Did you ever have a thought that a place could really change your perspective, make you bold enough to face challenges, a place that is filled with serenity, reflected not just in nature but also in the people around you?
My journey started with rebellion. I didn’t feel like I belonged. The grey matter inside was wanting to move out, meet people, to experience things, and break walls, of being just a girl.
Yeah I wanted this. I grabbed my bike and moved out to soothe my soul.
I reached Araku late in the evening. It was dark, and I could just make out the trees. A woman walked by with a sack of vegetables. She wondered if I was lost. After a few minutes of discussion, she suggested a homestay nearby.
Left with no other choice, I decided to stay at the homestay, wondering if I would be really safe.
As I stepped into the place, a toddler came up with a wiggle walk, like a tippler. His mom came running behind to make sure he didn’t fall, gazing at me. She came straight to the point, offering me a penthouse as I was alone, and asked for an extra 100 bucks if I wanted to use the campfire.
It was cold and there were no restaurants nearby, just a market. The hot water she provided galvanised me and gave some energy to prepare my own food. I went to the nearby market to pick up some ingredients. It was reassuring to meet the many friendly people who helped in identifying the ingredients.The woman at the homestay offered me utensils to cookin. And I realised that I wasn't very good at rustling up a meal. Seeing me struggle, she helped me with some much-needed advice.
I spent some time outside, with a half-scorched dinner in my tummy, a campfire, and a crisp breeze to keep me company.
In the morning, I walked through the sleepy hamlet of Araku, nestled in the Eastern Ghats. It was the season for niger flowers and they bloomed all around, stringed with blue boxes. I asked people what the boxes were all about. Apparently, they were beehives, artificial habitats for bees placed in rows near the yellow niger fields. Each box has about one lakh worker bees, 100 drones and one queen bee. A small hole at the bottom of the box is meant for the bees to enter and exit. During the peak season, honey is harvested in 10 days and sold directly to tourists who throng the valley. Beekeepers come to Araku from various parts of Andhra Pradesh during winter. The bottles go to retail outlets in various cities too.
The honey harvesting was a revolution of sorts for the tribal economy here. But honey harvesting wasn't just confined to the economy. Honeybees, which live in highly organised communities, are of great importance to farmers as well, for pollination of their produce and for maintaining the ecological balance.
Later, I visited the Borra Caves, considered to be one of the largest in the country. Frankly, I was disappointed by the spotlights and paved pathways, offering a neat display of stalactites and stalagmites, losing its spelunking ingenuity. Though there are brighter sides as the colorful lights illuminate most sections of the Borra Caves, they helped mitigate the general eeriness. Adrenaline seekers will enjoy the subterranean adventure here.
The Chaparai Waterfalls were a blend of blue and greens, enclosed by beautiful forests on all sides. Since rock formations block the water’s path now and then, there are natural water slides all around.
Between layers of picture-perfect rain-drenched mountains, the cascade of falls was a delight.
The darker side was that the spectre of mass tourism in this place which had been destroying the aura of this pristine spot of peaceful nature. The waste tourists throw around, the noise they make... tourists need to be responsible for their actions.Araku Valley coffee plantations are a sensory delight. Endless rows of squat, green coffee bushes are surrounded by majestic oak trees.The air is infused with the intoxicating aroma of fresh coffee beans.
The Andhra Pradesh government formed the Girijan Co-operative Corporation (GCC) in 1956. It endeavored to provide dignified livelihoods to the tribes of Araku Valley, by engaging them in coffee cultivation another step for the raise of their economy.
The best way to enjoy a brew is to slowly savour it. The Coffee Museum in Araku Valley offers visitors the chance to do just that while perusing the splendid history and science of coffee. Following the signature aroma brings you to the museum. The hamlet is famous for the finest Arabica coffee. Indeed, this wondrous blend is transported from the Araku Valley all the way to the swish neighborhoods of Paris.
The museum also houses different types of coffee, including the famous Kopi Luwak from Indonesia. Tasty treats such as chocolates, mousses, and tarts (all coffee-flavored, naturally) add kicks to your java dose. History geeks will love the Coffee Gallery – a one-stop destination for the evolution of the splendid brewed liquid, from its discovery in Ethiopia to how it came to bloom in the Araku valley.
Tyda Park is an eco-tourism project jointly developed by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation and the State Forests Department. The wilderness of the park is ideal for birdwatching, trekking, rock climbing, target shooting and camping.
I spent a night in the log hut set in a rural environment. You can spend quality time with learned naturalists and guides in the park for a more in-depth understanding of the forest.
I spent so much time on the road, it was the blooming season with luxuriant coat of fresh greenery, this tiny cluster of tribal hamlets has an unlikely trump card – a journey paved with delights. Araku Valley is a perfect escape for those who are tired of living the monotonous life. The serene and tranquil environs not only calm your soul but also make your inner soul happy.
This article is a submission by one of our readers, and part of our series #OTReadersWrite.