This travelogue was written by me sometime back immediately after the trip when I was in Hyderabad so it may sound like recent and also the names of towns and places may sound unfamiliar and I did not try to expound on them as at that time they were quite well-known among folks around me. The title is inspired from news that we keep on hearing about “Gas” find in Krishna-Godavari (“KG”) basin. Also there is mention of trains, railways etc. which is my interest.
A visit to Coastal Andhra was due for a long time and I was waiting for right time, weather and company. Last week (Dec 2006 end) went to Kosta which is the local name for coastal Andhra Pradesh region. It has a few smaller regions namely Konaseema (Godavari river delta), Diviseema (Krishna river delta), Circar (region from Vishakhatnam to Rajahmundry) etc. We (me along with four other friends) kept the itinerary flexible and kept revising the plans to maximize the opportunities. The plan was multi-purpose, to ride in a ferry over sacred Godavari river, travel on branch railway lines in the region, eat local cuisine and generally explore the area. We did not consult much on the internet because there is not much documented.
We chose to go to Rajahmundry via Bhadrachalam by ferry on river Godavari. Bhadrachalam is an important town on the banks of Godavari. There are ferries which run from places called Kunavaram and Sreeramgiri around 60+ km from Bhadrachalam due to lack of depth in the river here. They take arounfd 8 hours to cover the distance. We reached Bhadrachalam by overnight train from Hyderabad but we were quite late to catch the boat which compulsory leave at around 8 AM. So we decided to take a bus but this too was a disappointment. First the bus was a rickety, ordinary bus and did not take the route through “Agency forests” so a distance of 190 km took 6 hours to complete. “Agency forests” are basically tribal regions, have forest covers and no outsider could buy property in the region. This is the naxalite zone in AP. Anyways the journey took us through places which I otherwise would have never visited. Rajahmundry is again an important town in AP and lies on south-east corridor between Chennai and Kolkata. It is also famous for being constituency of late former PM of India, Narasimha Rao. At Rajahmundry we visited Pushkar “revu” which is close to legendary but now defunct “Havelock” railway bridge. “Revu” in telugu means bank of river or “ghat” in North India. We decided to take a boat across Godavari to Kovvur and catch our connecting train to Kakinada from there. To our utter disbelief entire boat which could seat around 50 people was ready to take us across for INR 300 only. The Godavari river is quite wide at Rajahmundry which can be gauged by considering that bridges are around 3 km over the river. During monsoon, the river swells like anything and almost looks like sea. It was an enjoyable ride with cool breeze on the roof of the boat with no other passengers, watching sunset and trains passing over the new Godavari Bridge. From Kovvur we caught our train to Kakinada. Kakinada is an important town in Andhra but hardly anybody would know about it outside. It is a port town and trading center. Our intention of coming to Kakinada was to cover Kakinada – Kotipalle branch line. But to our disappointment the train did not run on time (or did not run at all) and officials at the station had no clue!! Instead we caught a bus to Kotipalle which is on the banks of one arm of Godavari. Godavari splits into three branches after Rajahmundry namely Gautami, Vashisti and one more. From Kotipalle we decided to cross the river by boat and have a holy dip in Godavari as well. Ahhh, it was really amazing dip with water just about chilly with slight wind in the air. Actually we had to take two boats as the river is so wide that there is an island in between where we bathed. First boat we hired exclusively for us. The boatman played lifeguard to us while we bathed in the river. During second river crossing we had to share the precious space with villagers carrying grass, goat and what not, a la “Swades” movie sorts. Once we crossed the second leg, caught an auto to Amalapuram which was around 15km. Amalapuram is a town made famous by popular telugu song Aa ante amalapuram… Though the town did not have anything to write about except that there were lot of STD booths which we could not figure out the reason for. After having a meal of local variety of fish at a local restaurant we caught a bus to Pallakolu. From there we caught a passeneger train to Narsapur. Narsapur is again on the banks of the Godavari which is the main arm (probably Vashisti) after its trifurcation. Morning we decided to visit Antarvedi where main portion of Godavari meets the sea. Apart from that Antarvedi hosts a lighthouse and a temple dedicated to