Our, rather my adventure began even before I boarded the motor boat anchored on the banks of the Godavari river. Reaching the spot meant trekking the muddy slope of nearly ten feet watching your every step. I visualized a situation where missing a foot hold would take me rolling down the steep incline and landing in the waters of the holy river. I was reminded of a similar experience during a visit to Gangtok with my parents nearly four decades ago. We were heading towards the Royal palace through a narrow strip of muddy road and I was walking along the edge . My feet pushed a portion of the loose soil and I found myself rolling down and landing with a thud on the road below which was more than fifteen feet! Thankfully it was my camera which bore the brunt of the fall!
Sensing my plight one of the crew members meticulously lead me to the boat within minutes and we set out along with 100 and odd others on the day long journey to Papi Hills .
Welcome to Javali, came the announcement from a slightly built Nani who was a commentator, an event manager and an entertainer, all rolled into one.The first thing we learnt about our destination was how it got its name —it is not Papi Kondalu(Kondalu is hills in Telugu) as is generally thought of but Papidi Kondalu, which means the thin partition in a woman’s hair in Telugu. Since the expansive Godavari narrows into a thin line while approaching the hills which are three in number, they have acquired the name of Papidi Kondalu which in course of time was shortened to Papi Kondalu or Papi Hills.
The seats in the two tier air conditioned motor boat were quite comfortable and we could view the scenery in all its beauty even as the young driver dexterously maneuvered the boat at an even pace through out the journey. The view from the covered deck was even more stunning with the spectacular hills that fringed the river resembling a green canopy. Tiny villages dotted the river on the other side. Breakfast was served and Nani donned the role of the entertainer —commencing the day’s events by officiating for a mock marriage between an elderly couple among the travelers. From there on there was no stopping Nani who had taken complete charge of inviting or literally goading the passengers to participate in what he had planned for them. He demonstrated various filmi jigs to popular tunes and entreated them to follow. I admired his PR and Communicative skills in drawing out both young and old to literally ‘dance to his tunes.’ After a brief stop at Gandi Pochamma Temple, post lunch we proceeded to Papidi Hills, the journey was marked with twists and turns. At one point when you are sailing in the midst of two hillocks which appear very close to each other you feel they are within arm’s reach and you can go no further but suddenly you find the boat meandering through a narrow passage (which you feel doesn’t exist) between these and Papidi Hills loom large before your eyes, looking majestic in all their glory! We noticed some cute cottages nearby and were informed that they were meant for tourists who wished to holiday here.
We had to satisfy ourselves with a distant view of the Papidi Hills since there was no halt at this spot. We really missed the excitement of walking through the sands and craning our necks to have a closer look of the piece de resistance and the ‘cottages’ .
On our return journey there was a brief stop at the Veera Bhadra Swamy Temple and very few ventured to trek the distance in the hot sun for visiting the Shrine which we were told was one of the oldest in the village. We reached Pattiseema, our starting point a little after seven p.m.
There is a threat to Papidi Hills if the Government, finishes the construction of Polavaram Project when the entire range and the jungle will dip in the water. Perhaps that’s the reason tourists are eager to visit this visual treat. …..To be concluded
N Meera Raghavendra Rao