Saturday, December 20, 2008

Papikondalu Trip - 26th Nov 2008

A long time wish was about to come true. I was about to visit a place which for a long time was in my TO SEE list but I never did serious attempts to visit the place due to several reasons but this time when a fellow biker tempted me to ride to the place rather than take the normal human way to reach(trains) I gave in. The place is PAPIKONDALU(saying goes that the place was earlier called PAPIDIKONDALU, and meant the divide in the human hair and river Godavari, one of the oldest rivers in India cuts through many mountains in a similar fashion). We had 5 riders including me who were ready for trip and one of riders uncle was to join us midway and guide us for the entire trip as he had been to these places quite a number of times. With the preparation all done for the ride(I borrowed a leather jacket from a friend to give the ride and me more rugged look) I was all set to embark on a adventure of a life time and a feeling within seemed to say something was sure coming my way!!!Day 1: After coming back from work previous day I had hard time trying to catch some sleep and had hardly slept for 4 hours that my alarm which was set for 3:30AM set off. Got off the bed and after a strong coffee prepared by granny got ready to go to “Paradise CafĂ©” the meeting point for our club for every ride. One of the riders though was catching with us few kms away a place which was nearer to his home. There were 4 riders who started off from the meeting point and on a chilled winter morning the leather jacket and thick hand gloves were sure doing a great job in saving me from the cold weather. Some time later the 5th rider joined us and we were cruising along well on the highway where the traffic was very minimal.We had now ridden for some time now and I was riding at the 3rd position with PV (one of the new rider) and Pramod (a seasoned rider and close friend) in front of me. Phani and Manoj (the two other riders) were right behind me. I guess we were doing almost 100kmph continuously and had covered lot of distance. Right ahead of me I saw a huge signboard stating the road ahead was accident zone and cautioning the riders to drive slowly. I am sure many of us who see such signs hardly or never follow it. And we were no different and didn’t slow down. Then came a big curve on the road and all of the sudden I saw a huge cloud of dust in front of me. One of the riders had a fall and had skidded off the road. I was shocked (this happened to be the first major accident for the club in the 2 years of riding). I quickly stopped by bike and rushed to the spot to see who was involved in the fall and to help him out. It was PV and his inexperience at handling the bike seemed to have caused the accident. Luckily he was not hurt except few bruises, but his bike did suffer some damage. The side mirror was broken and his handle had slight bend. Phani tested the bike to see if it was in a ride able condition and the idea was to catch hold of some mechanic in the next big town and get this thing repaired. We had a quick 10 min halt near a small town and had some tea and gave PV enough time to relax and get out of the shock of the accident. He sure seemed a tough rider and wanted to continue even after the accident.We reached Warangal soon after and went to a bike mechanic who said he could repair the bike but would need 3-4 hours to do so. Time was precious to us and PV decided he was comfortable enough to continue with the ride and slight bent in his handle. So we decided to carry on with the ride and looked ahead for a good place to catch up on some breakfast as all the early morning exciting sure made was feel hungry. After few kms we found a good place to eat and while were finishing the same came another of the shocks wherein on the riders started feeling sick and wanted to return back. He had caught cold and was having slight fever. We discussed and then asked him to return back to base (his home) so that the fever doesn’t increase much and he can take some medication. We were now 4 riders and took off after breakfast more energized. Pramod’s uncle (who was to guide us through the entire tour) was to join us a village near Warangal (a town around 150kms) from Hyderabad. We actually missed the place and later realized that we had gone further ahead. Pramod and Phani decided to go back and pick him up. PV and I decided to stay and catch up on some photography meanwhile. While we clicked to glory Phani called me and asked PV and me to rush to the place where Pramod and he were headed out. I could make out from his voice the place where they were sure a hot spot of else Phani wouldn’t sound so excited. We went through a real torturous road and for a moment I was sure spellbound. The sight ahead of me was something which I saw in SFO and is called the golden gate and here in front of me lay a replica though on a much smaller scale of the golden gate bridge(this place is called Lakkavaram). Once again all the cameras were out and we went on filling up more spaces in the memory of the cameras. Done with the sightseeing we headed out and after driving long hours and minimal breaks (smoke and water) we reached Bhadrachalam. The place is one the highest regarded Hindu God Rama temple town and witnesses lot of pilgrims’ frequenting the town. After a sumptuous lunch we headed out to another places called Seluru where we were to halt for the night. The ride was around 100kms and for the first 70kms we did feel pity for the bike which was braving heavy vehicles on the road and loads and loads of potholes. It was hardly 5 in the evening and we were driving through dense forest and noticed that light did fade out fast in places like this. Soon it was pitch dark and we were all in the hurt to reach the guest house where our accommodation was arranged for the night.After checking in the guest house we freshened up and took a walk across the place. This place was called seleru and has a hydel power generation unit of APGENCO. A quick dinner and all of us were back to the room for a night cap. We had cards with us and PV taught us a new game called 28 and after several rounds we decided to call it a day as next morning we had big plans.Day 2: We woke up around 5 in