Two hours outside Mumbai, the dream of a Gandhian freedom fighter lives on. Saguna Baug, spread over 16 acres of verdure in Neral, is the legacy of Harikaka Bhadsavle, who believed in self-sufficient farming. Today his son runs this sustainable agro-tourism farm with the same ideology. Being interested in agrotourism, I decided to spend an extended weekend at Saguna during the onset of the monsoon.
On my arrival, I was greeted with the warmest smile and a refreshing glass of sherbet, flavoured with kokum grown a few metres away. The farm workers gladly allow you to help them pick fresh greens from the vegetable patches around the farm. Aside from veggies, I picked up a few tips about farming experiments, medicinal plants, and fish farming on the in-house tour. If you’d rather spend time with the farm’s more animated residents, you can visit the dairy, hop on to a bullock cart or a horse for a ride, or hang out with big birds at the emu farm close by.
My favourite activity—besides gorging on delicious country chicken curry—was rod-fishing. A five-minute trail leads to a clearing on the Ulhas River, where I discovered I was an excellent angler. At my first try, I reeled in a yellow-and-pink beauty. But the farm hand and I both agreed that it was just too pretty to be let out of the water, so we let him swim away. I sat on the exposed rocks and watched the water and the hours flow by.
Mornings at Saguna Baug proved to be idyllic. I’d wake up at the Pond House (pictured) to the misty sight of a paddling of ducks. On a clear day you can even make out Matheran hill station in the distance. Buffaloes nod as you make your way to the dining area, where a hearty Maharashtrian breakfast awaits. The farm also has a range of delicious, homemade pickles, preserves, and squashes for sale. The weekend that I was there, Saguna had a bumper harvest of bananas and extra milk, so I promptly stocked up for the week ahead. I couldn’t stay on at Saguna, but a part of Saguna came home with me.
Appeared in the July 2014 issue as “Garden Variety”.
Accommodation Saguna Baug has many options. There are rustic cottages with pretty Warli designs on the walls, but the two-roomed Pond House, is the most charming of the lot. Its warm earth colours and lovely setting in the middle of a water body make it the most sought-after option, so book well in advance. (Also remember to take your own towels and toiletries.)
Getting There Neral is 67 km/1 hour 40 minutes from Mumbai. A convenient option is to board an early morning Karjat-bound local train from Dadar or Kurla station. Neral is the second-last stop on the line, from where a 20-minute autorickshaw ride will take you to Saguna Baug (93707 02932/92093 13174; www.sagunabaug.com; doubles from ₹1,250, including meals.)