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|12th January 2013, 00:34||#1|
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A Brief Rayalaseema Sojourn
A Brief Rayalaseema Sojourn – Guntakal, Gooty, Yadiki and Dhone
I have been interested in railways right from my early childhood – Dad was in the railways and I spent a considerable amount of my time in Chittaranjan, West Bengal. This love of the railways continued well into adulthood, and with the advent of internet, I could share this passion with many others on the net, through online forums like the IRFCA.
Railway photography was a topic that caught my attention after having interacted with many rail enthusiasts, who were into avid rail photography as well. Superb pictures of trains posted on RailPictures, as well as the equally picturesque pictures of IR trains posted by some of the forum members fuelled my interest in this subject further and I too wanted to get into railway photography, as a hobby. During my 3-year stay in the US, I purchased a refurbished Canon Rebel XS DSLR with standard 18-55 mm lens, in March 2009. The lack of zoom was found severely wanting, and I added an extra 55 to 250 mm IS telephoto zoom lens in 2010.
A couple of rail enthusiast friends & I did a weekend trip to Tehachhapi and Cajon Pass, in California in the Fall of 2011, and that was where I could appreciate the power of the zoom lens, and sorely felt the need of a wide-angled lens! These are a couple of pictures of trains taken at the location, and it was a great time!
October 2012 – back in India, I was itching to go on a rail photography session once again, and wanted to explore scenic locales in & around Guntakal town, located in Ananthapur district of Andhra Pradesh. I had taken a Metre Guage train from Guntakal towards Ananthapur, somewhere around 2002 and this train passes through a desolate mountainous stretch in between Guntakal and Kalluru, through stations Gulyapalemu, Khadepet and Venkatampalli. A quick check on Google Maps revealed that the railway alignment had quite some curves and would be an ideal spot for some railway photography. The only catch was that, in the daytime, there were no regular train movements on that route, and railway photography sans trains, is a strict no-no. Our only hope was the occasional freighter on that route.
Having made up my mind on this road trip to Guntakal, I checked up with a few friends for their inclination to join me in this trip. Even before this, I had to get an official permit from the South Central Railways to photograph trains in action, in & around railway premises. After a couple of trips to the office of the Chief Public Relations Officer at Rail Nilayam in Secunderabad, and having given a written undertaking that I would not, in any way, hinder the movement of trains, I finally got a photography permit for the weekend of 11th and 12th October 2012 for photography in & around Guntakal.
We had planned to have an early morning start on 11th November (Saturday), so as to reach Guntakal by noon. I was planning to take my Wagon R and 3 friends were supposed to join. One of them was pretty tied up with work, so out of 4, only the three of us were to take up this trip. However, last minute medical emergency forced the remaining two to drop out, and I was in no mood to do a solo trip, so had to postpone the trip.
I got in touch with the railway authorities once again, and got a photography permit for two consecutive weekends, 24th and 25th November and 1st and 2nd December 2012 respectively, just in case we were not able to make it in any one weekend. I was mentally committed to make this trip on the weekend of 24th and 25th November, and accordingly, communicated the revised plan to everyone.
Again, professional commitments played spoilsport towards the very end, and just 1 friend and I were left out to do this trip. Dad, who is now retired, and had worked for a couple of years in the railway division at Guntakal, evinced an interest in joining us, so ultimately, the three of us were to make this trip.
DAY 1 - THE DRIVE TO GUNTAKAL
I tanked up the Wagon R the night before, and after having a disturbed sleep during the night, got up around 05:30 am, and quickly went through the morning ablutions and was ready by 06: 15. Mom had packed us breakfast and we took some coffee too, in a thermos, along with a water can. Luggage was minimal, a bag each for Dad and I. Lakshman, my friend resides in Tarnaka, and came down by bus to Shanker Mutt, from where we picked him up by around 06:45 am. We stopped for breakfast at Ashoknagar, and set out by around 07:45 am.
There was a medium blanket of fog on the PVNR expressway, which would finally lift off after Jadcherla. We were doing sedate speeds of around 70 Kmph on the expressway, and continued in the same speed range till we cleared RGIA and the ORR junction. After that we were maintaining speeds around 120 Kmph, and had a Tata Indica Vista and a Verna for company. Of course, the Verna guy wasn’t quite interested in having a Wagon R for company, so stayed above 140 Kmph, - of course, we would see him occasionally in the horizon ahead of us, and near the toll booths.
