A View at the Edge of the World

At Saffronstays Villa 270° in the town of Dapoli, the earthy insistence of simplicity mingles with the pampering touch of something close to luxury.  
Sweeping views greet the early morning riser at SaffronStays Villa 270°, with breakfast typically served on the porch. Photo by Siddharth Dasgupta.
Sweeping views greet the early morning riser at SaffronStays Villa 270°, with breakfast typically served on the porch. Photo by Siddharth Dasgupta.

Strictly speaking, this isn’t the edge of the world. On a day like today though, it comes mighty close. After the residual tremors of a minor overnight storm, dawn and early morning have brought with them winds that howl their way along the coastline. The waves are just as temperamental; they rise and roar away in derision, their cries suffused with the rustic romance of the Konkan Coast.

From my front porch at SaffronStays Villa 270°, the world unfurls with the liquor-laden arbitrariness of a wandering minstrel—from end to end, from coast to coast. The clifftop address of this temporary home has resulted in views that keep all aspects of my admittedly fissured personality—the poet, the traveller, the habitual dreamer—sufficiently sated. To watch the Konkan coastline stretched out below and far beyond me, as it snakes and winds its way along flat beaches of dark soil and the daily lives of the villages within its fold, is Buddhist meditation and narcotic-induced revelation, all rolled into one.

The property, which looks out over a wave-dappled coastline, is green and abundant.

The property, which looks out over a wave-dappled coastline, is green and abundant. Photo by Siddharth Dasgupta.

It’s my third morning here. I’ve grown accustomed to the solitude. I’ve become familiar with the hum of the ocean. And I’ve come to be attuned to the hushed rhapsody of the waves. At Villa 270°, five cottages (with each of the five available to be booked individually), welcome travellers looking for something a touch different—the city-worn weekender being top of the list. Technically, the villa isn’t in Dapoli, but situated roughly 30 minutes removed, overlooking the village of Pajpandhari—a place for which the moniker ‘sleepy little village’ seems to have been coined.

In this particular cluster of the Konkan Coast, the villages are bound together by a sense of unified rigour against the ravages of the seas and the abandonment of time. Simultaneously though, they seem fused via the couldn’t-care-less demeanour of coastal life and the come-share-a-meal-with-me sociability of coastal charm. The pull of exploration tugs away at me with the dogged persistence of a favoured house pet. The names of these villages roll off the tongue like a passage of colloquial poetry: Anjarle, Harnai, Saldure, Murud, Ladghar, and so on. Some of the more prominent ones bear eponymous beaches, dark and silent flatlands of earth and soil, with sand being a conspicuous absentee nearly everywhere. You’re awakened to civilisational clamour only when you arrive at the Martian-like vastness of Karde Beach, having driven past the familial bonding of Palande Beach and Murud Beach, the latter dotted with a small selection of water-sports activities.

On this evening, Karde lies choc-a-bloc with noise and frolic—families, children, hawkers, peddlers, food shacks, speed boats, and horse-carriages in tow. No one seems to notice the temporary lack of sand; they seem perfectly content with racing through mild slush brought on by a monsoon only beginning to pick up steam over the past few weeks, piling onto the water, speeding through on those boats, or circling a half-mile on horse carriage. It’s too noisy for me; it’s too communal for me. The sea remains a regal counterpoint though; it floods the expanse of a view dipped in the dark desires of an incoming rainstorm, instigating sky, cloud, earth, and waves in a brooding dance seemingly set to an operatic score. You sense it’s time to head back.

The décor inside the villas is restrained and rustic.

The décor inside the villas is restrained and rustic. Photo by Siddharth Dasgupta.

At Villa 270°, the cottages, with their villa bedrooms, are studies in restrained luxury. The smallest (and newest) of these is a basic yet comfortable quarter; it’s a decent enough companion to the other four. Together, the five of them—named Shevanti, Sugandhi, Aboli, Bakul, and Jaswanti after Dapoli’s native flowers (also found in the landscape of the property)—dapple the estate with personality, with the four larger cottages pouring on the flair.

