A long pending plan to Horsley hills got fulfilled this weekend. A team of four hired a self rental car and drove to this serene place. Though the place is situated in Andhra, it is still very much accessible from Chennai and
easily through good state highways. Bangalore
My major disappointment this time is that my Olympus E-510 is not with me. I have still not got it back from a minor service. So I had to use a friend’s P&S camera. Though it was pretty good in most of the areas, it lacked the punch of a DSLR. So I request everyone to bear with the photos. Alright I am not cribbing at the beginning itself. Let me save that for later..
The Horsley Hills is a very small place which was used as a Holiday Home by George Horsley, a Collector from British times. The place was given his name since then and the Andhra tourism has done a very good job of converting it into a good resort. There is nothing much to visit in this place. So Andhra tourism has decided to put some activities for the kids that will keep visitors occupied during the weekend.
A team of four, Shrinidhi, Rajasekar, Sathish and me were the partners in crime this time and we decided to drive down to Horsley hills on our own. The excitement was high for two reasons. One being that Horsley Hills is a place which none of us have visited before, in fact have not even heard of it much before. The other point is that except Shrinidhi non of us have driven a car in highways before, yet we just decided we will drive.
We reached Chitoor around 10:00am and had our breakfast and proceeded on to Palamaneer. Shrinidhi was driving so far and when I noticed that tiredness was already creeping on him, I decided to take the wheels. I was driving a bit slowly and cautiously since this was the first time I am driving. There are some lives depending on my driving you see. It would be around 11:00 by the time we reached Palamaneer and started looking for the sanctuary. Disappointingly majority of the locals did not know anything about this sanctuary. Finally, we got someone who said that he could show us the sanctuary and return back with us.
He showed us the way that leads to the sanctuary which is right on the TamilNadu-Andhra border. After driving for about 20 minutes we reached this place and were a bit disappointed. The sign board said that it is a reserve for elephants, but it looked nothing like a sanctuary. There was no one who could take us around the sanctuary and show the place. But on the positive side, the place was really good and I was able to spot lot of birds. Dedicating a day here and doing some exploration may definitely reveal some habitats there. But again we need to find the right person to take people around. We decided that we will plan to return to this place later with more resource and preparation.
We spent about half an hour there and decided to head back to Horsley hills. This time Rajesh decided to drive for sometime and did so till we crossed Madanapalli and since he has not slept the night before, he decided to go back to sleep and gave the car back to Shrinidhi. We proceed from there to Horsley hills checking with people and the scarce markings on the road. While climbing up the hills we came across a place with a small pond. This place was completely covered by eucalypus trees and was a complete forest. Though it was not so dense, the place looked like heaven. Complete serenity and all that we could hear was the whistling of winds, songs of birds and croaks of numerous frogs in the pond. We spend about 10 minutes there taking some photographs and started back to the hills. I think there are quite some places to explore in this region. Since our main agenda was to visit Horsley Hills, we marked these places for a future visit and proceeded on our way.
It was lunchtime, about 13:30, when we reached Horsley Hills and almost all of us were quite hungry. But the first challenge was to find an accommodation and refresh before having lunch. The Andhra tourism has a large resort here, but we were unable to get any accommodation there since it is summer holidays and that too a weekend. So the rooms were full. We found that there was another small lodge available just outside the resort, but to our disappointment, even that was full. The lodge keeper then noticing that all of us are friends and have not come as family asked me if we could manage in a small room. We agreed to it and when we saw the room, we were taken, for I would not call that a room but a dungeon or a godown or whatever you want to name it, but certainly not a room. It was in the basement of the building which had proper rooms and typically looked like a cave. It had 2 rooms. There was a single bed in the first room when we entered it and a double bed in a side room. All the furniture were nasty, dirty and some broken too. We were really wondering what kind people stay there and what kind of activities happen there. Since we were going to stay only for the night and will be roaming around the rest of the day, we decided to take that room, hoping that it will not fall down on us when we sleep. Another reason for taking that room is that we were sure that we are not going to get any accommodation anywhere else, as the Andhra tourism resort is the only other place.
We dumped our bags, washed our faces and immediately went out for lunch since we really did not know how much longer we will get lunch there. We walked over to the Andhra resort and the good thing is that it is open to everyone and not just the ones staying there. The restaurant was still serving lunch and we had some good lunch there and returned back to the room to relax for sometime. Everyone were so tired that the surroundings of the room did not deter our determination to sleep. It was about 15:30 when we started sleeping. I got up at around 17:00 and decided to walk around the place.
