It was a bit surrealistic really. Vishakapatnam is a city I wouldn't visit again in my wildest nightmares. It didn't help that the only 'beach front' motel that we could afford was a moth eaten glorified brothel. I kid you not. I've been around and this is pretty much the shadiest place I've ever had to stay. Lingering odours of cheap choking perfume in the hallways. A so-called office room facing the sea, apparently of limits turned out to be a garishly decorated bedroom straight out of some b-grade skin flick (don't ask how I know that). Then the mosquitos. Not in the tens but apparently in the thousands, buzzing about our room gorging on our four sapped blood lines. And the sticky stifling heat, making me long for an AC in a way I didn't think possible. With this kind of introduction to the Andhra coast, which btw is hardly awe inspiring, we were left with hardly any hope as we made our way to the hills.
But then we got off at TYDA, a tiny glorified hamlet with one, thankfully mosquito and cheap perfume free, affordable and all round nice hotel run by the Andhra tourism department with rooms with names like Golden Oriole and Raquet Tailed Drongo (bird watchers of the world, UNITE). There we were in the hills, in the midst of a large patch of forest and glory be, it rained. After two days of stiffling soaring Andhra temperatures, it was more than a miracle. It was heaven on earth. And wonder of wonders. This little place in the hills had a railway station. Ya, the ones in and around Darjeeling and Shimla are charming but this was the real thing. A broad gauge railway line higher than anywhere else in our impressive Indian railways. And in the middle of a veritable jungle. Instant love.
Even more than a couple of hamlets and some tribals the largest concentration of humans here is the railway community, from Andhra and across the border from Orissa. They live in their humble but charming quarters adjoining the stations and lead a fascinating, even enviable life. The youngsters here don't think so, yearning for the multiplex-mall lifestyle so glorified in most movies. No hot girls waltzing by in minis, no superbikes whizzing around the corner, not even a movie theatre in a 50 km radius. Who can blame them? Meanwhile we city slickers yearn for the quiet simplicity of the hills, away from the noise, pollution and constant bombardment of information. Ironic huh?
Anyway, I've figured out that flickr slideshows can be imported here, so that means a lot less scrolling for you lazy fingered folks.