Much of this flair has to do with the traditional décor motifs and Thai artefacts that grace each cottage: a Buddha of dark wood and solemn gaze; twin dancing goddesses in bronze and metal, crafted in the Thai manner, bearing crowns studded with religious symbolism and necklaces studded with the ostentatiousness of the time; an old Buddhist monk wearing a troubled expression as he covers his ears, his posture instantly reminiscent of one of the wise monkeys; a painting of a dancing Thai Goddess that reminds me of Manimekhala—the guardian of the seas, and so forth.

Washed in hues of rich mustard, anchored by stylish four-poster beds draped in the see-through elegance of raw silk, these rooms at the Villa collectively succeed in creating an ambience where wiling away an entire day in the company of a good book doesn’t seem that far-fetched a concept. For anyone requiring more than just words though, each of the AC-equipped rooms also comes with a television, a mini-fridge, a small though perfectly acceptable bathroom stocked with essentials, and, of course, porches brimming with wide-angle vistas. At the largest of the rooms (Jaswanti), a 350 square-foot open deck serves as an ideal party venue, speckled with enough furniture for a large gathering.

Luxury at Villa 270° lies within the concepts of space, comfort, style, and a certain homeliness. What you won’t find here, naturally, is hotel-like proficiency and opulence. With just two-three men handling everything from food to housekeeping, things tend to get stalled on occasion; there’s no formal security arrangement either; the presence of uneven brick-and-earth steps catering to the property’s ascending form present a rigorous challenge to the elderly; and finally, there isn’t the assurance of a large brand to go with the property. But there is an identifiable name. Why life at Villa 270° persists with much finesse, despite some of the drawbacks, is largely down to SaffronStays. The micro-hospitality brand with a collection of boutique vacation rentals under its wing uses practicality and expertise to caress the guest experience—resulting in something light and fresh; a weekend detour that justifies, to a large extent, the almost six-hour journey from both Mumbai and Pune.

If staring at the coastline from the villa gets tiresome, guests can head to Dapoli Beach, which is not far from the place. Photo by Bhushan Patil Photography/Moment Open/Getty Images

If staring at the coastline from the villa gets tiresome, guests can head to Dapoli Beach, which is not far from the place. Photo by Bhushan Patil Photography/Moment Open/Getty Images

The view has never lost its hold on me in all this while. It remains a magical entity, introducing me to a coastline where the waves sweep in from far out at sea, their white surge of surf an orchestrated delight, as though delivering messages and fables from some distant land. Staying true to the property’s name, this view greets me at every turn. It’s there when I arise in the morning and step out onto the note-perfect music of my front porch for a breakfast set to the cadence of the waves; it’s there when I head over to one of the other cottages for a chat, and am greeted with front-row seats to the Harnai fishing port and the Suvarnadurg sea fort; and it’s there when I roam through the property’s garden, acquainting myself with man-made ponds surrounded by stone seating, gazing into the eyes of a carved 10-foot Buddha statue made of volcanic rock, and plunging myself into the details of strewn artefacts brought in from Cambodia and Indonesia.

In the end, I suppose, this is a different interpretation of both leisure and luxury, one more inward than resting on showmanship. I’m sat at the communal terrace area that serves as an al fresco dining room, tucking into Konkani seafood delicacies whipped up by the chefs. There’s fried fish, there’s prawn curry, there’s fish steamed to the tender directions of tomatoes; for variety, there’s a chicken stew, selections of rotis and parathas, and a mixed garden salad that appears embarrassed to have intruded upon the meat and seafood proclivities at play.

Set against the backdrop of the Arabian Sea, my thoughts are free to roam. They linger for a while among the old temple wood and stone-age stylings of the address, swerve past some of the surrounding palm trees, drift down into the village and its large mosque now framed by slivers of a midnight moon, before settling on a scene they’ve come to memorise by heart—the coastline and its unceasing parade of waves.

Essentials

Doubles start at Rs8,260 for cottages. Each cottage/room also accommodates up to two additional adults for Rs2,500. www.saffronstays.com

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    Siddharth Dasgupta is a poet and novelist. Consumed by a proportionate passion for horizons and words, he also articulates travel and culture for some of the world’s best. His book ‘The Sacred Sorrow of Sparrows’ was released this year, and his latest release – the Poetry Collection ‘The Wanderlust Conspiracy’ – will be out soon.

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