Want to go camping near Mumbai? You must! I did that recently. And I must say, I’m having camping withdrawal symptoms. ‘That’s what Nature does to you’, said Prateek Gupta when I told him about my situation. Prateek is the founder of one of today’s most competent adventure travel companies – Life Away From Life. True to its intriguing name, this brand shows you what life really is, away from your usual life.
What is Life Away From Life?
As Life Away From Life (LAFL), Prateek has been taking lost urban souls to mountains, valleys, lakes and farms for the last 18 years. He embarked on this then unheard-of-profession when he decided that his life needed to go beyond an office cubicle. Today, his life is in the monastery of Thiksey Gompa, in the farms around Pawana Lake and in the Bhutanese Phobjika valley.
A post-graduate diploma in mountaineering, Prateek’s favourite story is of taking his 90-year-old father to Ladakh and watching him watercolouring a canvas at Pangong Lake.
Adventure Camping Weekend with LAFL
My first encounter with LAFL was not as fantastical as a Ladakh trek. But my weekend camping near Mumbai around Tikona Fort, was nothing short of magical. This was a family camping weekend organised with another experiential travel brand, Thrill Camps. The campsite in question is licensed by Thrill Camps from a local farmer. It is an unfortunate situation that many a local farmer around Lonavala is now quitting agriculture and opting for tourism.
Renting farms out for camping near Mumbai is more lucrative. Yet, not all are legal. Thrill Camps makes sure that its activities are all official and safe.
At the base of the Tikona fort, the Thrill Camps site is unique. It is flanked by the Tikona ghat on one side and thrown open to the valley on the other. Unobstructed views are your first greeting here. Then is the general languor of the place, shaded with mango trees. Summer camps are all about the cool shade of trees, aren’t they? Or is it the excitement of sleeping in a tent? Or putting together a bonfire? Or barbecues? And the promise of a nature trail the next morning? Maybe it’s about doing so many things and still doing nothing at all. Because enjoying the beauty of Nature is really effortless. And with LAFL and Thrill Camps, we did it all!
Camping and all its thrills
Clean, comfortable tents for 3 were pitched for our group of about eight eager campers. The introductions done, we seamlessly became one when it came to scampering around for firewood. And at barbecue time, it was like we were no strangers in the night. Perhaps we were linked with the strains of Prateek’s acoustic guitar. It was an unforgettable evening – unabashed melodies flowing into each other, warming the coals in the grill.
But let me tell you the tiniest detail that held the most potent magic of the adventure camping weekend with LAFL – Fireflies. As the embers dulled out, like most man-made things do, Nature stole the show. Pin pricks flashed across trees, making your eyes flit around in firefly thirst. Blink and miss but there’s always more. If you can wait on Nature, She always rewards you, in ways magnanimous and miniscule. Bottling a firefly is nothing wondrous. It just reinforces our inane need to control the wild. I’d much rather surrender to these creatures in their afterglow.
And then, the stars! The moon rose to a geoid through the dark sky. When it decided to return, the sky gave us a show of stars. Leaving our tent door wide open, we were treated to this humbling sight. At once, we humans were the pin-pricks in face of Nature’s spectacle.
Basic queries addressed
If these enthralling details are secondary to you and you need to have certain primary information sorted out first, let me do that right here.
Is the camp safe and clean? Yes. Very safe and very hygienic. Clean washroom facilities on site. Western-style loos with toilet showers available. No, no bathtubs. There’s a huge freshwater lake you can visit later.
Is the camp suitable for kids? Of course! Prateek regularly organises weekends of camping near Mumbai. These are for kids in groups as large as 20, for age eight years and above. My son of 5 had an absolute blast here! He didn’t want to return home!
What about food? The camp provides simple but great staple Indian food. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian options are available. Cooked fresh everyday, your camping weekend starts with an evening tea and snacks on the first day, followed by a barbecue dinner. The next day you get breakfast and lunch. Departure is typically post lunch on the second day. The healthy and hearty meals are served in clean vessels. Don’t expect some five-star buffet. And don’t expect pasta for your kids! Clean, bottled drinking water is available.
There is also Shree Swami Samarth, a humble but popular eatery that serves a good thali meal through the day. It’s a five-minute drive from the Thrill Camps site. Think mouth-watering gaoti chicken curry with huge hot bhakris made on wood-fire stoves.
How do you get to the Thrill Camps site? The site is accessible by two and four wheelers.
What are all the activities included in the adventure weekend camp? You can opt for a trek to the Tikona fort, a village walk by night, a trek to a quaint lake or a visit to the farm. This depends on your energy and enthusiasm levels. The organisers don’t push you into anything but would love it if you engaged in at least 2 of these, over two days. This is over and above the campfire and barbecue activities. You can also get sporty galore. There’s provision for badminton, volleyball and more such here.
How much does an Adventure Weekend with LAFL cost? Your cost is ₹5000 per couple, excluding GST. Charges have to be paid in advance. Online receipts are generated for each payment.
I can’t stop recommending this adventure camping near Mumbai to you. You must sign up for it. Just stay tuned to the LAFL Facebook page for updates.
I recall Prateek saying that “adventure” does not just have to be something extreme or wild. Even meeting new people and sharing your time and space with them is adventurous. Listening to someone’s first experience of snow peaks is an adventure. Nature creates the opportunity for you. Grab it, as much as you can!