Araku valley

23rd - 25th December 2012

Araku valley is a hill station in Andhra Pradesh located about 120 km from Vishakhapatnam.  Situated in Eastern ghats bordering Orissa, it attracts many people from Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.

Araku valley is connected by rail from Vishakhapatnam. The route from Vishakhapatnam goes via Araku valley reaching the maximum height at Similiguda station and continues further into Orissa finally ending at Kirandul in Chattisgarh. The total distance of this line is 472 km which is completely electrified. One might wonder why railways would have constructed this line in such remote area. The intension of this line was to enable transportation of ores from the mining fields of Kirandul to Vishakhapatnam port!! And for general public, they have granted one passenger train running daily.

The best mode of transport to reach Araku is undoubtedly train as the route passes though series of tunnels and bridges. But unfortunately we could not take train as railways did not put additional bogies nor enabled “tatkal” tickets for this train. Mistake from my side was assuming that booking starts 90 days before journey whereas it was 120 days. A three digit waiting list number was of no value!! We had no option but to take the taxi to reach Araku.

Borra caves
We started from Vizag after breakfast. The first place we visited was Borra caves. It comes 35 km before Araku. We were there on a Sunday of Christmas weekend and hence it was very crowded. But the cave itself was so huge that it could house 1000 people!! The entrance of the cave was very big with 100 meter width and about 75 meter in height.

While I and my wife liked the place our daughter hated it immediately. It was dark and also the crowds irritated her. But she had no choice than to follow us!!  

The total length of the cave is 200 meters where we need to walk for about 350 meters to reach the dead end of the cave. Steps are constructed and lighting arrangements helps people to see interior of the cave better.  It was an amazing experience for us to see such a huge cave. The cave is the best place in Araku.

Near to Borra caves was Katiki waterfalls. The journey to the falls involved some amount of travel on Jeep and walk. It was already 2PM and we were extremely hungry. Since we did not find any good restaurants near Borra caves, the plan was to reach Araku and have Lunch. We skipped the falls for next day.

Galikonda view point
The view point is next to the main road before Araku. Beautiful views of hills and the valleys can be seen here.

Tribal museum
A museum that contains many collections of the tribals leaving in Araku and nearby areas. In front of the museum is a Coffee house which is a nice place to have drinks and snacks.

Padmapuram gardens
Nothing great and only kids can enjoy this place.

Katika waterfalls
This place is near to Borra caves. We had to travel by Jeep for 7km and then walk for about 1km to reach the waterfalls. The walk was not difficult as my daughter easily managed it without much assistance from us.

We had to cross railway line during our trek.

It is two stage falls. The height of the falls may be about 100 feet. A nice place to enjoy.

Trip to the waterfalls would have been uneventful but for an altercation that broke out. Since the Jeep people were charging a lot for the trip, we decided share with another family. They were 6 of them including 2 kids. We were given an hour to spend in the falls which I feel was fair amount of time. We came back exactly after one hour but there was no sign of the other group. The driver waited for sometime then he lost patience and went out in search of them.

Having been prompt on time, it was frustrating to wait in that heat and dust. We were also very hungry. After 2 hours, the other group comes in. I was angry but a simply sorry from them would have cooled me. But typical to a breed of gene, they were arrogant. He started asking why the driver was no seen and such questions.

I had lost my cool by then and started blasting them.
Me: “Driver has gone searching for you. Why you people are so slow? Even old people are faster than you!! Don’t you understand that you are late by an hour and causing hardship to others?”
He: (Clearly insulted on me comparing with old people) “Look at us. We have kids. It will take time”.
Me: (I showed my daughter) “We have even younger one. But we were on time and also spent a good time in water”.
He: (Now giving the actual reason) “It never came to our mind that there was another group waiting for us. Only after seeing you we realized”.
Me: (This made me even angrier!! Here is a breed of gene that only outside their self) “Only people without common sense can have such thinking” (and did some animation).

I must say that my words were not gentle and was hurting their ego a lot but I had an upper hand as the mistake was on their side. I also knew I cannot go too far as they were localities. It was good that we did not have common mother tongue!! Such words would have caused a physical fight but when you speak in other language, it generally comes out milder.

Our war of words was broken when driver appeared on the scene.  A delay for him costs money and so he started arguing with them. But he was silenced by huge onslaught of bad words by the other group. Driver was milder and could not continue the argument further.

Dumriguda Chaparai
This is another waterfall 15km from Araku. Not strictly a waterfall but water cascades down a huge rock. One can slide down the rock and enjoy the water.

Hotels and food:
·         APTDC has hotels at Tyda, Ananthagiri and Arakku. Since I did not stay, I cannot comment on the hotel but we had lunch at Ananthagiri which was bad.
·         Vihar holiday Inn: This was the hotel we stayed. It was decent and clean. The food was OK.
·         Horticulture department cottages: Cheapest one but I think they have a complex procedure for booking.

Other than the restaurants attached to the hotels mentioned above, there are hardly any good eateries. Most of them are road side Dhabas serving oily food. Coffee house is a nice place to have drinks and snacks.

Alternate means of transport:
APTDC conducts one day/ two day trips from Visakhapatnam. Onward journey is by train (They have 3 compartments reserved for them) and return by bus. 

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