Hiking With Fireflies
Copyright 2021 by Renata Pavrey
Photo by the author.
world was aglow with sparkling delight. It was Christmas in the
middle of June, as nature lit up in celebration of life itself.
love for nature has often taken me trekking and hiking on the
outskirts of the city. I enjoy exploring the outdoors, climbing up
forts, traversing trails, and appreciating life under the blanket of
a night sky. Itís an enchanting experience to skedaddle from
the busyness of city life, even if only for a few hours or days.
few years ago I experienced my first night trek, at the village of
Purushwadi in India. The overnight trip required us to drive down to
the base village during the day. Specific families from the village
took care of small groups. The excursion is an initiative of
Grassroutes India that works towards creating rural experiences for
city dwellers. This helps generate an income for the villagers as
they host guests for a day, from one evening to the next. The host
family provides meals, and each family member takes it in turn to
look after a group of 2Ė4 guests. They cook and serve meals,
take people around the village, and introduce guests to activities
that make up their day-to-day life.
is nestled in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, between the rivers
Mula and Pravara. The nearest city is Nasik at 100 kilometers away,
followed by Mumbai at 190 kilometers away.
Our host family gave us a warm welcome with topis
Ė white, cotton caps traditionally worn by Maharashtrians. The
is also known as the Gandhi Cap and is symbolic of the Mahatmaís
attire; his message of cultural pride in Swadeshi
goods (traditional clothes). They even let us keep our topis,
and I still have mine.
learned how to separate grain from husk and pound it into flour. The
villagers taught us about the insulating properties of cow dung.
Under their guidance, we applied the dung to walls and courtyards,
believed to keep the heat out in summer and within in winter, kill
bacteria, and protect against viral infections. We also hiked to the
local dam and saw how the villagers caught fish. The other activities
we engaged in included swimming in the nearby river, eating locally
grown and home-cooked food, and drinking traditionally prepared tea.
We listened to stories about village life, slept in tents put up
around the villagersí farms, and awakened with the sunrise into
a new day.
highlight of the trip, however, was the anticipated night trek that
followed a premature dinner at sunset. Early and mid-June mark the
onset of the monsoon season in India; a time when humidity rises and
fireflies are at their bioluminescent best. Pre-monsoon is the finest
time to watch them light up the forest. Grassroutes India has aptly
named this yearly adventure trip as the Fireflies Festival, which
takes place for 2Ė3 weeks around May and June.
dancing fireflies transform the sky, trees and forest floor into
their personal performance stage. The glowing beetles include
different species of fireflies that dissipate light during mating
season to attract the opposite sex. As an antecedent to the
monsoon the fireflies emerge between the third week of May and the
third week of June. The males showcase distinct patterns of flashing
light, and the females respond with their own spellbinding flashes of
light that leave onlookers stunned with natureís display of
light. Right after the first monsoon showers, the eggs hatch to
release the larvae. The adult fireflies die in the heavy rains, while
the larvae grow to glow in the next pre-monsoon season, and the
unremitting cycle continues.
village guide knew the best spots where the fireflies clustered. We
followed him through the light in the darkness. The dancing,
flickering, illuminating exhibition mesmerized at every step and
turn. The insects twinkle on and off of their own accord. Thereís
no way of knowing when which one would light up, and their
erratic flashing creates an intoxicating rhythm of its own. Itís
like being transported to fairyland and being showered upon by
diamond drops in a whirlwind of shimmer.
beauty of hiking with fireflies is that one canít do anything
else besides follow the twinkling lights and watch them flash on and
off in a dance to their own tunes. As the sun sets, nature switches
on her lights! Torches and flashlights are rendered redundant,
because external light causes the fireflies to turn off their glow.
Hikers need to feel their way through uneven terrain and forest cover
by following the light provided by nature herself. A camera can never
do enough justice in capturing the glowing shapes that sprinkle the
night sky with glitter. I tried the
night vision feature on my camera, and ended up with green swirls
against a purple backdrop. The camera no doubt seeing something
entirely different from what my eyes did! Or maybe the fireflies
donít want to be recorded. You need to see and feel them and
capture the fluorescent greens and neon yellows with memory.
is an enchanting place with its old-world charm, rustic lifestyle,
warm food and warmer hearts, and its swarms of fireflies that bring
surrealism to life in silence and darkness. There are no hotels
nearby and one needs to either stay at a villagerís house, or
set up camp around their farms. While we were welcomed with topis,
we were presented with tiny potlis
(simplistic etui bags made from jute) containing homegrown peanuts as
farewell gifts. There is something about the calmness of farm life
that moves in sync with high physical activities. A quality of
movements far removed from the busyness of city life. Nature teaches
us so much without saying a word. Sometimes when you canít find
the light in the darkness, you need to make your own light and forge
the path ahead.
Pavrey is a nutritionist and Pilates teacher. Her writing covers a
broad spectrum of subjects including dance, literature, languages,
sports, health and fitness, nature and music. You can find her
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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