By Dwithiya Raghavan.
Living in and enduring the sweltering Hyderabad heat, the very sound of Horsley Hills was music to my ears. I imagined it to be a place where the sun’s merciless rays would not penetrate the thick cover of the trees; I would wake up to the sounds of the birds chirping instead of the milkman’s scooter and watch the sunset behind the hills instead of the HSBC building. And I was not disappointed. It was one of those rare occasions where my imagination was outdone by reality!
Tucked away in a quiet corner in the Chitoor district of Andhra Pradesh, and miraculously untouched by the ravages of tourism, Horsley Hills was the answer to all my prayers. The drive from Hyderabad is a pretty good one, with the roads punctuated with ample number of decent ‘chai stops’. It can also be reached by air/train to Tirupati, followed by a 50km cab ride. As soon as we were in the vicinity of the forest, it felt like entering a new planet. It was for me a throwback to the days of Enid Blyton, when all I wanted was to be in the woods!
Thanks to some of my well-networked friends, we had rooms in the forest guesthouse, maintained by wonderfully warm people. The Punnami resort, run by AP Tourism, also provides decent accommodation. I was delighted to see that our rooms were on stilts, nestled in the breathtaking expanse of green and brown against the beautiful blue sky. After a quick shower we were treated with what can only be called heaven; the exquisite delight that is the cuisine of Andhra Pradesh, fragrant yellow dal, spicy red chicken with warm white rice. There are no words to describe it. The rest of our day was spent doing exactly what we had on our itinerary. Nothing!
The next morning, we took in a sunrise over the hills, a sumptuous breakfast, a 150 year old eucalyptus tree – Kalyani, a wide array of rather curious looking insects, a pleasant hike through the hills and tales of Horsley hills during the British rule recounted by the locals. Our next stop was the Talakona waterfalls. A short drive away from Horsley hills, Talakona is reachable by car/bus but the climb up to the waterfalls has to be done on foot. It is a fairly easy climb to the top and the route is well shaded by trees.
The waterfall is gorgeous, the water cascades down steep rocks and I was knocked off my feet by the sheer force of it. According to the locals, the origin of the water is difficult to trace as an underwater spring suddenly surfaces here. The water is also believed to have medicinal properties as it takes its course through rare medicinal herbs found in the area. We climbed down and before we stepped back into our cars we dipped our feet into the waterfall, now transformed into a gentle stream, and let Mother Nature give us a pedicure. The best things in life truly are free!
The Talakona forests host certain rare and endangered species of animals like Golden Gecko, Panther, Porcupine, Chital and Sambar. If you are up for it, there can be arranged, a drive through the forest to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. Beware however, of the various insects that will take a keen interest in you. Insect repellent and quick reflexes are a necessity in the circumstances. However, once indoors you can be assured of a good nights sleep with the jungle creatures singing you lullaby. We woke up the next morning, refreshed, recharged in body and spirit, already planning our return.
So the next weekend trade your concrete jungle for the real jungle. Pack your bags, (don’t forget the insect repellent), leave behind the watch, and head straight to Talakona. A place where it’s not the minutes, but the moments that count.
Author bio: Dwithiya is a chartered accountant by profession and a yoga instructor by passion. A foodie and travel enthusiast, she is still trying to figure out what her true calling is! Join her on her edible adventures at http://cookiesandquiche.blogspot.in/