Nearly after a gap of a year, my family went for a vacation to Vishakapatnam (nick name Vizag, historical name, Waltair). Being the third largest port city nestling on the east coastline of India along the Bay of Bengal, I was overly excited to experience the azure sea along the vast stretches of beautiful sand beaches. Contrary to our regular travels to mountainous Himalayan region or other congested seacoasts in this same coastal belt with muddy sea water of the Bay of Bengal, usually in Digha and Puri, Vizag was unique. The elevated landscape of the Eastern Ghats overlooking the pristine sand beaches along the blue water body offers a magnificent view of the unparalleled beauty of the sea from an elevation rather than the normal level of human eye. It is a visual treat.
It was a short four day tour. The train, Chennai Mail, left Howrah at 11:30 pm and reached there around 2 pm the next day. For the day, we had plans for visiting the Rushikonda beach, Ramkrishna Beach (R.K. beach) and the Kailasgiri. The drive on the road bordering the beaches was so refreshing, much away from the hurly-burly of the cities and towns we live in. The mere presence of water and that too in rainbow shades with the light and hue of the sky as the evening progressed was a serene experience. Since it was a tightly scheduled family trip with 30 other people under the administration of a travel company, chances of experiment with photographs at one’s own will was restrained by time. Still I would love to put up some clicks as memoirs from the trip. There are several destinations to visit and I will put them up one by one, the ones I went, trying as far as possible to provide a clear perception of the travel spots to discover in and around Vishakhapatnam, in Andhra Pradesh.
The tranquil moments of the setting sun at the Rushikonda Beach was something to treasure. Walking a little away from the establishments and encroachments, the vast stretches of sandy beach overlook the bungalows and guest houses of the APTDC (Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation) cuddling on the foot hills of the Eastern Ghats. Moving far ahead towards the desolated stretch of the sandy coastline, the roars of the sea waves breaking on the shore and the breeze gushing in to fill your deep breaths would rekindle a sense of your existence. I literally wanted to be there for long and feel my presence and the reflection on my life that normally a busy day prevents me to do. But alas! Breaking the tranquility of the moment, the vibrating gadget called cell phone in my pocket reminded me that I was on a time schedule there too and should return to the bus by time to move forward towards Kailasgiri, our next and final stop for the day.
Argh.!! Sometimes I really wish if I could throw away the phone and get lost or much better not even to take it along with me during this kind of travels.
I had collected no prior information regarding the place as I was already on a tour of my own before this. So I was surprised when I saw the availability of the toy train on the hill top, at 360 feet above sea level, spreading across 380 acres, developed and maintained by the VUDA (Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority). This place provides a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. The titanic view point, greenery in the hill top, children’s park, a 40 feet idol of Shiv & Parvati, toy train, ropeway are the major attractions. The ropeway services start from the foothills of Appughar but I was so unfortunate to not have experienced it, such that even on the very last day we tried but was closed for maintenance. Nevertheless, I had the opportunity of experiencing the toy train that takes a circular path on the hill top providing a 360 degree view of the thriving city and the Bay of Bengal. Since it was already late in the evening and darkness peeped in, I missed the view of the blissful beauty of the vast unending stretch of the sea vanishing into the horizon with the sky. However, I had the luck to get a bird’s-eye view of the spectacular night beauty of the city, in golden glow with its lights on. The slow run in the toy train that has an AC and a Non AC coach only, with fare of Rs 50 and Rs 60 per head was the last charm of the day. By the way if you are with your loved one on the tour, do not forget to click a moment of the Titanic Pose with your lover on the Titanic point. It’s way too romantic. I envy the lucky ones.
6 a.m. train. OMG!!! Woke up early next morning for our trip to Araku Valley, 112 km away, located at a height of 3,200 feet in the midst of the hills of Anantagiria, is a 4-hours journey by train. This was a rail cum road journey provided by APTDC (Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation). They provided early breakfast of idly, water to drink and guide to brief the tourists about the journey. While on journey, one goes through numerous, probably 52 short and long tunnels till you reach the Araku station. Don’t worry, the compartments are reserved and remains closed by APTDC, so that the locals don’t bother you while boarding the train from the intermediate stations. After getting down at the station, there are buses to take tourists for sightseeing, with each accompanied by a guide. The tourist ride starts with a park, which according to me has nothing much to offer than the common flora except for some rare varieties of spices and trees. Half an hour stroll in the park, after which the bus en routes to the tribal museum. Araku boasts of being a home to 19 indigenous tribes. So we were taken to a museum that had some replicas of the dwelling places, people and their life style and some open theater for shows. Oh.!! forgot to mention… at the very beginning of the journey by bus, some local men and women boarded the bus and offered a taste of their local delight, “The Bamboo Chicken”, 250 grams for Rs. 100, 500 grams for Rs. 200 and a kg for about Rs. 300 or a little more I guess. We went for 250 grams. At first we were a bit skeptical in having it, as no one ordered except me and my brother.
