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|21st November 2007, 10:42||#1|
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Konaseema on a Christmas Eve
DAY 1 22nd December 2006 FRIDAY
“What are you doing on the long Christmas weekend?” - It had been long since I had gone anywhere outside – and the long Xmas weekend came as a perfect opportunity. That’s why I called up Bharath.
“Nothing much. Why? You want to go somewhere?”
“Yep. Thinking of doing the KK Line & the Koraput – Rayagada Line this weekend”
“No problem” “But won’t it get a bit too hectic? I mean 4 days won’t suffice for covering the entire section that you had mentioned”.
“Anyways, let’s sit together once I get back from my office, and work out the plans” – Bharath replied, and we hung up.
Later that evening, at Bharat’s place, which is a pretty close to my place, we got together maps, travel guides and the Internet to check if this plan was feasible.
We tried out a combination of 3 to 4 itineraries to cover Jagdalpur and Koraput, but couldn’t come up with anything conclusive, as there were a lot too many open ends. For starters, reaching Jagdalpur from Hyderabad was a big question. We had to take the overnight train from Hyderabad to Bhadrachalam Road and from there, hire a taxi for the 290 Kms run to Jagdalpur. On reaching Jagdalpur, we had to spend the night there and catch the 2VK passenger train to Koraput the next morning. On reaching Koraput that noon, we had to spend the rest of the day (and night) at Koraput, to catch the passenger to Rayagada, the next day morning. And then, after reaching Vishakapatnam (VSKP) that evening, we had to catch the train back to Hyderabad (HYB). We checked up availability on trains from VSKP to HYB on 25th December, and drew a blank. There was no way we could get back that evening, and had to wait till the next day.
Another possibility was to reach VSKP first and catch the morning passenger from VSKP to Jagdalpur. We again faced a roadblock, with no confirmed reservations from HYB to VSKP, and also on the 1 VK to Jagdalpur.
We decided to drop that plan, and started thinking on alternatives. Coastal AP (Kakinada – Kotipalle – Amalapuram – Narsapur) seemed a good option. I however wanted to take the boat on the Godavari from Bhadrachalam, and reach Rajahmundry, and from there get to Kakinada.
We again searched through the maps to trace out the Godavari from Bhadrachalam to Rajahmundry. I knew upfront that, owing to the lack of sufficient depth in the Godavari at Bhadrachalam, boats were being operated from Koonavaram, a place 60 Kms downstream. And there was another catch. We had to be at Koonavaram by around 0800 hours, in time to catch one of the 5-odd boats that play daily on the river downstream. Our train would arrive at Bhadrachalam Road station by around 0500 hours, and from there, we would have to cover 40 Kms (To Bhadrachalam Town) + 60 Kms (Bhadrachalam to Koonavaram) in about 2 ½ hours. A formidable challenge, but achievable, if we moved fast enough. So we decided that on Friday, 23rd December 2006, we would take the night train to Bhadrachalam, take the boat that morning, reach Rajahmundry by evening and take depending on the time that we reached Rajahmundry, and take any one of the two Kakinada bound passenger trains, so as to reach Kakinada by night.
I spoke to friends - Tejender & Roopesh, and they sounded interested. So, I booked 4 berths in Sleeper Class on the night train to Bhadrachalam Road. Bharath, in the meanwhile was discussing this trip with Ranga from Chennai, who also seemed interested. He decided that he would take the train to Vijayawada, meet Ranga there and then both of them would take a train to Rajahmundry. We would all meet up at Rajahmundry and proceed to Kakinada.
That night, the three of us caught the night train to Bhadrachalam
DAY 2 December 23RD 2006 – Saturday
I got up, rather sleepily and slightly irritated, by the shrill alarm of a neighbour’s cell phone. We were just pulling out of a station, and were still some distance away from Bhadrachalam Road. It was 0450 hours – by this time we should have been in BDCR. Finally, we could make it to BDCR by around 0515 hours, about 25 minutes late. We checked in at a nearby railway rest house.
By around 0615 hours, we were ready. While Roopesh & Tejender had a hot water bath, I was contended with a face wash, and a change of clothes. We thanked the room boy, picked up our bags, and headed out of the station on to the main road, and to the bus stand nearby, hoping to catch an express bus to Bhadrachalam.
We saw a white ambassador standing there with ‘TAXI’ written all over figuratively, given its rather dilapidated appearance. I was thinking if we could ask the driver for a lift to Bhadrachalam. However, the Driver himself was scouting around for passengers to Bhadrachalam, and had place only for 3 people. While Roopesh & Tejender squeezed themselves into the rear seat, I shared the front seat with another guy. Soon we were off to Bhadrachalam.
