The fragrance of exotic herbs, the kneading of muscles, and the promise of ‘rejuvenation’ sent me opting for a wellness vacation. With just a couple of days at our disposal in early June, I had no option but to scour for a retreat closer to home. Some pampering, I felt was an apt treat for my parents, with Mother’s Day just having gone by and with Father’s Day around the corner.
And after combing several sites, I hit upon ‘Ayurvedic Village’―a sleepy village nestled in a valley surrounded by quaint hills in Morbe, just 2 kilometers from Panvel.
“It’s a retreat Mam, with no connectivity…so you may have problems with mobile network and… internet too may not work”, informed the Manager at the time of booking. “You’ll have to bear with us…” he went on to explain.
“That’s perfectly fine”, I almost yelped. Secretly pleased with a devilish idea of people not being able to reach me, I confirmed my booking. ‘
We set out on a clear June morning. Snaking around the ‘Kaccha’ roads that begin where Panvel ends, was getting to be annoying with Morbe nowhere in sight and with the locals not being particularly helpful. But the scene that unfolded outside, compensated!
Soon, signboards indicated that we follow the trail…
Before long, the brown earth gave way to a redder soil, and barren land to greener pastures.
Finally we arrived…After a warm welcome from the staff, we were ready to inspect the surroundings. But weariness overcame us and the prevailing sultriness only added to our sloth.
The main entrance done in a simple Kerala style was sparse yet welcoming.
Soon enough we were welcomed…this time with ‘welcome drinks’! Glistening in a light golden honey hue, the transparent glasses seemed truly welcoming and we felt it was a perfect convivial welcome…till we touched the glass, which seemed slightly tepid🧐! It turned out to be a julep of plain water with a dash of crushed cumin🥵!
This concoction was our nourishing drink for the next 24 hours or so!..Welcome to the Ayurveda way of life!
With the mid-morning sun threatening to intensify and with lunch a couple of hours away, we decided to refresh ourselves and enjoy a siesta.
We were led to another part of the complex, which housed 8 rooms.
The rooms were sparsely designed and the window air-conditioner seemed to be a bit out of place, but certainly functional. But the minimalistic ambience ensured that guests did not lack any comfort. The scene from the top was indeed panoramic with the distant hills assuming extra-ordinary shapes
and with numerous kinds of flora dotting the landscape.
Soon our weary self pleaded to be pampered, so we plonked onto the soft bed and lulled ourselves to the land of nod, till a knock awoke us signalling lunch time.
The kitchen and dining room were located in another part of the same complex. And the pathway connecting the two had some interesting scenes of flora and fauna.
Evoking memories of ‘Native Place’, the orchards, had several fruit trees strewn about. A mango tree laden with succulent tender mangoes, acted as an instant appetizer.
Coconuts and chicoos vied for attention with mammoth sized jackfruits.
What we saw on our platter, were all picked and chosen from the orchard. I can vouch for the victuals! Believe me, food at the retreat was simply delectable despite nothing exotic being included in the cuisine. The dishes were mild on our stomach ―tempered with the right ingredients in the right proportion & literally melted in the tongue! I suppose only healthful Ayurvedic recipes were followed. Nevertheless, the menu included rotis, daal, chole etc.
Meals were either followed by Chaas or tasty Aamras. The Aamras, we were told were prepared without adding sugar. We greedily slurped the juice without leaving a trace.
Sliced Totapuri mangoes with a tad of tangy taste were a part of the dessert. The fare not only satiated our hunger but also whetted our appetite!
Being a Sunday, most families were checking out. With just a couple of other families and nothing much to do, post lunch we couldn’t help but sneak back into our rooms for a siesta.
It was during tea-time that we got an opportunity to meet the in-house doctors who practise Ayurveda. When patient ears and willing professionals are all ours for a few hours, why not unburden? Complaints noted and solutions given & we felt better!
It was 6 pm and having done with tea, we were ready to explore the surroundings. We were told that a ‘Super Specialty’ Hospital was coming up where Ayurvedic treatments would be given to patients opting for a few days’ stay, but in an atmosphere of 7-star hospitality.
The Future Super Specialty 7 Star Ayurvedic Retreat….
The architecture, which was typically Kerala in style, ushered in a touch of ethnicity. This project it seems would be completed in a couple of years.
Hills at a distance against whose backdrop the place was built.
This seating arrangement carved out of wood, lent a cozy feel to the place despite its minimalistic look. I’m sure in monsoon, folks lounging here would enjoy resting their feet on the soft emerald green grass!
