4 day trip

Andhra : Of flamingoes and monkeys

Avani -> Chandragiri -> Pulicat -> Vontimitta -> Nandalur -> Siddavatam -> Pushpagiri -> Gurramkonda -> Horsely Capturehills

Continued from here

Day 2 :

We had read up online tips to go early to Pulicat lake, so skipping breakfast that’s what we did. On the way were rice fields everywhere we looked and we also saw a guy cycling with one hand on the handle bar and an open tray of eggs in the other- one must truly travel to see such wonders!

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Oh how the green soothes our city-weary eyes

There is a tourist information centre that we entered. Most of the small rooms there seemed locked. We walked on ahead and an old man came hobbling towards us to open it up for us. We got our knowledge download about the various flora and fauna in the region but he also informed us that there were no flamingoes there yet. Heart-broken we decided to still explore the place since it was beautiful. The road to Sriharikota [If the name sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the launchpad for India’s satellites] passes right in between the huge lake which is the 2nd largest lagoon in India. For some reason, the birds all show a decided preference for one side of the lake. Most travel bloggers had reached the place from Chennai and we hadn’t been able to find details of the route from Andhra Pradesh.

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Worth the visit even if just for the road and the lagoon

The lake itself is calm and lovely and would have made a nice day trip by itself. Just a little way in we begin to see spotted pelicans, egrets, and herons in plenty. Cormorants also made an occasional appearance. It was a pleasant way to spend time just watching them standing in the water, their reflections perfectly mimicking them in the clear surface, taking flight in flocks and completely ignoring us.

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Anand, however, was distraught at the lack of flamingoes, the key reason why we had changed our entire trip plan to include Pulicat lake. We saw a mud road that we had ignored earlier, a diversion from the tourist information centre,  and decided to check it out. It was quite slushy with plenty of potholes and passing buses that generously and violently splattered the bright red mud on our car. After going for a while and seeing nothing, we headed back disappointed.

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This is a sample of what the road will do to your car- and it wasn’t even the monsoons

As we joined the road again, Anand pointed to a flock of birds in the distance asking if they looked like flamingoes. They were too far off and we had to use his camera to see them at all. And there they were 🙂 Our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They were too far off, though, and we had no idea of the route we had to take to get to them! The only option was to take the mud road yet again.. And so we went.

We first happened on a flock of birds/young ones of birds. After a long while, we actually did see flamingoes very far off. We headed back and took a small sandy deviation through the vegetation and there they were. Still far but closer than our other views of them- the greater flamingoes. Anand waded through the waterlogged area to take a few pictures to make the whole journey worthwhile.

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The dots across the picture are dragonflies who wanted in on the action

Tip : Stay in your vehicle if taking pictures. Somehow they moved away when we walked towards them silently but seemed to have gotten used to the sound of vehicles passing by. Eat before you get here. There is no food around, not even snacks nor water. Interestingly the only thing nearby is a shady wine store. Also, the lake is beautiful but the mud by its side is not seating-friendly. So a picnic, if any will have to be while seated in your vehicle.

Satiated we headed off to the Vontimitta temple, a 4-hour drive, some of it through the ghat section where I drove a while too. Even from outside we could see it was a beautiful old temple. Perhaps since we reached in the evening, there was a lady singing in the temple accompanied by musicians.  The temple had lovely pillars with intricate carvings or beautiful women and ferocious creatures.img_1012

Considering we were the only tourists, the security guard even enquired if we were from the “department”. It was bigger than an average temple and it seemed like it does get crowded at some events since there were arrangements made for queue management too. IMG_4155.CR2.jpgThe place had monkeys in plenty and they frequently alternated between being menacing while trying to pull my notebook and being delightful when jumping across the flowering plants in the temple premises and munching on coconuts.

We checked into the AP tourism hotel next door. It has a brilliant view of the sunset over the Vonimitta lake with wispy white trees in the foreground, that had us captivated.

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In case you choose to stay here and actually know Telugu you should try explaining to the bellman there that he actually needs to help us with our luggage to then be “offered” a tip. We carried all our bags in ourselves while he walked alongside with 2 towels for us. He then demanded Rs.20. We were confused for a while after which we decided we didn’t have the language skills to explain anyway and carried on.

Later that evening, we considered taking a walk since the weather was lovely and the temple seemed somewhat lit up. However, we had forgotten for a moment that we were actually on the highway with not even a footpath to make our way walking. Just as we thought of heading back, a beautiful burst of fireworks lit up the sky and formed the backdrop for the temple. Unexpectedly perfect moments like these are perhaps why we travel and what brings a smile to our faces.

Coming up next: A nail-biting adventure in Andhra Pradesh

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