The car doubled up as a newspaper delivery vehicle, and at many places en-route, the driver would pull over, open his boot, pick up a stack of the morning’s Telugu Newspapers (fresh from the nearest printing centre at Khammam, the district headquarters), and deliver it to the local newsstand. We drove at sedate speeds of 40 Kmph- the road was smooth and straight with sparse traffic. It was cold and foggy outside, and many a time visibility was reduced to less than 50 metres. I didn’t get any woollen clothing, so had to roll up the car’s windows to get some respite from the cold. As we passed by a milestone, I casually glanced down at it only to discover to my horror: “Koonavaram 70 Kms”
We were 10 Kms away from Bhadrachalam – that means Koonavaram was still about 60 Kms away! I was under the impression that once you have made it to Bhadrachalam, you have, by default made it to Koonavaram, and could happily step into a boat there. Hopes of an imposing view of the Paapikondalu hills by the side of the Godavari started gradually evaporating in thin air, and we knew it to be a Mission Impossible, unless we had a chopper waiting for us exclusively, at Bhadrachalam.
As we were passing through one of Bhadrachalam’s main road, I bent down a bit to free my leg, which had by now gone asleep.
“What happened?” I asked the driver, as we slowly took a right turn to join a main road.
“We ran over a pup”.
“Damn thing came so suddenly in front of my wheels; I couldn’t react in time!”
GODAVARI CROSSING: 1
We slowly crossed the Godavari on the outskirts of Bhadrachalam, but I couldn’t get to see even a wee bit of the river, thanks to the thick envelope of fog all around.
Finally, we made it to Bhadrachalam’s bus stand at around 0730 hours. The chances to make it to Koonavaram appeared more remote now, than ever before.
We paid the driver, picked up our bags and walked for about 5 minutes, to Andhra Pradesh Tourism’s Punnami Rest house expecting a last-minute miracle in the form of an exclusive bus and boat combo for that exclusive-group-from-Hyderabad. Naah, the APTDC guys were not that smart, so as to have such a combo at their disposal – the guy at the reception made it clear.
We were dejected, but had to continue on to Rajahmundry, so decided to have breakfast at the Punnami’s in-house Pongali Restaurant, have a quick Darshan of Shri Ram at the famed Bhadrachalam temple, and get back to the bus stand in time to catch the 0915 ‘Fast Passenger’ APSRTC bus Service to Rajahmundry.
Pongali Restaurant was decent enough with soft, diffused lighting, and bright-coloured modular tables and chairs. We ordered hot and piping Puri, Idli and Masala Dosa for breakfast, washed down with a not-so-hot cup of coffee. Feeling satiated, we hired an auto and drove to the base of the temple, situated on a small hillock. We deposited our bags and footwear, at the stand, collected coupons and walked up the 100-odd steps to the temple.
This temple has a bit of history behind it. Now I wouldn’t be going into the details, but for those of you who are interested, read this:
The temple was sparsely populated with devotees, and we could complete our Darshan in quick time. We got down to the road, retrieved our baggage and our footwear, took an auto and headed back to the bus stand. We had 15 minutes to go for our bus.
On one of the bays, a Vishakapatnam bound bus via Chintapalle and Sileru was standing. Now Chintapalle and Sileru are agency areas, located in thick forest. It would be a nice experience to take this bus and check out the beautiful Ghat section en-route, but logistically it would not work out. This bus would reach Narsipatnam – our nearest getaway for Rajahmundry at around 1800 hours – from there; Kakinada was a good 80 odd Kms away. We decided to drop the plans of journey on the Ghats, and waited for our Fast Passenger.
At around 0915 hours, the ubiquitous APSRTC Red-Bus (similar to the Laal-Dabba of MHSRTC) with the Board ‘Rajahmundry – Fast Passenger via Kukunoor’ pulled into one of the empty bays. The waiting passengers surged towards the door, but we were lucky enough to get in and quickly grab a couple of seats, before the towels and handkerchiefs on the seats began making an appearance. While Roopesh & Tejender were seated on a 3 – seat, I took the seat behind them. Within no time, the bus got full.
Presently the conductor appeared – a bespectacled mid aged guy with a bald plate and an unshaven face. He glanced around the passengers – just like a teacher would, on his erring pupils, to see if everything was in order –a couple of gunny bags blocking the pass-way caught his attention, and took the owner – a lady with 2 kids, and her mother to task for blocking the aisle – he insisted that the gunny bags be loaded on to the luggage carrier on the roof. The lady tried to mollify him, and was successful to a certain extent – one of the gunny bags did go up the roof, while the other remained there.
GODAVARI CROSSING: 2
At around 0930 hours, we pulled out of the bus stand, but on crossing the bridge on the Godavari, pulled over to a side and stood there for about 20 minutes, to allow the conductor go about his job, issuing tickets to the passengers. I took 3 tickets to RJY – each ticket costing Rs 73/-. Presently the conductor blew his whistle, and we were off, on the 7-hour ride to RJY.
We were heading back on the road to Bhadrachalam Road Jn and took a deviation at a junction. Presently, the double road turned single, and we were passing through the countryside.
