Vijayawada - A tale of Victory
Vijayawada, meaning ‘place of victory’, previously known as Bezawada, is located on the banks of river Krishna and is enveloped by Indrakiladri Hills to its west. Vijayawada today is one of the most important commercial cities of Andhra Pradesh and the only other major city in the reduced state of Andhra, the main being Visakhapatnam or Vizag. It is also a suburb to the newly developing capital of #AndhraPradesh, Amaravati. A quite modern city still preserving its ancient ruins, the city has great connectivity through rail, road and flights. Vijayawada is a veritable paradise for people to learn more about the region’s history and culture. While some renowned temples are expected in every major south Indian city, Vijayawada is also surrounded by numerous hills and with a grand river by its side, giving tourists many avenues to get good views.
The thought of making Vijayawada our next trip had struck us since the time we shifted to Hyderabad. It took an interesting twist this summer when we were consumed by the idea of making it a motorbike trip. Vijayawada is 340 kilometres from our place and while one of us has done 500 kilometres on a bike in a day, the other hasn’t done more than 180 km! While covering this long-distance on a cruiser bike or Enfield is easier, very few attempt such distances on a Honda Dazzler (Read 'us'). The thought scared us but also lured us on taking this challenge.
Other places to visit as a weekend outing from Hyderabad
Hyderabad to Vijayawada road-trip:
We planned our road trip to Vijayawada for the long weekend holiday of Good Friday in March 2016. Everything from hotels and places we would visit to the last bit of detail about where would we be taking breaks on the way was finalised. We had even begun working out, focusing on our backs, which go through most stress during such long bike trips. Our excitement came down crashing 2 days before the trip when the newspapers read - 'AP reels under intense heat'. Vijayawada recorded its highest temperature in 4 decades – 42.4 degree Celsius. Hyderabad itself was difficult to survive without air-conditioners at temperatures inching towards 40 degree Celsius mark. Prolonged exposure to such temperatures with heat waves can not only play havoc with our skins & minds, but it can also do major damage to our bike – a bike which we planned on running continuously for at least 8-9 hours with 5-6 short breaks in atmosphere temperature of 42 degree Celsius. The road is obviously much hotter than that. After lots of thinking, calculations and pondering over our fear, we decided that we needed to do this. There was no second thought now.
Hyderabad to Vijayawada route map:
Early on Friday morning around 5 AM we tied our bag to the rear side of the bike with a bungee rope and started our road trip to Vijayawada from Hyderabad. We had to start early to avoid the peak noon temperatures. The most optimistic plan was to reach by 1 PM. We had decided the best route to reach Vijayawada the previous night. We took the outer ring road service route from Gachibowli and drove towards the airport approach road. We decided to take frequent short breaks to prevent our back from aching. Our first break was after some 53 odd kilometres at Wonderla Amusement Park which was still under construction at that time. Clicking a few photographs and after quick stretching exercises we set off on the road again. Apart from a few speed breakers placed here and there the road was pretty smooth. We soon took an exit from the Outer ring road and took the Hyderabad-Vijayawada highway. Driving 30 kilometres more we halted on the highway near Ramoji Film city to savour hot breakfast. Filling our stomach we set out again. At around 8 AM and 128 kilometres, we reached Suryapet. We took half an hour halt here as our next stop was 120 kilometres from Suryapet at Kodad. This was the longest stretch planned in one go and we needed to be mentally and physically perfect before starting this. Another reason for deciding on this long stretch was there is no urban area post Suryapet towards Vijayawada. There are several villages and we were not sure if we would get a decent place post this.