The others too woke up the moment I got up. I walked around the place we were staying and was happy to see that there are lots and lots of birds in that place. I could easily understand this as the place is still not commercialized in spite of the resort and almost all of the natural trees and water bodies are in tact. There were Babblers, Bulbuls, Bushchats, WhiteEyes, Sunbirds etc. But unfortunately, I was unable to photograph all of them since I did not have my camera and the Point and Shoot camera, however good, lacked the speed to photograph birds.
Since it was taking time for the others to get ready, I just proceeded to the resort again and saw a sign board that read sunset point and walked up towards that place. It was a good view point from where one can view the entire surrounding. I just explored the place for some time, climbed up a rock that was some distance away from the view point, ignoring the comments from some people that it is not safe to climb up there. Soon Rajesh and Sathish also joined me there. We spent sometime sitting on top of the rock taking some photographs and enjoying the beautiful place and the cool breeze, something that we definitely do not get in the city.
I had plans of getting up early in the morning and doing some bird watching but that did not happen since the weather was too good to get up early and the tiredness added to it. When I finally woke up it was about 6:45. We did not have any other plans for that day because there is not much of places to visit there and any other tourist place is about 140 kms away from that place (near Tirupathi).
So we decided that we will start from there by around 10:00 or so, proceed to Madanapalli, check in the internet for some interesting places to see near there and then decided our route. We also thought of exploring a small hill that we saw from outside our rooms. Me, Shrinidhi and Rajesh left out for the hill, leaving Sathish back in the room since it was still midnight by his standards.
This is when the adventure started. We vacated our dungeon and started by around 10:45. But, the car in which we had come did not start. It already had some problems the first day, but we never thought it would not start the next day. The car was rested for about 15 hours, since we reached there and failed to start the next day. We even tried pushing the car down a slope and try starting manually but nothing worked. We tried to get some help from the tourism but there were not all that helpful. We then got the number of Tata Service Centre in Madanapalli and called them to ask for help. Since it was a Sunday, they said their mechanics are not available, but they gave a number of a mechanic who can service the vehicle. After some back and forth conversation between us and the mechanic he finally understood that we have come from Chennai and are stuck in Horsley Hills without any other option other than servicing the vehicle. He said he will reach here as soon as possible. It was already about 12:00 noon and we know it would take about an hour for him to reach Horsley Hills from Madanapalli. So we decided to wait till he arrives.
It was about 14:30 when the mechanic called us again and informed that he is on the way that the he has run out of fuel in his vehicle and would fill up and be on the way. Again I wonder how come a mechanic would not even check the fuel level in his vehicle when knows clearly that he will have to travel about 50kms and back. Another lie which we found not very convincing! We waited till 15:45 and then decided that we will just give one last try to start the vehicle and if it does not start, we will just leave it there for the owner to pick it up.
We went to the car, started it and stepped on the accelerator for over 5 minutes and the car just started! It was a great surprise and we were all relieved that we do not have to depend on the mechanic and hear his stupid excuses every time we call him. We just started from there and started on our way back. We drove for over an hour without any call from the mechanic. The first call we received from him was around 17:00, but we decided to ignore the call. We thought that would serve him well for the stupid lies he was telling all along. We just kept ignoring his repeated calls and kept driving.
The roads were good but mostly narrow State Highways. Except for one incident where I also drove into a truck, the rest of the journey was quite cautious and smooth. We reached Ranipet by around 20:00, had dinner and proceeded to Chennai from there. We reached Chennai by around 22:30 safely and in one piece.
There were quite some lessons learnt.
If you are going to Horsley Hills, do not expect an extraordinary tourist spot. It is just a resort which is away from your city.
If you are nature lover and want to spend your time in a not so famous place, then this is a good option.
There are lots of opportunity for photography and bird watching, but you need to explore a lot on your own into forest, that is not dense by any standards. You would not lose inside even if you wander quite far, is my guess.
If you are driving down, ensure your vehicle is in good condition. If not you are going to suffer. The nearest service centre available is at Madhanapalli and it would take a minimum of 1 hour to reach Horsley Hills from there, if the mechanic decides to come there.
If you are planning to stay overnight, never go there without booking in the resort in advance. If you have not done that, be prepared to sleep under the sky.