Probably Nagesh Kukunoor of ‘Hyderabad Blues’, ‘Iqbal’ and ‘Dor’ fame wouldn’t have been here; his forefathers might have left this descript little town ages ago; but when the bus halted for tea at Kukunoor, I surmised –Nagesh’s directional abilities had a connection, however remote, to this place.
After Kukunoor, the single-lane road was bad for a certain stretch; thankfully, for the rest of the journey, we were on decent, double-lane roads.
Presently we joined the Rajahmundry - Khammam National Highway at Aswaraopeta. A fairly prosperous agricultural town, Aswaraopeta had a whole lot of shops selling everything from pesticides to pencils. Mobile phone shops with ads of Samsung, Nokia and LG indicated the deep penetration of cell phones into rural AP. Of course, all the signboards were in Telugu, with very little English being used anywhere. God save the non-Telugu speaker, if he were to come to this town for business. He would sure have a torrid time.
It was getting close to 1300 hours, and we were still going on & on. Aren’t we supposed to be stopping for lunch? Maybe we’ll directly stop at Rajahmundry I believe. I was engrossed in this train of thoughts, when the bus took a bye-pass and stopped at a hotel, situated between the main road and the bye-pass.
The driver and the conductor, along with other PAX trooped in for a meal- we however backed off seeing the conditions prevailing. We settled for a semi –cool Miranda. I called up Bharath to check up his position. He & Ranga had already reached RJY.
The journey had started getting really boring by now. The Fast Passenger was no conveniently downgraded to an ordinary passenger, and would stop at most of the places. The road was choc-a-block with heavy traffic, and there was lots of dust around – given that we were traversing through an area of open cast mines.
GODAVARI CROSSING: 3
The sight of the Godavari and the Rail-cum-road Bridge served as an instant refresher to the weary eyes. This was the first time I was on the upper portion (Road) of the bridge – having been on the lower part of the bridge countless times. Making our way through the crowded lanes of RJY, famous for its pen making industry notably the ‘Ratnam’ brand of fountain pens, which adorned the pen-stands of many a legal luminary and bureaucrat of the yesteryears, we spluttered to a halt at the bus stand on the main road.
Getting off the bus, I called up Bharath. He was at the most up market hotel in town, and was waiting for us at lunch. After bargaining with a couple of auto-rickshaws, we selected one guy and had him drive us to the hotel.
Caught up with Ranga & Bharath, who had come in much earlier, by the Simhadri express, from Bhimavaram and were waiting patiently for us at the hotel lobby. Having freshened up after the tiring journey, we went to the hotel’s restaurant and had south Indian Thali meals, the usual curry-pickle-Sambar-Rasam-Rice-Papad-Dessert stuff.
Feeling sloshed and drowsy after a tiring bus journey and a heavy meal, we sat at the hotel lobby deciding on the next course of action. We decided on a boat ride on the Godavari. Hiring a couple of autos, we got off on the near the Godavari Ghats and the Havelock railway bridge.
We spent some time underneath the now-defunct Havelock Bridge, which in its heydays was the sole means of connectivity between East and West Godavari regions. Now it just stands silent and forlorn – watching trains whiz past on the adjacent new bridge.
Tejender suddenly realized that he didn’t pick up his mobile from the hotel lobby where he had kept it on charge- and promptly made a dash back to the hotel to retrieve his mobile. He came back after 20 minutes.
We still had lots of time to kill before taking the Kakinada bound passenger expected at around 1830 hours, so decided to take a short boat ride across the Godavari, to Kovvur station on the opposite bank, from where we would be catching the Kakinada passenger train.
We hired a 2-deck diesel-powered launch for Rs 350/- for a ½ hour ride across the Godavari to Kovvur. It was great fun, the cool river breeze against our face, the setting sun, and the Godavari bridges in the horizon.
After getting off the boat at Kovvur, we walked up the main road and after waiting for some time, stopped an auto and crammed into it, to get to Kovvur station. Having purchased 5 tickets to Kakinada, we waited on the platform 1 for our train. After about 15 minutes, we could see the silhouette of a locomotive in the distance and soon, the Kakinada passenger pulled in. We got in & occupied 6 berths in the empty Sleeper Class.
GODAVARI CROSSING: 5
During the course of the 3 hour journey, some of us slept while the rest stood awake – Ranga, in the meanwhile had attached speakers to his Sony Erickson mobile, and the songs from his mobile formed a perfect compliment to the journey. At around 2130 hours, we got off at the seemingly quite Kakinada Town station.
Kakinada Town Station doesn’t seem like other station, at least the approach road. You get off the train on platform 1 take the Foot – Over bridge to your right, cross the 3-platform yard, get down onto the ticketing concourse, and the moment you walk a few yards on the road, you would find yourself bang in the middle of a residential area – with rows of 3-stories houses and 5- storied apartments on both sides of the road. It is very strange to find residential apartments so close to the station and that too on the station road.