A stone’s throw away from the museum, in one of the Andhra Pradesh tourism resort chain, named Haritha, we were provided lunch with rice, roti, vegetables, curd and sweet, all veg, no question of non veg items. Thankfully, we had our Bamboo Chicken which was spicy, prepared without oil and water, and added some delight to our taste buds craving for something more than just veg. Sorry, in that excitement forgot to take a picture, just Google it, please, next time sure. Oh again..!! Another stuff…besides the government rest house there is a coffee shop, with varieties of stuff cultivated in the valley and you can even have a sip for a change then and there itself, or take some home for a price as much as you want to pay for the variety enlisted with specific rates, even coffee chocolates and candies are also available. After lunch, we were greeted with some tribal women, conch shells and local drums that synced in tune with the chorus by the women, performing typical tribal dance and singing in the open theater beside the guest house, with the mountains as the backdrop. Tourists from our side joined in the last round of the dance with the local tribal women.
Tan ta na….the last stop for the day,…Borra Caves. It was LEGEND…no no wait for it…DARY…LEGENDARY. 150 million years old caves..!!! Seriously…!!!..Some 300 to 400 steps down to and up from the cave to the place where our bus halted, by the main gate with the ticket counter. One doesn’t have to pay tickets if already travelling with APTDC else a fee of Rs 10 or Rs 50, I guess, I hardly remember, sorry guys. But what I do remember is I had to pay Rs 100 for my DSLR camera or any other camera one carries along with into the cave and Rs 25 for anyone willing to capture through their high end smart phones. Oh man..!!!! The cave, it’s huge, vast, big, I mean really big.
I have put out an image of the notice board that was hung outside the caves, read the details, its high resolution.
There is this one place inside the cave where there is a bridge like thing to go to the other end and the place felt like shit, actually it was so. It was “Bat Shit”. For a moment I recalled the scenes from Batman trilogy, where there was the halogen light at one end and the bats could be heard in the dark, somewhere from the upper surface of the caves, and when I looked up, colony of bats came flying by and I guarded myself with the hand. Nahh.!!! Nothing such happened as I wished…though from the deepest core of my heart I wanted to experience such a moment even if, it could scare a little out of me. Since we did not have any guide to assist inside the cave, we missed out on the deities that reside there in rock formations as the locals believe and worship. If you are very much religious, a guide would be good, though I have no idea how much they charge as the government guides did not assist us inside the cave. Rest of the details about the cave you can find here, at the AP govt blog.
The next day took us to Simlachalam, a 16 km far away Hindu Shrine of the Lord Vishnu, having architecture in the lines of the Dravidian and Oriya styles. The temple is free to enter but there is always a way if there is money, so you go the paid entry way, you get a path that leads you closer to the Deity. Its nice and peaceful and the inside architecture, ambiance somewhat feels like that in the Jagannath temple, Puri except that it is quiet, peaceful, organized, clean,less crowded.
Moving on was the Rama Naidu Film City located on a hill top, with modeled shops, houses, parks and panoramic view of the sea beach below. Even found a Bengali cast shooting for some commercial film or television.
Moving down the hill from the film city was the Vishakhaptnam Navy museum. It had an entry fee of Rs 5 and photography was prohibited inside, though allowed in the lawns that had some replica of canons used in wars. The three storey museum had much to offer for boosting one’s naval military knowledge. It has some wonderful collection of art works which include paintings, woodcrafts, models of a guard that looks so lively and a wax figurine of Sachin although which doesn’t resemble him, photographs of the city from the sea portraying the coastline, the bird’s eye view of the city, shots over decades in film and digital, stitched to create panoramas hanging on the wall. There are some photographs depicting the before and after condition of the devastating HudHud cyclone that hit the city in October, 2014. This was a low point as the city I was witnessing was nearly wiped off the lush greenery and the aftermath with the remnants of some parts of the beautified coastline broken down and the greens turned to yellowish brown dry lands still existed.
The evening was spent well as we visited the Submarine Museum, which is practically once a fully functional submarine turned into a museum. It has tickets too, for Rs 50 each and photographing with any gadget will have you to take out another Rs 50 from your pocket.
Here follows some pictures from the tour inside the submarine.
Finally the day concluded sitting by the sea shore. relaxing on the beach seeing the white waves hitting the shore as the dark sea water reflected the moon onto its waters. I had put down my camera by then and simply enjoyed and got lost in the serenity as the waters hitting the rocks splashed up huge walls of water.