Today morning after breakfast we started for our Araku Valley tour from Jagdalpur by cab. Tomorrow we would cover major Araku tourist places. Jagdalpur to Araku is about 200 km and by car it would take around 4 hours because we would spend some time on the way. As we started ascending the Ghats, we felt the change in the landscape and the climate, it was dramatic. Suddenly there were no people to be seen around, and the road became slope and curvy, lined by tall trees and there was silence all around but chirping of crickets. Occasionally, one could spot a group of monkeys scuttling alongside. One could also spot terraced farms and coffee plants growing under the shade of mango and jack fruit trees. At several places, we stopped and enjoyed the stimulating climate and spectacular vistas.
Araku Valley, a hill station nestled around 200 Kms from Jagdalpur offers a great deal of mesmerizing views, spouting waterfalls, coffee plantations, and a sneak peek into the tribal culture. At around 2 pm, we reached Araku. We stayed there at APTDC haritha hill resort Mayuri for one night. I booked that hotel online through APTDC portal.
There were two resorts of APTDC in Araku – one was Haritha Valley Resort and another was APTDC haritha hill resort Mayuri. We stayed at APTDC haritha hill resort Mayuri. Undoubtedly that was the best place to stay at Araku valley. I booked 2 Non AC Double bedded rooms. Both the rooms were very big and a large private balcony was attached with every room from where we enjoyed the beauty of the valley. The scenery from the balcony was exceptional.
The train line passed just beside the property. Even from the room we enjoyed the beauty by looking through the glass window. There was a spacious attached bathroom with 24 hour running hot and cold water. But the hotel did not have any lift so we had to walk by stairs. But apart from that the resort was superb. Daily maintenance was also very good.
There was a restaurant at the ground floor which was also good. Two of the major attraction of Araku Valley e.g. Coffee Museum was just outside the gate of the Mayuri Resort and Tribal Museum is just 300 meter away which was also in the market area. Another attraction Padmapuram Botanical Garden was about a kilometer or two from here. All the staffs were very cooperative.
The folk dance was a special attraction of this resort. The bamboo chicken of this hotel was very enjoyable. You would get the mobile connectivity of BSNL, Jio and Airtel. I went up to boundary wall to see rail line very close. From there the entire valley was awesome. I remembered Telugu movie ‘Majnu’ which has been shot here. The film has been directed by Virinchi Verma and Gopi Sunder composed the music.
Next day after doing our complimentary breakfast we started our Araku Valley sightseeing tour. We went to Tribal Museum Araku first.
1.Tribal Museum Araku
The museum delivers a glimpse of tribal people. It shows about their living, occupation, art and culture through well-carved models. There is a hut which hosts several seeds. Live pottery can be experienced within the complex. Araku was home to as many as 19 tribes, such as the Valmikis, the Kondadora, the Nookadora, the Porja and the Jatapu.
Bamboo Chicken is a popular ethnic dish of the Araku tribals. Chicken marinated in spices is wrapped in leaf and stuffed inside the hollow of green bamboo trunks is cooked on a slow wood fire. It was really yummy. Next we visited Padmapuram Botanical Gardens.
Entry fee= Rs. 10(adult)
Opening time= 10 am to 6 pm.
2.Padmapuram Botanical Gardens
Padmapuram Botanical Gardens are a part of the Eastern Ghat and are situated in the Araku road. The garden was constructed during the time of the Second World War with the goal of growing vegetables for the soldiers who were fighting in the war. It was just called Botanical Garden back then. Padmapuram Botanical Gardens now comprise a horticultural nursery that includes exotic and rare species of flowers and trees.
Another significant feature of the Padmapuram Botanical Gardens is a toy train which can be relished by both kids and adults both. The toy train has been initiated in the Gardens, to give the tourists a tour of the entire area. The garden also has exciting features such as an exclusive rose garden as well as tree-top huts. These huts are obtainable for rent and have to be booked in advance.
The Padmapuram Botanical Gardens was a great place to relax in a green environment. It had lovely, landscaped gardens and beautiful statues of Gods, tribal and mermaids, even a couple of dinosaurs. After spending about half an hour we went to Araku Coffee Plantations.