After going up & down the main road, searching in vain for a lodge that one of our friends had suggested, we settled for a ‘Priya Residency’ located within a shopping complex. We took 2 double bedrooms and a single bedroom for Ranga. After freshening up, we went to an adjacent rooftop bar cum restaurant. I was too tired even to eat anything, so had a 7-Up and went back to my room, while the others ordered food and drinks.
Day 3 Sunday 24th December 2006
Having got up pretty early, Bharath & I managed to get ready faster than the rest, so decided to have breakfast, and then proceed to the station to purchase tickets to Kotipalle for the 5 of us.
Heading back on to the main road, we walked up to an Udupi restaurant near the beginning of a road-over bridge. I remembered having food at this place on my visit to Kakinada, a couple of years' back, so was pretty sure of the quality of food on offer. We had Upma, Idli, Wada and a cup of coffee.
Walking parallel to the road that we had come on, yesterday night, we reached the station, went up to the booking clerk and asked for 5 tickets to Kotipalle. The clerk looked at us for a moment and then with a smile on his face, told us that tickets would be issued on the train it; and that it would leave at around 0930 hours. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang arrived, and we waited sometime for the train – but it didn’t make an appearance. No one knew whether it ran or not – not even the authorities.
After waiting for some time, it appeared futile to wait for that elusive passenger, so we decided to call it quits, walked down to the bus stand situated close by and got into a ‘Hire-With-APSRTC’ Kotipalle bound bus, waiting away from the platforms.
Presently, the bus drove into one of the platforms, but had to go back to the road again, much to the consternation of the driver, as it was occupying another bus’s slot. After some time, the controller again signalled the bus to enter the bay.
After a few minutes, the conductor got one, blew his whistle, and we pulled out Schumacher style into the road. By the time, the bus was out of Kakinada, it was full, with a good amount of standees as well. The air-horn of the bus was irritating enough – its acoustics seemed terribly out of place – the passengers were treated more to its pitch rather than the outsiders. For about an hour, the loud-sounding horn nearly blew our ears out and we couldn’t even communicate properly.
Somewhere midway, we halted at the temple town of Draaksharaamam, which is a famous Hindu Pilgrimage spot. The group from Hyderabad, which boarded the bus at Kakinada, got off at this place – nearly 60 % of the bus got empty here.
At Kunduru, a group of fisherwomen got in, with great difficulty managed to occupy their seats. Peeved, they hurled the choicest of abuses on a drunkard lying fast asleep on the gangway. This chap was later off loaded at Gangavaram.
Presently, the bus entered the diminutive Kotipalle town, followed the road as it took a couple of turns, and finally came to a halt in front of the Ghats of an expansive Godavari.
GODAVARI CROSSING: 6
An over-enthusiastic boatman, sensing a possible lucrative catch – of the human variety, came up to us and offered to take us on his boat across the Godavari for a sum of Rs 200/-.
Soon, we were sailing on his boat across the pristine waters of the Godavari, with the cool breeze providing a warm welcome. I had been on a similar boat one fine morning in November 2004, along with a group of co-workers from my previous company; we had a fine time then bathing and frolicking around in the water and I wanted a repeat; hence I had included this Kotipalle sojourn.
At Kotipalle, the Godavari is wide, if not as much as it is at Rajahmundry, and there’s an island in between; this of course gets submerged during the monsoons, when the Godavari gets going on a full flow, but during the rest of the year, this serves as a convenient break point for travellers travelling from one bank to the other. A typical passenger bound for Amalapuram from Kakinada, would take the bus from Kakinada to Kotipalle, and purchase an Rs 3/- ticket for the ride across the Godavari. He would then get on Boat 1, which would take him from the Kotipalle bank to the island. Getting off at the island, he would walk for about 5 minutes across the small island before Boat 2 would ferry him across the remaining part of the Godavari to the Mukteswaram bank. From here, he would typically take a share-auto or a bus for the 40 Kms run to Amalapuram.
We would be doing something similar- of course, with a bath in the Godavari thrown in for good measure. And boy – we did have a good time; down to our underwear at the island, we frolicked around in the cool waters for about ½ hour, with the oh-so-eager-to-please boatman standing in neck-deep water with a staff in hand held horizontally indicating an invisible boundary beyond which we shouldn’t venture out – the waters would be too deep for our safety. We took his advice in good stead, and confined ourselves within the boundary – having a great time of course. Bharath was the only one not to get wet; skin deep I mean; he busied himself taking shots of the island and the buffaloes which were tethered to a shed, and were looking at us curiously.
Having refreshed ourselves, we paid off the boatman, who obviously was not contended with what we gave him; cajoled and coaxed us to part with extra Rs 80/- extra. We didn’t mind paying that extra cash; after all, the boatman sounded desperate enough for extra cash.
