Velas Turtle Festival
Velas beach an awesome place. The weather was superb maybe we were just lucky or the Gods were pleased with us! The Velas Turtle Festival is usually scheduled in March every year however based on research and local information from our village friends, it was confirmed that the Velas Turtle Festival would start early! So, we at Treks and Trails, set out on our first trip to visit our turtle friends and their caretakers on 28th Feb with an enthusiastic and determined group and stayed on till 1st March.
This was a leisure trip, no trek simple yet an awesome tour awaited us. The Yellow bus started from Borivali National park gate on Friday night at 10 pm. The plan was very simple reach early in the morning to take our first chance to see the turtle hatching and do some photography. Reaching the village at 06:00 am was bang on.
Pit Stop 1
A tea break for our Yellow bus driver near Imagica, Khopoli. Hiren ensured that he had enough tea and theplas for this break, of course along with the driver; many of us savoured some sips. Looking at all the deserted rides from outside at around 12:30 am in the morning was a different feeling. Most of in the bus were still strangers to each other. Introduction was still pending. For all those to called and confirmed their participation had spoken to a Treks and Trails who was nowhere to be seen. After refreshments, the yellow bus engine roared to life again, the journey began once again. While some of us were catching forty winks, we passed Pali home to the Ballaleshwar Temple, the third temple to visit while on the Ashtavinayak yatra. We also crossed our very own Ashram shala where we had conducted our free old clothes distribution drive and Free Medical camps last year.
Pit stop 2
Around 20 kms away from Velas, we stopped again and had some more tea from Hiren’s flask. Surprising the tea was still hot. Three cheers!
Day One Velas Turtle Festival
No more pit stops and we reached Velas village at around 5.30am, after a quick fresh up break, we moved towards the beach in the bus. We got off at what is locally referred to as the bridge, the last point to get off your vehicle. After a brief introduction from everyone, we started walking towards the beach with hope and expectations to seek our desire we quickly hurried to the beach.
Our excitement was however short lived as no eggs had hatched that morning. Not losing heart, we decided to explore the beach, wading in the water was strictly prohibited, so we wandered towards the southern end of the beach. Clean beaches and clear waters are a delight for people living in the city! This gave us ample opportunity for photography and some play time as well. We had a good time playing dog-and-the-bone on the beach it was indeed after a long time we played this game.
The entire beach is decorated with millions and millions of small sand balls from a small hole in the sand, the handy work of the soldier crab. We walked back till our yellow bus once our stomachs started growling to take us to where our homestay was arranged. Breakfast was the awesome poha with coconut sprinkled on it. We visited Bankot fort after having breakfast.
Flora and Fauna we spotted at Velas Village
About Bankot Fort
The fort was known to be under the control of Adilshah and in 1548 the Portuguese took control over it. Later, Marathas took control over Bankot fort. They renamed it as Himmatgarh. It is a historical place because it was the first residency in the Southern part of Konkan coast of British raj. In the year 1756 Bankot became the part of Bombay Presidency. Bankot fort is the main attraction here in the village of Velas. The fort was also named Fort Victoria by British. But when British saw no benefits to retain the ownership of this fort in terms of business or ruling they gave its ownership back to Peshwas. Due to its location this place could never witness any significant historical events during its life time except being transferred from one ruler to another.
On our way bank after visiting the Bankot fort and phone memory filled with selfies we drove our Yellow Bus on the zigzag road to Velas village, not before us picking up two green watermelons for our evening snacks. The lunch was awesome as usual with some mast green chutney. Most us tried to catch at least forty winks before one more trip to the beach in the evening for that day. But the gods had other plans and it began to rain. That could be one more reason to sleep a little more. It rained just like it did in the monsoon season. This heavy shower did not hold back those who were eager to see the baby turtles.
Armed with umbrellas and windcheaters we marched to the beach one more time. And our efforts were rewarded, for there was one baby turtle who decided to greet us despite the pouring rain. We witnessed the baby turtle’s first walk. This walk is very important for the turtles, for if it’s a female turtle, she shall return to the same beach after 15 long years to lay her eggs.
We were drenched by the time we made our way back to the village but that was just another reason we had to indulge in endless supply of tea. The rest of the evening on day one spent just lazing around and playing UNO cards. The best part was even with no electricity with the torch light switched on, the game was on. A head lamp really helps in such situations as your hands are free to pick a card.
We had dinner which was very delicious vegetable, rice dal, papad, pickle. I think more than the food; it is everyone sitting together that makes it so special. A few of the participants also tried their hands to cook dinner on the traditional chulha.
The night ended with us playing “Atlas” and had some of us thinking of country names even as our head hit the pillows.
Games we played:
Day Two Velas Turtle Festival
A brand new day, it had rained all night and continue to do so early in the morning, it could however not dampen our spirits to go one more time to the beach. However, this time the route was different. We walked through the by lanes of the village, crisscrossing paths to reach the beach. This was an effort not to wake up the village will the yellow bus engine roar. Lady luck seems to be on our side. Two more baby turtle had emerged and ready to make their maiden walk to the horizon. We even managed to spot 5 dolphins. Post photo shooting and video shooting, we had breakfast. We bid farewell to our kind host, who was always ready to serve tea to us – be it night or day, rain or sunshine and left Velas village with a keen desire to come back again.
Our driver was ready and patient as we ensured that maximum photo ops were covered departed via ferry to Harihareshwar temple to seek the divine blessings. Some of us choose to do the pradakshina of the temple while the others choose to laze around the beach. However, Bhavin had other ideas as we played Frisbee honestly never quite imagined that law of Physics was applicable in such a simple game. Bhavin had taken it upon himself to teach us how to play Frisbee ensuring the distance was appropriate and everyone was making a genuine effort to enjoy.
On the beach at Harihareshwar you could also enjoy water sports such as Banana boat ride, Jet ski. Later we had lunch at one of the restaurant near the temple and proceeded to Mumbai. We had lots of fun in the bus by playing Dumb Charades, Antakshari and also did some cool photography along the expressway.
One our way back with everyone it seems as if we had met and know each other for years. Remember the beginning where I mentioned second paragraph about being strangers☺. Phone number exchanged email id shared, and left with a promise to keep in touch. WhatsApp hai right!
It’s been 3 consecutive years at Velas but this was the best group with regards to Treks and Trails. Awesome people. Great fun.