One eye view of The Araku Valley and Vishakhapatnam
Araku Valley, bound within unknown faces of the Eastern Ghats amidst green fields and haze of clouds. Chillier winters, distance and height separate it from the rest of Vishakhapatnam (just 170km away from here) A majestically designed location for holiday hoppers, stands, as it should be, to be explored just once more.
Kirandul Express seems to be the only train connecting the place from Vizag. It leaves Vizag at 7:20AM to reach Araku at around 11:00AM traversing woble-goble round tracks and 32 dimly lit tunnels, the largest being about a km long. We toured during Christmas Eve and it was a battle getting seats in the train (I would recommend to bribe coolies and assure your seat. There seems to be 11 general bogies, 1 sleeper class and three bogies for the AP-tourism reserved, making it exceedingly difficult to find a seat without a fight) But once you can get seated its a fascinating beautiful ride (though the first one hour seems boring with nothing scenic but after that its a real valley journey, all the way through waterfalls, tunnels, hills, valleys, clouds, and so on)
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Although a significant beauty holds your journey towards the valley, Its seemingly a narrow town once you reach there. Bora Guhalu the pre Araku stop would lighten the rush a bit as some tourist unboard here to see a cave of stalactites and stalagmites. But I would recommend to unboard at Araku valley and visit this during come back (arrange for vehicles from Vizag itself and make him wait at the Araku Valley station for the comeback)
The next attraction would be to visit Ananthagiri hills having a waterfall and coffee plantations. A good picnic spot and time buster remains to be seen. An hour or two seems enough for the entire Ananthagiri hills.
A tribal Museum, seemingly less interesting with boating inside and a 20 buck entry pass stands to be visited. The museum boasts of having various tribes of the valley in models and statues along with their mode of habitat.
Borra Caves is another "Ram visited cave" (somehow I find all Indian caves having some connections with Lord Rama and Sita) with something special for stalactites and stalagmites. A 25 rupees entry (15 for children) precedes a long queue after which you get down several cascades of staircases to the entry point. The concrete steps is however built towards the entry and not beyond that recommended further for only young limbs. (I would recommend a guide for a complete informed visit of the Borra caves) But we managed to listen to the guides hired by others. Inside the cave seems to be one hell of darkness broken by some electrified halogens. Various natural erosions have created fantastic cave patters in between (some like the lion, lord Shiva, ram-hanuman stuffs, etc etc. A guide would show you all of them). Some stupendous heroism depiction can be made here by climbing random large rocks some wet some curved, etc. The Indian Railway stone here says that some railway line has gone from above it. The Gosthani(cow's milk) River flows from here. A mandir of lord Shiva, a quite dangerous steel staircase which swings when you climb it are among other attractions. The entire visit should take about 2 hours.
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A sumo ride till here took us till 4:00PM including 1/2 an hour for lunch at the Araku market place which seems to be the only spot for fetching items of needs (e.g. I needed an eye-drop)
While you are on the return journey, there views the TYDA Park. Pretty costly to visit but promises to be a bird-watching zone where a resort type, over night accommodation can be enjoyed. We skipped it by chance of luck and saved some amount of money. We however sneaked from the gate within.
The long 4.5 hour journey back, brought us to Jagadamba Square (where we were living at a decently priced lodge called Anand lodge - pretty gloomy but good enough for living (even for families), and who would care for class in a tour) Over and all Jagadamba area is a marketing zone with the Trinity Lutherine church. It was immensely lighted during Christmas with Telugu carols by children.
We spent the evening at the Ramakrishna Beach (3km from Jagadamba). It’s a decent beach with no food available except juice, samosa and tea. There is an aquarium of various sea livings just opposite to this (at an entry of Rs 20) and a temple of various gods (not goddesses - I learnt that in south India female goddesses are not worshipped for some reason) just opposite to the beach. Otherwise RK beach (Ramakrishna Beach) is a great place for the evenings. The tide is not too dangerous even and the waves are smooth. The beach is straighter than other beaches in Vizag.
An entire day spent from 4 in the morning till 8 at night but it was worth the sceneries and enjoyment :)
Day 2 - as it went
The day two revolved around different sight seeing locations within Vizag city. It was slightly more thrilling than the previous day. I bought a stunning piece of dark eyewear to protect my eyes.
Vizag is no different from any other city in site seeing, but where it scores over others is, naturalisms and clean blue beaches. The roads are better than most similar cities but narrow. Auto seems to be the generic transport for people who cant mingle with the rushy buses. We could arrange two ambassadors for a sheepish cost of 1500. But the bargain shifted soon on their end with asking them to cover Dolphins nose which is in a different direction. They asked for an additional 400 bucks.