At the small shack on the island we picked up some chips and had desi Lemon Soda. Walking across the sandy path, we crossed a few fields under
cultivation, and presently came to the other end of the island, where the Godavari was much smaller in size, compared to it’s Kotipalle counterpart. In fact, so shallow was the Godavari here, that if required, we could hoist our haversacks onto our head, and wade – neck deep, through the water, to the other bank. However, we were in no mood to get wet again, and preferred to wait for the small boat to take us across. Waiting along with us, were the regular travellers, some on their bikes and some others on their cycles. They got curious; and we got the whole tale going – Coming from Hyderabad, on a vacation – out to see Godavari and so on and so forth.
Presently, the boat- a manual one this time came and all of us clambered in; the bikes and the cycles occupied one end of the boat, while we took various positions on the boat. In about 10 minutes, we were ferried effortlessly across the opposite end, better known as Mukteswaram.
We hired a couple of autos to take us to Amalapuram, about 25 to 30 Kms away. The scenery enroute was typical Kerala – style; sloping roofed houses, with paddy fields behind them, small canals running parallel to the road, rows of coconut trees lines up neatly along the side of the road – picture postcard Andhra Pradesh at its’ best – the stuff that we get to see more on the celluloid, in the form of big-ticket Telugu films.
What surprised us was the number of PCO booths lined up all along the way from Mukteswaram to Amalapuram. Almost every third house enroute would have a yellow or an orange canopy near its entrance, and under that canopy a coin-operated phone box would be suspended. We couldn’t decipher as to why Konaseema region would require that many phone booths! And they weren’t even STD booths – just simple plain vanilla local call booths.
Anyways after a few minutes, we entered Amalapuram town – the showcase, picture-postcard town of Andhra Pradesh – also supposed to be ‘THE’ heart of Andhra’s agrarian landscape – home to many wealthy landowners and farmers having influential connections in the state’s corridors of power and yes, Tollywood has its huge presence here, in the form of highly charged and active fans clubs of Tollywood’s luminaries – Chiranjeevi & NTR and their respective scion.
Anyways, we had instructed the auto drivers to take us to the most up market restaurant in town. They dropped us at a place, which looked decent enough – I can’t remember the name of the place though. The veggies in the group – Bharath & I stuck to having veg biryani and some curd, while the rest of them gorged on the choicest of Andhra non-veg delicacies like Prawns and chicken.
Feeling satiated after a heavy meal, we walked across the main road, through Amalapuram’s busy market place to the town’s bus stand where we boarded the bus to the next destination – Palakollu
GODAVARI CROSSING: 7 (Between Amalapuram and Palakollu)
We had the desi-avatar of Schumacher masquerading at the Express bus’s driver, going by the speed at which he was driving the Bhimavaram bound express. He would brake suddenly, cut corners fast and simply overlook the speed breakers, giving us a hair-raising ride. We crossed towns like Razole and Thatipaaka before arriving at Palakollu bus stand at around 1730 hours.
We had a difference of opinion here – do we stay put at Palakollu, or got to Narsapur, about 10 Kms away, to stay for the night? A friend who hails from this area had advised us against staying at Palakollu, as the hotels there would not be decent enough for a night’s stay. Narsapur would be much better in that aspect. After some rounds of discussion, we decided to opt for Narsapur.
Getting off at Hotel Madhuri, we checked up on the accommodation available, which initially looked decent, but we were to discover the rot within, after checking in. The rooms offered were not made up, and the washroom cistern non – functional. I asked for a room change, but the new room was nothing better. The floors were not swept clean, bed sheets had odd coloured stains on them, and the TV was not working again. I blew a fuse somewhere this time and called out to the room boy and exploded. I took him to task over the TV, and he had temerity to reply that TV was not a part of the deal – you were lucky enough if you had a working TV in your room; otherwise we wouldn’t be responsible.
I got more irritated. Screw the TV man, what about the general condition of the room and that of the bed sheets? Surely, I can take you to task over these, as I have paid for them haven’t I? The chap had no answer for this, and he tried to calm me down, stating that he would get these rectified soon. I however was thoroughly pissed off, and at one point of time thought of calling it quits and head back to Hyderabad.
However, all the heat generated did subside after some time, but the bitter taste remained nevertheless. If a (supposedly) market hotel like Madhuri can provide such a shoddy service, what about the rest?
After all of us were refreshed, we went an end-of the-street eatery, where we had Onion Dosas and Idli, which were tasty enough. We then had a round of milk shakes at a fruit juice centre. Tejender & I (Ranga was to join us later) decided to catch up on a recent Telugu blockbuster, while Bharath & Roopesh went back to the hotel.
Walking across the lanes & bye-lanes of Narsapur, we reached a cinema theatre to view the 2130 hours night show of one of the recently released Telugu Blockbusters titled ‘Rakhi’ and starring a prominent young NTR scion. It’s a different matter that ultimately we couldn’t get to see the movie, as the tickets for the night show got sold out in black, much before the actual ticket counters opened – and I seriously wonder if they were ever opened that night! This resulted in a lot of hulla and angry protests from the cine-lovers gathered there. We decided to head back to the hotel.
