Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tryst with life in the East coast and Eastern Ghats

 Tryst with life in the East coast and Eastern Ghats
— Part two of a six part series on my recent sojourn into this unique part of India.

Day 2: Vishakapatnam Srikakulam and Naupada
It was May day, supposed to be a holiday. We reached Vizag early morning and checked what looked like a lousy lodge. Freshening up, we headed out to grab something to eat. Turns out, May Day was indeed taken seriously. We walked for about a kilometer and not a single hotel was open! Eventually we found a place and ate whatever was there. We later topped it up with some snacks from a ‘Bangalore Iyengar’ bakery. Being an Iyengar myself, I couldn’t be more tempted to go there and talk in the Iyengar tamil. I did not. That chap in the bakery however, spoke to us and in Kannada. We went back to the hotel and there was a big ‘Scorpio’ an SUV, often associated with rowdy’s and hooligans was waiting for us. Initially, we had booked tickets to Naupada in train but they never got confirmed. Only other way was to drive up. By 10 am, it felt like it was 12 in the noon. We all left and the day progressed in the hot weather, driving along the bay of Bengal for quite some distance. Customary tea stops were normal. By the time we reached Naupada, it was noon. Being May Day, hotels were closed. We headed towards the heronry known as Teelineelapuram. Upon asking, people said there was only one ‘Bhojanalaya’ and it was good. From the initial looks of it, it did not seem good in any stretch of imagination. Cattle shed, dirty looking front yard, man cooking rice in the cow shed, chicken roaming around and a drum of dirty water to wash up. Having no other choice, we went in. Big paper plates, lined with thin cellophane paper and pressed in the shape of plate was laid out for us on the floor. Turns out this place had no table and chair. Infact, it was a mess inside the house, first room being the pantry, second being the kitchen of sorts and the last being the dining hall. Once the food was served, the first impression was shattered. It was a stupendous meal so to say!. 
We reached Teelineelapuram at noon. It was a small village, comprising of mostly ‘Komati’ a local sect of people, often known to be stingy!. The village had tamarind trees upon which birds would nest. This place is recorded in history for having the birds there over centuries. Dr. Ganesh pointed out that tamarind tress were often associated with evil and were never planted within the village. They always used to be away. May be the village expanded and the trees were in the village. We also noticed a pair of Painted Stork juveniles standing in a nest on a Bamboo plant!. Below the nest was a pond heron. The parents came with fish and regurgitated it on the nest, amidst total chaos by the continuous squawking by the young ones. The heron, made several easy meals by picking out fish from underneath the nest! Ingenious indeed. Later, we heard from a young local that people too, wait for the birds to bring fish and manage to take several pickings when they fall down to the ground!
A clever pond heron fishing from the nest!
 Turns out, a major fire broke up in the village and most thatched houses got burnt. That was the reason we saw solid concrete roofed houses. The forest dept and also established itself in the village. A few buildings, an interpretation centre and a huge four storey watch tower adorned the village. After resting under the trees for a while and watching Indian Grey Hornbills chase each other, we climbed up the tower to get a view. 
Indian Grey Hornbill
We could see the Eastern Ghats at a distance, a goods train chugging its way along and the canopy of the big tamarind trees. An odd Pelican or two perched on the tree tops. Giri caught up with an elderly man and began talking to him about the history of the place. Much of it we did not understand. 
Heronaries can be a nasty place with bird poop, stench and constant calling of birds!
Heronary on a temple tree cluster. Often, these old trees serve as safe sites for these birds.

By evening, we decided to head to the swamps at Naupada where the birds go to feed. It was an estuary of sorts. However, we were told that a major protest was happening there as a Nuclear power plant was about to come up there. People were up in arms. We thought we will try our luck and went. A huge crowd had gathered in the village. We stopped for tea and everything seemed calm. However, half way, we were stopped and advised to go back. We went to salt pans instead. There was a film crew out there filming the salt making process. Rock salt, dirty brown in color was put in heaps. The sun was going down behind the distant hills. The cool sea breeze began to blow. 
Salt pans' in Naupada. Eastern Ghats is seen at the distance.
 While returning, we went up to the sea. With sun behind our backs and the cool breeze on our face, it felt really good. A quick walk on the sand dunes showed a bit of un modified habitat. Around us were large areas of Casuarina planted as protection against Tsunami!. A lone bushlark was calling its heart out parachuting in the air. None of us had seen this bird so close to the sea and that too on the sand dunes. Sand crabs dung they way into the soft sand and several cones and shells adorned the sand bank. 
Sand dune ecosystem. A natural thing that has gone missing from our coasts thanks to mindless Casuarina planting.
Done with the long day, we headed back, with several tea stops of course. An easy paced dinner at a fake ‘Kamat’ hotel where there was only one light and one server and two tables. The server had to be told to lay out plates, lay out water, get the menu card etc etc. He coolly got water from the wash basin as we had asked for normal water!. By the time we were done, a major fight had broken in the hotel. We paid our bill and walked out. We hit the bed for the first time in three nights. Next day was another bright day.
To be continued. In part three, we traverse through the forests of Eastern Ghats and witness the dark side of things.

For the previous episode, please visit :


  1. Very nice! Smart bird, the Pond Heron :) In what language was the elderly man speaking, by the way?

  2. Thanks! Old man spoke in Telugu. Giri and vikram understood. Others dint....