Sunday, August 7, 2011

Borra Caves An Indelible Experience:18th March 2011

Including visits to Simhachalam Temple, Araku Hills and Valley.

 The Borra or hole that lends the name to these caves

On this day we woke up early to see the sun rise and we were rewarded with a spectacle. It made us meditative and I was imagining myself to be Karna doing his sun worship as described in the novel, Mrityunjay by Shivaji Sawant. It is yet again that spiritual experience of being one with nature you get to experience when away from the chaos of the world.

After a quick breakfast we decided to visit Araku Hills and its natural treasures. I had been reading a lot about the Borra Caves. Especially I recollected a comment by my friend Preeti that these are better than what her parents had seen in the US. I briefed the driver about the day's plan. First to Shimhachalam temple, then Araku hills, Valley and Borra Caves.

It was the month of March and starting at 8 AM from the hotel for a long day in the jungles is not the right thing to do I soon realized. By the time we reached Shimachalam it was very bright and sunny, our car whirring the curves on the hills and suddenly bringing us to a plateau where the temple complex, brought us to a halt. It is one of those exquisitely carved temples, the abode of Lord Narshimha, the lion headed avatar of Vishnu. In the temple a local politician was getting a pooja done so the whole temple vibrated with the auspicious chanting of Mantras. We were not allowed to linger inside. So instead we came out and explored the carving on the temple.
The beautiful pillars with Lions
On the backside of the sanct sanctorium is the carving of Lord Narshimha liberating Hiranyakashyapu from his sins.
"Death shall not meet me neither on earth nor in the sky, neither a man nor an animal shall kill me."

The setting of this temple is awesome, surrounded by the hilltops and cut off from the Vizag city. The best time to be here is early morning and may be dusk.

From here we armed ourselves with some munchies and cold drinks. Yes it was hot and we needed to be hydrated through out the day. We knew we had a long day ahead.

We drove through tiny hamlets and and finally reached the Araku hills. As we reached the point where we had to take a diversion for Borra Caves we decided we would first check out Araku Valley and the tribal museum, and return here.
It was again a bad choice. No matter what the Tourism department tells you. These are places best avoided. The valley was terribly hot at mid afternoon when we reached there and the tribal museum is badly kept. You do not want to be driving thru a jungle plus 40 mins of wilderness just to see this museum. However the always positive me tried absorbing the culture there at the Araku Valley bus stand. This is a vibrant place. The tribals dressed in colorful clothes. They were distinctly different from Andhra people. They had influences of Orissa, as Andhra pradesh shares borders with Orissa. These people speak a dialect that is a mix of Oriya and Telugu.
Notice the saree is draped differently. The population is all dark but see how they take care to protect themselves from the sun.

This was the second disappointing time in this vacation. Don't go to places that claim untouched and beautiful. They lack basic amenities and there is not much to see. I am an explorer by nature and unfazed by wilderness most times. We reached this place around afternoon and not a single decent place for lunch in sight. So we snacked on some fruits we had got along, even my driver refused to eat anything in this place. We headed back to Araku hills, stopping at the highest point to take in the views of the red hills.
I was just crossing my fingers that Borra Caves should not let us down and boy I was so thrilled to keep it last on the day's itinerary.

We came back to the diversion, it mentioned 8kms into the forest from that point. As we drove there we found a APTDC restaurant which  had a hopeless fried rice available but since we were starved we ate it. The gravy they served with it made it palatable and washed it down with some sprite.

As we walked down the stone steps, stopped to read this board that put me at ease, preparing me for the spectacular nature's work I was going to witness in the Caves.
Click the image to read
I caught some lovely sights, of the stream laden with humic acid and limestone. This really got me all excited. The curiosity was being built up.
The Entrance
The decent into the womb of the hill and into the cave
I was completely awed by the entrance itself and I just relaxed and told Dad we would take time to go around the caves. We had bought a ticket for the driver too. He was dumbfounded at the sight because he had seen nothing like it and had not read or heard about it! even though he was from Andhra. At times my pre-planning comes in the way of enjoying such complete pure surprises is what I realized. 

I climbed up and down the caves and narrow steps and ladders built for the tourists. I climbed up the cat ladder that took us to the Shiva linga (actually Stalagmites that locals think is Shvayambhu linga). Many people dread climbing it as it is dark and eerie. The huge pillar like formations of Stalactites gave flights of imagination to the guides who told stories and the visitors got engrossed in it. Some found Mother Mary taking form in those shapes others found Ganapati. It's all in the mind you see.
Mesmerising, Indelible, Awesomeness

As we went deep inside there was a small gap in the rock through which we bent to go to the other side of the caves. It is a breathtaking site. The cave opens into a huge almost stadium sized hall deep in the earth a stone walled hall with natures artwork in progress. This was the innermost part of the cave and we had trekked 350 meters into the depth of the womb of the hill. You get to see the dripping water rich in humic acid and Stalactites being formed even today. This has been going on since hundreds of millions of years and will continue until eternity if man lets it be.

One last time before coming out from the cave I looked up at the huge hole in the hill which is also the ceiling of the cave. I was just so humbled, it was like a huge skylight above us. Both Dad and me exclaimed that it felt like we were experiencing the movie 127 hrs.

APTDC has kept this place clean and free from bats that normally inhabit such places. They have provided lighting that helps viewing of this wealth which would have otherwise been enveloped in darkness. This place is a wonderful experience equally for adults and children, my request is to take your child to such places early in life. They might just find their new passion there...


Kavs said...

hi! I dont know how i missed your travel blog and food blog - but i'm glad to ahve found it! :) I have visited several places you have blogged about so well - Hari Hareshwar and Dive Agar (we stayed at Dive Agar for a few nights on a family vacation), and Vizag are best! My in-laws lived in Vizag for a few years and we have lived in Hyd for a few years. So reading your posts was like going back in time and remembering all those memories. Your food blog is fantastic too - loved it!

Anjali said...

Hi Kavs welcome to my blogs. So happy to hear it gave you some happiness reading them. Thank you for your appreciation and keep visiting.