Monday, September 01, 2008

My Araku-Chhattisgarh-Vizag expedition!


Prelude

Am usually lost in my own world until I get involved into the situation fully. This is precisely what happened in the trip to Araku. I was going for a Trip to Araku was all I knew, and the rest of the plan that was being circulated by email was all but a passing one which I really did not read in detail as it mentioned places which I had not heard about and had no time to look up either. I was just looking forward to having a good trip and a good vacation and I had always wanted to visit Araku sometime.


The Journey

It started with us taking a bus to Vizag. Once we got there we had our car/wagon receive us and take us to the Green Park hotel for getting fresh and breakfast. Breakfast was awesome… I indulged a lot beyond what is usually expected of me owing to my stature! Soon after breakfast we set off on the drive, to what I came to know now, to a place called Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh, which was around 280 kms from Vizag! A long drive that would be in our Indian conditions… We had to exit Andhra Pradesh and drive through Orissa to get there. We started off on the journey and I was longing to get out of the humid weather of Vizag ASAP.

But it wasn’t long before I began to realize that this was the most beautiful journey I had by road so far. Orissa with it’s a lush green cover and the Eastern Ghats running along the route we took were the first things that had us in awe and amazement giving a treat to our eyes wherever we looked. I noticed that the Eastern Ghats were distinctly different from Western Ghats, and are much more undeveloped and unexplored! This feeling of the getting to see the unknown, and not to forget mentioning with some amazingly good music (from the collection of our key organizer), created the mood for a wonderful trip and seemed to propagate a feeling of getting a brief stint with adventure...


Paparazzi in action!

The weather and surrounding landscape were both exceptionally stunning and convinced me that there is probably some hope left in our ‘globally warmed’ planet. I was extremely gratified to be on this trip. The ghat roads, the cloudy weather with low cumulonimbus, the sudden spells of heavy rain, and the wet highway roads just after the rain, created the perfect concoction for a trip like this. All through the drive we stopped innumerable times to capture the magnificence of nature that our eyes could see, to our amateur cameras to look in awe and enjoy these moments in future. Each of us made the best effort to put our photography skills to the test and capture some of the best shots of nature; from the lush green cover to the hills and the plains, to wet roads, passing clouds, rain and thunder clouds, to lakes and lone boats, fishermen, villagers, tribal people, you name it and we captured those moments to a still! This was incredibly a satisfying experience…What we experienced was nature at its very best!

@ Jagdalpur

We reached Jagdalpur late in the evening and put up at the tourism bungalow, which was very attractively done up from the outside. Our rooms were nice and had all the necessary amenities, and expect for a few misadventures with a leaking air-conditioner we had a good time that evening, and went off to bed with anticipation of the next day when we would be able to see the waterfalls that we had come all the way to see.


The next morning we checked out of the bungalow after taking enough pictures of the place, and set off to Chitrakoot, 37 kms from Jagdalpur, after a most sumptuous brunch at a Rajasthani mess. During the short drive we were not very expectant of seeing something really fabulous except for what we had heard about this place. They said that one could sometimes see a rainbow on the falls! We crossed a bridge over the Indravati River, which looked pretty narrow and calm. We reached in about 30 minutes and as we got out of our car, we could hear this very loud but comforting sound of water falling. We were pretty surprised that we didn’t even need tickets to get to the waterfalls, on the other hand we saw the place being guarded by plain clothes security guards with AK-47 rifles!! This was scary, as for a moment I thought these guys were the naxals themselves!! The state of Chhattisgarh is one of the most naxal-affected states in our country and from what I heard later, even locals have not dared to come and see these falls due to the naxals. This also explained why there was no entry ticket or publicity by tourism.

The sight, sound, and force of the waterfalls was breathtaking! That puny little river grew so huge before it fell into the gorge and created one of the most spectacular waterfalls I had seen in this part of the country! The falls did resemble the Niagara owing to its shape, except that the water was muddy due to the rainy season. We allowed our eyes to gaze at this fantastic sight for as long as we could, not to forget taking enough pictures and videos, to remind us of the feel the waterfalls gave us, for future viewing.


