About an hour’s journey beyond the popular hill station, Mahabaleshwar, lies a piece of paradise – Tapola. The tranquil backwaters of the Koyna dam, the majestic mountains around, the small quaint villages, and the incessant chirping of birds welcomed us to Tapola.
We pitched our tent at Sakha Niwas Tapola, an agrotourism center, in the little hamlet of Harchandi. Well, to be honest, we chose the room over the tent option :). For the next couple of days, we lived in a world very distant from the hustle and bustle of city life, a world in the lap of nature.
During this vacation, we spent most of our time outdoors – relaxing in a boat, hiking in the hills, spotting birds, …
Leisurely Boat Ride
The first evening, we enjoyed a long boat ride in the backwaters of the Koyna dam. The cheerful boatman regaled us with stories as he rowed from one shore to another, one village to another. We waved goodbye to the schoolgirls who jumped off the boat to head home after a long day at school. It was entertaining and amusing to watch a motorcycle being brought aboard at one hamlet. The owner disembarked with his vehicle at the next “boat stop”. As we marveled at the magic that dusk brought to the tranquil surroundings, an unexpected sighting of fish owls had everyone squealing with joy.
Hiking in the Hills
The next morning, Vijay from Sakha Niwas led us on a wonderful hike in the mountains. We admired the views of the backwaters, spotted a few birds, showed Junior what “terrace farming” meant, and had informative conversations with Vijay about life in Harchandi and Tapola, in general.
To Junior’s absolute delight, a big bowl of farm-fresh strawberries accompanied (almost) every meal at Sakha Niwas. Knowing the kid’s weakness for the fruit, B and I managed to grab a few yummy ones for ourselves right at the start :).
During our stay, we hiked to a small strawberry farm in the hills. As we walked along the rows, observing the fruit in various stages, we plucked and tasted a few. Junior, the youngest member of the group visiting the farm, was delighted when everyone offered him a share of their pick :). There are times when I wish I was a kid!
Evening along the Backwaters
That evening, we walked past the quiet homes in Harchandi village and settled down on the banks of the backwaters.
I found a large rock which would serve as a comfortable seat for the sunset show. Junior was happy to play in the vast green playground on the shore. Later, we allowed the fish to nibble at our feet for a while. It would have been lovely to take a swim in the water but we preferred to do it another time.
Spotting Feathered Friends
Early the next morning, B and I set off with Junior for a walk along the road leading to another village (Anshi). At every turn, we were treated to pretty views. During our stroll, we encountered many feathered friends. A lone shrike seemed to be in a pensive mood. Purple sunbirds, small minivets, munias, and bulbuls flew from one tree to another. The twittering was sometimes interrupted by the sound of a motorcyle or van. And then, it resumed at full volume.
When hunger pangs struck, we retraced our route and headed back for breakfast.
– We found the rooms at Sakha Niwas Tapola to be clean and comfortable (Note: they do not offer luxury).
– The hosts are hospitable and friendly.
– We were happy to note that life jackets were provided for swimming and boat rides (for kids as well).