After a tiring Saturday, we had an extremely relaxing sleep (despite Anand’s heavy snoring — which he denies! ;)). Feeling much better, we packed up and checked out of our room.
I forgot to take a photo of the room when we checked in yesterday, so I made the bed the best I could, just so I could take this shot
From my phone
We checked out by 9:45am
We settled our bill, which including yesterday’s food and room tariff, came to Rs. 1080 ($20/€15). Tipped our receptionist/attendant/waiter for all his help, despite his handicap.
We drove back to Gandikota fort
From Ramesh's camera
From Anand's super-zoom camera
We parked our car here this time
We walked down this path at first
But we realized we were going down the wrong path, so we walked back up and took a path right behind the tower
Still wasn't sure if this was the right way to the temple. There's no sign or anything.
But we were getting closer to Madhavaraya temple
The village pipe extends all the way into this well
There she is
But... we didn't see anybody at the temple
As we walked closer, we saw why there was nobody here. The gates were locked.
Damn, came to the fort again just to see this temple!
At least Anand's camera caught more parrots
I had no choice but to take photos through a gap in the gates
The architecture and design looked impressive
Despite the fact we couldn’t go in, standing at gates, we didn’t feel like moving… at all. There was a cool breeze just flowing through and you could hear the distinct sound it made! It was like a ‘natural’ air-conditioning experience — the breeze was really relaxing.
Just then, Ramesh noticed something about a second padlock on the gates…
This smaller gate wasn't locked, Ramesh just pulled the latch and nudged it open!
We could now enter the temple
Since we were the only ones at the temple, we got selfish and closed the gates so we could go about our photography in peace
The stone carvings were impressive
Went in here
Madhavaraya temple is worth checking out
Ramesh was trying the whole ‘levitating’ shot sequence, so we all got in on it.
We closed the gate as it was earlier and left the temple
We walked back to the car
We were done...
...it was time to leave Gandikota
We had to drive back to Jammalamadugu
Passed by cotton fields
A lot of windmills being installed in this part of Andhra Pradesh
We were taking one straight road to Tadipatri
We stopped at a village on the way to have some tea
At the end of this long stretch, take a right to get to Belum Caves
We knew we were getting close, so we stopped here to take a proper photo amongst some sunflowers
We had driven past so many sunflower fields, but never stopped to take any good photos
I love taking macros shots of flowers
Photograph by Anand Phadake
Reached Belum Caves at 12:45pm
There's a massive Buddha statue here
From Anand's camera
There was ample parking space for our car, we then walked to the ticket counter.
The entry ticket costs Rs. 40 ($0.75), none of that 'pay extra for camera' nonsense here
Down we went
You see this as soon as you enter the caves
This is called Gebauer Hall, named after a German speleologist (cave explorer) who re-discovered these caves in the 1980s
We went in
It wasn't until recently that Belum Caves was turned into a tourist attraction
There's droplets of water dripping down the stalactites above
Ramesh and Anand
We kept walking further in
Chalapathi Reddy hall, where some work was going on
I tried my best to take shots without any people, but some sections were just too crowded
Ramasubba Reddy hall
We went down
You'll have to mind your head at certain sections
It would have been nice if they sold little maps for say, Rs. 10, just so we know where we were going
We honestly had no clue where we were headed as there are multiple paths
Even underground, our precious natural wonders aren't spared from being vandalized by our country's idiots!
I tried my best to take photos as steady as possible, couldn't set up my tripod everywhere
We often had to wait for paths to clear while other visitors took photos
Some areas are really dark, so you have to watch your step
This wasn't just a section to pose for photos
There are ducts above pumping fresh air into the caves. Oxygen wears thin in certain sections and it can get quite hot deep inside.
I must say, they have done a good job of illuminating the caves
According to mythology, 'Pathala' is the kingdom of demons; Ganga is the river (Ganges to Westerners)
I wondered which way to go next
Went the other way instead
It led to this hall
Anand cooling off under a vent, and this section needed it!
We felt this was a good spot to take a group shot. So as I set the camera on the tripod, Ramesh tested his remote to see if works on my camera.
It worked just fine
Took one zoomed all the out to give you an idea how wide the hall is
I wonder if these lights do the rocks any damage, given how hot they can be
We left the hall
Instead of going back the way we came, we tried another path
As much as I'm against vandalizing natural wonders... I was *so* tempted to etch cave man drawings on the stones above just to mess with the heads of archeologists :P
These caves were well worth the visit!
Never knew such sights were this close to Bangalore
We headed back
Once back in Ramasubba Reddy hall, we went to the 'Maditation hall'
See? Maditation :P
We 'maditated' for a photo
We stopped on the way back to take one last group photo in front of Chalapathi Reddy hall
I set up the camera...
Belum Caves 2011... officially done!
Panorama comprised of 2 shots
They have organized tours to Belum Caves. At the ticket counter, you can arrange for a guide too, but they only speak Telugu.
As soon as we all got out into the light, I went to the restrooms and freshened up. Then we had some ice cream and cool drinks to quench our thirsts.
