Babies, beers and beach(ed) – Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary

The last time, all of us had gone on a trip together, was 8 years ago. This was the time before kids came into the picture. So, time of lazy mornings, unlimited drinking and all things people without kids to pester them can do.We all do meet up every once in a while but in the past few years, it has dribbled down to only during kids’ birthdays and other family events. So, I was looking forward to hanging out with people I have called friends for close to 15 odd years now and their kids who I adore as much as I love my own.

The destination was Coringa wildlife Sanctuary near Kakinada. Abhinav had been there a few weeks ago and thought it would be a great place for all of us to go. So, we packed our bags and were ready to unwind during the Republic day long weekend.

Nandu and family came home on the 26th morning and we all started together. Ananth and family took the ORR and we planned to meet directly at the 7 food court in Suryapet. By the time we left home, packing the excited kids into our Safari, it was 9 a.m. We went via L.B.Nagar onto NH65. Post a breakfast of dosa, chicken curry and coffee at the 7 food court, my son, as expected couldn’t wait to join his friends (Ananth’s daughters) in Ananth’s Thar. Nandu’s son was cajoled into joining them, but again as expected, after a few minutes we had to pull over to bring him back in.

Our first destination was Hamsaladeevi. A beach near the Krishna sangamam. This is the spot where the Krishna river joins the sea. We drove via Suryapet, Vijaywada to Hamsaladeevi. We had picked up couple of pizzas for the kids at the food court in Suryapet and now we stopped at a little restaurant/dhaba to pick up our dinner. The kids attacked their pizza, while we, true blue Hyderabadis packed a few biryanis.

We followed google map’s directions till Palakayatippa, via Avanigadda. The road is a narrow, single lane road. And the oncoming traffic was made of sheep, goats, ducks and my nemesis BUFFALO! We pulled over as I wanted to take some pictures of the critters, but while getting out of the car, in true clumsy Deepika style, I shut the door on my own arm and could see some birdies no one else could. I got over it pretty soon, why won’t I? Thanks to the multiple injuries I keep exposing myself to, my threshold for pain is quite high. Getting back to photography, I noticed a pretty little jeweled beetle. After a heart fill of pictures of nature and it’s babies, we moved on towards our destination.

The kids were overjoyed to see the beach. After 8 hours of “Where is the beach?”, we were finally there. As they splashed around in the water, we explored it. We came across the carcass of an Olive Ridley Turtle, and someone had tied a rope through it’s nose and dragged it around the beach. I hoped for the sake of humanity and decency that it was an innocent child playing around and not some sicko.

It was soon going to be dark and we needed to set camp. We went on the hunt for the perfect location for it. Thankfully we had the Thar and a Safari (not as efficient as the Thar) which could drive on the beach. We soon came upon a spot we liked and decided to make it our camp site. Ananth took a time lapse video of us pitching our tents while the kids ran around with glee. There was strong breeze and we struggled a bit to make sure the tents didn’t go flying away.

Once that was done, it was time for the most daunting task of the day. Feeding dinner to the kids. After a few threats, tears, hugs and praises, we stuffed down the rotis and pizza. Once the kids were fed, we dined on the Biryani we had bought earlier in the day, with the Thar’s bonnet acting as our dining table.

It was really cold and I couldn’t wait to go to bed. Ananth and family had 3BHK, large sized tent (Obv not that big, we just coined these terms), Nandu and family had a 2BHK, medium sized tent and we had a studio apartment, small sized tent. I bundled my son into the tent and called it a night. It was surprisingly quite warm inside and we had to take off our jackets. My son even started sweating after a while. Almost all the moms and kids went to bed, but those who were awake were creating quite a ruckus (The men) Giggling, being loud. I had no patience to get out and yell at them and so I patiently waited for them to go to bed or just freeze in the cold there. Whatever, but just be quite! Fortunately, they decided to go to bed. Nandu and Ananth went into their roomy tents while Abhinav made the car his bedroom for the night.

