Our original plan to stay at Chirala beach has gone haywire as no accommodation was available that Sunday afternoon. The nearby beach of Vodareru did not welcome us either and we were advised to go and find accommodation at Bapatla. Bapatla is a typical small town which has an engineering college.
As you enter the place various models of manual bicycle/tricycle vehicles attract your attention, a feature that will continue till the end of our tour in West Bengal. Here is a goods carrier which can comfortably double up as passenger carrier. I don’t know how they manage in the rains.
What do we do in Bapatla? The Engineering college is not likely to admit us. There are not many things to be seen here. Right? Wrong. Every place in this world seem to have something to offer as its own.
Here is a hearth, a cooking place which uses the rice husk very effectively. In fact, rice husk (and groundnut husk) can provide a lot of fuel for the rural people. The rice husk is commercially available in bags.
Probably that is the reason the Rikshaw puller we saw above is able to get a good meal at an affordable price at such places. We, coming from Pune found the breakfast ridiculously cheap. And it is GOOD and fresh, and it is not using any fancy plastics- this leaf is good enough. In Andhra they rarely serve Masala Dosa, most of the time it is the plain Dosa with Chuttney.
The serving leaves under the paper, usually yesterday’s newpaper but the application forms for mobile phone connection serves the purpose better.
We had, whilst checking on the places of in this part of the world on the internet come across a place called Suryalanka or Surya Lanka. We thought we will drive down from Bapatla for a few minutes and continue on our way. When we actually land at Suryalanka, we change our mind. The beach is quite good. When we say, a beach is good, please also consider the fact that both of us are born and brought up in Goa.
We make a reservation at the APTDC’s Haritha Beach Resort for the next day and return to Bapatla for the night halt as we have already booked at a hotel there, but not before we see this fried-fish market at the beach.
A variety of fish is available on the beach, ready to eat and at fiercely competitive prices.
The next day we return to Suryalanka. The Haritha beach resort is as close to the beach as possible. If it is any nearer water will enter the rooms at high tides. That is the reason probably they are built on stilts. Just in case.
If you are a keen observer you will, late in the evening, find the lights from two different lighthouses from the middle of the Suryalanka beach- to your right (which is south) is the Vodarevu lighthouse we visited yesterday and to your left (the north) you see the lights of Nizamapatnam lighthouse. This is made possible by the crescent-shaped beach starting from north of Chirala and ending south of Nizamapatnam.
The beach is quite a busy place during the day but later in the evening as people return to Bapatla and other places.
The beach is sandy but the colour of the sand is not white. It is yellowish and a lot of black.
The seawater is pumped from the beach to the private ponds in which prawns and shrimp are grown. Here you can the pipelines going across the beach. At first glance they look like fishing nets which they are not.
The RED GHOST CRAB, a creature so famous in Odisha and West Bengal coast makes its first appearance in this area. It is a fabulous creature, very shy though.
The Crabs that we ate here are a different species. They are the Mud Crabs which were caught in the estuary a mile away from the beach. This is the freshest seafood one can have. Mud Crabs live a couple of days out of water, very sturdy creatures!
And here is how they are cooked at the Suryalanka Beach.
There is a method of cleaning fish- removing the scales which we observed here. The fish are rubbed on a stone. This would require some skill to make sure that you remove only the scales.
The Statue Culture of Andhra Pradesh starts appearing near Bapatla with some force. Between Bapatla and Suryalanka you will find this statue of Mrs. Indira Gandhi modelled on her grand-daughter.
At Suryalanka beach and the Haritha resort you can’t fail to see the Rose-Ringed Parakeets. They are in large numbers.
Our next port of call is Nizamapatnam. As the crow flies Nizamapatnam is hardly 15Kms from Suryalanka. As I mentioned earlier the light from the lighthouse there can be seen from Suryalanka. However, there are two creeks in-between and therefore no road to connect the two places. The shortest road is via Bapatla and is 40 Kms.
We first gothrough Bapatla and then branch off on a country road. Driving through the countryside is a pleasure. We skip the Nizamapatnam town and head for the coast.
The fishing harbour and market are located on the mouth of a creak. It is a sizable and busy fishing harbour.
The harbour has a ice-loading bay whereby the fishing boats can get the ice directly into the hold. This is a labour saving innovations which many of the fishing ports in India have not adopted. The process is done manually and it is quite tedious. At times the loaders have to rally across several boats to get to the target hold. Unfortunately at the time of our visit it was not operational.
The warehouses/ Cold Storage are is quite extensive giving an idea about the importance of this harbour.
The fishing harbour are seems to have expanded in the near past at the cost of the Mangrove forest surrounding it. One can easily see the encroachment on the Mangrove habitat. If this continues on a large scale there will be the harbour and no fish.
The entire fishing port area is dominated by the trade in dry fish. Fish of the low value not commanding good price at the retail market is dried. The deciding factor is the transport cost and the cost of ice. You can’t spend money on transport and face a situation wherein there are no buyers at the end.
The dried fish has two end users. The major one in terms of quantity are the manufacturers of fishmeal used extensively as protein-rich poultry feed. This is the low quality , high volume and high weight catch. It makes sense to dry it. It is sold in bulk.
And then there is the edible dry fish which commands good price depending on where you sell it. The Ribbonfish and the Bombay Duck can make you rich if you get the right market.
And if you have the time, inclination and knowledge, you can make ‘premium’ dry fish. It needs the efforts to clean, remove the innards and then dry. This lasts longer and as I said is a premium product.
The cheap bagged dry fish mostly meant for the factories with ready money will continue to dominate the market until some value addition is cleverly done.
Nizamapatnam has a lighthouse. I am not sure if it serves any useful purpose other than providing employment to a few people. This applies not only to this lighthouse but to all of them in these times of GPS etc. This one is very close to the harbour and not a problem in reaching.
We are done with Nizamapatnam, named after the Nizam of Hyderabad the erstwhile ruler.
Dont you want to visit the town?
No, Thank you. We are tired and have to drive quite a bit before we stop for the day.
We come back to the main road and see these ladies selling something off their aluminium pots.
It is Toddy ( will convert into an alcoholic beverage if fermented). It is a healthy drink rich in nutrients before fermentation. We taste some.
It is the sap of this palm tree. We use the sign language to confirm the source.
We continue, leaving behind a fish-rich place.
Text by Suryakiran Naik
Pictures by Suryakiran Naik & Veena Naik.