DAY 4 25TH DECEMBER 2006 MONDAY
I never knew who the culprit was, but I did get up with a seriously upset tummy by around 0330 hours, Well, things like these are bound to happen on trips like these, but you have to take it in your stride.
Tejender & I got ready by around 0600 hours, and went down to the solitary coffee stall opened at that hour, and had a plate of Idlis’ and a cup of coffee each. We were to get back to this place after about ½ hour, so that everyone else completed his breakfast.
Asking for directions to the riverbank, we took a left turn off the main road, and headed straight for a couple of 100 metres to the bank of the Godavari.
GODAVARI CROSSING: 8
Purchasing 5 tickets for the boat ride across the river, we got a 15-minute boat ride across the Godavari. On the other side, we bargained hard with an auto guy, who finally settled for a sum of Rs 250/- for a 26 Kms to & from ride to Antharvedi (the place where Godavari meets the sea) and back. While Tejender sat with the driver in the front, Ranga and Roopesh stretched out in the middle row, while Bharath & I sat in the luggage area, on two stools, our legs dangling out behind the auto.
We were again driving through pristine green countryside, pretty much similar to Kerala countryside. At a place called Sakhinetipalle, we took a right-T junction, and headed towards Antharvedi, about 7 Kms away. The sinuous road with numerous speed breakers did take a toll on our behind, and we had to ask the driver to slow down. At one point, the driver tried to accelerate rapidly from start, and the 3-wheeler did a small – wheelie with the front tyre jumping up in the air a few feet and landing back with a thud.
After covering some distance, the sloping-roof houses and the fields started gradually disappearing, only to be replaced by vacant stretches of land, and lots of wild weeds – a sure indication that we were now getting closer to the sea. Having crossed the tiny Antharvedi town, we ran out of Tar road, drove up a muddy path, and stopped some distance away from the lighthouse.
We walked on the kutcha road to the lighthouse only to discover that it would be open for public in the evening from 1600 hours to 1800 hours, and that too only on normal working days. It being Christmas day, there was no chance of it being open. We anyways decided to get in and take a look.
The lighthouse was situated in the centre of a small compound. To the right of the lighthouse, there were a couple of living quarters, presumable occupied by staff manning the lighthouse. To its left were a generator room and a couple of other rooms. We went up to the generator room to check up if anybody was there; and drew a blank. We then walked up to one of the living quarters; where we could hear songs coming from a TV.
There was a lone person in the quarters, and he turned out to be Mr. Mandal, one of the staff on duty at Antharvedi lighthouse that morning. We requested him to open the lighthouse for us (the door leading to the stair case of the light house was locked), and he hesitatingly obliged, after collecting Rs 20/- per head. He requested us not to photograph the lighthouse. We obliged him, at least there.
Climbing up the spiral staircase inside the tower, which was close to 8 floors high, we reached the main gallery (or the balcony) from where a wrought iron ladder led us up to the Watch/Service room. We got a real close perspective of the huge lens housing, and clicked away merrily. Having spent some time at the Service room, we descended the steps back to the main gallery, and then went out through the small door, to a panoramic view outside. Up front was the sea, and to our right we could see the waters of the Godavari merging into the sea – we could make out the difference in between the colours of the sea and the river. To our back, we had the hinterland stretched as far as the eye could see. The Antharvedi temple’s dome was visible at a distance. All of us got busy clicking away photos, and taking video clips.
We headed downstairs to the base, and thanked Mr. Mandal for the opportunity. On learning that most of us were from Hyderabad, he asked us about a local tour of Hyderabad, and we happily gave him directions about APTDC’s Hyderabad city tour, as well as Ramoji Film City Tour. He had in fact booked to & from tickets on the overnight express train to Hyderabad.
On our way back, Ranga, Tejender & I had a quick visit to the Antharvedi temple, following which; the 5 of us had a sumptuous breakfast of onion dosas and coffee, at a shack in front of the temple. We the headed back to the riverbank, from where we caught a bigger launch to Narsapur.
GODAVARI CROSSING: 9
Back in Narsapur, we went back to the fruit juice stall for a round of fruit – milk shakes. We then headed back to the hotel, picked up our luggage, held back an auto that had come to the hotel to drop some goods, and went to Narsapur station well ahead of time to catch the noon passenger train to Vijayawada.
By around 1830 hours, we finally reached Vijayawada station, and checked into A/C Dormitories for the night
To be continued...
|21st November 2007, 15:15||#2|
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Pics are not visible although I had uploaded in imageshack and copied the link. Will try & upload the pics once again. Please excuse for the missing pics.
|21st November 2007, 18:25||#3|
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Thanks for the amazing travelogue. Never expected it would be so much fun on these coastal areas and that too by using public transport. Did you get this from your diary? If not you really have a strong memory.
|21st November 2007, 19:51||#4|
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PVS.. Great job.
