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      Alto WOW | Araku Valley | Exploring the Eastern Ghats in Four Days

      Eastern Ghats in 4 days with Alto 800

      The Eastern Ghats of the country have not received enough coverage on the social media channels today. No wonder, the region is still pleasantly untouched and offers unique insights to the traveller. The coffee plantations, ancient tribal enclaves and pristine beaches have evaded travel itineraries, ensuring that the un-trodden parts of the region are great to explore. When the self-driving ‘Wheels of Wander’ campaign by Maruti Suzuki Alto and Outlook Traveller chose a 4-day trail in the month of February, I was excited to be a part of it. Four friends from Mumbai – Gulnaz, Priyanka, Tarun and Nikunj and I, had the opportunity to get an up-close glimpse of Visakhapatnamand Araku Valley.

      Here’s a quick guide toall that one can do over four days in this region.

      • Day 1: Visakhapatnam - The beach city

      Landing in Visakhapatnam is a blissful experience. The shoreline and the crystal blue water of the Bay of Bengal make for a stunningbackground to white cottony clouds as the plane descends through them. This is the perfect way to start the trip. The port city rings the Bay of Bengal and is known for its many pristine beaches. The Radhakrishna or RK Beach is the most feted one. After reaching Visakahapatnam, that was our first stop. We decided to have lunch at one of the seaside shack restaurants that serve authentic Andhra food, including the omnipresent Hyderabadi Biryani. Ideal to laze around in the afternoon, we let the gentle sea breeze envelop us. The RK Beach is also the address to India’s only Submarine Museum. INS Kurusura is a Foxtrot Class submarine, which was decommissioned after nearly three decades of service, and converted into a museum to showcase life amid the tight quarters of submarines.

      Soon after dusk we headed off to the Kailasagiri Hill, a park situated on a cliff-top that overlooks the city. A small toy train took us to the summit, from where staggering views of the city and the coastwere photo-worthy. There are ample things to keep one occupied here; paragliding facilities for the adventure seekers, a large statue of Shiva and Parvati, and a small park with swings for children.

      • Day 2: Araku Valley

      Early next morning, we headed to the lush Araku Valley, about 115km from Visakhapatnam. The soft undulating roads on the hills took us to one of the most offbeat destinations in the country. Road trips are best infused with some local food. Ours came in the form of local bamboo chicken from the roadside eateries. The bamboo chicken of Araku Valley is slightly different from other parts of India. The smoky flavour combined with the sweetish smell of the bamboo gives a unique flavour to the dish. Stomachs filled, we wended along to our first stop, the Tribal Museum, which features the history of the kodhu and other tribes of this region.Their lifestyle was represented in a number of exhibits, giving us a peek into their lives. There were a few bicycles here, and we took turns to explore the roads around the museum. The tribals of the region are expert archers and we got an opportunity to try taking a hit at the targets with some bows and arrows.

      As evening descended, we met a kodhu dance crew. Equipped with their musical instruments,mostly percussions, we watched the men strike a beat and the women of the tribe perform the dhimsa dance. Joining them in step was the perfect way to wind down the day.

      • Day 3: Borra Caves

      Our second day in the Araku Valley started with a visit to the magnificent Borra Caves. These caves are a series of natural rock formations, which can be accessed after climbing a flight of stairs. This natural outcropping leads to a series of caves with its collection of overhanging stalactites and stalagmites arising from the floor. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has installed a series of colourful lights for people to see the caves in different hues. After a trip to the Borra Caves, we headed out to a coffee plantation and the verdant Padmapuram Gardens. I have forever been in love with spice plantations, not just for the visual experience but also the olfactory experience it provides. This one was no different. A heady smell of coffee hung in the air and the rich green plantations were a treat to the eyes. Our lunch was planned at Andhra Bhojanalaya for a scrumptious local meal before heading back to Visakhapatnam. Enroute we bought packets of single estate coffee from one of the roadside shops.

      • Day 4: Freewheeling in Visakhapatnam

      On the last day of our trip, I decided to get up early, grab a bicycle and head over to the beach. I watched the sun rise from the horizon casting a wonderful golden light on the sandy stretch. Soon, I was joined by the rest of the group as we had sea-kayaking planned for the day. We capped off the trip with a tryst with the ocean, its waves gently rocking the kayaks. The experience was so thrilling that we had to be literally stripped off the beach in order to catch our flights.

      The trip was a great mix of paced out sight-seeing and activeoutdoor activities, giving everyone something that they would like. The ideal place for slow-travel, Eastern Ghats has gone down as one of my favourite places till date.

      Courtesy of Outlook Traveller