A Foraging Experience Two Hours from Mumbai

The trail shines a light on the sustainable food practices of local indigenous communities and provides a rich connection with nature.

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A walk through the forest to discover the various plants and flowers that were served up at lunch. Photo by: Samarpan Bhowmik

“Just make sure it’s not alive when you pop it into your mouth.”

With these words of wisdom guiding me, I gingerly go about the task at hand: to pick up a fire ant from the colony and eat it, so I can fathom the fascination for the famed fire ant chutney that is relished by indigenous populations in various pockets of the country. I am at Varadhast Farms on the outskirts of Mumbai, just about a couple of hours’ drive from the thronging streets of India’s financial capital.

But even less than 100 kilometres from the megacity, it seems like an entirely different world. Once off the highway, the roads get rough and concrete gets sparse. As bothered as my backside is by the bumpy ride, my weary city soul finds balm in staring out the window as we go past thatched roofs, crop fields and borewells. By the time I arrive at the farmhouse, my lungs are heaving in gratitude for the fresh air. I, along with a number of other Mumbai folks, am being hosted by Shardul and Anuradha. Shardul is an architect and co-founder of Design Jatra, a firm that deals in environment-friendly and community-centric architecture. Anuradha has her own landscape architecture concern, which promotes conservation of natural biodiversity.

The experience is curated by Johann and Samuel from Jack and Hill Adventures, an experiential adventure company that is as serious about keeping the environs within which they operate pristine as they are about providing unique, fun and mostly outdoor experiences. The farmhouse itself has been lovingly built by the architect couple using their deep-rooted sustainability practices and engaging the local community. All materials are either natural such as mud, bamboo, limestone and cow dung, or recycled from older constructions, all sourced from within a 5-km radius.

The design takes into consideration local climate and has been used innovatively to regulate temperatures, among other functions. The central atrium, for instance, works as a shaft for hot air to escape all rooms. Then there are particular rooms which stay cool in summers and warm through winters.

 

Read the complete feature in the print edition of National Geographic Traveller India May-June 2022. Get your copy here.

 

Also Read | From Forest to Table: Foraging for Food in Nagaland

 

To read more stories on travel, cities, food, nature, and adventure, head to our web forum here or our new National Geographic Traveller India app here.

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  • Samarpan Bhowmik is Deputy Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. Ever on the lookout for novel experiences, he believes the best way to travel is to do it slow. He hopes to hitchhike the length of South America one day.

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