Much in need of a break from the hectic pace of the city that never sleeps, and having missed our favourite Pondicherry trail run on account of an accident in the family, we decided to do a short break out of the city.
Taking advantage of a long weekend, we made our way past the Mumbai- Pune expressway and midway through meandering village roads to Ark Wellness Retreat, nestled in between the ever popular Lonavala and Pawna lake on one hand and Pune on the other hand.
With Google maps as our guide, we passed by several village roads replete with fields and the occasional signs stating “Agro farm”, but all we could see were small huts surrounded by dry fields, with the Sahyadris in the distance. Suddenly taking a right turn, we were thrust offroad on our trusted steed, hoping we would not land up with serious damage to our car.
Signboards pointed to the elusive “Ark Wellness Retreat” which was literally in the middle of nowhere, seeming like nothing was around for miles.
Parking our car, as we disembarked, we could hear the sounds of bird chirping and water in the distance. The Ark Wellness Retreat is housed in a huge bungalow styled building, with a blue dipping pool at the bottom, and the rooms at the top.
For a bibliophile like me, what was most welcoming was everything seemed to be centered around books – each room is named after an author, there are nooks and crannies all over the property equipped with pillows, and the icing on the cake was the cozy library right next to the entrance with shelves of books, comfortable sofas and pillows, and wide windowsills which overlooked the green foliage outside where you could just curl up and read.
Checking in to our room, we were overjoyed with our room which had French glass windows surrounding it on three sides, the Sahyadris in the background, and in the foreground, small square pond of water surrounded by a palette of orange, green, yellow and pink. I dream of waking up to this, and this time I was going to have it.
Exploring the property, we decided to relax our tired bodies in the comfort of the ayurvedic spa. The spa is housed in a small bamboo like cottage building. Ark Wellness Retreat houses its own organic herb garden and is overflowing with herbs and plants of various types (neatly labelled) with its use and purpose, and which is used by the kitchens for cooking.
Lunch was simple home cooked food in great variety, and we enjoyed every minute of it. Afternoon was spent in the lazy nooks and corners of the property with a book for company. Exploring addicts that we are, we spent the evening walking around the resort and decided to venture on the dirt road outside to see where it would lead us. The dirt road outside was empty, and we chanced upon one beautiful wooden bungalow just outside the property which was beautiful with its green lawns, and wooden stairs and wooden structure. We took the road leading to nowhere whilst we were followed by a villager (presumably he was going home), who looked at us thinking that we were crazy meandering urban folks excited about seeing things he saw every day.
For us living in the city of Mumbai, any open space is met with oohs and aahs, and this was no exception. The deserted road had the occasional two huts and the beginnings of construction (we hoped this would not mean the next time we came, it would feel we had descended into touristy overcrowded Lonavala).
Wandering back to the retreat, our senses were delighted with smell of wood smoke emanating from the raked leaves being set ablaze, the sight of the red ball of fire dipping into the grand majestic mountains in the distance, the rustle of the leaves in the breeze, and the feel of our bare feet against the slightly wet grass as we practiced grounding ourselves to the earth, and going back to our roots – it was a spiritual experience.
Several table tennis games and a hot shower later, we watched the world slowly shut down for the night with the sound of crickets and other nightly insects, under a starry sky, with the illumination of the moon, curled up with a book.
I had been dreaming of walking up to the virgin sound of nature (not polluted with urban city life) for ages, and it was majestic to lay in bed and watch the sunrise over the mountains, from our room. We watched slowly as the sky changed color, the light changing on the mountains before us, as we sat and pondered if there was anyone up there on the mountain. The gurgling of the water filling the pond, the chirp of birds in the air, and the cool breeze were our morning pick me-ups, before we pulled ourselves away to explore some more.
For us no trip is complete without a walk or a run, and once again we decided to run across the path we had explored yesterday. It was a public holiday, and like crazy people, whilst presumably the whole retreat was asleep (we assume it was so, since the main door was shut), we slipped out of the back door for a morning run. Breakfast was a divine affair, and famished from our run, we absorbed the last bits of nature and had a quick nap in the lap of nature before going back to the crazy thing we call ‘’our life”’.