As we resumed our further journey, the sun was already up in the sky shining brightly and we started feeling the heat. Vijayawada seemed too far. Reaching Kodad was arduous and we were eager to jump out of our bikes. With no restaurant in sight, we stood under the shade of a large tree and sprinkled some water on our bike and waited for it to cool down a bit. We had no choice but to go on. After another 50-60 kilometres, we reached Nandigama where we had planned our last break and lunch. We were relieved to take another long break and sit on cushioned chairs at a local restaurant in a village. We raced towards Vijayawada from this last stop on the four-lane highway driving smoothly; no traffic no rough patches. We finally reached Berm Park resort (Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation - APTDC) on the bank of river Krishna in Vijayawada. It was a beautiful place with gardens, view of the Prakasham Barrage and Bhavani Island at a distance. We had booked our stay at Bhavani Island resort (also APTDC) which is located on the small island on the Krishna River. Berm park is from where you can onboard boats for Bhavani island. We parked our vehicle near a garden in berm park under tree shed giving our loyal chariot much needed rest.
A boat started from Berm Park to Bhavani Island every half an hour. Our boat was launched after waiting for some 10-15 minutes. Clicking kids playing in the water on the way was a joy as our boat ferried towards Bhavani Island. The entrance to Bhavani Island is huge with large wooden docks carved nicely. Bhavani Island has 2 types of rooms – air-conditioned rooms with river view river and treetop rooms without air-conditioning nestled amidst jungles. Though the soaring temperatures enticed us to book air-conditioned rooms, we didn’t want to miss out yet another experience of living in treetop rooms. The room was very basic and was supported on cemented structure giving a treehouse feel. Huge trees surrounded the room. The wooden feeling of the room gave a natural feel. Too much travelling and the heat took a toll on us and we had to take a shower followed by a deep sleep as soon as we lay on the bed.
We woke up at 5 PM in the evening and took a walk across the Bhavani Island. The peace and calmness of the environment amazed us. We walked on the sand towards the adventure sports zone and were amazed to see the variety of adventure and water sport activities they had. The officials have also built a cute little lighthouse here. Watching the young college crowd who had come from the city just to enjoy water sports and clicking photographs, we didn’t know when time flew by. The golden sunset was a treat to the eyes as we enjoyed the panoramic view of the resplendent river and the city of Vijayawada. Bhavani Island is open for general public till 6:30 PM and after that, we had the whole place to us. We sat on the terrace restaurant appreciating the cool breeze from Krishna River, helping keep the temperature moderate. Chit-chatting we didn’t realise it was dinner time. We ordered food and continued with the conversation. After dinner, we went near the bank of Krishna river to click night photographs of the Prakasam barrage and the hills. Thankfully we had carried our tripod with us.
We woke up early in the morning to catch the sunrise from Bhavani Island. As we walked towards the bank of the Krishna river we spotted a bench placed just adjacent to where the water sports were conducted a day before. This early in the morning, the place was very quiet and peaceful. Sitting on the bench we saw the sunrise from behind the mountains. We hadn’t planned on going for water sports as they were unnecessarily costly compared to what we have seen elsewhere. But the security guard tipped us to go and ask for Rs. 500 complimentary vouchers from the reception for the water sports. We did go to the reception and were excited to get it. Bhavani Island being government resort, we guess the staff doesn’t tell you upfront that you get these vouchers on booking a room and would keep every unused voucher for themselves and their families. It is good to know that there are honest people like the security guard. We went to the water sports area and opted for a paddling boat ride. The sight of the swan-shaped paddle boat was amusing. We paddled the boat deep inside the Krishna river towards Prakasam barrage clicking pictures. Our boat ride in the empty calm river in Vijayawada is something which we will never forget.
Post the boat ride, we went back to our room, got fresh and checked out for our next destination. We crossed the Krishna river via transportation boat and soon we were in the parking lot of the Berm Park resort. We drove to our next place of stay in the main city area in Vijayawada. It was surprising to see one of the two metropolis of Andhra Pradesh not being as urban as we expected. A long tunnel through a hill right in the middle of the city was interesting to pass through. We reached our next hotel – Hotel Southern Grand at around 12 noon. It was important for us to relax and be ready for our long trip back planned for next morning i.e. Sunday morning. So we slept and woke up only at 4 PM to visit a couple of places we had shortlisted in Vijayawada.
