Last week I went on a three day trip from Visakhapatnam to Vijayawada. The deal was to visit some interesting places between these two cities so that they could be a part of tour that a friend of mine - RJ was planning to organise in Jan 2007. He made a short trip last year along this area but this time he wanted to do a bit more research about the hotels to stay and eat along the way. Tentatively the plan was to stay one night in Kakinada and another in Machilipatnam and use the days to visit nearby town and villages. We decided to start at 6 in the morning on 16th and eat breakfast somewhere after Ellamanchili.
The day started off well, we managed to leave by 6.30, even though I slept for few hours the previous night (my extended family was in sankranti revelry mode that mainly constituted of playing three cards and visiting a 24 hour coffee shop of a local hotel into the wee hours of the morning). The new highway was smooth and empty, in no time we reached the steel plant zone where we took the "Anakapalle and Ellamanchilli" by-pass. Over the years, a detour through the steel plant has been the favourite route for many non commercial travellers considering the fact that heavy duty lorries avoided this route as it involved paying toll twice.
The area beyond the steel plant was completely god forsaken until NTPC decided to set up a thermal power unit. Even as recent as 1997, the land rates here were about Rs.30, 000 an acre. NTPC gave a compensation of 1.2 lakhs an acre without the guarantee of a job in the unit (while acquiring land for steel plant the govt gave local rates but also gave a job per family) ever since then, fuelled by the previous government's mode of sanctioning large tracts of land for various industrial zones, the land rates are touching the roof (Rs. 25 lakhs an acre for a road side plot and the price tapers down proportional to the distance from the road) and are showing no signs of abating. Imagine how financially brilliant I am, when in 1997, I purchased a motor bike for Rs. 45,000 (my savings in Germany) even as some people were trying to sell me a piece of land in this zone for 25K an acre.
Anyway, getting back to the road trip, the first intended stop was Etikopakka, the wooden toy village. In this village for over hundred years, craftsmen have been producing lacquered finished wooden products that were sold mostly at fairs and temple in the local region. Some of you may have heard the term lakka pidatalu, little wooden kitchen set that is still very popular in spite of the plastic variations available in the market. However, due to difficulties in production due to the hindrance of the forest department as the wood was a forest produce and due to difficulties in making the products, the whole industry was on the verge of disappearing. It was due to some NGOs in the vicinity that the industry was revived. Once certain critical mass of trained craftsmen were available, few of the local persons got involved in the trade and have started making some wonderful products using natural colours. (pics posted in this blog)
I thought there should be some decent places to eat on the highway after Ellamanchili but then the day was being celebrated as mu-kanumu (which incidentally was the previous day but since it was a Saturday, a day when most of the north andhrites restrain from eating meat) and most of the local markets like Paravada, Achutapuram, which normally are vegetable markets, were filled with chicken and mutton sellers. None of the shops or eating places were open. However, I was sure that some places near Adda Road (an intersection on NH 5 that connected the tribal areas on Eastern Ghats behind Narsipatnam and the coastal areas beyond S.Rayavaram) but that was not the case, most of the shops were closed and the meat sellers were having a field day. Adda Road is a settlement that developed only along the junction, so by going left... u-turn... left... u-turn... left... u-turn and left one would complete the trip of the settlement and reach the starting point. We found a small place with a typical aluminum idli vessel on a smoke-less chula (a coal fired stove with a smoke chimney) but the idlis weren’t done as yet. While the driver and I went to relive ourselves 'around the corner' (which in real terms did not exist in this place), RJ plonked himself on the wooden bench inside the 'hotel'. By the time I came back, RJ had a plate of three steaming idli's in front of him. In no time, the place was filled with people either eating or taking a 'parcel'. With our hunger satiated, we headed to Etikopakka.
actually wanted to end the first part after Etikoppaka but considering that it would be part of the next blog, I decided to put up two pictures as a bait to read my next part :)