Araku Valley, located in the Eastern Ghats with two reserve forest of Annantagiri and Sunkarimetta, and the undulating kaleidoscopic cultivated lands drained by the Gosthani River is often referred to as Ooty of Andhra. The greenery and the breathtaking landscape is a treat to the eyes and a lullaby to the soul. A large number of visitors come here all season to experience this charming valley of Araku.
Bounded by the Galikonda, Raktakonda, Chitamogondi and other many other mountains, Araku is the hilly counterpart of its seaside twin called Visakhapatnam. Visitors travelling to Visakhapatnam do make it a point to go to Araku Valley, so did we.
Much famed for the Borra caves, Araku Valley does have other attraction for the tourists apart from the natural beauty. (Read my previous post on Borra Caves). We visited Araku valley from Vizag which is situated at a distance of some 110-120 km. There are two ways to reach here from Vizag, one by train and the other by road.
Many suggested us to take the train to reach Araku valley. The train leaves Vizag at 6-7 in the morning which arrives at the destination at 11-12 noon. The best part of travelling by train is the scenic beauty accompanied by numerous tunnels and waterfalls (mainly during and after the monsoon). But we choose to travel by road as we wanted to cover the Borra Caves en route.
I did not repent on my decision as the road trip was equally pleasant. I must not compare it with the train journey as I have not been on the train to Araku Valley, I can definitely say that the road trip is no less thrilling than the train trip. I am more of a road trip person than a train trip so it was a natural inclination that took me towards the road. Whichever may be the best route to the Araku Valley, the journey will always be beautiful.
Winding through the serpentine roads, sometimes covered under green shade and sometimes exposed to the scorching sun we reached our first destination, the Borra Caves. Now, I have already dedicated a separate post on the Borra Caves. (Read my previous post on Borra Caves.) So this post will be on the Arraku Valley without the Borra Caves.
When you are on the hills do you look for specific tourist attractions? The charm and natural beauty is everywhere and seems to satisfy the eager eyes and there is no need for any particular attractions. The same theory applies to Araku Valley too, but there are a few popular attractions here. The Katiki Waterfalls, the Tribal Museum, Chaparai Cascade Waterfalls, Coffee Museum, Galikonda View Point and the Botanical Garden are among them.
Vast stretches of paddy, mustard, sunflower and other spice fields colour the topography in varied shades of green and yellow. The landscape resembles a scene from any vibrant wallpaper. This beautiful surrounding of Araku Valley is inhabited by the beautiful tribal people. Different tribal groups here tend to follow some of their primitive lifestyles till date, like fishing, hunting and gathering food.
The tribal museum that was established by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation is an initiative to highlight and showcase the tribal lifestyle, their culture and the tool used by them for their day to day life. The famous Bamboo Chicken is one such tribal culinary that is quite popular among the non-vegetarian visitors here. Beside every tourist spot, you find a few shacks selling Bamboo Chicken to the enthusiastic tourists.
The chicken pieces are marinated in some traditional spices, coriander and lemon and wrapped in ‘Sal’ leaves and then stuffed in Bamboo stems and slow cooked over the wood fire for a long time. They generally take the order while you enter a tourist spot and have it ready once you are back.
We came across many tribal ladies in their traditional attire working in the fields and farms. The vast area of the tribal museum with different chambers provided better insight on the geography of Arraku Valley and the distribution of the tribal communities and their lives. The beautiful models here depict their daily life and different rituals performed by them. The museum has also provided employment to many local tribals.
While walking from one part of the museum to the other I came across a little tribal boy who extended his hands on either side to stop us entering the room with some displays. It was a funny encounter and as I tried to focus my camera on his adorable act he ran to the safety of his mom sitting at the other side of the entrance. The camera seemed to be intimidating to him so he ran to the safest place on earth.
We along with his mom laughed out loud on his act. I requested his mother to ask him to pose for me in the same way as obstructing our path. But the shy boy was reluctant. After a lot of coercing he finally agreed to pose but differently. Although not a candid shot, it was adorable enough. What do you say about these picture of his?
The large coffee plantations are the other source of employment for the locals. The Araku Coffee has won global recognition and the gold medal for the best Coffee pod in the Prix Epicures or 2018 Award in Paris, France. Thus, Araku Coffee is the first Indian coffee in the global market to have this recognition.
The small, not so popular Botanical Garden mostly caters to the local visitors and the picnic parties. With not much floral collection and unkept lawns and grass field, this place lagged behind in the run for tourists who crowd all other places in Araku Valley. Although this provided us with an opportunity for a peaceful walk all by ourselves within the walking tracks of the Botanical Garden. Some beautiful spiders centred within their huge nets kept me engaged for a long time. Even if it was not a must-see tourist place I liked to be there and the best part of the garden was the entrance gate which was in the form of a bearded man.
With such scenic, flavourful and tasty memories of Araku we were on our way back to Visakhapatnam. Apart from the much famed Borra Caves, Araku in itself is a travellers delight. The vast expanse of the picturesque landscape weaves a dream whenever I close my eye and I feel to be in Araku again.