river Godavari. We had other option to visit Kolleru lake which is spread out in a large area and plays host to migratory birds including Siberian crane. To reach Antarvedi we had to again cross Godavari from Narsapur side to reach Sakenathpalli and catch an auto from there. Antarvedi is around 15 kms from there. Since we headed early, the whole atmosphere was very nice. It being morning so slight chill in the air with warmth of mild sun peeking through palm leaves, riding along road flanked by palm trees and paddy fields made the entire ride highly enjoyable. Once we reached Antarvedi, headed straight to the lighthouse. We managed to climb it by charming one of the staff members with a fee of Rs 5 per head for entrance. The view from lighthouse is out of the world alas it would have been gorgeous had there been no haze. We could clearly see Godavari meeting the Bay of Bengal, small villages, banana plantations, small ferries in the sea and further away a glimpse of some oil/gas well structure. I managed a feat of sort visiting both the origin and end of river Godavari. I had been to origin, Triambakeshwar near Nasik some 10 years back. After visiting the temple and a breakfast of Ulattoo which is like Dosa/Uttapam but not exactly, we headed back to Narsapur. We decided to go to Vijayawada instead of Machilipatnam directly so that we have better options to stay and catch some train action at the station. We stayed at AC dormitory at the station which was decent for the asking price. Next day we caught a bus to Machilipatnam. It is 70 km from Vijayawada. I expected it to be a tourist town unlike the places we visited till now but it wasn’t. I could not spot any “touristy” stuff there. This town had lot of importance at the time of British and it was headquarter of Guntur but slowly it lost its importance. It is famous for “Kalamkari” art form and “Bandar Ladoo” which is nothing but “Besan ka Ladoo” of north India. We went to Manginapudi beach about which I had heard a lot. It is around 12 km from the town through scenic road but beach was all empty. Actually the timing was wrong, 10 AM on a working day, what could you expect. We came back immediately and caught a bus to Avanigadda enroute Repalle. This was Diviseema region now, Krishna delta. There is a road bridge over Krishna just before Avanigadda which is 3 km long. From there we caught an auto to reach Repalle. The intention of coming to Repalle was to travel on Repalle – Tenali branch line. Repalle too was a chaotic and non-descript like any other town we visited till now. We came to Tenali by passenger train and immediately caught another one to Vijayawada. This was my second visit to Vijayawada but I had not visited anything except station and bus-stand so decided to do some sight-seeing. I along with one more companion Tejender who became my guide and had lived in the city, decided to venture out. We straight caught a bus to Kanaka Durga temple which thankfully had very less rush. Then we came to Prakasam barrage built over river Krishna and from here two canals originate to irrigate regions nearby. Then we caught a bus to travel on Bandar road which is one of the two arterial roads in Vijayawada, other being Eluru road. We also visited Ilapuram and Modern Café hotels there which are the good places to have food in Vijayawada. In the night we caught Narsapur express to come back to Hyderabad.
Overall it was a nice and hectic trip which I could have never performed the way we did, hopping from one place to another, visiting ordinary towns through rice-bowl of Andhra with miles and miles of fields, water bodies and palm trees. The trip could have not been possible without my four friends all of whom belonging to Andhra. The coastal region of Andhra in my opinion is quite beautiful and is similar to Kerala to some extent but with almost nil tourist infrastructures. There are no good hotels or restaurants, information is very little and hard to come by and some good spots are not well-developed and language being a problem. But the advantage is that region is not spoilt and if you are a purist, then you could enjoy things as they are. The cuisine is nothing much to talk about. There are no good eateries in any of the towns which are either advertised or cater to the tastes of urban tourists. It is mostly “river-food” as against “sea-food” that is available because fishing and sericulture is done in rivers or fresh water respectively. The entire economy of this region is due to these twin rivers. They provide irrigation to rice-fields which are ubiquitous. Farmers here produce three crops per year and in prosperity they are comparable to farmers in Punjab; you could spot a skoda or mercedes zooming in dusty roads here. In this trip, we crossed the river Godavari about ten times and Krishna about five times by boat, bus and train.