Once it was all quiet, my other problem cropped up. The sound of waves. I am petrified of water. Well, not like hydrophobia, but scared of large water bodies. I freak out in a swimming pool, so imagine how I am around an ocean or a sea. I could hear the large waves and thoughts of high tides and tsunamis weren’t letting me sleep. Luckily exhaustion took over and I fell asleep, only to wake up around 3:30-4:00 in the morning, thanks to Nandu and his wife talking in the next tent. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t and came out after a while. Chandana was up and we sat looking at the clear starry sky, something which has just turned into a memory of our childhood. It’s sad that our kids don’t get to see this when the city sky is obscured by high rises, air and light pollution.The kids woke up as the sun came up and we quickly packed to move on to our main destination, Coringa wildlife sanctuary. We decided to make a pit stop at the nearest mid sized town, Machilipatnam to freshen up and grab some breakfast. One of my colleague is from the same town and we were recommended Vani Hotels. By the time we reached Machilipatnam, we couldn’t care less which hotel we went to, but funnily the first one we came across was the same Vani Hotels. He offered us the single bed tariff, without taxes and complimentary breakfast for two rooms for 3 hours, which came to around 4000 bucks. At that moment we thought it was a decent deal. But, after more than hour’s wait to get the two rooms, broken plumbing and a very shitty, limited, baby food sized breakfast, we were kicking ourselves.

What is going on?!

Back on the road, we drove towards Yanam, which is one of the four districts of the Union Territory Puducherry. We took the road along the coastline which goes via Amalapuram. Coringa wildlife sanctuary is 20 minutes away from Yanam and we were there early evening. We had booked the government guest houses at 1200 bucks a night. A single room with attached bathroom. The good part, there were three cottages which were all taken by us, which meant the whole compound was ours. The bad part, that place has no gas, no running kitcken, no plates, a fridge which doesn’t work and oh ya, a shit load of mosquitoes. We sent the caretaker to get us some dinner and we got our evening ready with all the booze we had picked up at Yanam. But before that, time to empty half a bottle of odomos on the kids.

We settled in with our munchies and spirits outside and the kids with their crayons in the room. We had enough entertainment watching Ananth’s little one making the older kids dance around her with all her drama. Once the dinner came in, we ladies got back to the same task of making our critters eat. The food was mediocre and a disappointment at that, as we were looking forward to some great local seafood. Soon after that, I called it a night, to make sure we were fresh for our morning boat safari.

Abhinav had come here a few weeks ago and had made all the booking for this time. We had to be at the jetty by 8:30 a.m. Nandu and family got ready first and took Ananth’s Thar to go have breakfast. By the time we got ready, there wasn’t enough time for us to venture out for breakfast, but we couldn’t leave either cause we had to wait for Nandu to get back. Ananth asked them to pack some breakfast for us and bring along. As soon as they came, we left for the sanctuary. We were supposed to spend around 4 hours out in the sea and then be back by lunch. Once we got there, we were informed that it was a full day safari and we couldn’t come back by afternoon. We had booked a 15 seater motor boat for ourselves at 5000 bucks.

We decided to go for it as there was no point turning back. This also meant we grown ups couldn’t eat that breakfast Nandu got us, cause now we need to make sure we have enough food to feed the kids through the day. The ride out into the sea was beautiful. Covered by mangroves on both the sides, we rode onto the sea where we could see the different gradients of water colour; grey, to blue to bright blue. We were as excited as the kids to see some flying fish.

After talking to the boatmen we decided to go to Hope island. After an hour’s ride we were at an island with a thinnest strip of beach I have seen. The kids had a good time frolicking in the water. We walked a bit on the island, taking pictures of the untouched, virgin land. The water bed near the beach was covered with moss and it took a while for the kids and for me to get over the sliminess and walk. In 15 minutes, we were done with the beach. The boatman announced that he was going to take us to the best place we had ever seen.

So, back on the boat after wading a bit in the water, we were off to this so called incredible place. After a very short ride, we were on the other side of Hope island. We had to walk a bit on the broken, rotten jetty (I was worried that either it would collapse or being my clumsy self, I will fall in to the water) and then on the land in the blistering heat. It didn’t seem much, thanks to the wonderful and extremely entertaining company of Ananth’s younger daughter. She opened my eyes to the horrors a butterfly can, and does unleash on her, amongst some other very interesting creatures.

