Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Riverbanks and aqua ponds....

After I managed to get hold of RJ and after he finished his photo session, we had breakfast in a small local ‘parlour’. While we ate, we tried to chart out a route on a not too precise tourist map. The map showed a line across Godavari next to Kotipalli Reevu. I have heard that it is a beautiful spot so wanted to head there.

After going past more green fields, we get to this small village Kotipalli with flashes of Godavari between houses. At the end of the village, a small road leads to a small ghat with steps leading to the river. On the left part of the Ghat was a large Banyan tree with a raised platform all around it that seated some men, animals and gods. The idols were smeared with turmeric and kunkum. A tiny path circling the banyan tree leads to a small jetty. From this jetty, a ferry transported people and vehicles on to the other bank. There was no bridge. So yet another mistake on the map. All around the Ghat were small shops selling assorted ware: from Telugu song books to batteries to 'cool drinks' to bakery products.

While we were looking around, the driver found out that the ferry could transport the car even. However, we were keen on finding a bridge across the river. The locals said that the only bridge close by is Yanam Bridge. We looked at the map and it showed no signs of this bridge. The bridge has apparently been renamed after the erstwhile Lok Sabha speaker Balayogi. (Yanam is a small town close to Kakinada, which is a part of the Union territory of Pondicherry).

Instead of taking the main route, we decided to take the road that ran alongside the river. The road was all along a raised bund that separated the land from the high flood levels of the river. Though the road very narrow and absolutely lousy, the scenes it provided us were fantastic: green paddy fields on our left and a lovely river on our right that was shimmering in almost mid day light, that was brought down to a manageable level by the tinted windows of the car. After a while when opportunity presented us a larger and smoother road that would take us to the bridge quicker, we took it. But not without stopping by and clicking few photos.

In no time, we crossed the river, went past some nice quaint places like Razole and normal dusty towns like Bhimavaram, Narsapur, etc. only to reach one of the most horrible places - Kaikalur - for lunch.

We entered West Godavari somewhere after Razole.There is marked differences between the two Godavari districts. While East Godavari is full of lush green paddy fields, West Godavari (or atleast the part that we were travelling through) is full of aqua ponds with nets hanging over them to protect the cash rich aqua products from being eaten by birds. It was depressing to see these rich fertile lands being converted into irreversible aqua ponds. These ponds are filled with brackish water to grow shrimp, prawns etc. In Vizag district, most of the aqua crop had a virus attack due to excessive farming. This outbreak not only ruined that particular crop but also the reputation of the whole industry. This lead to many companies going bankrupt or loosing lakhs of rupees. The farmers who leased out their lands to aqua companies cannot till the land anymore so, in certain parts of Vizag has large tracts of lands that are lying wasted.

Getting back to the West Godavari aqua farming, Kaikalur seemed to be the centre all the activity. It seems that Kolleru lake, the largest freshwater lake in AP has been encroached all around by aqua ponds, Kaikalur being the largest town in the vicinity seems to have taken this development in its stride. Just about every business is related to this aqua culture. So much so for the chapter in our school telugu book “Kolleti Kongalu” (literally it would mean cranes of Kolleru but it was basically on pelicans, which are in large number in this lake). We actually took this route in hope of finding a restaurant or a place overlooking the lake. Perhaps there is but we were in no mood to search.

To add to the woes (RJ had stomach cramps), I did not feel like eating at all the Veg-Non Veg joints but wanted to look for a pure Veg place. Don’t know why but just did not feel like being a part of the system around. Normally, I tend not to be too emotional about things but then in Kaikalur, the discomfort of travel and my thought may played up on my mind and I refused to eat at any other place. We had to travel up and down the main road at least two times, before we did manage to find a small thatch roofed joint serving Veg Andhra meals. RJ decided to skip a meal.

After the meal both RJ and I were happily to get out of this depressing town and be as far away from Kaikalur as possible.

Some pics here