Up and down the River Godavari
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has grandiose plans to promote tourism with emphasis on holy places, heritage sites, beaches and...
A recent visit to Papi Kondalu, on the much-hyped boat ride shows AP Tourism has a long way to go before realising its dream of making the state a preferred destination for domestic and foreign visitors
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has grandiose plans to promote tourism with emphasis on holy places, heritage sites, beaches and nature trails. Fortunately, AP is blessed with all these, particularly the two East and West Godavari districts. But their potential is either little realised or has remained untapped.
The area’s beauty, prosperity, expansive greenery and wealth could be attributed to the River Godavari and its tributaries that traverse the plains and hills of the two districts before flowing into the Bay of Bengal and the vision of Sir Arthur Cotton, who conceived the Godavari Delta plan.
The area, popularly known as Konaseema, is a mirror image of Kerala with a difference. As far as eye could see, the land is green with coconut palm and banana plantations, interspersed with paddy fields and cash crops. It is sheer pleasure to watch them travelling by road. A lot of Telugu film producers and directors have captured the charm and natural beauty of Konaseema and immortalised them in their movies. But savouring the nature in all its glory is a cherished experience.
I would have missed it had I stuck to my original plan of visiting only Papi Kondalu before the Polavaram multi-purpose project turned most of the hilly-river area into a massive reservoir. With the inclusion of nearby towns, resorts and some holy places in the itinerary, I had a kaleidoscopic view of, well, some of the most enchanting places in the country. These are tucked in remote corners and relatively unknown to the outside world.
One such place is Dindi. Nestling among coconut palm groves on the bank of Godavari, it has two holiday resorts, one run by AP Tourism and another by Sterling. While both resorts offer good facilities for tourists who want to escape from the mad world and maddening crowds, the AP government’s Haritha Coconut Country Resort looks like an official guest house in contrast with Sterling’s Dindi by the Godavari. Built around a breathtakingly beautiful lily pond, vacationers can watch in amazement Victoria water lilies and their giant leaves in different hues from their cottage balconies. And a few minutes’ walk takes the holidaymakers to the edge of mighty Godavari.
Not to be missed is a motor boat trip of one or two hours up and down the Godavari River and a drop-by on an island during the journey. The boat ride amidst serene surroundings is simply nirvana redefined. And, a walk-through nearby villages gives urbanites a new perspective on rural life.
The beauty of Konaseema, besides its natural wealth, is that most of the places are connected by road and rail. Personal transport is a preferred way to go places. However, every type of vehicle can be hired or engaged with a driver. When you travel in a small group, the economics of travel work out cheaper since most of the interesting places and temple towns are within a 100 km radius.
For example, in one day, I along with family and friends visited Amalapuram, Ainavilli Vinayak Temple, Mukteswara Swamy (Lord Shiva) shrine, crossed Godavari by punti to go to Kotipalli (Sri Someswara Swamy Temple) and from there to Draksharamam (Lord Bhimeswara Swamy), which is known as one of the Trilinga Kshetras, (the other two are Kaleswaram in Karimnagar district of Telangana and Srisailam in Kurnool district of Rayalaseema). A 30-minute drive from Draksharamam took us to the former French colony Yanam which is now a Union Territory attached to another former French colony Puducherry (Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu).
Yanam is a small picturesque enclave on the banks of Gautami Godavari (a part of the river) that merges with the Bay of Bengal near the town. We can have a mesmerising view of the river and the distant sea and the beautifully-developed river front from the bridge connecting Yanam with East Godavari district. One fails to understand why Yanam is still a Union Territory and administered all the way from Puducherry. With traces of colonial era still visible, Yanam has the potential of becoming a Little Goa in East Godavari district. It’s a pity if the AP government let the legacy continue.
The best way to cover these places is to start early after sumptuous breakfast and have free lunch – simple but freshly prepared – at one of the temples and continue the onward journey. In just two-three days, one can visit all holy places, walk the beaches and boat up and down the rivers. However, the Papi Kondalu trip is one-day affair.
Both AP Tourism and private operators organise boat trips from Rajahmundry on one side and Bhadrachalam on the other. The tour takes about six hours (9 am to 6 pm) and the fare package includes transport to the jetty and return to Rajahmundry, with breakfast, lunch and evening tea on the boat. Those who opt for only boat ride can go directly by road and board the vessel. Papi visitors are transported in a bus from a designated point in Rajahmundry to a boat near Pattiseema.
Now, expect the unexpected! What nobody tells you is there is no jetty per se – even for name sake. Papi lovers have to board the boat descending down at least a hundred feet on slippery ground and walk a precariously perched gangplank to enter the deck. For the aged, children and women, the exercise is a feat of horror. In the evening, it’s worse because by the time the boat returns, it gets dark. To add to the travellers’ woes, there is no single electric light to show the way up from the landing site. What will be the plight of passengers if it rains, is anybody’s guess.
But for the initial disappointment, the six-hour Papi tour amidst lush green mountains and Godavari waters would be refreshingly beautiful. However, sitting and watching still or flowing water, cloudy or clear blue sky, an unending array of hills in various formations and sandy river banks could be boring. The ennui is occasionally relieved by passing sail boats, appearance of hamlets, efforts to provide some entertainment on the boat. There is ample scope to jazz up the journey to make it short and sweet.
Rajahmundry is seeing its heyday once again. Thanks to Godavari Pushkaram, it has undergone impressive development. Godavari Haarathi, on the lines of famous Ganga Haarathi in Kasi, is an added attraction, although both are not comparable.
By:S Madhusudhana Rao