Elluru to Vijayawada: 56 kms.
Humans behave strangely and it is fun to watch them.
Our tour plan got somewhat haywire today. We had decided to start from Elluru early in the morning and reach Hyderabad. But we were made to wait till noon by the officials at Elluru. We got good media coverage and the newspaper clippings were to be sent to us in the morning. That didn’t happen and we finally received them (clippings of 15 Telugu newspapers) at 11.30. We decided to stop at Vijayawada and see the city.
Immediately after reaching Vijayawada, I rushed to the Sub-Collector’s office. (We always try to get accommodation in a government guest house, which is cheapest. Funds are getting exhausted fast.) The Sub-Collector (SDO) was not there. The administrative officer – a lady in her mid-50s - had no time for me. She did not even offer me a chair. For over half an hour she continued to talk on her two cell phones and the land phone. Then she spent some time with a young lad who offered her a cake. It was his birthday. Then she got busy with a lady employee.
“Nothing can be done because the SDO is not here. He is in Machhlipatnam,” she informed me finally. I talked to the Collector’s PA. “Collector is in Machhlipatnam. Talk to the municipal commissioner,” he told me. “Do you have an appointment? Sir doesn’t meet anyone without prior appointment,” informed the commissioner’s gate keeper – a lad in his early 20s. His body language showed he enjoyed some power. “I am coming from Kolkata. How could I have fixed an appointment,” I tried to argue. “That is your problem,” the lad told me bluntly.
Desperate as I was, I went to the deputy transport commissioner’s office. He was not there. I went to the RTO’s room. “Sir has gone out for lunch,” I was told. There was a deputy RTO. He, too, was out for “bhojan.” “When will he return?” “Cant say.”
We have been skipping lunch for the last four days. We could not sleep for three nights because of mosquitoes. Feeling weak though, I was fuming, I barged into the first room I noticed an officer sitting inside. Mr. K was furiously signing away files and talking to 15 men with 15 different problems at the same time. He heard me out and asked me to wait outside. Within two minutes he called me in.
“If we try for a government accommodation it will take hours. I am a member of a club and I have arranged for a room there. You will get an AC room. The market rate for such rooms here will be at least Rs 2000. But since I am a member of the club, I can get it for Rs 300. I will pay for it. You go there,” he said. I was dumbfounded. “But how can I accept your money?” I muttered. “You are on a noble mission and this will be my small contribution,” Mr K said, producing three 100 rupee notes. I politely refused and told him that we would be able to pay Rs 300.
We will start for Hyderabad early tomorrow morning.
(A request for those who are taking the trouble of reading these posts: I need your comments. Please post comments. So many things may slip my notice otherwise.)
Route: Elluru to Vijayawada: 56 kms via NH 5.
Vijayawada to Hyderabad
Days: 9 & 10 (Vijayawada to Hyderabad: 267 kms)
Imagine a 3 km-long road. It can be any road in Hyderabad city. There will be at least 30 “Tiffin, Meal and Coffee shops” on both sides of the road. Strangely, all sell the same items: Idly, upma, dosa, vada. I have never seen such lack of imagination in culinary practices anywhere in the country or in the world. This is not to say that I don’t like dosa or idly. I love upma and particularly sambhar. But we are kind of tired, looking at the same menu again and again.
So, today we decided to go to Secundrabad to taste authentic (?) Hyderabadi biriyani. Chiken Dum biriyani at Paradise is pure bliss. The chutney is emerald green (how do they prepare it?). Kalmi kebab was good. We tasted Kubeni ka Meetha for the first time and liked it. (It contains apricot and tastes like Bengali chutney).
The Bengali waiter Swapan Biswas was delighted to serve us. He doesn’t always get an opportunity to speak in Bengali. He is from Digha and obviously misses his newly-wed wife who stays in his “desh.”
We wasted almost a full day in Hyderabad. The photographer of a national daily was to visit us at 9.30 am to take our picture. He finally arrived at noon. Then we had to go to the Royal Enfield service centre to service our bike. The break shoe is already gone. Amazing! We have covered only 2000 kms so far, which is less than 10 per cent of the trip. Our plan was to visit Salar Jung museum, Charminar and Golkonda Fort. We had time to see only Charminar. (That was the first brand of cigarette I smoked. I was in Class IX then). I got tired riding to Charminar. The road is narrow and made even narrower by innumerable shops and auto stands. The entire area is choked and dirty. People from all over the world come to see this place. It shouldn’t have taken much effort for the government to keep the place clean.
More than 90 per cent of the women wore burkhas – black robes covering them from head to toe in intense Andhra heat. Some even wore black gloves. Only their eyes were visible. But many rode two-wheelers. On the roads they were in large numbers buying imitation jewelry. We saw one lady purchasing eye shadow. I felt sad. I am sure I will see similar dark madness when I visit Tirupati.
We started from Vijayawada on 15.2.2011. It took us full 8 hours to cover a distance of mere 267 kms. The road (NH 9) is narrow and broken all over. There is heavy traffic mostly of trucks.