the morning and by the time all of us were ready the time was around 7:30AM. The view around the guest house the morning was awesome. All around there was huge hills and greenery which I had seldom seen. The clouds were passing through the top of the high hills and it was a fantastic view. We started our ride to reach a small village called Munduru where a mechanized boat was come and pick us up and take us to a 3 hours ride on river Godavari and halt at a place right on the river bed. The travel to the place was 130kms from where we were now and almost 70kms of this was Ghats road (roads passing through high altitude, generally hills and mountains with lots of steep curves). While riding every thing that come in sight looked so beautiful. I have been to US a couple of times and had once this chance to visit the Yosemite national parks. Until this day I always felt that was the best park I had seen and the greenery too. But this place could give Yosemite a run for the money. Every inch of this place was so beautiful that I kept wondering if this place existed in real or was I still sleeping and dreaming of such a place. We had reached this place in the night so didn’t notice all this beauty around. Also the roads though narrow, were well maintained for this part and had passed through the thick woods and it felt great ripping the bike on these roads. After few halts at some scenic places for photo sessions we were all set to tackle the Ghat roads. Though I have driven on such kind of roads number of times and am accustomed to these driving conditions this one definitely proved a challenge. The distance and the steep curves not only take a toll on one but also on the poor machine with extreme usage of breaks and constant shifts of gear. We took a halt at a waterfall and trekked almost 500 meters to reach to the same. The trek was dangerous and steep and I was foolish enough to do this on my riding boots. I decided to always carry 2 sets of shoes to be on the safer side and not risk getting caught in such a situation again. After some lovely photo sessions we moved on to yet another spot close by where we discovered a camping site. The place was well maintained and was operated by Govt. Of Andhra Pradesh and it gave wonderful employment opportunities for the poor tribal’s in the area. The camp could easily accommodate 20 people at one time and was right next to the little stream offering a very beautiful setting. After admiring the same for some time we headed out again and took our lunch break at a place called Marridipili. We had the best lunch out here (the trek sure did sap out all the energy and we ride through the ghats seemed to make us more hungry). We located a group of school girls playing in a park nearby and we did some candid shots of them. We were getting late as the ferry was suppose to pick us up from the village at about 3PM and we had quite some distance to cover and didn’t have much time. We were now driving faster than the usual speed and the roads for some extent did help us in doing that. At some places the forest cover was so dense that it blocked the sunlight completely and we had to switch on our bike headlights. An amazing drive through the forest I must say. After picking up couple of beers for the night and few smoke breaks we reached a place called Devipatnam and the village around 4 in the evening where we needed to be was around 9kms from here. The road from this point almost made me feel as if I was dirt biking and not driving a cruiser. After finishing off with the bumpy road we reached our destination and parked our bikes in the good care of one of the villager whom we requested for the same.With all the enthu we went near the river bed expecting the ferry to come and pick us up and take us on a wonderful tour on the river. Came another shock and few fishermen who were idling around told us that we were late and the ferry it seems had come and left. So we had missed it!!!The few fishermen present over there commented that they had a mechanized fishing boat at their docs and they could take us to the spot we wanted to go and bring us back too. Realizing that we could not contact the boatmen whom we had spoken to earlier we decided to go ahead and engage the fishing boat instead. The boat was not available and would be coming after a short while so we decided to explore an island nearby and one of the fishermen gave dropped us there. We had done few photo sessions and noticed that it was getting dark and there was still no sign of the village mechanized boat. We returned to the shore and were planning as to what next we could do incase we don’t get this boat too when someone heard the roar of the engine and whoa…at a distance our boat was coming. After discussing and agreeing for the fare we boarded and by now the entire area was pitch dark. The boat was a small rowing boat converted to a mechanized boat and could just about handle us. With literally no lights on the boat except the 4 pencil cell torchlight with the boatman we could not see even each other. The boat was on its way and we were glad that we could at least start off. This part of my life is called “hanging by the edge of cliff”. With no lights or proper mechanism to see through the darkness we were completely depending upon the instinct of the boatmen to guide the boat to the correct destination. The ride was a 3 hour ride and seeing the blanket of clouds move over us was just about getting prepared for some rain. Fishermen in the area go out in the river in the evening ad spread their nets and come back in the morning to get their catch. At almost every 15 min we found these fishermen at the river bed, using simple torches to guide the boats moving in the night about the location of their nets and the boats would follow them and not tangle into the nets. Meanwhile at one of the regular river beds after repeated signals from my boatman, no signal came from the river bed about a possible location of fishing net. That’s when part 2 of the adventure on river actually kicked off. One of the fishing nets got tangled to our boat and even after repeated attempts we were not able to come out of the same. In a desperate attempt, my boatman went beneath the water and cut loose the net and it took