When it comes to exploration, us Indians need not look any further than our own country as source of inspiration. With poor infrastructure and lack of awareness, many of us are yet to explore some of India’s natural (albeit hidden) beauty. As someone based out of Bangalore the past 10 years, I thought I had seen it all. I was tired of going to Mysore and the places just off Mysore Road. I thought I had seen everything that could have been seen from a short drive away from Bangalore.
Then a fellow traveller and photographer uploaded a few photos of a place called Gandikota to his Facebook page. One photo he took looked like the landscape you would find somewhere in America — like that of the Grand Canyon or in the Arizona desert. But no, this was right here in India! I never knew such a place existed! The best part? Gandikota was only 300kms or so from Bangalore city, over in Andhra Pradesh.
The minute I knew this, I just had to convince my friends to do a road trip. They were a bit apprehensive, because very few had heard about Gandikota and only one hotel existed near the cliff. Worrisome for some, but this excited me even more and the whole thought of exploring new territory sounded like a true adventure!
Of course, this didn’t mean we couldn’t prepare ourselves. Any exploration expedition requires a few essential tools, and considering we would be driving to a part of India we had never been to, that meant carrying a GPS device. We managed to get one and just in case the signal got weak, we backed it with Google Maps installed on our smartphones.
After setting in the co-ordinates, we left on a clear Saturday morning in December 2011 and followed the course charted on the GPS device. We would initially take the Bangalore – Hyderabad highway. For the most part, we were on the right track. Technology did fail us at times, which led to a few wrong turns, but where the GPS misled us, the locals by the roadside never failed to direct us back on the right path.
We would only stop along the way for a chai break, to take some photos and to give the driver a break. The terrain and the villages we passed seemed so remote, sparsely populated, and dry. A different change of scene for us.
The ‘adventure’ part soon came in the form of unpaved and pot-holed roads at certain stretches. As much as I could joke about it, these are times I really wished for a true offroad SUV, like a Tata Safari.
None the less, we would have a few laughs along the way, and equally frustrating moments — or both! Like waiting a god-awful long time at a railway crossing waiting for a never-ending goods carrier to pass!
By lunch time, we knew we were on the right track when we saw the sign board for the only proper hotel in this region.
After lunch, we went to the nearby fortress ruins where a masjid remains.
Oh, if you are not impressed by the above photo, then here’s a 1920×1200 version! 🙂
As awesome as both attractions were, both Gandikota & Belum Caves aren’t for everyone. The drive there maybe relatively easy, but the facilities at the APTDC Gandikota Hotel isn’t going to get any better until tourist numbers go up. Also, climbing the rocks to take the kind of photos we took at Gandikota isn’t that easy for everyone, especially older citizens. Belum Caves is also quite challenging as some sections are suffocating due to the lack of oxygen inside.
If we were to do another adventure road trip to Gandikota, we would carry a tent, our barbecue grill and the cool box. The tent, so we can set ourselves up near the cliff and watch the stars come out at night. A barbecue, to grill the meat we brought in the cool box (along with the few beer bottles). Because sadly for meat lovers, the APTDC hotel does not serve any non-veg. Not out of faith, but because the number of visitors don’t make it worthwhile to store any meat.
Is that still worth the exploration? Yes.