We started at 8:30 from Jagadamba to have a breakfast at some generic south-indian idly-dosa joint and off for Dolphin’s Nose at 9:30AM. We reached Dolphin’s Park at 11AM.
Dolphin’s Nose is a part of Dolphin Park, a property of the Indian Navy with a light house and a land protruding in the sea. A very windy and calm sea with no beach. The best you can do is get 20 rupees pass and enter to get atop the lighthouse. The view is very scenic but photography is prohibited so carry a mobile cam and be prepared to fight with the authorities (I did). The timing is 3PM to 5PM for tourist visit. But the curator makes more money by opening the park at other hours. He locked the gate and took in other tourists. Somehow I slammed the lock to open it and we went in.
The interior of the Dolphin’s Park shows some dilapidated quarters of middle positioned officers and at the end of it is the light house. They sad they use a 450W bulb for signaling purposes within the rotating disc. A view of the beautiful Yerada Beach can be seen from here. I bet you can’t think of missing it. A beach, as you see from here, with a hill on one side and sea on the other.
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Leaving it we proceeded for the Yerada Beach as part of the Yerada village it’s a picnic prone masterpiece. Steepy roads downhill, very difficult for an amby, dropped us there. We could hardly spend an hour there but I would recommend half a day for it. The terrific waves and a dry soothing white beach would make you string to the place. This beach however is not ticket-less. 10/- per person is you got to pay to enter for any duration of time. There is an attached children’s park with see-saw, swing and other things. The beach showcases boats in a corner and you can have food there. Alongside the park there is s decent food joint for enjoying the day. The kids with us enjoyed a fill here and we left with wet jeans and sandy sneakers.
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The journey next took us to Shimachalam Temple atop another hilly terrain. We reached there at 1PM. The temple as it stands is a lot bigger than some other temples we saw there. Quite naturally the crowd was crazy and more. The entry passes are for free, Rs.10, 30(shighra darshan) and 100(tatkal darshan). The free line would take you half a day for entering and 100/- would be in 5 minutes. We took the shighra darshan and took us an hour to see. Children entry is free here. The temple has curiously beautiful carvings and a hundi for donations, so be prepared. Photography is restricted within the temple but outside it’s open. There is a shopping junction towards the 200 steps to the temple where you can buy puja related stuffs and god statute gifts. Food is available near the entrance but far from eatable.
The next destination was Rushikonda beach about ½ hour ride from here. Rushikonda is the best beach I saw so far. Because of vacation rush we saw about 5000 crowd on the beach. The lonely beach would have been better but this colorful view was great in its own way. The sea is a bit dangerous here. But it hasn’t stopped the crowd from enjoying speed boat ride. Here we also saw horse rides at decent costs. The entry is assorted by a food plaza at cheap cost. We had chicken and rice meals for eight person (400/-) This beach is also big time enough to spend half a day but we could only buzz in for about 20 minutes after lunch.
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Kailash Giri hill is a 10 minute ride from here. Here we can enjoy a 44 rupees (22 for children and disabled) rope way ride (courtesy of some organization of Calcutta). Hardly 3 minutes and you hardly even fetch a snap. Too sheepish! Atop the hill there’s a little park with some food joints a shiva parvati statue and a water spring (artificially made). Lot of scope for photography. We tried to snapshot on the lap of shiva but the guards dismantled the plan. Please do so quickly, you will find the stairs behind the statue. It is recommended to visit there before dark so that you will see an entire view of the city from here. The Rushikonda beach from here looks very scenic.
The next and last stop for the day was Submarine Museum. It was already dark and 6:30. It took around 10 minutes to reach there. This museum is near the RK Beach and opened till 7PM. A 25 rupee ticket (20 for a camera) would ask to enque for a bilingual museum visit (hindi and telugu). The Hindi was highly Telugu accented.
They have put up a 60’s Russian made submarine over the ground and the museum is within the submarine. The thrill is to have entered a real life (though broken) submarine. The demonstrators have been pre-recorded with some knowledge which they go on saying without a change in word. Highly monotonous to listen. I slipped in my mobile cam and was caught without cam ticket photography. Luckily I was spared without any fine. We left at around 7:30PM and spent the last evening at RK beach garden. He staunch garden has no entry fee (for a change) and very windy sharing a steep wall with the beach. They also have made a stairway to go down the beach.