(Contd. from iWander | Discovering Velas – The epic journey [Part 3])
Beach in sight our nightmare and exhaustion was all quickly forgotten. I could find my senses quickly absorbing and soaking in the environment around me. We were met by our homestay host’s mother at the bus-stop. A lean yet visibly strong woman she looked very young to be (as I would learn only moments after entering the house) a grandmother of two little brats.
The five minute walk was through the village and it’s coconut trees and fields. And after what seemed like a route that may take us sometime to navigate our way around comfortably with, we reached “home”. The homestays at the village are facilitated and organized by the Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra an NGO that has been working since 2006 towards conservation of the Olive Ridley Turtles along the Konkan coast. About 19 households within the village open their doors to nature enthusiasts who flock this tiny village every year to witness the hatchlings make their way into the sea.
Once indoors we were greeted with two cups of hot tea shortly followed by breakfast after which we decided to walk around the village and discover it a bit. Quaint and modest by every sense of the word the village was a welcome relief from the noise, crowd and pollution of the city I was only happy to get away from. Added bonus was that within the village there is no mobile network connectivity either. It was early noon already and hence too late for us to go to the turtle nests. So we’d have to go only in the evening around 6 PM.
Deciding against exerting ourselves anymore we decided to head back home after an hour of roaming around in the hope of an early lunch and an afternoon siesta to make up for all of the exhaustion.
Later that evening we walked down to the beach which is where the turtle nests were. It was a good 45 minute walk away. Unfortunately for us there weren’t any hatchlings that evening. We would learn through our conversations with the organizers that in comparison to the previous years the number of mother turtles who did come to the coast to hatch their eggs were quite few. This year there were nine nests – one of and for each mother (each with anywhere between 150 – 300 eggs each) in comparison to the 20 odd nests that were there last year. We decided to walk along the beach and watch the sun set. We would come again the next morning in the hope of hatchling sightings.
The next day was a Saturday which is when most of the crowd was expected to turn up. We were also going to be joined by my two other friends who fortunately had a much much better driver and hence an extremely decent bus ride. While there was a larger audience waiting on, we were still out of luck on the sightings front. We’d have to try our luck in the evening. We decided to spend our day visiting the nearby beaches of Srivardhan and Harihareshwar and make it in time for our evening ‘darshan’.
The stakes were much higher as there were more people who travelled from near and far. The organizers had provided us with some assurance that morning. Hopes were held high not just by the four of us but the 100+ other people who we found ourselves surrounded by. But our “stars” here were clearly keen on building on the anticipation. There would be no hatchlings in sight on the evening of our Day 2 either!
“Tomorrow for sure!” we were told (yet again). Hope wasn’t lost just yet. We decided to get away from the maddening crowd on the beach by getting on to a nearby hillock that overlooked the entire sea. That just had to be the best view ever of a coastline I’ve seen from high above. Back home we had prawns for dinner and believe me that it was the yummiest preparation I’d had in a while. Thank god for homestays and authentic home cooked meals. However around us there were more people as it was the weekend which meant that the quaint and modest village was suddenly a little too noisy with music blaring from some quarters.
Sunday morning was a super-charged one. The energy was crazy. Everyone wanted to know whether or not we’d be lucky to sight any hatchlings as most would be returning back to the city by noon and wouldn’t have another chance.
And then in true Bollywood style high on suspense the cane baskets were moved while the rest of us waited with bated breaths. Of the three nests, there weren’t any hatchlings in two. Yeah we did get lucky that Sunday morning when we saw two “turtlets” no bigger than the size of a wafer finally make an appearance for us. Needless to say the crowd was crazy excited and in spite being requested to shut off the flash light of their cameras, it had seemed to fall on deaf ears. The reason for the request is that because these “turtlets” would now make their way into the sea they are drawn towards the light of the sun – and the flashlight confuses them causing them to change the direction of their movement.
But the two were stars never the less! The excitement didn’t seem to simmer down even after the two went into the sea. What euphoria!
I’d never come this close to witnessing the magic of life – more so of another species. To think that out of all the eggs that are laid only 40% hatch; of which only 10% survive the big bad sea world. I was yet to truly understand the significance of ‘survival of the fittest!’
My friends made their way back to the city later that day but I was going to stay on for another – and no I didn’t get lucky a second time that Sunday evening because even though the eggs had hatched they hadn’t made it to the top – which is critical for the development of their flippers.
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