Driving on the NH7 was a pleasure, and on straight desolate stretches, we were doing speeds of around 135 to 140 Kmph, but had to continuously slow down near the numerous intersections and curves. By the time we cleared the Tungabhadra Bridge on the approach to Kurnool, it was around 09:30 am. We stopped over for a break near one of the petrol bunks off the highway.
Having had our breakfast, and refueling the car, we continued on to Dhone. The stretch between Kurnool and Dhone is a pleasure to drive, with not much of traffic, and we were again in the 130 Kmph speed range, with a Honda City giving us company, this time. Near Dhone, we were supposed to get off the highway and take the Gooty Adoni Road, and approach Guntakal via Maddikera. However, post Dhone, we had no clue about the exit to the Gooty Adoni Road, and checking out with the locals, at a fuel station was of no help either. They advised us that the best way to reach Guntakal was via Gooty, and even Dad was of the opinion that we should target reaching Guntakal first. He would then drop off, at the hotel, and post lunch, Lakshman & I could carry on with our activities.
Accordingly, we continued on the highway, getting off to take the old two-lane highway to Gooty. We crossed the desolate railway level crossing (which used to be a hive of activity before the expressway was built), and reached Gooty town, which was bustling with activity, around 11:20 am. Taking a right turn at the town centre, we took the NH 63 to Guntakal. Very strangely, there was no signboard for directions to this important highway at Gooty, and the authorities should seriously put up a signboard.
NH 63 was in a good shape, and decent speeds on this stretch are possible, but for the occasional speed breakers near villages and sharp curves. By the time we left NH 63 and entered Guntakal town, it was around noon.
Dad had asked one of his railway contacts for accommodation in the railway township area in Guntakal, but that didn't work out, so we drove back into the town and checked into Hotel Ashoka Paradise, which is supposed to be the best hotel, Guntakal has to offer. We took a non-A/C double bed room, and having freshened up, went out into the main road, to an Udupi restaurant, Pallavi Hotel, for a quick South Indian Thali, which was OK in taste.
Post lunch, we headed back to the hotel, where Dad stayed back while Laksh & I got back into the car and headed towards Gulyapalemu. We got back onto NH 63, and drove a couple of Kms, till we reached a 4 way junction (Wikimapia Link). From here, (when coming from Gooty), the SH63 continues straight to Bellary, Hospet and beyond, the road on the right heads to Chippagiri and Adoni, while the road to the left heads to Uravakonda via Vajrakarur. We took this road towards Vajrakarur.
Having driven about 7 to 8 Kms down this road, amidst dark alluvial fields, we slowed down after reaching Gulyapalemu village, We had to reach the railway station, and on checking out with locals we came to know that a mud tract branches off from the road to the left a couple of Kms down the road.
We finally pulled up in front of an obscure, faded out milestone, which pointed out Gulyapalemu station, about 2 kms on our left over a muddy tract. We gingerly made our way on this road, which made its way across fields, and barren lands. It was a nice winter afternoon, with neither a soul in sight nor a sound within earshot. As we were making our way to the station we could hear the sound of a locomotive horn, but speeding up the catch the train through our lens was purely impossible, so we took it easy. Within 20 minutes, we reached the desolate station.
Both of us walked up to the Station Manager (SM) and another staffer standing on the solitary platform both of whom, were quite surprised to see someone visiting them. We introduced ourselves, handed over a copy of the permit marked to the SM, and asked if any freight trains were due. As per the SM, a couple of locomotives had just gone towards Kalluru, and no freight was expected in the next couple of hours.
Gulyapalemu is a small way side crossing station, serving the villages of Kamalapadu and others in the vicinity. Only a couple of passenger trains stop here every morning and evening on their way to Guntakal & Tirupati respectively. These trains provide a convenient and a cheap mode of transport to the local populace.
This station is located at the edge of a plateau after which the permanent way (Railway Line) starts its descent, with a number of curves, all the way to Kalluru. We had thought of photographing trains on this section, but with no trains at all during that time of the day, we had to spend our time taking snaps of the surrounding hills and speaking to the gatekeeper of an adjacent Level Crossing, just keeping our fingers crossed that may be some train might turn up!
