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Horsley Hills - The Charming Little
Hill Station

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

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Horsley Hills - The Charming Little Hill Station

Barely three hours of smooth drive from Bangalore, via Hoskote, you enter Andhra Pradesh and the small town of Madanapalli (of Rishi Valley fame). A slight inconvenience of narrow market roads, and once you are beyond the town, you can stop a little beyond to admire and buy some clay artifacts made by craftsmen in the small villages along the way. Another half hour, and you turn left, stop at the junction if you wish for a cup of tea at the thatched roof restaurants on the corner, and you are climbing the not-so-steep hill road after paying a nominal entry fee for the hill station.

Unlike most other ghats you barely feel the journey and before you know it you have entered the tiny resort called Horsley Hills. On inquiry some people said the name was derived from horses. Even the craftsmen below the hill sell different types of clay horses on the roadside. I carried my skeptical mind to the office of the Andhra Pradesh State Tourism Corporation – and found the answer most unexpectedly. There is small enclosure, almost unnoticeable, with a granite slab covering a grave, and the inscription that the hill station was founded by the then Collector of the District, Mr. W. H. Horsley. The lack of attention to this great soul is confirmed by the fact that his tombstone has a plaque mentioning the same date and year of his birth and his death!

Those seeking a sprawling luxurious hill station will be in for a disappointment, for the entire place is so tiny you can walk around it in fifteen minutes. No lake for boating, no sprawling gardens, no shopping mall, no spas and resorts, no fancy games or luxury restaurants. But what it misses out in luxuries, it makes up in abundant nature. Almost any point in the hill offers breathtaking views of the plains below. There is even a spot from where one can see a natural ridge formation that looks like a map of India!

Yes, there is a swimming pool, and there is also a small nature health facility, which includes getting your feet nibbled by tiny fishes who can take away the dead skin and tiredness from your limbs – at prices which are a fraction of what you would pay in a fancy resort. There is a stately Governor’s Bungalow with its own beautiful canopy at the edge with a lovely view, and it is open to public. Food is restricted, particularly off-season, and you have to make do with the meals served there.

The Andhra Pradesh Tourism Corporation offers large rooms in colonial bungalows and cottages which have been renovated with modern fittings and are fairly well maintained. For those willing to pay higher rates, there is a private Holiday Resort offering a little more luxury.

Almost unnoticeable is a little zoo with a spattering of crocodiles, fishes, birds and assorted animals. Of course the monkeys roam free all over the hill un-caged.There is a very quaint Guest House of the Forest Department inside the zoo, but obviously you need governmental contacts to stay there. As expected, there is a small temple for the spiritual minded, and near it are a couple of tea stalls that offer chairs in their courtyards, and if you are lucky they may be willing to serve you rotis and chicken depending on the crowd on that day.

Though Horsley Hills becomes quite warm and uncomfortable in the summer, a visit from November to January, when the rain has brought back the lush greenery all around and the mercury has dropped, is quite fulfilling. In fact you may need to wear a sweater even during daytime walks. The real pleasure of such tiny resorts is to go there off-season when the day-time visitors come and go by sunset, and you find the entire place calm, quiet and serene, surrendering itself to the sounds and smells of unadulterated nature and you can take leisurely after-dinner walks in the hazy moonlight. When the rush of human beings recedes nature teaches you to live life at its own slow and measured pace.

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