Entry fee= Rs. 10
Opening time= 9 am to 6 pm.
Araku Coffee Plantations
Araku valley has a climate that is favorable for growing coffee and it accounts for 15 % of India’s coffee output. Belonging to the Arabica family of coffees, it is organically cultured by Tribals. Marketed as Araku Emerald coffee, its aroma and taste has won for it the Fine Cup award from the Coffee Board of India. Most of it is exported to the US and Europe.
Araku Coffee Plantations on Ananthagiri Hills are a must visit place in our Araku sightseeing tour. Miles and miles of coffee plantations await you in the hypnotic hills of Ananthagiri. The smell of coffee leaves rejuvenated our senses.
Coffee estates gave the tribes the chance to join mainstream population and earn a living for themselves and their families. We found a lot of tribal people working in the coffee plantations. Then we went to Borra Caves.
Borra caves are one of the largest caves in India. A cab journey from Hotel Mayuri of Araku valley and coffee plantations led me to Borra Caves. There were many bamboo products on sale on the way, bamboo mugs and jugs being the most interesting. We have tasted chicken kebab from local vendor also.
There were unpredictably enormous amount of tourists there. I walked towards the ticket counter adjacent the entrance gate. The scene outside the entrance gate was completely disappointing. The place has a serious need for proper management or online ticketing system. The ticket queue had about 40 to 50 people. To add more pain, the entry gate had even more people waiting to enter the caves.
Borra caves were discovered in 1807 by the British geologist, William King. Caves are about 330 metres in length and 80 metres deep. The entrance fee is Rs. 60 per head(adult), Rs.45 per head(child) and one has to pay an additional Rs.100 for using a camera(still or video). It is mandatory to hire a guide and his service charge is not included in the price of an entry ticket. The approach road is narrow and the parking space is highly inadequate. One has to park one’s car as far away as 500 meters. Caves open from 10 am to 5 pm
After a long fight of one hour, we were able to enter the caves. The Borra Caves which is known as Borra Guhalu in Telugu means Caves that has been bored into the ground. It was an unexpectedly spectacular view. After stepping inside it I witnessed magnificent panorama of stalagmite and stalactite formations of various shapes, sizes and colors.
Several colored lights have been set up which created a magical environment. One needs to crawl in some areas of the caves to reach ahead. The caves were crowded and noisy throughout. I tried to find a quiet corner to sit back and enjoy the strange formations inside but couldn’t find any.
A staircase was set up in the middle of the cave that reaches the extreme top and ends at the entrance of a small cave on the top. I was excited to explore the smaller caves up on the top. The final steps of the staircase were very steep and clumsy. I spent around half an hour on the staircase in the hopes of finding something unique on reaching the top. The cave on the top holds a shrine with formations that locals believe it was Lord Shiva.
It is the Humic acid which mixed in the water and reacted with the Calcium Carbonate present in the limestone and then dissolved the minerals that keep breaking the rock in a continuous flow.
Visitors probably had given different names to these different structures of stalagmite and stalactite formations like Human brain, Crocodile, Shiv Parvathi, Mother Child, rishi’s beard etc. There are even more astonishing structures inside the cave that look like mushroom formations, temple, church and whatever your imagination can match with. Because of the astounding formations found in the cave, it has become a very important place for Hindu Religion.
1.Carry sufficient cash for Araku sightseeing tour as it would be tough to find ATMs or places which accept cards.
2.Try to combine both rail and road routes as both the routes are scenic and exciting.
3.Try to taste the local bamboo chicken.
4.You can shop for tribal souvenirs from local roadside vendors.
5.Spend a night at Araku and experience Dhimsa dance performed by local tribes.
On the drive back to Vizag, we halted at several places to enjoy once again the amazing vistas of snow white clouds wandering idly over lush hillsides. Those pleasant memories come flooding into my mind as I recalled a Hindi song ‘Ye jameen gaa rahi hain’. We left Araku in the afternoon and still a good amount of distance was yet to be covered on that day. We reached Visakhapatnam at around 6:30 in the evening. Araku to Vizag distance is about 115 km and it took 4 hours in our case.