A business related meeting saw us travelling to Kakinada over the weekend of 17th September. This time, instead of the highway, we took the railway because it was a weekend work trip and we weren’t expecting any time for going around. We took a ride on the Gautami Express to Kakinada, the highlight of the journey being the view of the sunrise over Godavari Rail-cum-road bridge at Rajahmundry.
Kakinada, the headquarters of East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, has been a very important business and educational centre, right from the time of the British, the Kakinada Port adding to its commercial importance.
Reaching Kakinada at 7.30 AM, we headed for our meeting at 10 AM and were done with it by lunch time. We had expected the work to spill over to Sunday but it was all wrapped up in one afternoon ! That sent out an huge signal to our travel antenna and we were already drawing up plans to go sight seeing. Secretly, that was actually the whole purpose of agreeing for a meeting at Kakinada !
Lunch was at Kakinada’s all time favourite Subbayya Hotel, these people never cease to amaze us with the food. Even if you miss the best of tourist places in Kakinada, do not miss a lunch/dinner at Subbayya Hotel.
After an afternoon siesta, we set out to find out information about Coringa Wildlife sanctuary, 15 kms from Kakinada. Surprisingly, nobody in Kakinada had ever heard about Coringa or Corangi or any wildlife sanctuary for that matter, not even the travel agents ! We searched the internet and found the phone numbers of the wildlife authorities who gave us some information in bits and pieces.
Vakalapudi Beach, Kakinada
We then decided to check out the beaches and took an auto ride to Vakalapudi Beach. The badly maintained beach looked like a lake, with hardly any waves. The shore had some interesting patterns and colour, it looked like the terrain of some other planet in the outer space. We weren’t even carrying a camera with us and had to adjust with a Nokia N900 phone, the phone did a decent job with the pictures.
We walked along the littered shore until it was sun set time. We wanted to check the popular Uppada Beach but it was getting dark and we dropped the idea. On the return, we asked our auto driver if he knew about Coringa. He not only knew about the place, he also agreed to take us there the next morning. Absolutely delighted and to celebrate our luck, we went to Subbayya Hotel again for another sumptuous Andhra meal.
Coringa Wildlife sanctuary
Early next morning, our auto driver gave us a ride to Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary located near the village of Chollangi, about 15 kms from Kakinada. The ride was through the green fields, coconut trees and tiny villages, the common sight of the East Godavari district.
The Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary opens at 9 AM. The forest area here is called the Mada Forest. Coringa sanctuary is located around the estuary formed by a branch of the Gautami River, a distributary of the Godavari as it meets the sea at Coringa sanctuary. It is also the one of India’s largest mangrove forests.
Even on a Sunday, the sanctuary was empty. The authorities have built a wooden ramp to walk around the forest.
A walk in the forest is an experience to remember. There is absolute silence except for the sounds of the forest. The ramp stretches for 1 &1/2 kms around the forest and in some places passes through branches of huge trees.
There are some benches to sit and soak in the greenery, freshness, peace and stillness of the forest. The place looks straight out of a dream !
Mangroves of Coringa
The ramp ends on the banks of the river, with mangroves on either side.
Gautami meets the sea
One can take a boat ride to the place where the river meets the sea. The boat ride costs Rs.400 /- but worth every rupee. The ride takes you along the river as it opens out into the sea. It is a most beautiful sight to see the river bound on both sides by mangroves, suddenly fanning out into the sea.
The mangroves play host to a variety of birds, being the off-season, we couldn’t spot too many birds, except a few cranes and heroins.
The end of the mangroves marks the boundary between the sea and the river. The moment you leave the river and enter the sea, it feels like a new world opened before you suddenly. One can actually see small waves where the river meets the sea, these waves seem to draw a line between the two.
When you stand at this point, you can sea the unending sea before you and the river flowing silently behind you as it reaches its final destination. What it does to the inner peace and the mind is something to be experienced !
Close to Coringa sanctuary, a 3 hour boat ride along the river takes you to Hope Island and Yanam. AP Tourism is building cottages here for over-night stays, there is also an old light house belonging to the British period. We gave it a miss because we were running short of time.
We walked back on the ramp to the sanctuary administrative office area. There is a watch tower from where you can view the entire forest area.
From the top of this tower, all you can see is green, the Mada forest stretches before you for miles. You can also see the sea beyond.
The officer in-charge gave us a long lecture on the flora and fauna of the forest, the best season to visit Coringa is between November-December when there are migratory birds.
Season or not, the greens of the mangroves, the browns of the muddy river water, the blues of the sea and whites of the birds dotting the landscape here and there makes Coringa one of the most rejuvenating places to visit. Beware of the humidity and sultry weather in Summer, though !
It is advisable to have your own vehicle or a hired one that will pick you up from Coringa. The place is located in a remote area and finding transportation is very difficult, there are no eating joints nearby either.
As it was nearing lunch time, we headed back to Kakinada and boarded a bus to Rajahmundry, an hour’s drive from Kakinada. Post lunch and some rest later, we set out to do the “in” thing in Rajahmundry – road side Bajjis and Rose milk.
Since it was a pleasant evening, we walked along the Godavari Bund road, enjoying the cool river breeze. We also took the AP Tourism boat ride on the Godavari just for the fun of it. The boat goes right under the 3 massive bridges on the Godavari, the engineering feats that these bridges are, they always leaves you in wonder.
As the sun set over Rajahmundry, it was time for a mandatory culinary pilgrimage of Rajahmundry – the roadside Bajjis. Bajjis made of all kinds of vegetables, topped off with Goli Soda and Rose milk – if there is culinary bliss on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this !
Though you can hardly walk after all the bajjis, you should still drag yourself to the Rose Milk shop, it is a sin to go to Rajahmundry and not have Rose milk.
Exhausted after all the eating, we walked to the Railway station and waited for the Garib Rath Express to take us back to Hyderabad, our food exploits made sure we drifted off to sleep the moment we boarded the train !
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