The beach was really beautiful but nothing out of the world. The boatman called it “The original  beach” Dont know about originality, but the beach is quite interesting. It is the nesting site of the endangered Olive Ridley Turtles. They come to lay the eggs in January, post which the conservationists, pick up all the eggs from all around the beach and bring it into a single enclosed area to watch it closely and protect it. Around mid March, the hatchlings come out, and at this time, they organize a night stay at the beach when we can watch the hatchings. Sounded very interesting and tempting, and so, it is up in my list now.

Now, out of nowhere the boatman announces that we would go back to Coringa. We were surprised cause he had claimed we had to spend the whole day out, but nevertheless very happy. This meant we could finally eat something. While we were walking back to the boat, couple of local men passed by us, and Abhinav heard them talk about me. Apparently they thought I was an actress!! Well, glad I was looking celebrity material in the half dead condition I was in, even if it was to two simple country men. I will take that.

So, back on the boat around 12:00 p.m. and everyone took a little nap during the hour and a half long ride. Suddenly, our boat comes to a jerking halt. The boatmen get off it and push around, only to go a few inches and get stuck again. We had come back during low tide and were beached!!!

They called the office to ask for help. In return they got reprimanded for coming back during high tide. After a long wait, a jet ski came to our rescue, or that’s what we thought at that moment. But, he couldn’t come closer to us, in the fear of getting beached himself. Incredibly, there was network in the middle of the sea, and they could talk to each other and discuss. It was decided that he (jet ski guy) would go and talk to a fishing boat (we could see it anchored at a distance) to come and rescue us, as it was a lighter boat and could come in shallow waters too.

All we could do was wait. It was extremely hot. We were hungry, our bladders were bursting, kids were getting cranky and soon we ran out of water too. A very Crusoe like situation. At around 4:30 we noticed the water levels rising up along with our hopes. The fishing boat rode towards us and we couldn’t wait to get out. But, they got stuck a few meters away from us and decided to wait and have their lunch. Goddamn it!! To watch them sit and eat while we were starving was torturous.

Finally around 5:30, there was enough water for them to come closer. We all jumped into the tiny, narrow fishing boat, and my feelings alternated between rejoicing and being scared out of my mind sitting in an open boat in the sea. I didn’t want to pay the guys the whole amount promised, as it was due to their negligence that we had such a lousy day. But Nandu and Abhinav claimed we couldn’t do much with a government organization, they would just call the cops accusing us of fraud. I didn’t care after a point and as soon as we hit land, I ran in the search of a washroom. What I found was the worst public toilet I have come across in my life. And travelling in India, I have seen my fair share of it. Their was filth right on the steps leading into the bathroom, I think I am scarred for life.

On the ride back to civilization

Fishies on the fishing boat

We didn’t have the patience to stick around at that place anymore and we just drove back to our guest house. What a relief!!! Post the long awaited bathroom visit, it was time to focus on the other urgent need. FOOD. This brought about a little argument and tiff into the group. I wanted food, I was starving, almost passed out a few times in the boat, I didn’t care about anything else. Some didn’t want to eat dinner yet (It was still quite early in the evening.) and preferred to have a few beers before a meal. Finally we all ended up driving to Kakinada for dinner. Google recommends Utsav restaurant and so that’s where we go. After driving through one of the worst traffics we have seen, we are served the worst dinner in a long long time. It’s not even worth getting into the details.

So, after the very exciting and adventurous day, I couldn’t wait to hit the bed and that’s what I did. Morning, it was time to head back again. It was frustrating to watch the cleaner, dump all the trash from our rooms on the roadside when we spent and spoke about environment and conservation through the trip. Breakfast stop, at the restaurant of a hotel on the way. Well, let’s just say, we were glad that we had been carrying bread with us. The restaurant didn’t have anything from their menu and we gave the bread and requested them to make some breakfast for us.

Uneventful ride back, except for Abhinav being fined for driving without a seat belt. Lunch stop at Innotel Vijaywada and pizza stop at 7 food court Suryapet again, where we got to see the ending ceremony of the epic match between Nadal and Ferderer.

Back home, back to the routine, back 50 shades darker and 50 shades relaxed.

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