No Aquafine, only Aiwaafine :)
It was past 2pm and time for lunch, but we were keen to dine at a dhaba on the way. So we drove towards the town of Anantapur and decided to stop at any good dhaba we would come across on the way.
It was going to be one long straight drive from here to Anantapur
Loads of windmills
We had to stop briefly when we saw this granite mine on the way
Never seen earth being cut like that! Look at all that granite!
Couldn't take a clear shot of this huge cement factory we passed
By 3pm, we were in the town of Anantapur
We assumed Anantapur being a fairly big town, we would find a decent restaurant on this stretch of road, but post 3pm hardly anything that looked decent was open. Plus it was a Sunday.
Wonder how much water is left by the time such tankers reach their destination
We kept driving hoping to find a dhaba on the way, but there hardly any! After yesterday night’s eating and drinking, we decided to give our stomachs a break and didn’t have breakfast at the hotel since all they had were puris — and we knew it was going to be made of maida, just like their chapathis! So all we had was tea, lots of it!
Of course, when we saw this massive water body, we just had to stop!
This was Lake Singanamala
Made do with chips for 'lunch,' it is all we could find
We were finally back on NH7 (Bangalore-Hyderabad highway)
From here on it was super-smooth sailing!
The landscape was barren with not a village in sight
Looking at the landscape in this part of India and the quality of the roads built by NHAI, I realized how easy it is to build such highways in such geography. Unlike Kerala’s hilly and rich green landscapes, the land here is mostly flat and uninhabited, making land acquisition easy. Something which is very tough in Kerala given its natural beauty and of course, stupid politics.
That said, I wondered why on earth NHAI couldn’t build a 6 lane (3 on either side) when they had the chance to. Why isn’t every infrastructure project thought about for the long term? Just because there isn’t anything built on either side and the vehicle volumes are presently low, doesn’t mean it will stay that way for the next decade! Grrr, irritates me when the government does this!
The ride handling in Anand Phadake's Ford Fiesta diesel was incredibly stable even at speeds of 140kmph. It's a really good car!
We were in Karnataka by around 5pm
Ended the day with a beautiful sunset
As we neared Chikbalapur, finding dhabas became easy and we stopped at one to our left.
At 6:30pm, we finally made up for the lack of a proper breakfast, lunch and dinner!
This weekend drive to Gandikota and Belum Caves is easily one of the top weekend drives I have ever been on. We left Saturday morning, reached Gandikota, saw the stunning vistas, had a blast at night with just each other for company. Woke up at a reasonable time today and saw all the above. Had we managed to see Madhavaraya temple yesterday itself, we could have finished Belum Caves by 1pm and been back in Bangalore by sunset.
Mind you, both places aren’t for everyone. The drive maybe easy, but the stay 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 yesterday 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.
But if you read all that and though “meh, I’ve done greater things!” then the weekend road trip to Gandikota and Belum Caves comes high recommended!
Me and my friends haven’t gone on a road trip in quite some time. So when we spoke about driving somewhere we all had never gone before, it was hard. We were sick of Mysore Road and have seen pretty much every attraction that stretch of Karnataka has to offer. This was going to be a proper weekend drive – leave early Saturday morning and be back by Sunday night, so given the time frame, the choice of destinations were quite limited to begin with.
As luck would have it, a friend of mine uploaded a few photos he had taken from his visit to a place called Gandikota in Andhra Pradesh. I had never heard of the place before but when I saw his photos, I just couldn’t believe I had never even known about its existence! Upon asking him for more information about Gandikota and doing some research on my own, I suggested a drive to Gandikota to my friends.
Some of them were apprehensive, saying it looked like “just a canal,” some couldn’t make it, but I was still hell-bent on going there. Charting a route map using Google Maps, the drive from Devanahalli to Gandikota was going to take approximately 5 hours (250kms). I also found that we can drive to another attraction, Belum Caves, from Gandikota itself and that would take over an hour to cover the 60km distance. From Belum Caves, we could then drive to the town of Anantapur and connect back to NH7 to drive back all the way to Bangalore city (280 kms).
After much convincing and last minute tussles, we (myself and friends Anand and Ramesh) were ready to venture into a territory hardly many from Bangalore have gone before.
Date: December 17th, 2011
The plan was for Anand to first pick me up and then Ramesh by 6am, but as is usually the case on our drives, we were slightly delayed and only picked up Ramesh as it neared 7am.
We started from Sarjapur-Outer Ring Road… which was rather foggy at 7am
We drove on Airport Road and past Devanahalli
We stopped at a Kamat restaurant adjoining a Bharat Petroleum bunk to our left for breakfast. After puris and tea, we set off again towards Chikballapur.
We got off the main highway at a major intersection from where you need to take a right (Image: Google Maps)
We did get a bit of rough road…
… but got back on to smooth tarmac soon after
But we had to slow down when we saw this
Bangalore’s mutton supply discovered!
There was a LOT of them!