him almost 30 min to do so. The whole episode actually was a bit terrifying with the boatman in the river, the boat swaying and in the middle of a river we are not sure what we would do if the boat overturns and my swimming skills were limited to a pool where I always knew I was safe! Nevertheless once the freeing the boat from the fishing net episode, we reached our destinationThe night stay was arranged to us in a cottage, which was right off the river bed and a camp fire provided on request. Done with our dinner, we sat by the camp fire for some drinks and light music. A slight drizzle and then it started pouring and we had to rush in for a nightcap. It was around 5:30 in the morning when Pramod woke me up asking me to join him outside the cottage. Drowsily I sat up and followed him. For a moment I just stood still trying to realize what I saw in front of my eyes was a sequence of my dream or was I seeing things in real. The cottage where we had slept was at a slight elevation and at a little distance I saw around 20 huts all of the same design. The run was rising and the sky had turned into a slightest gold color. I could see the river passing through huge mountains and early birds adding a perfect touch to the scene. It was so calm and beautiful that for all I could for next half hour do was to gaze at this scenic beauty. After sipping in some ho coffee we were all set to take out our cams and go clicking. We had a wonderful photo session and after a breakfast which was as wonderful as the dinner we took back to the village where we had come from. We were now able to see the route which we came a night before and every scene and sight on the way simply amazed us. So much of natural beauty was something which I had experienced only for a couple of times in my lifetime and both of these were abroad. Though I had known of such scenic locations in India, I had never imagined it to be such a wonderful experience.There was one thing which I noticed among all these wonderful things that infact saddened me a bit. With hundreds of boats passing through this river every month people have been behaving careless and have made every attempt to dirty the place with plastic to the core. The river was infact digesting this crap by the human, but I fear the saturation would come soon if nothing is done about the same. And once that stage comes, this beautiful place on the earth would be completely destroyed and future generations would not even know what existed in this place. We as a group decided that we would at least make an attempt to create awareness of such a mess and do every bit possible to actually reduce the same. And we need to start on the same we need to act fast as each and every day passing is a ticking time bomb, except for a fact that we do not know the time the nature has set to explode!!!After a wonderful 3 hours ride we reached shore and went into the village to collect our bikes around 11am. The boatman was generous and invited all of us for a cup of tea at his home. After the tea and making payments for the ride we were back on the bikes riding our way back to the guest house at seleru. The plan was to reach seleru around 3 in the afternoon and then hit bhadrachalam for a night halt (around 100kms from seleru). We rode back at a pretty good pace and after a while reached Mardipilli where we decided to stop for lunch. PV wanted to return reach Bhadrachalam before night fall and he carried on his own. We didn’t want to hurry and miss out on this once in a lifetime chance to enjoy the nature to the core. With leisure we drove back to seleru and Pramod’s uncle took us to a wonderful waterfall near our guest house. The waterfall it seems was used for a film shooting and we had a jolly good time swimming around and exploring the area. Done with the same we returned to the guest house and started for Bhadrachalam. After some heavy to complete remote traffic condition Phani and me reached Bhadrachalam first and we waited for almost an hour before Pramod and his uncle turned up. We went to the Temple cottage office and after some sweet talk with the attendant were able to get room for us to spend the night. With the driving and sight seeing we all were so tired that we retired to bed immediately and the plan was to wake up early next morning around 3AM to go to the temple.Day 3: The alarm rang but not a muscle in my body realized the same. Around 5 was when I woke and decided we need to start early. We got ready soon and went to the temple, only to come across that it was only after an hour or so that we would be allowed to go inside. We decided to carry on with the journey and returned to our rooms. After a quick breakfast we were riding along for a while and we dropped Pramod’s uncle at a bus stop close to his place. We got some fuel for the vehicles and then rode like mad till we reached an area called Pakhal. This is a wild life sanctuary and the drive through the forest was amazing. With almost zero traffic and excellent roads we were ripping our bikes to the extreme. We halted near a lake for a photo session and after spending some time there reached Warangal around noon. Pramod wanted to spend some time resting there and then go to Hyderabad. Phani and I decided we would want to head direct to home and then only rest. Bidding goodbye to Pramod we were on our way and drove like crazy until we were certain that our backs would break from the pain of driving for continuous hours. We took a small break and soon reached the outskirts of the city and at a common point Phani and me went to our homes. After reaching home, the Odometer read 1155kms for the entire trip starting and ending at my home. There were few losses from the trip. PV lost the cover of my table tripod and which resulted in a component of the tripod falling off from my pocket. I had a blue light fixed beneath the engine of the bike and it broke when I drove through a pothole. Overall the trip was one of the best trips I had till date and I enjoyed the same to the core. Every moment and every location I saw made me love the nature more and more and also wonder how many such places existed in my country and the zeal to discover such places on a regular basis.

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