance on both sides of serpentine road was soothing my senses.
We were crossing village area that housed the tribal people. After many twists and turns we reached village school, build by an NGO to educate children of tribal clans. The school imparted education up to primary level and also empowered tribal women by conducting sewing training, a wonderful initiative of the NGO.
After sipping local tea and munching snacks I continued my journey upwards with Radhamani. The route further was steep enough to take my breath away. Trudging slowly I followed my guide to the clearing, middle of the plateau stood a lone thatched hut. The view from top was mesmerizing, it was 360 degree view of Sahyadris, valley and mounts. After feasting my eyes and capturing most lucrative angles in camera we walked to the hutment.
This was no ordinary hut but a mini steam distilled essential oil extraction unit run by Tribal folks. The smell of lemon grass was very intense and stole over my sensory organ. The man in charge shared the essential oil quality and also introduced the bi products like pain relief oil and balm. After buying the exotic essential oil and pain relief oil we drifted further up in the hill studded with boulders and thicket of wild shrubs and lemon grass. The Banasura dam was clearly visible from this point. The reservoir shimmered as molten silver in afternoon sun against backdrop of Banasura Hills covered with thick forest.
The breeze up in the mountain was soothing and I was ravenous and tired by now. After identifying a suitable place I sat with Radhamani to have my packed lunch. As she opened the pack sumptuous smell of steamed fish, rice and exotic chutney’s filled my nostrils. I ate my lunch that was neatly wrapped in banana leaf.
After lunch I sat there breathing in fresh mountain air, a feel of languor stole over me. I just relaxed against the boulder and absorbed pure air laden with spicy and woody smells.
Time flies in such a place and we don’t even notice it, patch of clouds sailing across the mountain broke my reverie. Radhamani was up on her feet and together we cleared all we had strewn across for lunch. It was time to return to the village.
Slowly we started our journey back to village, enjoying the bountiful nature around us. It was indeed one of the most beautiful day in my life. After walking at leisure for about an hour n a half we reached the homestay in the heart of the village. I was overwhelmed by the sincerity of my guide and thanked her profusely.
That night I slept with the pictures rerunning in my memory and heady smell of lemongrass overpowering my senses.