With no action forthcoming, we decided to check another picturesque spot along the alignment, a few kilometers away, which according to Google Maps was accessible from the Vajrakarur – Gooty road. The staffer whom we had earlier met, offered to show us a more navigable route to re-join the Guntakal Vajrakarur route, and requested us to drop him en-route at the nearby Kamalapadu village. We gingerly navigated our way across the narrow road, and dropped off the chap, at the small Kamalapadu village, which, we felt, was rural Rayalaseema at its authentic best. We drove down a few Kms before joining the Vajrakarur road, and headed to Vajrakarur.
As per Google Maps, at Vajrakarur town, we were to head off onto a small road, which crosses the track, and continues on to meet the NH 63, a few Kms before Gooty. We checked with the people in V. Karur town about the road to Gooty, and they inadvertently asked us to take the road to Pamidi (on NH7), and onwards to Gooty. I did not realize, that the road to Pamidi, would not take us to the level crossing that we were expecting to see. Rather it continues further down, for about 18 kms, before finally crossing the railway tracks near the plains. Unaware of this, we drove down on the road to Pamidi, and realized our mistake much later, when we were close to Pamidi town. It was too late to backtrack, and take the road to Gooty again, so we continued on to Pamidi town. Nevertheless, the road to Pamidi took us through some remote villages, and gave us glimpses of rural Rayalaseema.
We took a small break at Pamidi, rejoined the NH 7, paid a toll of Rs 80/- only to get off the highway a few kilometres later, to enter Gooty town. A princely sum of Rs 80/- for using that small section of the highway was an utter waste, but then we had no choices! We headed back to Guntakal on the NH 63.
Dad was having his evening walk, revisiting the offices where he had worked close to a decade back, and we picked him up on our way back. We did a small tour of the railway Officers’ colony where we had stayed before, checked out the Railway Officers’ Club, and headed back to the railway station. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the neat & clean railway township.
The rest of the evening was spent in & around the station, where we took some night shots of locomotives and trains. We headed back to the hotel and retired by around 08:30 pm.
Day 2 – Kasapuram, the Hills of Yadiki, and the Drive Back Home
The next morning, we were up by around 6 am, and after a quick bath, decided to visit the Nettikanti Anjaneyaswamy temple at Kasapuram, about 5 kms from Guntakal. This is an old temple dating back to the Vijayanagara period, and has gained importance of late, with many devotees from Andhra, Karnataka and Maharashtra visiting this place. There have been significant improvements in this temple from the last time I visited it in 2002 and 2003, and the facilities for the pilgrims have improved manifold. We completed our darshan quickly, and were back at Guntakal by around 07:45 am.
We had our breakfast at Pallavi hotel and while Dad stayed put in the hotel, Laksh & I went back to Guntakal station to click some more railway snaps. We came back, and after having breakfast, vacated the room, and headed out of Guntakal to join the NH 63 to Gooty. Dad had very thoughtfully picked up three plates of the local delicacy Uggani (Puffed Rice) & Mirchi Bajji, to be consumed someplace along the drive.
Instead of taking the NH 7 from Gooty to Hyderabad, we decided to take a detour by continuing on the NH 63 after Gooty till Rayalacheruvu, taking the SH 57 to Yadiki, the Kona Highway from Yadiki to Rangapuram where we were to meet the Peapuli Banaganapalli road. This link to Google maps should help in getting the route better. Continuing on this road towards Banaganapalli, we were to take a detour towards Dhone, and from Dhone we were to take the NH 7 back to Hyderabad.
I had to visit the Priyadarshini Cement factory located at Racherla, somewhere in 2002, and had taken the bus from Yadiki to Racherla, which went through the picturesque Kona road. At that time, I was impressed by this road, and resolved to return again to travel on this road, and after nearly 10 years, got a chance to do this road again.
So, we continued on the NH 63 from Gooty, towards Tadipatri. The road had its fair amount of undulations and pot holes, so I had to be on constant alert, even though I was able to do around 70 to 75 Kmph in that section. As we were cruising along the road, a freight train gave us company on the adjacent tracks, towards Tadipatri, and Laksh was able to capture a couple of shots of the WDG4 loco in action. At Rayalacheruvu, we stopped for a hot cup of Rajasthani tea, and then headed off to Yadiki on SH 57.
The Kona road heads off left into the hills, just at the entrance of Yadiki town, and I had no problems located the milestone that heralds the beginning of the road. My only concern was the quality of the road – was it passable? I checked up with a couple of folks nearby who told us, that the road was motor able, though it was bad at a few places – since cement loaded trucks were able to use this road, we shouldn’t have any problems! A few metres up the road, we pulled up at a Cool Drinks shop, and picked up soda and water for the drive ahead. The shop owner also confirmed that the road is motor able.
