Araku Valley and Vizag

My friend Evan Kubitschek was finishing up his teaching job in South Korea, so he decided to pay me a visit in India as part of his massive trip before heading back to the USA. Evan’s visit coincided with a nice long weekend that I had thanks to a few holidays, so we seized the opportunity to go on a trip. Steve Kaplan, aka Microsoft Steve joined in too. I was craving some outdoor beauty, so I asked a bunch of my coworkers what would be a nice destination. Mostly hailing from Andhra Pradesh themselves, they recommended a place called Araku Valley. I googled it and saw some images that were as lush as the island in Jurassic Park and a few that were so green I thought they were photoshopped. To get there, we had to go to Vizag (aka Vishakapatnam), the second largest city in the state, and then take a 4 hour train ride up to the valley. I booked most of the trip through the Andhra Pradesh tourism development corporation, the state funded tourism promotion agency, and we set off once the weekend began.
After landing in Vizag, we had a day to kill before our train the next morning, so we hired a driver for the day who promised to show us all of the tourist attractions in Vizag. We had a day’s worth of activities, but they weren’t exactly the most entertaining nor well-maintained tourist attractions. First we drove 30 minutes or so out to a beach, which our lonely planet guide assured us was a beautiful scene where you could bask in the “solitude.” I’m not sure who was doing that writing because when we stepped out of the car, we wished this planet was a bit lonelier because we were immediately swarmed by beggar children. We pushed our way through the throng to the beach and found only a dirty beach with nobody in the water, and a set of dilapidated mermaid statues that had lost an assortment of limbs to erosion. We quickly abandoned that beach and drove to another nearby beach, but aside from a few fully clothed people swimming in the water, there wasn’t much of an improvement. We threw in the (unused) towel, and decided to head back to the city proper, but along the way we stopped at the small Vizag version of Ramoji Film City (remember my old post about that place?) which made the origional Ramoji film city look like disneyland by comparison. Sorry, no pictures from these events, but you’re not missing too much.
The next day we boarded the train to Araku Valley. The train was one of the highlights of the trip. As the train went over vast valleys and into tunnels, there were tons of scenic vistas outside the windows. Surprisingly, when the food was served in the train, the guy next to me asked me if I could open the window a crack, and when I obliged, he threw his entire tray out the window! I couldn’t believe he would so brazenly litter like that, especially when we were in one of the prettiest landscapes I had seen yet in India. I asked him why he would do that, and he sheepishly shrugged. I have a few pictures from this leg of the trip, so feast your eyes.

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It was nice to see the mountains again, as I don’t think I have seen any since leaving Asheville. Araku Valley was basically just a nice environment, there wasn’t much to do except go see the “waterfall” which if you could please look below, i’d appreciate if anyone could tell me how that qualifies as a waterfall or if there is a minimum fall distance to qualify, because this one was cutting it close.
So after enjoying the greenery, we returned to our ‘resort’ room and watched a bunch of awesome tv action movies including predator, something with stone cold steve austin, and pitch black with vin diesel. Solid day. The next day we were headed to the Tribal Museum, but the bus was stopped at a traffic jam when the village’s local communist party held a rally in the street. I always hear that the communists have a stronger foothold out in the villages, but this wasn’t what I was expecting. They blocked the road and set up a burning man. Check it out. Oh, and Steve took the opportunity to buy some tiny bananas.
Once we arrived at the museum, the highlight was the archery range outside. Its strange to walk through a tribal museum with tribal scenes set up with mannequins, when actual tribal scenes are visible to anyone who looks out the bus window. Just before leaving, we got to watch a group of tribal women do a traditional dance. I recorded a video –>
Along the way back, we stopped at the Borra Caves, which were a lot better than we expected. It was a pretty massive cavern that was illuminated by one big hole in the ceiling that as the story goes, was how the cave was found when a cow fell through that hole (and met a grisly fate). Check out some info about it here
Overall, I had a great time. Check out this gallery of all of the photos I took.

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