I am not sure how many of us can relate to watching fireflies as kids but I sure as hell remember getting knocked on the head by my mom when she found out that I had trapped a firefly in a glass bottle – well, at that point in time, I was still chasing butterflies!
As I grew up, the thought or idea of fireflies completely slipped my mind until I came across an article on the web that talked of fireflies trek – a night trek undertaken solely to watch the glow of fireflies. Intrigued, I figured out an itinerary, a schedule and was all set to go.
Fireflies – Some Fun Facts
- The fireflies glow because of bioluminescence – a naturally occurring chemical reaction in their bellies
- Fireflies use this bioluminescence to attract mates – so, in a way, I was on my way to watch their mating dance 😛
- Fireflies mate only at certain humidity and temperature ranges – sometime at the end of the summer and the beginning of the monsoons – May last week to June 1st week
- Best possible locations to watch fireflies around Mumbai – Bhandardara, Rajmachi, Prabalmachi, Kondana Caves, Purushwadi, Bhimashanker, etc.
Of all these places, I chose Rajmachi – closer to Mumbai than the rest and one could reach by train as well. I set off on a Saturday evening (three cheers to 6 day weeks!) from LTT terminus, Mumbai to Lonavala. The base village of Rajmachi is a place called Udhewadi – a good 14km hike from Lonavala. Despite it being a night time hike (I started the hike at around 11:30 PM), the roads were so dusty thanks to the summer heat and dryness that halfway through the hike, I had decided to hitchhike the rest of the way. And 10 minutes later, I found myself on the roof of a tempo traveler headed to the same destination!
I hadn’t realized the bumpiness of the road during the hike, but I must say that I was acutely aware of it the moment the tempo got going. Multitudes of time, I was lifted off the tempo roof, feet, bum and all into the air and I ended up landing squarely back with a groan. Plus, I was missing out on stopping by random bushes to gaze at the lone firefly couples signaling away to each other. So, an advice from the bottom of my heart to all you trekkers out there – walk all the way or sit INSIDE a vehicle – but definitely not on the roof!
The LIT Forest!
Udhewadi is a very simple village and the villagers here are well acquainted with the concept of homestays. And there is one shop at the very entrance of the village – all your trekking needs like packed food and water can be purchased from here. So, in case you wanna pay this place a visit, just pack your bag and go on. You’ll definitely find a warm welcome at this place. Equipped with a bottle of water and a pack of biscuits (I dropped off my bag at the above mentioned shop), I wandered off into the nearby forest area in search of the mystic fireflies that I’ve heard so much about.
As I entered the forest cover, the moonlight was blocked off the by the tree cover and I found myself under dark canopy of leaves. As I headed into the forest, with my trusty torch light in hand, the darkness soon gave way to a few flickers of yellow light here and there. I kept following those flickers until my vision was surrounded by massive woody sentinels on all sides. Each of these tree surrounded by thousands of fireflies all blinking away trying to find the right mate. The experience was surreal, to say the least!
After whiling away a good couple of hours under these trees, it was time to set up camp. Had I brought along my backpack, I would have pitched my tent right there with the fireflies for company. But now, I had to drag my feet back to shop to collect my backpack. Weighed down with my backpack, I set off in a completely different direction, looking for a good flat patch to pitch my tent.
A minutes later, I came across a guy with his heart in the right place – someone who rode on this Thunderbird all the way from Mumbai. I ended up setting my tent beside his. And after making plans for the next day’s trek to the Rajmachi fort, I called it a day and crawled back wearily into my tent.
Stay tuned for the details of the trek to the Rajmachi’s Twin Forts!