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Published: June 21st 2015
The calm before the storm. This trip was an easygoing precursor to my Roopkund trek.
One of the few nearby places around Hyderabad, Papikondalu (Papi hills) is a very scenic place in the East Godavari River. Though not very popular outside, locals flock this place making it very crowded. I, Vivek and Aayush had been to Prashar Lake trek the previous month and wanted a simple luxurious trip where we wouldn't need to sweat it out. We picked this up from our backlog as we saw this was being organized at a convenient time and decided to complete it and tick it off our list.
We started out initially thinking it was only the 3 of us from our gang but then got to know at the end that Aayush's friend Ankita was also joining us. We reached the bus stand where we were supposed to board a bus to Rajamundry and met our organizers and fellow trippers (I know its not a valid usage but you get the pun) there. There was Charan, our lead, his wife Shivani, Jatin, Tejaswini, Priyanka, Savniaash (who everyone assumed to be Avinash) and Sushil who joined us on the bus to Rajahmundry.
Shridhar and Sachin directly joined us there the next morning. On the bus, we started a new game suggested by Savinaash. The game's called Volley and it basically follows the actual game Volleyball (except there is no physical ball involved). Initially a person from Team A serves calling the name of a person in Team B who in turn should call the name of the person in Team B again. Then that person has to call a person in Team A and so the game continues (I know its a lot of person calling but surprisingly we enjoyed it). I, Vivek and Charan were in one team and we kept passing the "ball" to Sushil who was in some other world and kept making mistakes. After a lot of fighting over points and finally resolving the differences, we decided to play Antakshari. Of the group, only I, Vivek, Aayush and Vivek did not know Telugu and thus, had to argue a lot to keep Telugu songs off the table. In the end, we did not bother but just enjoyed singing songs (though we were horrible at some songs' lyrics, we invented a lot of them). Once this got boring, one
by one, we started dozing off though the bus was trying its best to keep us awake.
The next morning, we got down at Rajahmundry bus stop and had to wait for about 30 - 45 mins for our ride to a hotel to arrive. We then quickly got freshened up and headed to the boat's docking point. At this point we were super excited that we would be traveling by a double decker boat. We got into a decent looking boat and all our excitement dissipated. Our whole trip had been planned thinking this would be a peaceful trip but the boat crew had other plans. They had huge loudspeakers where some hosts kept shouting irritating stuff in Telugu (even the Telugu folks were pissed). That would also have been acceptable to an extent except for the fact that the boat was completely filled to its capacity. Without any choice we sat with our heads on our lap thinking how fortunate we were. Thankfully after our breakfast, GandiPochamma Temple arrived and the boat docked there for a while. While lot of people went to see it few of us decided, that was the best time to get some
peace and calm in the boat and skipped going to the temple. I also got a few great clicks of some bats which were flying in and out of a tree nearby. Once everyone was back, the loudspeaker came back to life. Aayush was very pissed and at everyone's insistence removed the loudspeaker's plugs. This at least stopped the loud noise near us (there was another loudspeaker at the front) and it took them a long while to figure out what had happened.
Now with the buzz in our ears gone, Charan and Shivani suggested we play housie (Bingo). They had the whole set and started selling tickets to whoever was interested in the boat. Our gang decided to play safe and one of us purchased for four of us so that we could split only if we got any profit. After all the round we had won about 40 bucks which we used to buy a Pepsi in celebration. We then went down to enjoy the view of Godavari and after a while Aayush and Vivek decided to try some card tricks to fool people. First up was Ankita who was awestruck by one of the very transparent
tricks. They tried another slightly complex one which initially had me perplexed but was able to figure out after a while (It follows the pigeonhole principle and is pretty neat if done quickly). This continued with others including Jatin who kept pestering us as to how the tricks were done until lunch time. After lunch we just lay down out on the steps for sometime enjoying music from our phones and the views of Godavari and its islands. By evening, we stopped at another island where we disembarked from the boat and got a few group pics. They were also selling a few crafts such as wooden ships and houses which were bought by Jatin, Priyanka and few others. After this stop was our final stop for the day which were the bamboo huts situated on the bank of River Godavari at Kolluru Tribal Village of Khammam district.
