Saturday, July 30, 2011

Smitten by Vishakhapatnam: 17th March 2011

Vishakhapatnam or Vizag is on the eastern coast of India. It has always been a city buzzing with activity with the steel plant and Indian Navy located there. It took us about 2hrs to reach Rushikonda beach from Annavaram. I loved driving through the city it is better than Hyderabad, more cosmopolitan and better planned.
We checked into our hotel and were taken to our suite, as we climbed the stairs we saw only the hill as the hotel is build into it. On opening the door to our suite we just gasped at the view, a lovely sun soaked private terrace opened up and the uninterrupted view thru the sliders separating the bedroom was simply breathtaking. We ran out onto the terrace to take in the sea breeze and the cobalt blue waters soothed our nerves. We did not have lunch so decided to relax a bit get fresh and go for an early evening snack and then hit the beach.
At the restaurant we ordered for a platter of Kanda bhajji and tea. The bhajji were superlative, my Dad is not much of a cake person and Kanda bhajji for his birthday was in itself making him a happy man. While we were eating out on the sea-facing deck at the restaurant a crow hovered around us. I strangely felt it was my Mom joining us in the BD celebrations. I never believed in this but felt the connection that moment. I always miss my Mom on our annual vacation which I always plan along with Dad's BD. I lost my Mom when I had finished my PG final exams and Viva was 3 days after she passed away so my Mom was not able to enjoy any of my pampering after I started earning.
After the refueling we went straight to the beach my Dad was so thrilled. He is a beach boy after all. He just left me and started exploring the beach. Talking with the local fisherman who we saw weaving and fishing with small nets on the shore.
I walked around peering at the boats and burying my feet in the warm sand. The shore of Vishakapatnam is clean and the water is unpolluted, unlike Mumbai and the surrounding coastline. The Arabian sea coast of India is filthy as it sees more movement of ships and therefore more oil spills. Here it is the Bay of Bengal.
The jut of land that I saw from the terrace attracted me and I wanted to go sit there and have the waves splashing on me. Dad who is an impatient photographer actually captured a great pic for me.
We sat there till the sun went down and the watched the waters turn a shimmering gold.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Celebrating Dad's Birthday at Annavaram: 17th March 2011

Setting out on the road to Vishakhapatnam we had decided to visit the Satyanarayan temple at Annavaram. Many people had suggested not to miss it. Couple of people also told us that the temple was under renovation and we may not get darshan. As we moved along the NH5 we were near Annavaram and on the left there was a huge gate that declared the way to Annavaram temple, it said 3kms in. We took the diversion and the car spiraled up the hill. It was a sunny afternoon and the town below was resplendent in the warmth. We stationed the car in the parking lot which is one level lower to the temple complex and walked up the stone stairs. At the next level we had to remove our footwear at the safe keeping stand and dart up the flight of stairs to avoid blistering of our feet. Then thru a winding stairway and some halls we finally reached the sanctorium and we did get darshan of the Lord Satyanarayan flanked by his devis. The idols were beautifully decorated with flowers of all colors and most of all the sanct sanctorium had a large wide door and was brightly lit. This is rare in a South Indian temple, most places they have only oil lamps, for this reason this was a very satisfying darshan. We could actually see the good Lord! After which we went around the large complex, there is a sun dial there and when I clicked the picture it was exactly 12 noon. 

There is a small is a cowshed in the complex and they call it Gokul. The views below the hill are soothing with the Godavari tributary flowing calmly and the Pampa reservoir that man has created
As you come down you see people circumventing the pipal tree and then proceeding to some other smaller temples surrounding the main temple. 

And true to its name the temple flower or the Champa, the sunny yellow centered Frangipani's sweet intoxicating smell permeates the surroundings. It was Dad's birthday and he is set to complete 7 decades on this planet. The celebrations had only started in Annavaram and we were looking forward to more fun in Vizag. Come along...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Miles of Canals And Lush Greenery: 15th to17th March 2011

As we left the Rajahmundhary city behind we touched the National highway and took the P. Gannavaram-Razole route. We had asked for directions in Rajahmundry to avoid being lost as it was evening time and our driver had no clue about the area. The APTDC folks at Rajahmundry Godavari ghat counter were very helpful.

It was a beautiful drive to the Coconut country resort. We drove by almost 40-50 kms of canals and lush greenery. The land looked fertile with irrigation network done so well. Swaying coconut and bettlenut palms, paddy fields and well fed cattle is a sure sign of rural prosperity. I had a hunch that this irrigation planning was the work of the Britishers and it turned out to be right! It was the visionary Sir. Arthur Cotton who made this region what it is today. Thankfully the local Govt. is maintaining it well.

On reaching the resort we checked into our suite, it had a lovely sit out that faced the silently flowing Godavari. The sun had dipped lighting the sky in hues of pink and night blue. The small boats passing by told us the fishermen were returning home for the evening. We decided to freshen up and walk along the embankments. While we sat there we planned to go to Pattiseema for the an outing next day. At the resorts counter we were told the boats and launches will be available at Pattiseema incase we planned to do the Papikondanalu tour.

