Continuing from the previous post...
... Next day early at 6 AM we reached the Vizag railway station for APTDC's Rail cum Road (RR) Tour to Araku valley. This is a one day tour which starts by reporting to APTDC's counter at Vizag station. You can buy the ticket for this tour from this counter as well, but I would advice you to book in advance as the tickets are limited and seats fill up pretty quickly. The ticket is Rs 600 (for one day tour) per person including all meals, train and bus tickets as well as tickets to Tribal Museum, Park and Borra Caves.
The train (VK1) leaves Vizag at 6:50 AM. Make sure to reach station at 6 AM, because even with a ticket in hand, you might not get a seat as happened with a family which arrived after 6:30 AM. The train is a disappointment though because firstly its a passenger train and secondly the compartment is the General (Unreserved) compartment which means the seats are very uncomfortable for a 4.5 hr journey. Its a strict no-no for people with back problem and might become intolerable during summers (May-June). Once the train starts, breakfast is served (2 idlis+1 vada+ 1 bottle of mineral water) per . The journey to Araku in the train can get a little boring so make sure if you go by train, go in a large group. The journey though uncomfortable, but is a beautiful one and if you can go in a big group I would suggest it's a must. The train goes through beautiful mountains, where you can see greenery till as far as the eye sees. There are many (more than 20) tunnels on the way and a lot of springs flowing through the mountains. You will not see these sites if you travel by road (road journey though is 3 hrs only). Anyways take a look at the pics and decide for yourself:
I have been told that you can see lots of water streams through the mountains during rainy season. The train reaches Araku at 11:20 AM where APTDC buses wait for the passengers. These buses are ordinary semi confortable (non A/c) buses which was the next big disappointment. Our bus was in fact late by 20-25 mins and the time spent waiting for buses was very miserable with nothing to do, no where to sit and most people very tired. After the buses came, we were directly taken to a Tribal museum in Araku which was another big dissapointment. The museum entry is a very nominal Rs 10 (adult) but its still not worth it. We were given 15 mins for the museum (yes its that small) but we came out in only 10 mins. Then we were taken to a park in Araku which also has an entry ticket of Rs 10 and the tour guide will tell you to take a toy train ride (Rs 8 per person) inside the park because he will say its a huge park and cannot be covered on foot. But personally the park is rubbish, I have seen much better parks in almost all the cities I have lived in/ visited. The toy train ride can be given a miss. We stopped at the park for about 20 mins.
Except the beautiful valleys to see during the train travel, the remaining tour was a big disappointment till then and the same continued. After the park we were taken to APTDC resort for lunch. The resort is beautiful (and in case you take a two day tour for Rs 2100 per person for A/c room you will be put up for a night in this resort) but the lunch was not good at all. With almost two hundred people to feed in one go, the arrangement was chaotic and there was not enough seating. The food was typical Andhra cuisine which not everyone relishes as its very spicy. But there is a restaurant in the resort which has a decent menu and you might want to try it out (you have to pay seperately for it). After the lunch there was a traditional tribal dance at the resort lawns (at 2:00 PM) which made no sense at all. It felt like we were being rushed through to complete all that was part of the tour package. Tribal dance at 2:00 in the afternoon doesn't make sense to me!
Anyways we left the place at 2:15 and then stopped at another APTDC resort at Ananthgiri for snacks at 3:00 PM. I couldn't believe this!! We had lunch just an hour back and now we are stopping again for snacks. But you could clearly see that the stoppage was deliberate to get the Ananthgiri resort a part of the pie of the tour. The snack was two chilli bhajji's each! Anyways after stopping for 15 mins at the resort and then traveling for another 30 mins we reached Borra Caves. This was the best part of the whole tour. Borra caves with 410 steps (up and down) are really beautiful (and should not be missed). You can clearly see the Stalagmites and Stalactites in the caves. There is a small temple at the top as well. Pics of Borra Caves:
After the Borra Caves the bus left back for Vishakhapatnam but on the way we saw the coffee plantations and stopped at a place (name of which I forgot) for a photoshoot. The place was 1500 feet above sea level and we could click some nice pictures. This stop was another good part of the tour.
After this stop the bus headed towards Vizag but we had different plans. We had booked ourselves for overnight stay at Tyda which is on the way to Vizag (75 kms from Vizag). The bus dropped us at the resort - Jungle Bells. I must say the resort is beautiful and we stayed in "The Bridge Cottage" which is Rs 1890 (approx $50) per room per night. It reminded of our stay at the Barjaya Resort in Langkawi last year (I will write about my Malaysia trip soon). The price includes breakfast (which is again idli/vada and tea/coffee). You can order lunch/dinner in advance and the canteen has a very reasonable priced menu as is with all government resorts. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the resort. Some pics:
We had the same tribal dance again at this resort, but this time at 7 PM in evening in much cooler temperatures it looked much better.
Overall, I would suggest you can give RR tour of APTDC a miss, in fact you can give Araku valley a miss as well, because there is nothing much to do there, but a visit to Borra Caves is a must. Also I would highly recommend a stay at the Jungle Bells resort at Tyda. They have different cottages and camps which you can find out about by giving a call to the resort at: +91-891-2713135 , 2746446