Initially we just wandered around the island and then were feeling bored. So we decided to go to an opposite island which had white sand and was suitable for playing games like football. We boarded a motor boat and reached the other side. Here everyone felt pretty athletic and decided to
take pics while having running races. Then came Kabaddi. After a lot of initial disagreements regarding how we should say "Kabaddi" while attacking and other rules, we started enjoying the games thoroughly. I played a pretty good escape artist while Sushil played a great defender. Once done, everyone started pushing everyone else around and had great fun. By then the sun was setting and it was time to go back.
We had initially hoped for a campfire at night but when that plan did not realize, after great insistence by the girls, we agreed to dance. The girls were naturals and we tried to give it our best but our dance was limited to one or max two moves repeated over and over again. That changed with Sachin joining us and showing some cool moves (He was actually great but any new move would have been awesome for us at that point). Then when our embarrassment was over, we decided to have a story telling session. After a few initial normal stories, Vivek and Aayush decided to up the ante with a psychotic horror thriller. They based it on our friend Vishal and with some great narration made it
Priyanka referring unruly players
sound very true. I also had almost believed it though had some lingering doubts which when I confronted Vivek with for the 5th time got them confirmed. In short they mixed half truths with some trips they had and made Vishal a psychotic guy who was facing depression after all the traumatic experiences. They had added a few horror elements also for effect. It was the first that I witnessed the great narrative genius in Vivek and Aayush. It took some time for people to recover but after that the dinner bells rang and we got to eat a standard southern dinner as expected (North Indians beware). I then tried to take some pics of the night sky and failed miserably. With that we decided to get into our bamboo huts and get some sleep.
We were greeted by a brilliant sunrise the next day with a blood red sun reflecting over the Godavari river. This was a rare sight which I had never witnessed before and I scrambled to get pics from all angles before the sun rose to its peak. Aayush again tried to feed us another cock and bull story but by then everyone had lost
the ability to believe anything Aayush and Vivek said (Not surprisingly, by the end of Roopkund trek also no one believed a word Vivek said). We then had our breakfast and few of us decided to wander across the island. We went through a village there and got to another bank of Godavari a bit away from our huts. We sat there enjoying the start of our day, talked a bit while I practiced some bird photography. I did get a few good clicks and then we made our way back to our huts. By then everyone was up and we decided to have another round of Bingo. This time Vivek tried his bargaining skills with Shivani and after a while she got so frustrated that she started asking more than the initial price. This time we made a slight loss but still enjoyed the game.
Though I had come for a non-trekking experience, the trekker in me was calling for some action and when I heard about the small stream which runs some 2-3 kms from our base, I jumped to join Savinaash and Sridhar for the small trek. Savinaash, Tejaswini and Priyanka had already been there in
the morning and had said that it had been a nice adventure. The sun was at its peak but still we went ahead and had a good time. We went a bit further than the normal location where most of the folks were going and found an empty spot near the stream. We got into the water which was cold but refreshing and played around a bit. Throughout this trip, I learnt a few more tricks with my camera to add to my arsenal from Savinaash who had a better camera and more experience than me. Sridhar helped us find some wild fruits in the path which Savinaash and he tried and found to be tasty. We then returned back in time for lunch. With that done, it was time to leave and get back into our loud boats (The boats were basically trying to compete on who would be more noisy).
On our way back, we slept for a while while Tejaswini, Shivani etc.. (who knew how to dance) were dancing even on the boat but rest of us had had enough of embarrassment the previous day. We got up in time to catch the sunset which was
again a very beautiful sight with the reddish orange glow going behind the mountains with some of the glow being reflected on the river. All of us sat at the boat's edge to enjoy the view and the wind as the boat moved. That day was the day India played South Africa in the initial stages of world cup and we were shocked to hear the news of how India had trounced South Africa. We finally reached back to the shores from where we caught a Jeep to Rajahmundry and then a bus back to Hyderabad.
All in all it was a nice experience overall thanks to the folks with us who made it fun. Don't get me wrong the place is great with good amounts of scenic imagery and wildlife but language is the main barrier as if you do not speak Telugu, then you will find yourself a minority. Also, it was pretty crowded the time we went and don't even get me talking about the boat's loudspeakers again. So my recommendation would be to go through a group such as HTC (Hyderabad Trekking Club) which was the option we took. Also, the food is purely South
Indian. We went here in Feb and the sun was blazing down on us. The good part was that the skies were clear because of which we got to experience the beautiful sunrise and sunset. So, even with the heat, I would say summer would be the best time to go there (I also think during monsoons they do not even allow anyone there because of the increase in volume of water in Godavari). It is great for a quick weekend getaway near Hyderabad considering the number of options are very less.
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