I recently visited the tribal belt of Gujarat called Dang, it lies on the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra.
I came to know about this place through Tales & Treasures and their event partner Pune Travel Club. We were a group of 3 who traveled with them on the Republic Day weekend. They had used a tag line 'This republic day know your roots better." And somehow they actually lived up to that.
We reached Dang in the morning around 7 am as we had started late in the night on 25th Jan. With some herbal tea and a light snack, we started our day. We went to see how the villagers of Dang celebrated 26th Jan in their schools and as I was not much aware of the rural culture it was something new for me too. The whole village was gathered in a small compound of the school to see their children perform. It was a treat to my eyes seeing how happy they actually were.
After that, we went to one of the houses of the villagers and there had our brunch. We ate the way they have their meals, sitting on the floor was a totally different experience as we somehow tried to connect to them on those ground levels. The villagers were very sweet as well as very warm and welcoming. We had a small troop of kids showing us around the village, their lifestyle and as we walked by the houses of these people we were offered everything ripe and ready to eat on their trees, right from imli to guava, etc
After learning about their lifestyle we went over to Maya Devi which was one of the most relaxing parts of the trip to dang. It was basically an underwater temple that was the holy place for Hindus dedicated to goddess Maya Devi. As per Hindu mythology "Shivapuran". Daksha's daughter Maya Devi was hidden here in this cave to escape Tarkasur. It's around 97 km from Surat and about 30 km from Vyara. The temple is situated in the Dang forest at Purna wildlife sanctuary. During monsoons, it's covered underwater and you won't be able to make it to the cave. Although it has a great scenic beauty at that time, else during late winters and summers as the water flow is low u can easily make it to the cave. During late winters the water is so cold and when the sun shines above ur head and the slow breeze flows around you, it's just the most relaxing part. There is not much of a crowd and no one is asking you to leave so it depends on you how much time u want to spend. (As of my personal experience I spent around 2 hrs here and if I would have been alone I don't think so I would have left the place before 4-5 hrs it's really relaxing and calm).
In the night we stayed in a camping area with a beautiful view and in between, we start drinking mahua because other kinds of alcohol are banned there so, to sum up, the beautiful night life it can be said "there was not enough space in the sky to put up any more stars and to top it off we were some strangers around a bonfire who spent the whole night sharing amazing stories "
the early morning jungle trek.
We started off with chai & sutta!! And off we go for a long trek in the dense and intense forest of dang making our move to the long buried history of the tribes. We reached the base around 9 AM and with us was a local villager and his kid. After walking for around 10 mins we came across this small river and as I am too fortunate my shoes aren't waterproof so I got move on the algae and a bit slippery as well as those rough pebbles without shoes, never missed my keto's this much. After crossing that comes the bedrock of pebbles, as per the villagers, this is filled with water during the monsoons, To me, I presume in the monsoons it's like heaven on earth in Dang, everything here is filled with a massive amount of water and flora-fauna is at its best. As we started our way to the dense forest filled with bamboo, teak leaves and various medicinal plant that the villagers here are free to use as they want, they even have some share in the forest produce but cultivation here is banned. The forest here is filled with snakes, leopards, etc and the forest department is always on its duty. As we walked deeper inside the jungle around 2-3km we reached to the location of the 200 years old Mango tree where the first troop actually settled and then after ages they started to get scattered around the radius.
Our trek guide, who was a local villager, was really having the full knowledge of the area nearby so while we started to descend back to the village for lunch we started to go by a village area with beautiful scenic beauty. On my way to grabbing the essence of the place, we finally landed on the last activity of our trip the bamboo workshop. the tribal household and trading are all dependent on bamboo.
So what better to do than making our self a 'see you soon' present and learn from the villagers who know it all and were eager and kind enough to teach bamboo art to us.
On our way of making a thousand mistakes both as a student trying to learn it first time and him as a teacher to teach us first time we landed some where in between.
By the end of the journey of making mistakes and learning their art form, we stood up as a student-teacher promising each other to meet soon enough!!
A nice gesture by Tales & Treasures as well as Pune Travel Club for choosing the villagers to teach us, guide us around and even for our meals we used to go to different houses every time and they used to shower us with all there love and affection what else a traveler wants and in return doing so they even got some kind of bonus monetary rewards that are actually worthy of.
So thank you to both of them for bridging the gap between us.