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    With its craggy outcrops and unique food, Orvakal has much to offer that is new, even for someone from neighbouring Telangana.

    What could possibly be different about a place that was a part of undivided Andhra Pradesh just two years ago? Turns out, quite a lot.  On the way to Orvakal, on the picturesque NH 44, if you stop for breakfast at Kurnool (just 197 km from Hyderabad), the local specialty is uggani bhajji, a dish no Hyderabadi has heard of. That’s Orvakal for you, with small mysteries that it unravels in its own low-key way.  Incidentally, the breakfast is a dish made with puffed rice and fried onions, that comes with a batter-fried green chilli for some spice and crunch (Rs 20).
    The landscape:  As the arid Telangana gives way to the rocky-yet-fertile Rayalaseema, the surroundings look at least three shades greener than in Hyderabad. And the weather is a couple of degrees hotter, although the breeze makes up for it.  The first sight of jowar and sunflower fields is officially your first selfie spot. A few minutes after you cross Kurnool is when you spot the first rocks. Before you can decide whether they look like a camel or an old war horse, others take over, leaving you questioning how the Orvakal Rock Garden was formed.
    The formations: For the locals, it doesn’t matter if Orvakal is blessed with rocks rich in silica and quartz—a raw material that is a blessing for the glass industry. The fact that movie directors spin their magic around these rocks fascinates them more. Local guide Param reels off names of movies, including SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus, Baahubali. Most well-travelled tourists will tell you that this 1,000-acre rock garden is nothing short of the Great Canyon. At our resort—the Andhra Pradesh Tourism has named it after the rock garden and ensured that each of the 22 cottages has a grand view of the rocks—the bougainvilleas, in various colours, add a bright touch to the stony facade of the fortress-like structure. The best way to enjoy the place is to check in late in the morning, take a short drive (five kilometres) to see the Ketavaram cave paintings, head back for lunch and then spend the evening walking through the resort, to admire each of the several hundred rocks formations there.
    The cuisine: Ragi sankati, with natukodi pulusu (chicken curry), is the district’s specialty. Sankati is a soft ball of ragi flour that is cooked in hot water with rice to make dumplings that one eats by dipping it in the gravy (Rs 100 for both). Peanuts (palli) grow in abundance in the region and palli chutney is  a zingy dish one mustn’t miss. Before you brand them spice specialists,  try the khova bun,  where the boring bread comes smeared with sweet khova (thickened milk) in the middle.
    What to do: The resort is open to the general public (for a nominal fee of `10), so you shouldn’t be surprised if you come to the open air restaurant and find a family celebrating a cradle ceremony there. Monkeys roam the premises and are relentless photo bombers. Although there is no pool or a gym, a walk around the resort (on its jogging path) can be a good workout. But the best time of the day is evening, when the rocks are lit up.
    On the way back to Hyderabad, a good place for a quick stop is the Belum Caves. These underground caves are known for their stalactite and stalagmite formations, and are 80 km from the resort.
    AC cottages are Rs 1,400 a night. Details: 0912326085 / aptdc.in

    Text & pics: Manju Latha Kalanidhi
    The writer was invited by Andhra Pradesh Tourism

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