Though i hail from this area (Rajahmundry), i never travelled to 60% of the places you went to in 4 days.
For people wondering why the thread title read Konaseema when there is no mention of it in the thread. Konaseema is a huge island in R.Godavari. At Dowleswaram near Rajahmundry the river splits in to two (Vasishta and Gowtami) and never meet again till they join the sea. The land between the two river branches and the sea is called Konaseema. In PVS's post Amalapuram and Antarvedi belong to Konaseema. The people from this place are believed to be very honest and homely. I think the slang in the language make people think so.
It is known for it's fertility and the coconut plantations. No wonder it is called Kerala of Andhra. My mother's village is in this area and most of my childhood i spent here. Godavari is like 100 meters from my Grand mother's house. My wife is also from the same area.
The first person that receives the prayers from the people of this land is a british engineer Sir Arthur Cotton. More than 100 years ago, he found this place at that time a very poor district has lots of resources but were never used. He constructed anicuts across the river and diverted the water that was going waste in to the sea in to canals and the canals provided water to lakhs of acres of land. For lands that were at a higher level and couldn't get water, he created lift irrigation and solved the people's problems. After this the East and West godavari districts became the richest agricultural districts of south india only next to Tanajaoore in Tamil nadu. it is sad that the present governements with lot of development in technology are not doing much.
Last edited by satish_appasani : 21st November 2007 at 20:03.
|22nd November 2007, 00:14||#5|
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Satish Appasani.. thanks for the comments. True Konaseema area is a relatively unexplored, but truely fertile area - could surely give Kerala a run for its money!!
The remaining part of the travellogue continues...
DAY 5 26th December 2006 TUESDAY
The last day of our trip, we had Machilipatnam and Repalle on the itinerary today. Getting up at around 0445 hours, we got ready by around ½ hour, and went to Vijayawada’s imposing bus stand, to catch a non-stop service to Machilipatnam (MTM).
At Vijayawada, you have dedicated non-stop services to nearby towns like Eluru, Guntur, Tenali and Machilipatnam. All you need to do is to go to the respective counter, buy a computerized ticket, and get on to the first bus non-stop bus waiting for you at the bay. A conductor travels on the bus checking the tickets, and gets off at one of the last stages in the city, and the driver then drives non-stop to the destination- no one gets in the middle.
That morning, there was confusion at the Machilipatnam non-stop counter. The software hung up at that moment, forcing the controller to announce that tickets would be issued in the bus itself. Roopesh & Tejender had gone to get breakfast, while Bharath & I boarded the bus. Within a minute, the driver boarded the bus, and slowly started pulling out. We requested him to stop, while Bharath made frantic calls to Tejender, asking him to come ASAP. Soon, the duo cam running and got into the bus, and all of we breathed easy.
The 1-hour journey to MTM was through the lush green Krishna district of AP. We bye-passed KCP’s Uyyuru sugar factory, and even on the bye-pass road, the long train of bullock-carts loaded with fresh sugar-cane proceeding to the KCP factory slowed us down quite considerably.
On reaching MTM, we went to a nearby ‘Vilas’ for some hot ‘Attus’ (Dosas in Telugu) and coffee. We then hired an auto that took us to the Manginapudi beach about 10 Kms away.
When the Tsunami hit India’s southern coastline in December 2004, MTM was one of the places to get affected, Manginapudi beach in particular. That morning, when we went to the beach, we observed that a sort of memorial for those killed in the Tsunami was being constructed on the beach. A mural depicted a group of fisherman out on sea at work, drawing in the nets, when one of them points out at the horizon and the others stop in their tracks to look at where he is pointing – obviously to the huge monster of a wave rapidly approaching towards them – the mural very effectively captured the Tsunami.
Heading back to MTM, we now had to reach Repalle. Till the recent past, there was no road connection between MTM and Repalle. You could only get as far as Avanigadda village, and from there, you need to take a boat across the Krishna to the other back, where you could get a bus to Repalle. But now, thanks to a new 3Kns long bridge across the Krishna, one could get to Repalle directly from MTM.
As a first step, we caught a mofussil bus to Avanigadda. I have a sort of remote connection with Avanigadda. My paternal Grandfather used to work as a school head master at Avanigadda for many years. I still remember the words ‘Abonigodda’ written in the permanent address column of my Dad’s West Bengal Driving License.
On the way, we passed through Challapalle, which was the birthplace of my father. It was great to be in this place, and I called up home to speak to Dad. Unfortunately he was not at home during that time, and was not even carrying his mobile. So I had to be content, speaking to mom.
Getting off just before Avanigadda, we took a share-auto, which took us on the huge 3-Km bridge across the Krishna, to Repalle. The bridge, though in use, was not yet ready for heavy traffic; hence buses were running only until Avanigadda. Once this bridge gets steady enough to handle heavy traffic, APSRTC would begin running direct Repalle MTM services.
