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April 24th 2020
Published: October 22nd 2020
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Simhachalam templeSimhachalam templeSimhachalam temple

Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha- God's name.
The Christmas and year-end holidays were apt to plan a trip to Vizag ( Visakhapatnam ). It was indeed a long pending spot in the bucket list. In fact this was the last tour we did in Decmber 2019 as after that 2020 was a big disappointment as nothing could be planned as such due to the Covid Pandemic.

We took off from Chennai on an early morning flight to Vizag on 20th December 2019 a 2-hour flying distance. Checked in at the hotel much before noon, rested a while and it was lunchtime. The hotel was bang opposite the beach and a lovely view from the room. I did insist on this as read the reviews online before zeroing in on this hotel. The bay view Hotel.

Soon we had our plans for the evening, walk along the RK beach or the Ramakrishna beach closest to our hotel, right across. We walked around, had a good cup of coffee in the coffee shop on the beach side. After this we headed to the local famous Simhachalam temple.

Some news on this temple.This temple was built in the period 1087 AD as per the inscriptions in the temple by the Chalukya King Kulothunga 1. The main deity is Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy. Those who cannot spell it doesn’t matter, it’s a lion god. Set amidst lush green hills the location was lovely. We drove to the top by car and many people climb the 1000 odd steps to reach the temple which is also a sort of prayer. A lot of locals and tourists were there and we could see the main deity in 30 minutes and offered our prayers. This was the only trip today and we got back to the hotel, rested a while, dinner and hit the sack.

The second day was the trip to the nearby Buddhist monastery which is in ruins and the Thotlakonda beach. The monastery was in full form 2000 years back where Hinayana Buddhists lived. It was all in ruins and a bit maintained by the tourism department. The serene hillside climate was an ideal attraction for the monastery to come up. Over 100 monks believed to have lived here. During an aerial survey by the Naval Department to set up a base they bumped into these ruins and then excavations were done in 1988. This is a protected site but needs more care in maintaining such an old heritage site. A rainwater storage tank and granary, meditation mounds are still there. We clicked several snaps as usual and you can see them in the blog.

We then crossed over to the other side of the highway which leads to the beach and the place is Mangamari peta. This place was a beauty as it had the natural rock arch formation. It dates back to several million years and has formed due to the sea erosion under the rocks making an arch after the continuous flow of water for centuries below cutting it to a lovely arch along the beach side. I climbed up on the arch for a photo and also nearby the rocks. It was a wonderful sight.

Our evening trip was to the dolphin's peak and the observatory at the top of the hill. The route was through the naval office and with lots of guards and security personnel with guns! The winding path took us to the top of the hill. As it was the December last week and peak tourist season there was a huge crowd. We had to get dropped much
Thotlakonda Thotlakonda Thotlakonda

Ancient Buddhist Monastery.
before and walk down to the spot.

Yarada Beach is situated on the west coast of Bay of Bengal in Yarada, a village at a distance of 15kms from Vizag. It is located near Gangavaram beach, Dolphin's nose and Gangavaram port. This is a very picturesque beach in Andhra. Surrounded by hills on all three sides this gives a superb sight. The beach is well maintained and looks clean. The rocks along the beach form a lovely line and tempt people to take many snaps. The sea was glittering with the sunshine sweeping over the waters. Overall gave an amazing picture. The beach is also quiet and less crowded surprisingly and we did spend a lot of time lazily sitting, chatting about our trip and of course, clicking left and right!

The next day was off to Arakku valley the high light of our trip. This place is around 3 to 3.50 hrs from Vizag and the ride is up hill. The route was enchanting and as we started by 9 after breakfast we did enjoy the trip thoroughly. The coffee plantations on the way were a lovely sight. We stopped and also bought some garden fresh roasted
Thotlakonda - HistoryThotlakonda - HistoryThotlakonda - History

Ancient Buddhist Monastery.
coffee. By noon we were at the Arakku valley. Since the Borra caves on the way to the town we thought of visiting this instead of coming again from the town. But the crowd was too much and the queue was very long. The guard told us it would take at least 2 hours to enter. I immediately decided to proceed on our trip and scheduled this visit for the next day morning.