Undavalli Caves, Vijayawada:
Our first destination was the Undavalli caves located on the other side of the Krishna river in Vijayawada. Undavalli caves is a multi-storeyed and monolithic structure located in the fresh and verdant surrounding of the hills in Vijayawada. The caves date back to the 4th and 5th century A.D. According to Wikipedia, Undavalli caves are an example of how many Buddhist artifacts and stupas in Andhra Pradesh were converted into Hindu temples and deities. One of the floors in Undavalli caves has a huge statue of Vishnu in a reclining posture, sculpted from a single stone. These caves left us with an imprint of a mixed heritage of Jain-Hindu-Buddhist architecture. Believed to have been carved around the time of 7th century A.D, there are also records of Buddhist monks using the caves as a resting house for themselves during some parts of the year when the weather got unfavourable. Located around 8 kilometres from the main city, Undavalli caves lie on the other side of the Krishna river in Guntur. Despite being the focal point of tourists visiting Vijayawada, we felt the place was pretty average with nothing much to see. Our experience was also spoilt by brash monkeys all around. The only solace was the journey to and from Undavalli Caves which was nice. Crossing Prakasam barrage made us realise how wide the river Krishna was. Prakasam barrage is a remarkably prominent traveller spot as it offers all-encompassing perspectives of the waterway from here. The barrage is a 1223.5 m long structure over the Krishna River, which associates Krishna and Guntur locale.
Gandhi Stupa, Vijayawada:
After clicking some great pictures on Prakasam barrage, we headed to our last destination of the evening – Gandhi Stupa. The location of this place was intriguing as GPS pointed to the middle of the city near Vijayawada railway station and it was supposed to be on a hill. After asking a few directions we finally found the gate to the hill which had an entry ticket. Thankfully, one can take their vehicle right to the top of the hill as proper roads are constructed. This place also supposedly has a planetarium which was not operational and an operational toy train. We were delighted to board the toy train after reaching Gandhi Stupa as it was a unique experience to go around the hill on a train and get a 360-degree view of the entire Vijayawada city. We spent the entire evening at Gandhi Stupa watching the sun go down and the city light up. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped near Lenin road where we saw a street filled with book shops. Though the shops sold mainly educational books, we managed to find a few shops with novels and got a very good deal with 4 novels for Rs. 200!
We started our journey from Vijaywada to Hyderabad at 5 AM the next day. It was still dark and without much traffic, we quickly exited the city. We took timely breaks, sometimes to eat, sometimes to click and sometimes to simply rest under the shade. The sun was equally pitiless and we had to take a number of breaks to give ourselves and our bike some cooling time. It seemed our journey back was quicker as we reached the outer ring road of Hyderabad before 12 noon. We managed to cover around 290 kilometres in 7 hours with multiple breaks. We were just 50 kilometres away from our home and felt at ease. But we were mistaken. Driving for around 15 hours on deserted highways for the past 2 days had made us forget what city traffic could be. Unbelievably, it took us 2 hours which felt like forever to cover the last stretch of 50 kilometres and reach home. Our realisations from our last month’s trip to Goa just got stronger.
Nonetheless, we felt satisfied that more or less everything in our Vijayawada road-trip went as per our plans. We had stretched our physical limitations completing a gruelling journey against everyone and everything including the weather department’s advice and family's concern. We felt a sense of pride and relief. Not to forget we felt encouraged to reach shores on a bike from Hyderabad. The beach is just 100 kilometres away from Vijayawada and now seems doable. Hope to write another tale of challenge, struggle and victory soon.
Have you been to Vijayawada? How did you find the city? Are there any other interesting places in Vijayawada you feel we might have missed? Do let us know in the comment section below. Read about other destinations which can be good weekend outings from Hyderabad, India. Some of these also lie on the same river Krishna.