This monsoon, explore Araku in unique ways

By Nivedita Ganguly
  (Source: The Hindu)

Waking up to a misty valleys and green fields can be a soul-cleansing experience. At Araku Valley, the hill station located at a distance of 120 kilometre from Visakhapatnam, monsoon takes on alluring forms. We explore Araku in the rain, to find its most memorable experiences for your next getaway.

Drive into Busky

Laced with lush green fields, century-old trees and undulating landscapes with step cultivation, Busky makes for a poster perfect location which few travellers know of.

The 30-minute drive to the tribal village is alluring – the loosened earth of the monsoon, a tiny stream of water rushing out of the hills on one side and the glimpses of village life on the other. The solitude of the Eastern Ghats makes it one of valley’s most peaceful experiences. Carrying a picnic basket with a bottle of water can be a good idea as there are no places to eat here. For landscape photography, Busky makes for a great location.

About 30 kilometres from Araku, the village is at an elevation from where one gets a bird’s eye view of farm fields and hill ranges clothed in mist. Busky is interspersed with agricultural fields where mainly paddy, sweet potato, ragi (finger millet) and pulses are grown sans any chemical fertilizers, pesticides or tractors. The tribals here uphold traditional organic farming, ploughing the fields, making the most of perennial hill streams and rain-fed irrigation. From mid-June, ploughing and sowing activities turn the tribal belt into a beehive of activity. In small groups, the people take up farming on a large scale to a perfect rhythm — making for a grand spectacle for travellers and locals alike.

Shop at the weekly shandy

Nature's pallet isn't always the hues of greens. The Araku shandies underline the essence of the tribal culture in this region, which has been largely unaffected by urban influences. Dressed in traditional attire in bright shades of sarees, adorning nose pins and multiple ear piercings, the tribal women from the hilly regions of Araku and Paderu trek for miles to reach the shandies every week (Friday and Sunday), where they sell their freshly grown organic produce from early mornings till noon.

There are two weekly shandies in Anantagiri mandal, including Damuku and Kasimpeta and another one in Sunkaramettah, a few kilometres from Araku. The Araku shandy, said to be the largest weekly marketplace in Andhra Pradesh, is frequented by nearly 20,000 tribals, some of them from nearby towns of Nandapur, Chatua and Padua. The shandies are known are organically grown vegetables.

Sample bamboo chicken

If the high hills of the Eastern Ghats rolling along the densely wooded valleys offers an inviting sight to Araku, the heady aroma of bamboo chicken is another draw. Lined with towering silver oaks, coffee plantations and pepper creepers, the winding roads leading to the valley are busy with stalls of local villagers making and selling this delicacy. So much has the popularity grown that bongulo chicken or bamboo chicken has become synonymous with Araku. Cooked inside a piece of green bamboo stalk without oil, Araku’s bamboo chicken makes for a healthy and delicious dish. The smoke from the burnt bamboo gives it a unique flavour. The locals claim that the marination, with locally made garam masala, red chilly powder and ginger garlic paste, is the key to bringing out the flavours.

The origin of the dish is traced to Maredumilli, a tribal belt in East Godavari District. Thanks to the popularity of the dish, many have stepped out of their tribal village for the first time to make and sell it to tourists.

Trek into solitude

The monsoons can magically transform even the most mundane locations into a mystical world. The meadows, hills and fields of Araku are ideal for monsoon treks and exploring lesser known trails. Madugula and Panderu are some of the popular trek routes here. There are some Visakhapatnam-based startups that take tourists on guided treks with the help of locals of the tribal belt.

The Chittamgondi meadows in Araku Valley is a nine-kilometre trek that meanders through densely green trails and offers a view of the vast verdant meadows from an altitude of 4,500 feet. While hiking along the path, learn about the indigenous flora and fauna such as plantations of fruits and vegetables on hilly slopes from the locals, who are more than willing to offer their help. A little away from here is a canopy of green precipices of the trek route of Sivalingapuram – Borra Caves - Katiki waterfalls. The route is peppered with photogenic ravines and serpentine streams.


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