I had retained the cab for 2 days as all the nearby places could be easily covered. Our cab driver was helpful and gave tips on the location. In the evening we visited the coffee museum. It was brimming with tourists and they served over 35 to 40 varieties of coffee. We did settle down for a good coffee of our choice and enjoyed it. The evenings were pretty chill and we could feel the nights much colder. We had to switch off the fan fully to overcome the chill weather.

We managed to rise early and got ready to proceed to the Borra caves. In fact we were the first to reach the spot and to get the entry ticket. We had to go
Thotlakonda Thotlakonda Thotlakonda

Ancient Buddhist Monastery.
down the huge crater like formation to reach the caves. It was well lit and also maintained reasonably well. I clicked maximum shots as no one was around and it was splendid. Believed to have been formed as a result of perennial water flows over millions of years, the caves were discovered by British geologist William King in the year 1807. It is over 150 million years old. The Stalactites and stalagmites form a unique structure and hanging all over. It also has different shapes and the imaginations run riot for each of us on the type of structure it resembles! There were some colour lights behind each of the cave like formation and at times looked very artificial and I wondered if the heat would affect the structure which is so old. There are over 1000 odd steps. There is also a small temple for which we need to climb a rickety iron railing to reach the top and we did make it. It was around 9 am weather was pleasant and all the more cool inside the caves. The path way goes down for a long time and then it ends abruptly. We made it till the end
Dome in ruinsDome in ruinsDome in ruins

Partly collapsed but still holding on...2000 years old
and started back to the hotel. A good lunch and little rest and back to the other spots around.

It was a bit crowded but we could spend some time and also purchase some chocolates and coffee at the counter. Then we also visited the tribal museum show casing the local tribes, occupation, village life , traditions. Some pics are here for you. The curator Mr Murali was so friendly that he took us around and explained every stall and its importance. It was getting dark and we headed to our room. Then for dinner we wanted to go a different place a the lodge was not having a good restaurant. We walked down to the Arakku tourism hotel “ Harita “ of which I heard already and it was pretty decent and neat.

We spent some time enjoying hot dinner in the cold weather. You tend to eat more while on tour as more energy is spent and you are hungrier than your normal appetite. We hit the sack and had a good sleep.



]The next day after breakfast we started back to Vizag the starting point. Leaving behind the hills and lovely plantations
Thotlakonda Thotlakonda Thotlakonda

The lay out
we just descend the hilly track. Close to the out skirts of the town we quickly finished our lunch and landed in the hotel for the last day’s stay. The evening was for the submarine visit. This was an old submarine used by the Navy converted in to a museum and it’s worth a visit. We could see how the Navy spent their life in this ship. It was very interesting.

Not much after this, we strolled in the beach for some time and visited the Arabica coffee shop serving the original coffee. It was indeed amazing, being a coffee lover from Chennai like most of the South Indians, it was indeed a treat. The aroma literally pulls you to stop and have a steaming cup of coffee. In fact our morning starts compulsorily with a hot and fresh filter coffee! Being the initial fuel to kick start the engine. In the North India it’s with a hot cup of tea or Chai !



A long walk along the beach and to say finally good bye to the lovely city of Vizag. We least expected that this would be the last trip before a big gap
Thotlakonda Thotlakonda Thotlakonda

Once a monastery with full of activity 2000 years ago..
of almost a year would be there due to the pandemic. All my travel plans for 2020 were shattered.



Well, now 2021 is not very far away and we are praying for the vaccine to be made ready soon to get the shot and pursue my passion…lots of places on the cards.



Bye for now.



Cheers.

Ramz


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The rocky archThe rocky arch
The rocky arch

Wonderful rock formation


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