Since we bought our sweet swift hatchback, we were dying for a long drive. After many a missed opportunities, we i.e., me, Debjani, my counterpart, and Tvisha, our little old lady, could merge our weekends to give it a go. Mithu, Debjani's cousin sis and Tarun, her husband and my colleague cum friend were always there just for a call. On a pleasant, sunny morning of January, we set out from our Township at Visakhapatnam, to explore Konaseema, the emerald Andhra, and me, for a date with Godavari, the boundless beauty.
We got onto the National Highway 5 and sped past Anakapalle, Elamanchili and Tuni to halt after 100 km at Annavaram, the abode of Lord Vishnu. We took breakfast and an impromptu decision to visit the hill temple. On the way we stopped beside the Pampa River, formed into a reservoir. Tarun wielded his high end digicam, his new prized possession and I took out my camcorder. We went up the Ratnagiri hill and visited the temple of Sree Veera Venkata Satyanarayana Swamy Varu. The temple was hum drumming with religious activities.
We came down and took a small road via Annavaram Rail Station for a short distance of 11km to get on to a wider road which will take us straight to Kakinada, the gateway to Konaseema, the Godavari basin. This is a less travelled road, but a more exotic one. From Uppada, as we caught the Bay of Bengal on our left, the drive was fantastic. We stopped to take some spectacular snaps of the green paddy fields with contrasting silvery sea dotted with fishing boats with their blue sails unfurled. We reached Kakinada in no time and got down at the Kakinada beach to sip a cup of coffee. The Kakinada port bound ships were foggily visible on the horizon. Some more shots for Tarun amidst the Casuarina trees, some more 'Cheese' for us.
We took the port road from the Lighthouse to bypass the town and rode on to the Yanam road straightaway. We reached Yanam, 24 km from Kakinada, with the sun over our head. Entering into Yanam through a graceful thoranam, we found little trouble to find the Govt. Guest House. Checked in to two A/c suites, equipped with all amenities but poor maintained. Dropped our baggage and while others were getting refreshed I and Tarun went out for finding a place to lunch.
While looking for a good restaurant, we tried to discover Yanam, a former French Colony, now a part of Puducherry, a bit. It is a tiny town with a character of its own - roads are narrow but clean, a number of statues adorning both sides of the road. A Catholic Church stands just opposite our Guest House. But we couldn't find any French flavor as such.
After a heavy lunch, we proceeded to Draksharamam, 16 km from Yanam. First time we had to negotiate a bad stretch of road. The Drakhsaramam temple is predominantly a Shiva Temple, one of the five arama kshetras of Lord Shiva in Andhra, but at the same time it is also revered as one of the Saktipeethas, the twelfth one to be precise. It houses one of the three Jyotirlingas along with Sree Sailam and Sree Kalahasti which gave the ancient name of Andhra, Trilinga Desha. The priest told us that the linga here is 14 ft tall. We also came to know from him that the temple was built by King Vengi-Bhima of Eastern Chalukya dynasty in 9th century. Shiva is worshipped here as Bheemeswara and his consort is known as Sri Manikyamba.
We drove back to Yanam and went straight to its most prominent landmark on the bank of Godavari, a huge sculpture depicting two elephants showering water on a huge Shivalinga.
Tvisha loved it, and immediately got drenched in the shower. It was twilight. The sun was about to set and Godavari was at its best under the thrilling light of the setting sun. We embarked on a boat and sailed on Godavari. It was an experience of a life time. The panorama was picture perfect. On one side the rising moon was on the sky, on the other the scarlet sun was melting slowly into the river. The wavelets were as if gleaning the last rays of the sun and playing gleefully with them. It was pure magic.
We spent the evening on the bank of Godavari, sitting on the tastefully developed stretch on the riverside. It was addictive. The gentle breeze, the shimmering moon and Godavari'
We found a tough time to find chai to accompany the easily available hot chats. There are more liquor shops than tea shops in this part of the world. We came back to the Guest House. Switched on TV and found India thrashed Australia in the Perth cricket test. We travelled 240 km today.
Next morning, I got up early with an azan, got ready and went out for a stroll. The huge tree in the Guest house premises which was sheltering hundreds of cranes last night was bustling with the sound of the wings as the herons were preparing to take off for the day out. I passed by the church and went up to the crossing near by and brought piping hot tea for all of us.
We checked out from the Guest House early and crossed Godavari, the Gautami, for the first time over the newly built Balayogi Varadhi and we entered into the coconut country. It was coconut trees all the way standing gracefully tall right from the edge of the road on both the sides. We drove via Amalapuram, refueled car after spending some nervous moments as the fuel indicator was pessimistic enough and no Petrol Bunk was coming on the way after Amalapuram, crossed Godavari, the Vainateya, for the second time at Gannavaram and stopped at Razolu, 48 km from Yanam, for breakfast and direction. Our next destination is Dindi, the unknown haven for the nature lover.
8 km from Razolu, we left the main road and crept on to a mud road to suddenly discover the Coconut Country Resort standing in front of us with all its splendor. It is the latest jewel in the crown of AP Tourism and waiting for formal inauguration. On completion it promises to have multi-facilities including a banquet hall, a swimming pool, an ayurvedic and massage center and even a meditation center. Just on the other side of the resort is Godavari, pulled out from the canvas of a master artist, languidly flowing towards the bay - a perfect idyllic setting for a laid back weekend. Tarun and Mithu immediately got on to their act for a photo session.
The tourism offers river cruise on fully furnished houseboats for a rather prohibiting tariff. We went on board of a houseboat, sat on the deck, spent an indolent hour, filled our eyes with the pristine beauty of the sun kissed river bordered with endless coconut groves, and recharged our lungs and souls. We crossed Godavari, the Vashishtha, for the third time to and fro over the Chinchinada Bridge and went on to Antarvedi where Godavari finds solace in the Bay.
We lost direction a bit and chartered into interior Andhra. It was lush green paddy fields below, topped with platoon of coconut trees, a breathtaking view, truly emerald. We were bound to stop for posing and clicking some more.
We found our way to reach Sri Laxmi Narasimha Swamy Temple at Antarvedi, 22 km from Dindi. A big wooden chariot was waiting outside probably for the ensuing festival. The pulling ropes were awe inspiring. The Godavari could be seen at a distance from the terrace of the temple. This temple is famous as a Mukti Kshetra. A number of myths flow around the temple. One such myth says that Kesavadas, a cowherd, while grazing his cows found the remains of the old temple amidst a jungle, originally erected by Sage Vashishtha. The villagers built the temple which was ruined after some time. It was re-built by Sri Narendra Laxmi Narasimha Rao, a generous gentleman, only to be ruined again later. The present temple was re-constructed in 1923 by Adinarayana, a merchant, and his sons which is historically evident from a stone inscription.
Our last stopover was the Antarvedi beach with a lonely lighthouse. And at a little distance, Godavari, after a thousand and a half kilometers of nurturing and sustaining thousands of thousands of lives for thousands of years, ends her journey and confluences with the all powerful. We too ended our journey ahead to start a swift 300 km trip back home. Thus was my delightful date with Godavari.