A hill, a beach and the sea, with a tiny cottage nestled at the bottom of the hill, solitary in the day, but with yellow lights, dim yet welcoming, after the sunset, our “demeure” for the 3 or 4 days at Dapoli. That is the only vision of Dapoli-Harnai I have had all these days.
Early in mornings with the fishermen docking, busy crows and busier dogs picking at their share from the fisherman’s catch, is when the beach is at its busiest. Afterwards, the occupants of a sole car perhaps, having tried their luck at driving on the beach and having failed miserably but almost always to their “utter surprise and disbelief”, seem to be the only group of people visible. There are a few families sometimes, bathing, laughing, talking, and shouting, but always distant enough from each other to give an impression of utter peace and solitude. Every once in a while, a horse or two or a bullock cart passes by, asking adults and kids alike if they would like a ride, but unlike at other tourist spots, they do not pester, a polite no is enough to send them on their way.
There would be the compulsory trip to the Kadyavaril Ganpati Temple at Anjarle of course, followed by a “surmai plate” and a “pomfret plate” at Petkar Bhojnalay. Sleeping to the sound of the waves, waking up to the sound of gulls, that beach, that golden sunset streaming into the rooms of Amit’s Konkan Trip BnB, that peace and serenity, all of that was what Dapoli was all about to me, and also, what made Dapoli a favourite destination of the entire family.
And then came the pandemic, with its lockdown and the fear and the nosediving of the economy, the sorrow of losing near ones, of not meeting friends and family for months, and putting a stop to all travel plans. Life, robbed of its usual vivacity, turned into a humdrum of domestic chores, interspersed with hushed conversations on the phone, consoling someone over a bereavement. Days merged into one another, each one as indistinct as the other, as if thrown into a giant cauldron by a careless forger, turning uglier and larger with each passing day. School from home robbed the boy of his social outing, turning him into a tiny monster, quite unlike himself. Five people and a dog, sharing the same space day after day, used up all their patience in their efforts to stay civil to one another.
And then came the happy tidings, hotels being allowed to re-open, and immediately our first holiday plan of the season was forged, to the same destination that we had taken the last holiday before the pandemic had raised its ugly head, Dapoli. However, there was to be one tiny difference. Instead of Amit’s Konkantrip, we would be staying at one of the regular hotels, one that’s part of a chain, with all the standard bells and whistles and whom we could hold accountable to abide by all the safety measures. The Fern Samali it was then.
Thus, one smoggy day in October, the three of us loaded our bags into the car and set off. Despite stopping to arm ourselves adequately with hot vada pavs and fiery red chutney, we had covered the distance in less than 6 hours. The roads had not been tended to in a while and was what caused most of the delay (normally its an under-5 hour trip). Fern Samali was just what we expected it to be, very assembly-line, prim and proper. The room was cool though and the bed large. After the shower, that’s the first place we headed to, and even though our tiny monster was rather unhappy, he too soon fell asleep.