Sankranthi vacation and a road trip thru coastal Andhra

 

The much awaited Sankranthi vacation has come and gone, and I am back in Hyderabad and back to the normal routine. As mentioned in my previous post, I was looking forward to this Sankranthi vacation because of the planned road trip to friends’ places in Prakasham and West Godavari districts. And, everything went according to the plan and I had a gala time.

Two of my close friends joined me for this road trip that began on Jan 11 morning. Our first stop was at Brahmana Nidamanuru near Ongole in Prakasham district where a colleague-and-friend of mine has arranged to host us for the day.

enroute-to-nidamanuru

NH-5:  On the way to Nidamanuru from Guntur

The venue for lunch get together was a chavidi or koshtam (a rugged farm house) next to a tobacco barn. The floor was covered with taurpaulin sheets and a make shift gas stove was set up in a corner. So the food was truly oven fresh. The menu was chicken pakoda, pomphret fry, mutton curry, biryani rice and rasam. We reached the place with adequate supplies. A good number of the host’s cousins and friends too joined the party. By 4 PM everyone was reasonably stuffed with food and drinks, and a table was set up for playing cards. I don’t play cards, but this time I had my share of fun by watching these guys play till late into the evening.

tobacco-barn-in-the-background

The venue

men-at-work

Men at work 🙂

We then went to the host’s house and freshened up with a hot water bath. Afterwards we went out for dinner at a near by dhaba on NH-5. Next day morning I woke up early to enjoy the sights of rural Andhra. We resumed our road trip after a heavy breakfast of idlys and egg dosa (my first experience. Not bad). Our next destination is chinchinada in west godavari district. I visited this place on last Sankranthi too (please refer to my travelogue in the archives). But the big difference this time is the route I chose for reaching this place and the fact that I plan to spend slightly larger amount of time there this year. The route was Ongole-Chirala-Bapatla-Repalle-Avanigadda-Pamarru-Gudivada-Kaikaluru-Bhimavaram-Palakollu-Chinchinada. The key aspects of this route are the new bridge across river Krishna between Repalle-Avanigadda, and the drive through villages and towns that are far removed from the highway (NH-5) and the rail line connecting Chennai and Kolkata.

breathtaking-view-from-the-bridge

Breathtaking view from the bridge connecting Repalle-Avanigadda

the-other-side-of-bridge

The view on the other side

I expected to complete the drive in 4.5-5 Hrs but eventually did in 9.5 Hrs primarily because we some how missed the bypass road near chirala and were caught up in the slow traffic in Chirala town (cement roads are being laid almost every where, thus slowing down the traffic). So we reached Gudivada close to lunch time and we took an unplanned break. We waited for 30 minutes to be seated in an apparently-popular restaurant. We ordered veg meals that was surprisingly very good. So it is not for nothing that Gudivada counts among major cultural centers in coastal Andhra. We started after that heavy lunch and did not stop till we reached Chinchinada at 7 PM.

entrance-of-famous-kuchipudi-dance-academy

We passed by the entrance to famous kuchipudi dance academy

fields-readied-for-rabi-season

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chinchinada-house

Chinchinada, at last..

colourful-backyard

colourful backyard

After yet another round of hot water bath, we settled in for a long night. The menu was chicken pakoda (for some reason our hosts on this trip seemed to prefer this as snack), country chicken curry, fish curry and sambar. Next day was Bhogi, so we dedicated the morning hours to visit some famous temples near by. First up is Kshiraramam (one of 5 pancharamams – shiva temples) in Palakollu. The next visit was to Someshwararamam (another pancharamam) in Bhimavaram. We have also visited famous Mavullamma temple in Bhimavaram. On the way back to Chinchinada we stopped near the outskirts of Bhimavaram to watch kodi pandelu (bettings on cock fights). These bettings run into hundreds of crores during these 3 days of Sankranthi near Bhimavaram region alone.

cock-fight-in-porgress

cock fight in progress

We then returned to Chinchinada for lunch. Our host picked up an exotic venue for pre-lunch drinks. It was a coconut grove overlooking lush green paddy fields. We added a bit of exotic to the drinks too – we replaced water and soda with coconut water.

paddy-fields-overlooking-coconut-grove

paddy fields overlooking coconut grove

For once we were relieved that the lunch was pure vegetarian – mudda pappu (dal), avakaya (pickle), vankaya iguru (brinjal fry), egg keema, and pesara pappu charu (a variant of sambar). After a brief nap, we moved to larger house where card games are in full swing. Sankranthi season in Andhra is notorious for male folks losing more than their shirt in playing cards. I, as usual, slipped away to a small group busily discussing state politics. The dinner was mind blowing – crab curry, country chicken pulao and sambar. Next morning we woke up a little late, so we hit the road without taking breakfast. We drove non stop for 5 hours before reaching Guntur. We only stopped at Challapalli to pick up punukulu for a late breakfast.

The ride via NH-5 would have been faster by at least 30 minutes, but I wanted to explore the interior Krishna and Guntur districts one more time so we chose the same route for our return trip too, with one exception – we had mistakenly taken a different route from Bhimavaram to Gudivada (via juvvalapalem) that was actually much better (i.e. less traffic) than the route via kaikaluru. So the return route was Palakollu-Bhimavaram-Gudivada-Avanigadda-Repalle-Ponnur-Guntur.

near-gudivada

one-more-for-the-road

bridge-to-repalle

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Overall 3.5 days of great fun in the lap of rural Andhra that I love so much.

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