It was my long time desire to make a trip to Papikondalu river cruise with my family.  I came across a package tour from IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering &Tourism). It was in the year 2011 that we decided to visit this place during February when the temperatures would be at a bearable level. We booked the package on a triple sharing basis, this covered Train travel, river cruise, accommodation and food. 

We travelled by Gowthami Superfast Express from Secunderabad, reached Rajahmundry the next early morning. By 7:00 am, the taxi picked us up at the hotel and dropped us at the IRCTC franchise office.  Around 50 people had gathered there. We travelled by bus to Pollavaram which was just 35 km from Rajahmundry, but the journey took us one and a half hours, due to the deplorable condition of the road.

After a long night journey and just a cup of tea in the morning, and a jumpy, bone-cracking bus ride, we were exhausted and hungry. We searched for something to eat, we ate vadas & idlies with ginger chutney from a small food counter near the riverbank, we gobbled them with intense eagerness. Though they could not serve the dishes to satiate our hunger we enjoyed its native taste. 

At 10.00 am, we boarded the River Cruise Bhageerathi which was floating near the bank of Godavari. We were still half hungry. As we settled down on the upper berth, they served us a hot breakfast which we ate to our heart’s content. One can imagine the level of our deprivation! 

Our cruise liner could hold around 100 pax, there was an AC hall at the base floor level, with good, cushioned pushback seats, 6 AC units, a huge fan, and a TV. At the upper berth, there were two raised platforms, one in the front and one at the back, the roof was covered with a designer rexine sheet, the sides had railings up to three ft and the remaining portion was left open for our viewing and to experience the cool breeze from the river and the hills around. We spent most of our time on the upper berth, because, in the AC hall, the view was restricted. This cruise had around 8 staff to run the cruise, entertain the people, serve food and take care of the guests. 

From the upper berth, we had a great view of the river Godavari’s curves and turns. At some places, she surrounded the hills and at some places the hill range stood like a dam changing the path of her flow and at some places it was like water, water everywhere… There were small villages situated on the bank of the river, their small simple homes, their colourful clothes put to dry on the sand of the banks gave a picturesque view to us during our travel. 

The journey from the starting point at Pollavaram to the last point at Papikondalu was just 65 km, they had told us that the up & down journey of 130kms will take around 10 hours. Our cruise travelled slowly and quietly. The trip was meant to stay and sway on the Godavari for the day. 

Godavari River is the second-longest river in India after Ganga. It originates at Triambakeshwar in Nasik, Maharashtra and joins the Bay of Bengal near Narasapuram in West Godavari District. The length of the river is 1465kms and at someplace near Rajahmundry, the width of the river is measured at 5 km from bank to bank. There is a famous bridge called Havelock Bridge in Rajahmundry where rail and road bridges are together one above the other running 3 km. It is unique and an Engineering Marvel!

Soon after our breakfast, the cruise staff started to entertain the guests by dancing to popular Telugu film songs, in a way their dance was good. After some time, our cruise stopped near a small village called Posamma Gandi, there was a temple of goddess Posamma.  After that, the leader of the dancing staff started involving the group members, in batches, till lunchtime, he kept everyone busy and entertained. 

Our soft sailing cruise quietly took us to a pristine world of nature. We were awestruck while receiving the visual treat all around us. We could attain a state of tranquillity.

At 1:00 pm they served buffet lunch – a typical Andhra Bhaojanamu. At around 3:30 pm we reached our last destination – “PAPIKONDALU”. It was a real feast to the eyes for its scenic beauty. The river narrowing its twists and turns along with the Papi hills is a breath-taking visual treat. 

Its original name was Papidi kondalu which means ‘partition’ in Telugu. It divides the river Godavari from the hill range. In due course, it got the name ‘Papikondalu’.

We visited the Papikonda temple and an Ashram.

On the way back from Papikondalu, there was a place called Kolleru, it was between the banks of the river Godavari and Krishna delta. The soft river sand spreading on a large area was a lovely place. There were many bamboo huts for tourists to stay. Few of our co-passengers alighted from our cruise. But that was a different package, where people could stay overnight, and participate in trekking over the hills, and they would be picked up from there the next day. 

After that it was a non-stop return journey, we were able to see the sunset amongst the hills. It was like a paradise on earth. The sun said goodbye to us showing off his various shades of yellows, oranges, and reds, colouring the landscape. The water reflected the image and doubled the beauty. All this spectacle persisted for a while. Then he quietly vanished from our view and a spell of semi-darkness spread all around us.  At around 7:30 pm we were back at Pollavaram, the starting point of the cruise. It was dark and difficult for us to find our way to the bus that stood waiting for us.  Again, we had that painful jumpy ride back to Rajahmundry.

The river cruise ride of this Papikondalu trip (of 9hrs 30mins) was very pleasant with a magnificent scenario of the river, the hills, the tiny villages, their cultural display, marking its impression in our minds to last forever.

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By K.J. Jaiprakash

KJ Jaiprakash, a Marketing Manager by profession, was a passionate traveller, and a voracious reader. He has had the opportunity to travel being the Marketing Manager in the 3 important states of Southern India – Karnataka, TamilNadu and Andhra Pradesh (before partition). He has visited most of the rural interiors of all the three states, on duty: a blissful job for a travel lover. He has also travelled to parts of Europe, Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Srilanka and Maldives as a tourist. He has recorded his experiences of travelling in travelogues but hadn’t published them as long as he was alive. His wife has treasured those articles and wants to bring them to light, posthumously.

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