Araku Valley - A day in the lap of the Ananthagiris #notinnorth

Tripoto
17th Jul 2018
Photo of Araku Valley - A day in the lap of the Ananthagiris #notinnorth by Garima Behal
Photo of Araku Valley - A day in the lap of the Ananthagiris #notinnorth 1/1 by Garima Behal

Our (I was on a family trip with my parents) journey to Araku Valley began at 06:50 am on the 17th of July, 2018 at Visakhapatnam Railway Station via passenger train 58501, a seat on which cost a mere INR 135 at the time. We had landed in Visakhapatnam (Vizag) the day before and had spent the day chasing waves and getting sun soaked at the RK Beach and were looking forward to a cool respite at the #notinnorth lesser known hill station of Araku, a tribal valley about 120 km from Vizag.

We had already hired a cab, to pick us up at Araku Railway Station and show us around in the valley. The only reason for choosing to make the onward trip via train was the promise of beautiful sights and the thrill of passing through more than 50 tunnels on the way. By the end of the trip, we were in awe of the engineering marvel that allowed us to cut through towering mountains, to reach our destination.

Day 1
Photo of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India by Garima Behal

Soon as we left the hustle and bustle of one of the cleanest and most pristine coastal towns of India, we were greeted with views of expansive green fields, lined with rows upon unending rows of tall coconut trees, laden with ripe, juicy coconuts. The day was cloudy, with the sun peeking in at irregular intervals to shed some light on the already scenic view.

Photo of Araku Valley - A day in the lap of the Ananthagiris #notinnorth by Garima Behal

As the morning progressed, so did our hunger. We were saved, thanks to these wonderful, unbelievably sweet semi - wild bananas, which tribal women from in and around Araku typically sell for peanuts on trains and at intermediate stations. Mark my words when I say that I have never tasted richer, sweeter bananas in my life. I still crave them sometimes at my home in Delhi.

Photo of Araku Valley - A day in the lap of the Ananthagiris #notinnorth by Garima Behal

The train sped on, tunnel after tunnel, till we approached Araku. Terrace farming, a common sight in hilly regions, greeted us here as well, with farmers and their families toiling away in the fields, even as a light drizzle and a cool breeze signalled a marked shift in the weather. The off and on drizzle accompanied us on our tour of Araku, through the day as we checked off places on our sightseeing list.

Photo of Araku, Andhra Pradesh, India by Garima Behal

How could I not announce on my Instagram stories, the moment of our arrival in Araku? I stood in the doorway and clicked an insta - worthy image of the train tracks against the mountainous backdrop and thought to myself, "Now we are good to go!"

At the railway station, we were picked up by our hired cab and driven to the first stop, the Padmapuram Botanical Gardens. I did not care much for the gardens, but once inside, was presented with colourful, vibrant sights which even the now intensifying rain could not mar. Here are some glimpses from the place!

Photo of Padmapuram Garden, Araku, Andhra Pradesh, India by Garima Behal
Photo of Padmapuram Garden, Araku, Andhra Pradesh, India by Garima Behal
Photo of Padmapuram Garden, Araku, Andhra Pradesh, India by Garima Behal

The gardens offer a toy - train as a means of exploration, but we preferred walking around, so as to be on our own time. That did not stop from me climbing into one of the coaches and getting clicked, though!

Photo of Araku Valley - A day in the lap of the Ananthagiris #notinnorth by Garima Behal

After spending about 45 minutes in the midst of nature, we headed out to the next stops, namely the Coffee Museum and the Tribal Museum, both of which are located in close proximity of each other.

Photo of Coffee Museum, Araku - Visakhapatnam Road, Araku, Andhra Pradesh, India by Garima Behal
Photo of Coffee Museum, Araku - Visakhapatnam Road, Araku, Andhra Pradesh, India by Garima Behal

Here, we got insights into the history of coffee as a beverage and the process of making coffee, right from the extraction of ripe coffee beans to their final grinding into the world's most favourite drink. The most interesting thing to see were the small coffee plantations right in the museum premises, with raw, green coffee beans (they turn red when ripe).

The museum gift shop also offers coffee and chocolate products to take back home. I had a lush tiny banana draped in chocolate, from the shop but could enjoy only half of it, having spilled the other half onto the ground accidentally.

The Tribal Museum is another good spot, if you wish to learn of the local history and about the many indigenous tribes inhabiting this part of the Eastern Ghats. Due to limited time, we decided to skip this museum, which appears like this, from the outside:

Photo of Tribal Museum, Araku, Andhra Pradesh, India by Garima Behal

After a lunch of masala dosa and Andhra Thali (spicy, but worth a try) at a nearby restaurant (you will find many in the vicinity of these two museums), we made our way to the Chaparai waterfalls, a popular tourist site, a little more uphill. Here, I was content to just bathe my feet in the muddy brown water cascading down the multiple rocks and cliffs, since the rain, having stopped only a while ago, had again picked up. We stayed here for 20 odd minutes, listening to the water crashing against the rocks and left with calm smiles on our faces.

Photo of Chaparai Water Cascade, Araku, Andhra Pradesh, India by Garima Behal

Our last stop in the Ananthagiris was the Galikonda Viewpoint, the highest point in the whole of Visakhapatnam District, at an altitude of 4320 ft above sea level. This was also, without doubt, my most favourite stop of the entire trip, and you can guess why:

Photo of Galikonda View Point, Araku - Visakhapatnam Road, Andhra Pradesh, India by Garima Behal

I could stand there all day, gazing into the distance, admiring the mighty mountains, but we had to rush. We still had a last stop on our itinerary- Borra Caves also called the Borra Guhalu, considered to be the deepest caves in India, situated about 40 km away from Araku.

Photo of Borra Caves, Andhra Pradesh, India by Garima Behal

Unfortunately, I couldn't get a lot of high quality images on my phone due to dim, irregular lighting inside the caves, but I hope you can make out the interesting features, the stalactites and the stalagmites which these caves are well known for. We spent about an hour here, climbing the numerous stairs, right into what seemed to be the centre of the earth. You could also hire a guide, if you wish to learn more about the geological formations inside the caves. There happens to be a shivling at the top, where a priest would bless you. But, a word of caution, water drips in from the many crevices and nooks inside the caves, so be careful while moving around. Carrying a torch/ phone with torch is a good idea. And beware of the many bats that sometimes fly too low for good!

The river Gosthani flows directly through the valley visible once you climb atop the stairs, outside the cave. Tribal stalls offer hand made jewellery, cooked bamboo chicken ( a typical specialty), rice, spices and coffee to take back home from the valley.

The journey back home by cab took about 3 hours, at the end of which I could only look back and sigh with happiness! The Ananthagiris were off my bucket list!!! :)

Be the first one to comment