It looked as if the sun on its way to the horizon paused to steal a peek at us.
As the darkness of the night enveloped us in its depth, we retreated indoors. It was at this point we discovered that we were the only 4 people who were guests at the retreat.
Sunday evening saw all the guests going their way homewards. The place that pulsated with human voice, laughter and mirth suddenly lay bereft of life….it seemed an eeriness had crept in.
But soon our fears were allayed when a security personnel emerged as a blessing in disguise and informed us that he’d be stationed outside the whole night. Besides, we were also told that the resident doctors would be occupying the rooms downstairs.
Hunger pangs befell in predictable frequency and food was something to hanker after, over here. Yet again, we were treated to a sumptuous fare of mouthwatering preparations.
That was a wobbly image of the crescent moon I tried to capture on my lens…
The scent of Mogra wafted by as we took a stroll…
Night also gave us an opportunity to again discuss ‘health’ with the doctors who were an amiable lot.
By 10:30 pm we hit the sack…silence was a constant with only the occasional barking of dogs.
6 am and it got me stirring out of bed. I awoke to the chirping of birds. The sun had just risen and a feeble glint emerged on and off the grey clouds…
Soaring to touch the clouds….
Lounging on the balcony, sipping our ginger-tea we soaked in the scene and engaged in small chat
Mom and I stole out for a stroll..
Aloe Vera-considered to be a panacea for most ills…lay scattered on the mead. This herb is often used in Ayurvedic potions.
As the sun crawled its way to the zenith, we saw the previous day’s Hibiscus buds now in full bloom… heralding a new dawn!
But when vacation lasted only for a couple of days, how could we have time to stand and stare?? Breakfast was to be partaken at least an hour before a massage or any Ayurvedic treatment. Moreover, could we resist breakfast? We were in fact awaiting another round of delicious fare.
Sure enough..we were not disappointed. Upma with chutney, side-dish and Aamras had us licking our fingers.
We spent an hour gadding about, charting undiscovered parts of the property.
This time we surveyed the treatment centers.
These bundles packed with herbal potpourri are later soaked in medicated oil and used for fomentation.
Soon it was time to get pampered. Male and female masseuse were at our service and that enabled my son also to enjoy the treatment. Dad opted out and preferred catching up on more sleep!
Abhayangam is a basic but vital treatment wherein warm medicated oil is lavishly anointed all over the body from crown to heel. My masseuse ―a lady over 50 years of age began deftly massaging my scalp and went onto the shoulders. I must admit it felt heavenly. Shoulders and the nape― usually neglected parts respond to a rubdown with deep gratitude!
An hour and more of kneading, was undeniably relaxing! Bathing was a different experience. No soak-tub here and the large meshed window sans the panes made me jittery. Tall trees loomed large and for a moment I doubted, “What if an imp decided to play a prank?” But my masseuse assuaged my fears with a wave of her hand, telling me, “Oh! We’ve been operating here for so many years now. You don’t worry!” So I decided to surrender to the soothing scent of medicated soap.
As we walked back to our rooms, I must say it felt as though a heavy load was shed off our frames. While I walked in with shoulders drooped before the massage, after the massage, I felt as light as a feather! This was different from the usual massages at the parlour! The nimbleness with which we strode back was indeed palpable.
Different scents wafted by…for the masseuse had selected different scented oils, keeping our needs in mind.
The massage must’ve roused our appetite as we were famished. Anticipating this, the second day’s menu was a bit more elaborate and we ravenously devoured every bit.
We wandered around a bit, feeding the geese, and clicking more snaps.
A massage always lulls the senses and sleep was but inevitable. It would be months before we would relish this kind of unbridled leisure.
After tea and cookies, we were ready to leave.
The retreat’s van was ready to drop us at Panvel. We left bidding the staff adieu.
Morbe’s pastoral scene flashed before us as we rode away…
giving way to tarred roads and roaring traffic…
Quaint looking hills gave way to monstrous malls and grotesque looking structures…
We were once again absorbed by the humdrum drone of city life.
Darting through the clouds, the sun emerged untarnished
Note: Ayurvedic treatment is the need of the hour in monsoon, where the massage is followed by a sauna. Summer heat robbed us of the pleasure of a sauna. The place too, I’m sure would be a treat to the senses with luxuriant vegetation adding to its charm.
This place wasn’t exactly a 5-star experience, but certainly the cordiality of the staff, the victuals and the unspoilt beauty of the place, do warrant a revisit.
And for now, we’re waiting with bated breath to patronize the resort’s seven star hospitality that promises of more futuristic and state-of-the-art amenities…