Tuesday, 27 Oct, 2009
Today I have been on the road for seven long hours. This long journey is the result of lack of information, bad planning and confident assumptions on my part. So at the end of the day I am now sitting with somewhat sore buttocks and little bit of restlessness that a whole day has been wasted travelling on the bus without seeing anything useful. Although the scenery from the bus was good, it was repetitive after a while. I lost interest. The slow swaying motion of the bus, the lullaby of the wheels on the road was quite effective in putting me to sleep. I dozed off a lot today on the bus.
When I left Gudiwada, I had the idea of visiting Draksharamam. I assumed there would a bus from Machlipatnam to Draksharamam, at least that’s what the map indicated, showing a clear road between the two places. So I slept at Machlipatnam last night. It is a busy town based around one long road that stretches as far as eye can see. All along this road the place is frantic with activity, particularly at a time when people are commuting back home from work.
This morning I took a bus to Munginapudi, where there is small stretch of beach. I am told that it is one of the cleaner beaches. The beach had nothing interesting. It is not a place where you would spread a towel under a beach umbrella, sip a cocktail and lounge in the shade while the waves crash busily. There is enough litter around to keep away such pleasures. There are crabs boring in and out of the wet sand. Sea-kelps and other floatsam give enough scope for beach scavengers. I don’t know what exactly they collect but they go around combing the debris with a careful eye. Anything that interests, they pick up and drop into their plastic sacks. They live clearly below the poverty line. Some years ago, I had met a woman on a beach in England. She was an artist who made objects made from flotsam washed up on England’s beaches. In India, the scavengers I saw today are artists of another kind – the art of survival.
Beach scavengers are not the only ones I found interesting at Munginapudi. A little away from the beach are some marshes. Here I found a few men and women bent over and groping in the thick mud for something. Once is a while they would grab something and put it into a little basket tied to one of their legs just below the knee. Was it a pearl, an oyster, a fish or a crab? Sometimes they would scoop up handfuls of mud and throw them away so that they can dig deeper where they stood. Here in India a lot of life still resembles medieval or Victorian England. These folks bend knee deep over the water reminded me of the “mud-larks” of the river Thames.
Not finding a bus to Draksharamam, I proceeded to Bhimavaram. I had to walk quite a bit at Bhimavaram looking for a decent restaurant for lunch. I finally found one in Sridevi, quite close to the railway station. Bus connections to Draksharamam were not convenient and it would take too long. So I took a bus bound for Rajamundry hoping to look at the temples there and perhaps chip in a visit to Papi Kondalu.
When I reached Rajamundry, it was too late to visit Papi Kondalu. A visit to this place would take an entire day. It had to be postponed for tomorrow.
Wednesday, 28 Oct, 2009
Papi Kondalu is a spectacular gorge which can be accessed only by boat. A visit to this place is definitely touristy. Breakfast and lunch are provided. The entire trip takes 10-12 hours and costs anywhere between Rs. 300-500 per head.
I was not sure if I would enjoy sitting on a boat for 12 hours. Leisure holidays have never been my cup of tea. Anyway, it is a different experience and so I decided to take the ride. I reached by half seven at the quay where boats normally depart. I enquired at a few agents.
‘There is a boat tomorrow.’
‘Today’s boat left at six.’
These replies surprised me. I was told last night that boats normally leave at eight. My informants had been wrong or badly outdated. So I had no choice but to give up Papi Kondalu altogether.
So coming to Rajamundry had not been productive. There is a famous temple here by the river, close to where the boats leave. The Uma Markandeyeswara Swamy had nothing to interest me in the way of art or architecture. So even the last straw of redemption in coming to Rajamundry vanished. I have to move on. I have to find my next destination.