Prabalika M. Borah journeys down the Godaveri to the hill range of Papi Kondalu to unravel the mystery behind its name

The never-ending boat ride that takes you along the serpentine bends and twists of the river Godavari provides enough sights and sounds to take in. This is the journey to the famous Papi Kondalu, a hill range earlier known as Papidi Kondalu ( it means hair parting in Telugu). The meaning of the name becomes clear only after one reaches the destination.

Papi Kondalu runs through Khammam, East Godavari and West Godavari districts. The popular and convenient route to reach it is through Rajahmundry. Boats dock every day at the banana market on the banks of the Godavari to ferry tourists to Papi Hills.

The double decker boat begins to chug by 7.30 a.m. An hour later, it docks briefly and to everyone’s surprise fluffy idlis and crunchy gare (vada) with chutney are served as breakfast.

When on a cruise with members of Greenzone, Federation of Indian Photography and a bird watcher’s society, it can be an entirely different experience. Also aboard are locals who double up as guides.

With each passing hour the views of the river and its banks seem to change with numerous mountains forming a backdrop. On the way is also the Pochama temple atop a mountain and while doing a lot of ‘look towards your left’ and ‘look towards your right’ we see the statue of Alluri Seetarama Raju, the legendary freedom fighter. He was the one who led the fight against the British with the tribals of the region.

It’s almost afternoon and we spot rare migratory birds in flight and huge bats hanging from trees.

It’s time for lunch — a simple meal of pappu (dal) annam (rice) kura (veggies) and perugu (curd). Each time the boat slows to take a turn queries fill the air ‘is this the place?’ We finally reach the destination.

A flat bed of sand with tents fixed to bamboo frames serves as shelter. The bank is at least 20-30 feet above the river which flows with a strong current. This is also the spot where two rivers meet — Godavari and the Pamuleru — and flow as one. The Pamuleru is a perennial river that flows from beyond Maridumelli and is home to river water otters.

The sands, sights and the rivers will want you to just relax and soak in the beauty of Nature. One can also walk around to get a feel of tribal life.

As night falls bamboo chicken, a local delicacy cooked over a coal fire is served as dinner. Fish fry is also popular. The other common order is fish fry. By night the only sound that lives with you is your heart beat and the gurgling of the flowing river.

Wake up at the crack of dawn to see the sun rise from behind the hills and see the mystery behind the name unravel. The sun shines in a straight line with hills on both sides and yes it indeed looks like the vermilion-streaked parting of a woman’s hair.

Getting there

To reach Papi Kondalu get to Rajamundry by train or bus. The town also has an airport. An auto ride from the station to the dockyard takes 20-25 minutes. The boat service has both AC and non-AC facilities. It is advisable to carry drinking water along with snacks. Best time to visit is the beginning of summer or during winter.

An alternative route is to take the Ghat road, a 35 km to reach Papi kondalu through Polavaram, via Shinganna Palli and Vadapalli.

Where to stay

AP tourism in collaboration with the locals have several tents on hire. Bulk booking is also possible.

For details call 9912636642, 9705655670

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