Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The steep climb to Araku

The first few British expeditions to Galikonda were localized to the area now known as the Araku valley and were a far cry from today’s tourist sojourns in well-equipped, if not luxurious, resorts.

The first exploratory team that went up Galikonda and the surrounding plateaus in February, 1859, consisted of five members led by the Inspector General of Hospitals, Dr. Duncan McPherson, under orders by the Commander-in-Chief of Madras, Sir Patrick Grant, to see whether the hill would make a good sanatorium for soldiers serving in the ‘Northern Division’ of the Presidency.

They explored a few ridges and ranges and named the saddle that joins the crescentic ridge of Galikonda Grant’s Ridge (after the Commander-in-Chief); they selected a valley 600 feet below Grant’s Ridge for the sanatorium and named it Harris Valley, quite a misnomer, as it is more a plateau than a valley, located a vertiginous 4,000 feet above the sea.

Later that year a company of 60 Sappers (soldiers) cleared the ground and cut out approach routes.

In March the next year a group of 21 men of the European Veteran Company at Vizagapatam tested out the climate and living conditions in the valley. The expedition can only be called a disaster. With little more than thatched huts to protect them, these soldiers, mostly older veterans, faced the full fury of rain and wind and the malaria parasite. Only one of them escaped sickness. One can imagine the men trying to weather it out among the thick fogs common to the region, foliage dripping rain and the choppy breezes chilling them to the bone. Three of these men died, two on the hills and one on the way back to Vizag.

The Government, however, unwilling to concede victory to Nature’s forces, sent another party of younger European soldiers to the valley in May; but sickness attacked all but one man of this group too.

After trying out other locations such as Kapkonda, a higher hill, the venture was abandoned in 1861. I can’t claim to have tried very hard, but from the few sources I referred I’m unable to gather when the Araku valley was finally tamed.


Francis, W. – “Vizagapatam District Gazeteer”; Asian Educational Services; first published, Madras 1907