We had a family event to attend at Vizag and since that was a Friday we chose to stay there the weekend and explore Borra Caves and Araku Valley. As I read a lot about how the train journey from Vizag to Araku is a must, I decided to take it and they weren’t wrong!!! I didn’t have a reservation and took an unreserved ticket. Like a typical unreserved compartment, it was brimming with people the moment it entered the station. We too got in and for the first time I discovered a new side of my man – with all fierceness, as if was a regular, he threw the backpack on the seat-top luggage rack and climbed atop it and sat there (don’t freak out, it’s a very common scene in unreserved compartments in Indian Railways)!!!!!
Whatever I read about this route was completely true! It’s a 4 hr ride and after 1 hr, the train stops for about half an hour at Boddavara Station, before taking up the ghat-track! Then it gets slow, I mean, it’s actually mountain railway from this point of time! The route is green, surrounded by deep valleys, rivers, bridges and best of all, so many tunnels!!! It was a blessing in disguise that we got into the unreserved compartment - the ‘life’ in the compartment was so much!!!
It was so lively. I got down and stood at the door, photographing the landscape, tunnels and greenery all around. Some people were already standing at the door, to be precise, a bunch of college boys! Guess what, inspite of being surrounded by them, they absolutely did not misbehave and nobody tried to touch me!!! I’m specifying this here particularly because of the generalizations many assume about various places. Stray unfortunate incidents do happen, but please don’t generalize an entire country!
3 hrs (90km) from Vizag on this train, I reached Borra Guhalu station. A short walk from here took me to the entrance of Borra Caves. Borra Caves is at an altitude of 800-1300m above sea level! It was discovered in 1807 by William King, a British Geologist, when India was a British colony! These caves are believed to have been formed about 150 million years ago. Remember those school day geography lessons that taught about stalactites and stalagmites? This entire caves is filled with those. Today most of these formations are under worship as various Gods & Goddesses according the natural shape that has formed. The walk inside the caves is about 350m.
One, the entire caves is filled with disco lights!!! It’s sad for someone like me who is actually interested in the heritage and natural beauty of the place. But then, that’s just my opinion. But what was totally disheartening was the behavior of the visitors… People were shouting, noisy, once in a while giving a ‘whooo’, using flash photography on the bats hanging from the ceiling etc and it was just painful for people who respect the place!
I really hope APTDC takes efforts to educate tourists at the entrance of the caves and employ a few more staff to regulate the behavior of the unruly tourists!!! I’ve been wanting to see Borra caves since ages as its one of the very few caves in India that has stalactites and stalagmites. Unfortunately my overall experience was just depressing!!!
If you're a non-vegetarian, the bamboo chicken here is a must try. Its available as street food at the entrance of Borra Caves. Its chicken nuggets, sealed in bamboo and roasted! No, I haven't tried it, being a veggie, but heard way too many people swear about it!
From there I took a bus and an hour drive took me to Araku Valley, my next destination. Here comes the disaster. Let me put it in simple words. If someone goes to New York and then wonders why he/she couldn’t see San Fransisco in the trip, how would that sound???!!! Now imagine the same thing in a smaller scale! The area termed as Araku Valley is not even in Araku!!! The Anantagiri Mountain Range (whose valley is Araku), is where nature’s beauty & bounty lies, and that is pretty far is the Araku Town! There is actually nothing at all in Araku Town!!!! Araku Valley Region is pretty large and there are 4 different APTDC operated hotels in this region itself and 2 (Valley Resort & Mayuri) of those are in Araku Town! The rest 2 (Mountain View & Tyda) are on the way from Vizag to Araku Town, infact, even before Borra!!! These 2 are much better as these are within the forest area, surrounded by vegetation.
When I booked I knew I wanted to go to Araku, but I did not know of all this before I ventured. There was a room available at Tyda and when I called them I came to know it’s not in Araku. Since I wanted to go to Araku, I just booked at Valley Resort when I came to know that Tyda is actually 35km from Araku!!! Little did I know Tyda is a beauty by itself whereas there’s absolutely nothing in Araku Town.
Yes, there are a thing or 2 in Araku Town – Coffee Museum & Tribal Museum. I ventured only to Coffee Museum. It’s a tiny private museum and there’s an interactive display inside that talks about the worldwide history of coffee and there’s a shop where organic, authentic coffee was sold. Also there’s a café which sells a wide variety of hot & cold coffee and desserts made of coffee as well!!! It is slightly pricey but the coffee is just divine. The outdoor seating arrangement was really cool and there was also a rodeo simulator and a cricket pitch simulator as well. By evening a nice traditional, tribal dance was performed.
To Get There:
Araku/Borra from Vizag: There is 1 passenger train (58501/2 - Visakhapatnam <-> Kirandul) every morning from Vizag at 7 AM and from Araku/Borra at 4/5 PM. ->
Buses are regularly available on this route for every half hour from about 6 AM to 10 PM.
Vizag to Borra by road – 87km
Vizag to Araku by road – 113km
Borra Guhalu station to Caves – 1km
Entry ticket to Borra Guhalu – Rs.40 (plus camera fee Rs.25)
Entry ticket to Coffee Museum – Rs.20
Dedicated to Venkat. Special thanks to Puneet for practical info on the places.