This is my first guest post here on The Traveling Space Opera. Somnath Verma is a young Indian traveler, blogger, student, and lover of life. His blog, The Traveloholic (https://thetraveloholic.wordpress.com), takes the reader on a journey through India, a vast and varied expanse that many have only dreamed of visiting (high up on my list, indeed!). His dream is to eventually break out beyond the borders of his homeland and explore the world in its magnificent entirety; certainly a bold and exciting endeavour. Today’s article delves into his journey through Araku Valley, a Hill station in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. Make sure to check out his blog, comment below, and throw him some love! Enjoy everyone!
Araka Valley, India
by Somnath Verma, The Traveloholic
Vishakhapatnam is a great city sprawling with life and culture. This extended weekend, my friends and I planned a trip to Vishakhapatnam (Vizag) and we had a great time. After exploring the city we decided to head to Araku Valley.
The famous Dolphin’s Nose of Vizag, as seen from RK Beach
Araku Valley is world famous for the coffee it produces and its beautiful valleys
Araku is nearly 120 kilometres from Vishakhapatnam (which we didn’t know at the time, by the way). It can be reached by both road and rail.
As it was a sudden plan we decided to take the evening bus to Araku because trains were not available when we left. A friend of ours told us that it’ll most likely take only 1.5 hours to reach Araku by bus.
We reached the bus stand at 5:56 pm and started running frantically to find the bus for Araku which was supposed to leave at 6:00 pm. None of us knew a single word of Telgu and were just asking “Araku? Araku? Araku?” to everyone we saw. I am a big fan of Telgu movies but there are subtitles to help me. I hardly knew a word of it. Finally, a fine gentleman pointed us to a bus which had already started gaining pace. In that moment we would have even given tough competition to Milkha Singh. Running with full speed, prancing over stuff, dashing against people while clinging tightly to our bags, we managed to board the bus.
As always, I took the window seat and the conductor gave us our tickets for a fee of Rs. 73. As soon as the APSRTC bus left the interior of Vizag City, there were no mobile networks available. At 7:30 pm there was still no sign of having reached Araku. We asked the conductor how long it was gonna take and he told us that it will take at least 4 hours. We all gave a glaring look to our friend who was pretty sure that we would arrive in only 1.5 hours. My friends were already tired and hungry from the bus journey and were really frustrated with his miscalculation.
I, on the other hand, was quite comfortable as I like journeying by bus. Whenever I travel I always wish for the journey to never end. But seeing the pathetic condition of my friends made me smile, though I was disappointed that I couldn’t see the view outside in the dark.
At 10 pm we made it to Araku. We hired an auto to help search for a hotel. The driver knew some Hindi and he went out of his way to help us find a decent hotel. He even gave us his Airtel sim to use as only networks of Airtel and BSNL were strong here. We decided to hire him the next day for our sight-seeing.
At 11 pm we went to a nearby hotel which had a good restaurant in it and had dinner. After dinner everyone went to sleep.
Next morning, we checked out at 8 am and called the auto driver. He was there in 20 minutes and we all left to go sight-seeing. The weather outside was marvellous. It was sunny with clear skies and cool breeze was blowing. The beauty of Araku was something which we hadn’t anticipated the previous night. We agreed to pay Rs. 900 for the entire day’s trip, a fair deal.
We are in Araku!!
First we went to Padmapuram Botanical Gardens. It was a big garden with variety of flowers and trees. It was well maintained and a treat to the eyes.
The Padmapuram Botanical Gardens
My friends posing for a click
Variety of trees in the Garden
Then we went to see a filming spot where Telgu movie songs are shot. It was a large hilly area and I didn’t find anything special about it. But our driver told us that during November and December the whole place gets carpeted with yellow flowers and looks stunning. I tried to imagine it and thought that it would be truly mesmerizing.
The filming spot of various Telgu movies like “Happy Days”…the Bollywood movie “Darling” was also shot in Araku
Imagine this place covered in yellow flowers
Our driver was a pleasant guy and everyone seemed to know him. He must have been two to three years elder to us and was full of chivalry. We interacted a lot with him and within no time we became friends. He stopped at various locations on the road so that we could take nice pictures without us even asking him to stop. The scenic beauty of Araku Valley combined with his vitality and good nature made our trip a truly memorable one.
The Eastern Ghats
Can you spot the coffee beans left to dry on the roof?
Then he took us to see coffee plantations and we also bought both fresh and powdered coffee beans.
Our last destination was Borra Caves which was nearly 45 km from Araku. It was also the last leg of our trip. It took us 45 minutes to reach there and we bid goodbye to our great host and friend. The entrance was closed for lunch break. So we decided to eat first. After eating we kept our bags in the cloak room as bags are not allowed inside.
At 2 pm the entrance opened and we booked tickets for a fee of Rs. 60 per head and Rs. 25 extra to carry our phones.
A flight of stairs led us down to the caves. It was vast and cold and truly mesmerising. It was well-lit. Not too much light to ruin the ambience of the place. The insides were easily accessible due to the presence of stairs. It was neat and clean and well maintained. I wondered in awe as to how many years it would have taken to form. Maybe hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe more…
A small stream flowing alongside the caves
A place of worship
The beauty and grandeur of these caves cannot be captured in photos
I can’t describe the beauty of the caves in words. You have to visit them to experience it.
After 1.5 hours we came out feeling relaxed. It was a therapeutic and healing experience.
The auto driver had told us that there was a railway station nearby called “Borra Guhalu” where we would get a train to Vizag at 4 pm. We walked there and waited but there was no sign of any train. After enquiring with the station master we came to know that the train was late and will arrive at 7 pm. We were really angry and frustrated and started looking for other options. Outside the station there were cars for hire and they quoted Rs. 1500 for Araku and Rs. 3000 for Vizag.
After bargaining for half an hour we managed to bring a guy down to Rs. 1600 for Vizag. It was a feat in itself despite not knowing any Telgu.
So guys, it should always be kept in mind that if you need to hire a vehicle for return, do so before you go to Borra Caves. Otherwise, it will be a great hassle arranging one if you do it last minute.
Bidding adieu to The Queen
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