Dark and deep forests, green hills, cloud covered mornings, gurgling water falls – that is Maredumilli for you ! Located in the dense forests of Eastern Ghats, this quaint little village has been developed by the Forest Department as an Eco-tourism Centre.
You know you have arrived in Maredumilli when you start seeing boards screaming “Bamboo Chicken”, the most popular delicacy of this region ! If you can resist the temptation and drive a few yards further, you will reach the Forest Department’s Eco-tourism resort, Vana Vihari.
Joys of living with nature
Vana Vihari is a simple resort built in the middle of woods, overlooking the hills. The facilities are quite basic but the best part is the feeling of living with nature, which is sheer joy. We had booked our accommodation in advance through their website. The resort was being revamped with new cottages and we were allotted rooms at the end of the resort, we loved them, small, pretty cottages surrounded by greenery !
Our favourite was this view tower, from the top of which we could see the hills and the valley.
Sitting here and gazing into the horizon would be the awesomest thing to do in your life !
Here is a view of the winding road leading to our cottages.
Be watchful if you are climbing here after day break, you may have some monkeys for company ! One of the attenders told us people throw leftover food and the monkeys have got used to finding food near the resort, it seems people don’t listen even after repeated requests. Sometimes, it is hard to tell who the real monkey is !
Vana Vihari is not your regular luxury resort, the cottages come with AC and decent level of cleanliness but be prepared for insects visiting you in the evenings ! New cottages are being built closer to the resort entrance but they don’t seem to have this feel of being surrounded by nature.
After a simple Andhra Meal at the Hill Myna restaurant attached to the resort, we rested for sometime before heading out to nearby waterfalls. You can find sign boards directing you to various places of interest nearby, we shortlisted Jalatarangini Waterfalls, Jungle Star camp and a few medicinal plants eco-tourism centre.
Waterfall from the sky !
It was tea time when we set out to visit the waterfall. We had tea at one of the several small eateries. Anytime of the day, at these eateries, you will find a non-stop supply of Bamboo Chicken ! For those relish their chicken, this is a must try. For vegetarians like this writer, you have the all time favourite pakodi and bajjis. It is quite an experience sitting outside the tea stalls and sipping your tea in true village style !
Clouds were gathering in the distance as we were enjoying our tea and became darker by the time we reached the waterfall. Just as we got down from the car it started drizzling and became dark, like dusk had set in suddenly ! This picture of the entrance to the waterfall should give you an idea.
The moment we set our foot towards the waterfall, a walk of about 200 meters, the sky opened up and it literally poured buckets ! We decided to take the plunge and continuing walking through the woods, with almost no visibility because the rain was too heavy to see anything ! These pictures were clicked randomly with no idea where the lens was being focussed.
This is how the Jalatarangini waterfall looks, even we didn’t know until we saw the picture !
There was water flowing on the ground and water pouring from the sky above, we were almost wondering which of the two was the waterfall !!
We were completely drenched and walking back to the entrance and finding our way through the muddy path, there were only two things we were worried about – our 5 year old nephew and our camera catching a cold ! While the little nephew squealed with joy enjoying the rain, the camera wasn’t too happy. Back the entrance, we stopped for a bit to catch our breath and watch the lashing rain from under the safety of a shelter.
Then we realised, just as we had feared, the Auto Focus of the camera stopped working and the camera kept switching off after every picture, we had to restart the camera after every click, this photographer almost had a panic attack !
We waited for about 20 minutes for the rain to slow down before we got back into car and drive back, dropping plans of visiting other places, instead we treated ourselves by rolling down the windows and breathing the cool air and soaking in the sights of the rain washed, fresh, green forest.
One more click, there is always that something about a winding road and dense forest !
When we returned to Maredumilli, we were amused to find that it had rained heavily everywhere except within the boundaries of the village ! The people at the tea stall told us there was hardly any rain the village, nature does have a sense of humour.
The rest of the evening was spent catching up on family talk, we bought dinner from one of the eateries in the village and as you must do when you visit such off beat places, we went to bed by 9 PM !
Your morning cuppa with clouds
When holidaying in the hills and mountains, waking up before sunrise should be on top of the list. There is a kind of freshness in the morning air that can only be experienced in the mountains. This view of one of our cottages snuggled between the trees greeted us as soon as we woke up.
But, what is a ‘must never miss” sight is that of clouds descending onto the hills, never miss this for anything !
We climbed up the view tower to see the clouds softly cover the hills and then float away without a fuss.
As the sun began to rise, it lit up the clouds and we could see the sun rays reflected on the light clouds. This picture doesn’t catch sunlight but you can see a shade of difference in the cloud to the right.
Wouldn’t we be happier people if we woke up to such mornings everyday?
After about an hour of soaking in the morning freshness, we visited our favourite stall for some coffee. Soon, it was time to check out of our resort and take leave of Maredumilli. Before that, we binged on Mysore Bondas for breakfast and hotel owner lost count of the number of Bondas we ate !
Maredumilli is the kind of the place that just erases the cluttered data from your mind and replaces it with images that you want to revisit again and again – such the bliss one feels at Maredumilli.
By 9.30 AM, we started from Maredumilli, we were headed to Rajamundry for the nth time. The scenic drive continues through the 85 kms drive. We passed by Bhupatipalem Reservoir, some 25 kms from Maredumilli. The dry trees in the water and the hills reminded us of our ferry ride in the Periyar River Wildlife sanctuary at Thekkady.
The information board at the Bhupatipalem reservoir says you can go boating but we were too early in the day. We didn’t find any boat stations or boats, so we are not sure if there really is any boating activity there.
From the green world of Maredumilli, we reached the bustling city of Rajamahendravaram, it was time for the next leg of our trip.
- Maredumilli is about 85 kms from Rajamundry, the nearest city. One can find buses from Rajamundry to Maredumilli, mostly those going towards Bhadrachalam. Bhadrachalam is also an important centre from where you can find transport to Maredumilli.
- The best place to stay at Maredumilli is Vana Vihari. It may not be your typical resort with all best facilities but you will enjoy the experience as it is located in the village and the landscape.
- Stay at Vana Vihari can be booked online from their website http://www.vanavihari.com, the site lists various cottage types but were told most of them were not functional now, including the Jungle Star camp site. Also, their online payment gateway may not work, so it is advisable to call them, talk to the concerned person and make your reservations. You can find the phone numbers on their website.
- A new resort called “Birds Nest” has come up on the outskirts of Maredumilli, the place looks nice, we spotted it while driving out of Maredumilli. You may try this if you are keen on better facilities.
- Jalatarangini Waterfalls, Rampa waterfalls, Nandanavanam medicinal plant garden, Jungle Star camp site and some other waterfalls are places of interest at Maredumilli. Given our experience with the rain, we didn’t visit any of the other places. You will find direction boards everywhere, so you know what to visit.
- Only BSNL phones work at Maredumilli, if you need to contact anyone, you may have to seek help from the people at the resort.
- Almost all food shacks serve good food including the Hill Myna Restaurant associated with the resort. You may have to ignore 100% hygiene while at Maredumilli. If you are a non-vegetarian, don’t miss Bamboo Chicken.
- The entire area around Maredumilli is a dense forest, do not venture out too far on your own, especially after dark.
- Be responsible and do not litter the place.
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