svetlana baghawan maverickbirdI left the tribal belt and the sleepy town of Jaypore and started my mega road trip through the heart of the Eastern Ghats. The sun was already high and a silvery haze hung over the huge expanse of land. A dry papery breeze, so common in early summer rustled the already crackling stiff leaves and blew through my hair like a warm breath. It was a beautiful day. I rolled the window all the way down and took in lungfulls of the fresh breeze. Hills came soft and rounded and the road meandered through them and cultivated fields swathed in green and gold. The road was not in best shape in parts but I had seen worse ones right in the heart of India’s teeming mega metros.  Apart from us, hardly any vehicle was plying and occasionally a few jeeps covered with people,  goods and animals puttered by.

I had no connectivity on my phone,  the car radio was dead and I was left alone with most amazingly quiet moments. The driver was a taciturn man and gave me the luxury of complete silence. Huge fluffy clouds built castles on a deep blue sky and tequila cacti plants stood like rows of spiky soldiers. Eastern Ghats is not as high as its Western counterpart and is rather gently rolling and lush. A few hamlets were tucked away in its folds and streams and lakes lay interspersed like shimmering mirrors. There was absolutely nothing on the road for hours and even the omnipresent Indian tea shop was missing. Sometimes on patches of fields which were getting prepped for new crop, colourful bits of sarees were visible. Replete of people, vehicles and animals, the interiors of Eastern Ghats was one solitary paradise.

We turned a bend and a train chugged in from somewhere. I realized that a railway network had cut through the Eastern Ghats too, but had no idea where it went. It was a slow train, narrow gauge one perhaps and it streamed through the fields of gold like a bright blue ribbon. After driving for nearly 4 hours non stop, the road became smoother and habitation became more and more closely knit. Motorbikes zipped by and the casuarina shaded road had more traffic than before. Rural women in bright sarees stood by the road like gaudy butterflies and finally the “Indian” mass contraption called auto rickshaw/tuktuk made its presence felt loudly.

The registration plates on the auto rickshaws read the neighbouring state Andhra Pradesh and somewhere in the golden loneliness, Odisha was left behind. A rickety signboard soon welcomed me to Araku Valley and immediately I got drowned in a cacophony of people, cars, noise and animals. After so many hours of silence and soothing colours, the noise and images burst like an explosion and I longed for peace immediately. I was staying at a tiny resort outside Araku town and urged the driver to get out of the mess faster. He did as best as he could, navigating between huge mounds of bananas, flowers, cows, berries and leaves. Fierce corpulent ladies with flowers in their hair sold seeds, fruits and glared at the world. The civilized mess died out immediately after leaving the town and I again surrendered to the surreal peace as I checked into a lovely cottage by a gurgling stream. Birds called, dew dripped from pepper vines and a light mist kissed me lovingly. I was in the hidden gem of a hill station called Araku Valley and surrounded by mists, play of sun and shadow and silvery streams, it was absolutely a slice of heaven.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE

Some photos have been taken from the internet.

Leaving the tribal hinterland behind

Leaving the tribal hinterland behind

I drove onwards

I drove onwards

Through the most isolated

Through the most isolated

And beautiful part of India

And beautiful part of India

The Eastern Ghats

The Eastern Ghats

The road stretched

The road stretched

Endlessly up and down hills

Endlessly up and down hills

And expanse of golden fields

And expanse of golden fields

A train chugged by through the silent ghats

A train chugged by through the silent ghats

And it was hours before habitation started

And it was hours before habitation started

Araku Valley arrived

Araku Valley arrived

Soon and

Soon and

Immediately I got drowned

Immediately I drowned

In colours

In colours

And bustle

And bustle

Peace surrounded me

Peace surrounded me

When I checked into the quiet resort at Araku Valley

When I checked into the quiet resort at Araku Valley