The Kona road must quite easily be one of the most desolate roads I have ever travelled on. It is a single lane road that connects Yadiki town, rises up the hills, passes through small villages, and finally connects to the Pyapili Banganapalli road. In well over a couple of hours that we were on that road, we couldn’t even spot another 4 wheeler on the road. We did overtake an empty truck headed to one of the cement factories up-hill, and the odd two and three wheelers though – passed through small villages, whose only lifeline seemed to be the road that passes through – villagers, were quite surprised and skeptical to find out from where we had come, and what we were doing in those interior parts.
This road gains considerable altitude, runs over a vast expanse of table land, and then climbs up once again, to pass through right through a village. The entrance to this village is spectacular, with the road below us, a vast table land stretching all the way below, and cements plants in the horizon. We had stopped near a hair pin bend, to take in the scenery and some photos too, when this man and woman on a bike, headed to the village pull over, and stop. The man gently questions us from where we had come and the reason for our visit. On hearing that we were here just for a drive, and had come from Hyderabad, he appeared satisfied, and just stays by the side observing us.
We drive down on the road further, and at a junction, I am in a bit of doubt on the road to Pyapili, so I check with a couple of villagers, and after they are satisfied with who we were, from where we came, and where we were headed, they pointed us out to the correct road to Pyapili – we then reversed a bit, and took on another road to our left.
This road again, runs through some real desolate countryside, passing through small villages. At a point where the road starts to descend the hills, we pulled over for lunch – polished off the Uggani & Mirchi Bajji combo that dad had packed for us in the morning. A few minutes of drive later, we were on the intersection with the Pyapili Banaganapalli road.
Instead of turning left and heading towards Pyapili and then getting on to the NH 7, we decided to take a right, continue in the direction of Banaganapalli, and then take a left turn to Dhone, and then join the highway. By the time we reached Dhone, it was around 12:45 pm. We again headed to the railway station to see if we could capture some shots, but there was nothing much to shoot, at that time in the day. We spent some time there, and then headed back to join the NH7 near Dhone outskirts.
We entered the highway at 01:30 pm, and though I had initially resolved to keep the speeds close to 110 Kmph, the inviting highway proved difficult to resist, and we were back in the 130 Kmph speed range. Somewhere after crossing Kurnool, we caught up with a Safari, who wasn’t quite keen to be overtaken by a humble Wagon R, so he kept up slightly higher speeds, but eventually, we overtook him. Then there was this POLO which simply blasted by us on the left at speeds around 160 Kmph plus. Post Kurnool again, we had an i10 keep us company, and after Shadnagar, the spirited i10 decided to stay ahead of us, and was maintaining speeds at around 140 Kmph. Post Jadcherla, it was becoming congested, with an equally spirited VISTA blazing away at 150 Kmph plus.
We thought of stopping by for a break at CCD Jadcherla, but by the time I had realized, Jadcherla was left far behind. We reached Shamshabad by around 04:15 pm and reached Shanker Mutt via Imlibun and Kacheguda, at around 04:45 pm.
To conclude, it was a satisfying trip, but we felt that in order to catch trains in action on the section, we would need to visit Gulyapalemu again, and spend some more time there.
P.S. A Note of thanks to Lakshman for having agreed to share his pictures on the forum.
|12th January 2013, 09:52||#2|
Join Date: Sep 2009
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Re: A Brief Rayalaseema Sojourn
Very nice one there! Rail photography has emotion as the biggest ingredient than anything else! Especially what we grew up to !
Guntakal as a railway point on the maps has big importance thanks to a 5-point connections
(Bellary, Bellary, Guntur, Hyderabad, Pune)
Here is a thread on railway snaps, if you have not seen it.
Last edited by ampere : 12th January 2013 at 09:54.
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|12th January 2013, 11:58||#3|
Join Date: Apr 2010
Thanked: 67 Times
Re: A Brief Rayalaseema Sojourn
In your next trip, if possible, try to photograph the trains passing through beautiful steel bridge on river penna near tadipatri. IIRC, in the morning hours between ( 8.00 to 11.00 AM) you have Dadar - Chennai Express and Chennai - Mumbai mail passing between Gooty and Guntakal sections.
Last edited by Night_Hawk : 12th January 2013 at 11:58. Reason: Typos
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