Getting off near the Railway station, we went inside an purchased tickets for the noon passenger to Tenali. The Public announcement system announced that the train was delayed by an hour.
We decided to kill some time, and settled down at a small juice shack ‘MEDATHATI FRUIT JUICE PARLOUR’ near the Repalle bus stand. We were duly impressed when a bearer handed over a ‘Menu’ card, though we found it difficult to count the number of bloopers on the card. Presently the passenger train came along – after an hour we reached Tenali, and from there caught another train to Vijayawada. That night we caught the night train back to Hyderabad.
Overall it’s a nice trip. Fellow T-BHPians might well consider checking out coastal AP by road – it’s a good experience
|22nd November 2007, 12:24||#6|
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PVS, great back-packing type trip. We can see the Godavari-AP through your eyes. reminds me of my own Coast2Cape2Cast trip in end-2005, when I did coastal Andhra also and visited many of the places that you mention. Turned off NH5 at Kattipudi to Kakinada. Magnificent Godavari Bridge at Yanam (which is part of Pondicherry), almost 2 kms long. Spectacular sun rise over the palm fronds and green green paddy fields in Mummidivaram which is just before Amalapuram.
From Amalapuram, I dug into the interior coastal areas, running into messy oil fields of ONGC at Odaleru and Kesanapalli. At Vadalarevu, I evasdropped onto a heated fish auction at the village docks. My road then wound through Godilanka and Allavaram before NH214 ran out of road - with the Scorpio on a ferry the width and length of the vehicle, with the loud Telugu film music ensuring loyal daily commuters who cross the Godavari (most likley the Gautami or the Vashisti) between Bodasakuru and Pasarlapudi - these were sleepy villages that seemed to have frozen in time, with several contended people around - the aggressive ones already moved to Hyderabad to run power plants and such like. Like you said, this Cotton guy has done a lot of work in these parts, there is even a statue built for him at Razole/Rajelu where you can see his handiwork in the wide canals. From Narsapur, I visited the K D Palem Beach, which was a small fishermens' beach with not a soul around but splendid white sands. From here, it was aqua farming territory all the way to Bhimavaram, although I think most of the ponds are half-dead - you see the famous aqua farming companies of yore all through this route.
Continuing my coastal safari, I took one of two posisble routes to Machilapatnam via Gudivada (this is indescrepit terrain, the West Godavari District in these parts is dry and uninspiring unlike the lush East Godavari of Amalapuram. I visited the Maginapudi 1 day after the Tsunami first anniversary (one of the most tragic sites, over 50 school children on a picnic were washed away) - firm sands which allow you to drive the car right to the water's edge. Beach otherwise has no facilities beyond a few ground nut sellers!!!
Pursuing the Krishna River delta region, I arrived at Hamsladivi (very religious spot apparently) and Bangalakathu, but alas a little too late since high tide was on and the only path to reach the actual basin area (2-3 kms from the sea point) was getting submerged. Bangalakathu itself can be reached through a kucha road built through the marshy terrain.
Returning to Avanigadda, in pursuit of a bridge across the River Krishna towards Repalle (on NH214, whose sign boards point boldly to Ongole on the far bank), locals have never heard of a bridge and so, I dishearteningly turn back towards Machilapattna via Challapalle - a large sugarcane area with the KCP Sugars factory as the flagship buyer.
|22nd November 2007, 17:03||#7|
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|19th December 2007, 19:11||#8|
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How is NH214 condition.If one would take that from ongole to Go to Vizag ? Instead of NH5.
|21st December 2007, 14:46||#10|
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PVS good write up and being a coastal andhra guy from Vizag it was nice to go down memory lane when one of my close pal got married in Palakolle , we guys took off in a 800 from Hyderabad and it was worth watching the greenery around.
How come you missed Araku Valley near Vizag....do plan up there and its definitely worth remembering too...
|22nd December 2007, 12:30||#12|
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PVS, thats one excellent narration and glad to see you posted this here despite it happening last year. Many times i planned konaseema but it never materialized, maybe pretty soon, i will check it out.
|22nd December 2007, 17:50||#13|
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mobike008,pjay_in,ramkya1 and vj_mavrik
Thanks for your positive feedback.
mobike008 -->Konaseema is definetely worth a visit. You can drive down from Hyderabad on an extended weekend (maybe teeming up with satish_appasani) and check out the region. Mandapeta & Ramachandrapuram are a couple of areas which are very fertile & green.
ramkya1 -->The report is complete I believe. You can check it. I ends when we get back to Vijayawada from Repalle and take the night train back to Hyderabad.
VJ_MAVRIK--> I had visited Araku valley twice - once, as a kid in 1983 and the 2nd time with spouse in 2005. We had checked out Araku, Borra caves and had stayed at APTDC Jungle Bells, Tyda.
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