Journey to Araku

The next part of the journey to our main destination, the Araku valley, was shorter owing to the fact that there was another route from Chhattisgarh to Araku that was only 150 kms. We would be at Araku pretty soon is what we assumed, but nature was a major distraction once again, and succeeded in leading us off the time schedule. All through the driver we stopped, exclaimed, wondered in awe, refreshed our lungs and minds, and replenished our energies… When we were just 15 mins away from reaching Araku one of our companions suddenly identified this absolutely serene and most impeccable spot, which had green grass, hills, a river and boats. This stopover had us raving about how untouched and non-commercial a lot of the places we drove through were. Another collection of irreplaceable shots made their way to our memories as well as memory cards!!


Araku the Destination

By now we were infamous for being delayed in our schedules; so we reached our hotel at Araku booked at the AP Tourism, Hotel Harita, much after dark. We checked into our rooms, ordered dinner combined with a short get together, over some good music and had a good rest off the evening before taking off bed pretty late that night. The next day was the bigger plan of going out to see the beautiful valley! But alas, the next morning we were late to wake up, owing to exhaustion from travel and a late night, and were quite late to start. This made is realize that we would have to compromise a few of the plans like going to the Borra caves, maybe we could just make it to the beach at Vizag before taking our bus back home. But we started off soon enough and had a lot more splendid encounters with nature in the form of Araku valley. All through the drive we looked around our surrounding of the Araku valley with awe-inspiring amazement. Our stop at some of the viewpoints were fruitful in giving us some amazing views of the entire valley and its terrain. We didn’t get an opportunity to socialize with the tribals of this valley and watch them dance for us, but the drive up the hill was stupefying! The highest point is around 3800 ft and we saw clouds on the tops of the hills!! The most marvelous scenery I must say… After this we managed to visit the water reservoir in the valley, which they seemed to have dammed up on one side of the valley to create a reservoir; an interesting concept that gave us another wonderful sight to gape at!!


Back to Vizag

This was again just another 150 kms and we got back in time to have a good, though late lunch at Hotel Greenpark again. Thankfully since it was a Sunday there were enough customers and they were still serving lunch after 3 in the afternoon. I had the most amazing pasta here, and every time I went back for another helping it would be over! Soon after lunch, we started off for the beach, though one of our companions had to leave owing to his flight time and some personal meetings. Given the limited time we headed straight to the Rishikonda beach, which has the most fantastic, blue and clear water, which you will see in few beaches in India. One thing quite unlike other beaches is that the salt content in the water is pretty high and a single dip can make you feel like you’re in a pretty sticky beach/situation J It was a short but as I would put it, a time well-spent at the Rishikonda beach; imagine taking a wooden boat into the sea! It was a fun ride with the waves nearly toppling the boat over owing to the tide being quite high on this day. We played in the water and got ourselves soaked wet and had to book another place to change in time before we could catch our bus back. The hotel right next to the beach was the Harita, by AP tourism again and the building’s design was interesting with its beach-facing cottage-looking rooms with a nice beach-facing balcony. We got some amazing shots of the beach from the exterior of this hotel and surprisingly even spotted a rainbow that might have formed due to the drizzle that was on.


Epilogue

We finally got on our bus back to Hyderabad, though tired but completely rejuvenated by the trip. But another eventuality that fogged me a while after this trip, was that I was completely in love with this city, Vizag… so calm and peaceful, with a beautiful green cover, broad roads in a great condition and such less traffic and population! Seemed like the perfect city to be in. Some bungalows we saw along the beach got me tempted to buy property here. This place seemed to have a lot of potential after Hyderabad, as I see Hyderabad reaching a saturation point and the infrastructure not to cope with the dramatic metamorphosis and development that is taking place. Satyam and Infy had setup huge offices at Vizag owing to the cheaper cost and the availability of land. Now let’s save this discussion for another blogpost!