We started towards Pattiseema even before day break. This is the countryside and getting directions at that hour was really tough, we managed though. It was about 110 kms drive, as the sun came up the air became misty and it was amazing to breathe is clean fresh air. Everything around was enchanting passing through harvested jowar and sugarcane mounds and standing crops ready to be sickled. It was lovely watching the shepherds take the cattle for grazing. This was the perfectly Indian rural scene a city bred like me craves to see and soak in the experience.
As we reached closer to Pattiseema along the Godavari the drive is through some wilderness and you start wondering if there is anything there at all, just then around the corner we saw a jetty with a shade. We parked the car and realized we had made a big mistake. Yes we went there on a week day and that too in the off season. Well this is not such a popular tourist area as the APTDC claims. May be it is locally visited on the weekends. We were the only ones to visit Pattiseema that day! on top of it we were just 2 people! The minimum no. of people required to operate the launch is 15. 

Anyways as we loitered around and my hunger gave me enough courage to test my immunity at a local eatery in a shack! I ate idli and chutney and survived. Dad refused to eat anything then he went and bought some bottled water lots of biscuit packets and haldiram's small packets of munchies. That was going to be our lunch for the day.

View Andhra Pradesh in a larger map

Armed with it we decided to go and enjoy at least half the day at the temple on the island in the Godavari basin. It had a certain quality that pulled you to it. We managed to get company from a local family who was visiting the shrine to offer their Mannat. It was a 10 mins ride across the river in a small row boat. Then hobbling through the sand we managed to reach the flight of stairs that led to the temple. It is a 20 min walk but since this place is deserted it makes the walk all the more difficult plus my mocasins just open their mouth and made it impossible for me to tread the path.

The temple complex is sprawling and the landscaped garden surprised me. I admired the generosity of the patrons to build this temple complex in the best way they could and not many people visit there. This must be making a good picnic spot for schools I suppose.

Inside the temples are dark and not kept clean there was smell  of rotting coconuts and offerings and behind the the temple people had created an open air toilet. It made me so angry that as much as there were do gooders there were people with minimal sense of civility.


We took quick darshans dodging the pujaris offering thirtha and prasad and stepped out and walked towards the cleaner part of the temple. I loved the view of the Papi hills from the corner where the Navagrahas stand in this temple. It overlooked the dry sand banks of the Godavari and the mist covered hills in the distant. I would have loved to go to the hills. I was cursing the overrated APTDC information on the site. Tourism has to yet develop in this area but then I am an explorer and I do go to places that are not on the regular tourist map. Now that thought made me happy.

We then start back for our resort, the sun is high in the sky and that 3 hour drive is not as interesting as it was in the early morning I realize. The markets are abuzz and there is a frenzy of activity around the sugar factory we passed by earlier in the day. The truck loads of harvested sugarcane are now causing a traffic jam for us and I did not like that. Once we were in the multi-hued green surroundings and driving along the canal we spotted a quaint little Andhra dhaba with a backdrop of paddy fields we gave into temptation and enjoyed a decent meal as we knew at the hotel we would not get this wholesome Andhra food. We bought some juiciest guavas from a fruit peddler on the bike to have at the resort.
The resort was lulling in the heat of the afternoon as we drove through the dense orchard lined roads of the coconut country. Once in our suite I sliced the guavas and sat with a book near the glass door separating the suite and the sit out. It was too hot to be on the sit out and the comfort of the a/c was what I needed. I put up my feet on the side table and relaxed in the large cushioned chair reading "The fine family" by Gurcharan Das, a gift from the Cdr.
After a short nap induced by the reading and the early morning trip to Pattiseema we went down for tea and some vegetable sandwich and spent rest of the evening sitting at the embankment and watching the boats pass by and checked out some houseboats that are available for renting out for the day and night. We did not wish to as we were to leave after breakfast next morning for Vizag.

What would Vizag be like? Both Dad and me wondered. I looked forward to seeing the Submarine museum while Dad was recollecting stories of adventure in the navy narrated by his cousin Gangaram, who had been posted there between the late sixties and early seventies. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bhadrachalam's Ram temple: 15th March 2011

We never really wanted to have Bhadrachalam on our itenary but the story of a saint of the soil Bhadrachalam Ramadas got us curious enough. Also as per our plan we had to cover a certain kms to get closer to our next destination Rajamundhry.

It was already late at the Warangal fort and the drive to Bhadrachalam Haritha Resort took us a good 4.5hrs. It was midnight when we reached there. Dad and the driver managed to get some dinner outside the resort, I chose to eat an apple and go to bed.

Next morning we had a hearty breakfast at the resort and I tasted the famous Allam Pachadi for the first time here. After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and decided to go to the Ram temple which was pretty close to the resort. 

The Ram temple is perched on the hillock and is quite old. It has a large complex around it but it is not maintained well. Inspite of that there was a certain buzz of the temple pooja and worshipers that felt calming and divine. At times I really regret that in rural areas people have no sense of cleanliness whether in a temple, eatery or home.

In the campus of the temple I noticed a very beautifully crafted Shankha-Pushpa and an umbrella which are used for the palkhi. The stone temple exterior too caught my attention. The old world charm and the Dravidian lifestyle had a marked presence there.
After this we were set on our way to Rajahmundhry. We passed thru some quaint villages and drove by the miles of canals full with water to the brim, over the Rajahmundhry bridge which is 2.7 km long. The Godavari basin boasted some awesome views like this one

The next post on Rajahmundhry is sure to impress you as the lesser known area was some relaxing experience in itself.