After two days of riding in Hyderabad city, the autowallahs of Kolkata will surely seem like angels. Hyderabad has an automobile driving culture, which is uncivilized to say it politely. A man or a woman without a vehicle has no value here. In any other city, either a traffic signal or a policeman will stop vehicles and ensure that a person can safely cross the road. In Hyderabad, it is different. We have seen old men and women desperately waving their hands at rushing cars urging them to stop or at least to slow down so that they can cross the road. The city administration is criminally insensitive.
Hyderabad to Nandyal: 264 kms
Everybody wants to travel. But those who do not travel by road probably do not understand what they miss. I have realized this again during this trip. We can stop at whatever place that catches our eyes. We can talk to people. Also, villagers open up easily with two-wheeler riders. Language is definitely a problem in south India. But amazingly in the end it does not remain a problem when people want to understand each other.
I have never liked to travel in cars. On a two-wheeler you directly face nature unhindered with all its fury and beauty. From inside cars the nature looks framed and unnatural. Pleasure survives only in dreams of the past. Nature is pain. It is also natural to look away from truth.
From Hyderabad we reached a place called Nandiyal. We never heard of this place before. It is in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. On our way to Tirupati, we had to stop somewhere for the night and we blindly chose this place, which is nearly half way to Tirupati from Hyderabad.
It is rugged, hot, wind-swept and beautiful. It will never be a popular tourist destination. It is only for those who want to be alone with rough nature. There are hills all around – jagged rocks jutting out in queer shapes. There are patches of green and dazzling yellow. Sunflower cultivation is popular here. Hot wind howls at all times. Fields fade into the sky or the hazy hills far away. They simmer in intense heat.
We are not discussing Kolkata anymore. In fact we are talking less. Both of us are living in our own thoughts. I still don’t know why I am making this trip.
The Route: From Hyderabad we took NH 7. Umdanagar ( 19 kms), Farooqnagar (32 kms), Jadchheria (73 kms), Pebbair (58 kms), Kurnool (10 kms). From here we took NH 18. Nandyal (72 kms).
Nandyal to Tirupati :309 kms
We made our first mistake as soon as we started from Nandyal in the morning. What a lovely mistake it was! We were to take NH 18. Instead we turned left and took State Highway 53.
We soon found ourselves in the midst of a dense forest. I was sure that we had lost our way. But Pat was confident that this was NH 18. We rode for half an hour till we found a man who told us (and finally convinced Pat) that we had taken a wrong turn from Nandyal.
Soon a forest department board told us to be cautious of the leopards in the jungle. We saw no leopards. Rather it appeared that we had entered the kingdom of monkeys. Thousands of them were around us. They were everywhere. Pat had purchased bananas from Nandyal. He tried to have them. About seven monkeys appeared from nowhere. Pat offered them one, shoved the rest in the packet and we sped off immediately. This bunch of monkeys did not look timid at all!
The jungle was vast indeed. There were hills all around us. Not a soul was to be seen anywhere. Obviously there were not many villages inside the forest. We found a huge lake at the end of the forest. A villager told us that the place was called Lakshmipalam. The lake will not be less than 8/9 kms long. The forest and the lake can become one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the country.
On our way we found a 300-year-old fort at Siddavattam about 50 kms from Bakrapeta. No one could tell us the history of the fort – not even the local post master.
Later I found this in wikimapia:
“Sidaavatam or sidhout is a small village in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh.Here is a Fort built by MATTLI RAJULU who were Nayakars under Vijayanagara Empire. There is a rock edict at the entrance of the Fort. According to this the edict (the fort was built) at the time of AAraveeti Venkatapathi Rayalu II of 1605. The edict mentioned about Yellama Raju and his son Anantha Raju. As they were the winners of the OOTUKURU war, Siddavatam was given to them by Vijayanagara Emperors. Anantha Raju built the present Fort. The entrance of the Fort lead in to a place where it is surrounded by varandahs having huge walls.This place is opens to a big Mantapam having beautiful sculpture on its walls and pillars.The Fort was captured by MIRJUMLA in 17th century and kept the Fort under the control of Mayana Nawabs of Kadapa.The last Nawab of this dynasty Alam Khan built a Darga and a Masjid in the Fort near Penna river.Even though Mayans are Muslims they kept the Mantapams and the sculpture intact. HYDER ALI of Mysore attacked the Fort and destroyed it as AlamKhan refused to surrender during 1779-80. In 1792 the Fort came in to the hands of Nizams from Tipu Sultan. In 1800 the British East India Co took over this from the Nizam. The BRITISH administered the Kadapa district from this fort from 1808-1812.Later district administration shifted to the present town KADAPA. The fort was built on the beautiful left bank of river Penna at the foot of LANKAMALA HILLS. (sic).
The fort is in ruins and it doesn’t appear that the government is looking after it.
Reached Tirupati in the evening. We will go to see the temple tomorrow morning.
The Route: Nandyal to Gidgloaur (SH 53) to Porumamilla to Badvel to Bakrapeta NH 205) to Rajampeta to Renigunta to Tirupati.