We waited until the herd passed by
We came straight down that road and passed this statue of the late YSR. When we stopped to confirm if we were going the right way, a passer by told us we need to take a right instead to head towards Kadiri
We were now in the state of Andhra Pradesh
The road got narrow for a bit
By 11am, we were in the town of Kadiri
Raja looks pleased
Kadapa is the nearest major town to Gandikota, but we decided to drive through an alternate route that would take us straight to Gandikota
We came down that road and took a right towards Jammalamadugu
We stopped for a tea break at a dhaba along the way
Gopi was the name of one of our ex-bosses… but that’s not why we stopped here, I swear ;)
The landscape in these parts is completely different. Lots of rocks…
… and the rocks just stay (Taken by Ramesh)
We had our Rs. 5 chai
It was 11:45am, and we still had a long way to go
We hit the road again
This was pretty cool
This temple under that huge rock
For most our journey, we traversed through sparsely populated villages and barren landscapes — and hardly any vehicles with a ‘KA’ registration
(Photograph by Ramesh)
There were SO many sunflower fields on either side
(Mind you, just about all the shots above were taken from behind the car window)
Even though Ramesh had copies of the map routes on his Nook tablet, we relied heavily on the Google Latitude mobile app to check if we were on the right path
More ‘mutton’ crossings
We eventually reached a small village where we had to stop at a railway crossing. Something that took an ungodly long time!
We had plenty of time to take photos of ourselves in the car
Nearly half-an-hour later, the train finally shows up — and how…
We had lost quite a bit of time and it was already lunch time. Fortunately as we arrived in the town of Jammalamadugu (yeah, try saying that fast) we saw a sign of hope.
Finally, we were getting nearer!
The roads for the most part were good… and there were *hardly* anybody else driving through these roads
There’s quite a lot of windmill activity by Suzlon in these neck of the woods
The road got narrower — which meant we were getting close
And by 2:15pm, we had finally reached our destination! Haritha Hotel Gandikota, by APTDC
When we called up this hotel (Ph: (0)90105 54899) to book a room, the guy who answered simply told Ramesh “just come”. Now we know why. There were hardly any other guests besides us!
The waiter/receptionist/attendant showed us the cottages, we didn’t want an A/C room, so we just took a fan room that had a large bed which could easily accommodate the three of us. The room cost Rs. 630 ($11/€9), and we didn’t have to pay anything extra for the third person. Unfortunately, the water heaters weren’t working. (Why is it just about every hotel in India that costs about the same has such a problem with providing hot water?!)
We were hungry, and sat down at the restaurant for lunch
There wasn’t a menu, so we just asked what was available for lunch. The receptionist/attendant/waiter told us: “chapathi, phulkas, dal curry“. That’s it. We didn’t have any choice but to order all three.
Since they hardly see any guests, they don’t stock any meat either. But receptionist/attendant/waiter assured us we would have more options available for dinner, like egg. Sigh…
When our food came, the chapathis and phulkas were essentially the same – both were made using maida, the phulkas only being a little smaller. And I doubt the phulkas were made the way they are traditionally done so. They cost the same too, Rs. 24 per plate (a plate has two), so you might as well just order chapathis. The dal (Rs. 40) was passable. We were hungry, so had to eat what was given.
By the way, they have the full stable of Coca Cola’s offerings like Kinley water and soda, besides the other carbonated drinks like Sprite, so you really don’t need to carry the same when coming here. Unless you’re a Pepsi fan.
We decided to take a few photos of the hotel
You can see the Gandikota fort wall from here
Everything is made of granite stone
Our room was in the back
The cottages are on the extreme left (Panorama comprised of 9 shots)
(Photograph by Anand)
We decided not to leave our bags in our room just yet. Instead, we wasted no time in heading straight to the fort.
Once you reach the fort walls, you can take your vehicle inside and down a narrow ‘S’ path, through a small village to park right near Gandikota masjid (mosque).
We parked by the side
There was no entrance fee to enter the masjid, but the guides there said we’d have to pay Rs. 25 since we have professional cameras
The Jamia Masjid
Anand’s Canon SX30IS super-zoom is truly impressive
After the masjid, we went in here to pay the ‘camera fee’
There was no sign anywhere saying Rs. 25 was the ‘camera fee,’ but the guide sounded kind enough and eager to tell us about this place without asking for any money, so we didn’t mind paying up
Panorama comprised of 4 shots
Photograph by Ramesh
I walked to this temple while Ramesh and Anand walked towards the gorge
The stones are mostly red granite
The temple is called Ranganatha Swamy temple
I was too chicken to enter this dark room
I left the temple and walked towards the gorge
A panoramic view from Ranganatha Swamy temple
Tread carefully, its all rocky grounds here
I was walking towards the main reason I wanted to come to Gandikota
Wait for it….
… voila! Ever thought India had geography that looked similar to America’s Grand Canyon?
Oh, if you thought the above photo would make for an awesome wallpaper, here’s a 1920×1200 version!
It’s quite windy at the edge
Wonder how these rock formations even came to being
The rocks just seem planted there
(Photograph by Ramesh)
A very calm Pennar river
(Photograph by Anand)
We looked for other ways to reach centre of the hills, from where I hoped to take panorama of the entire plateau in front of us.
Just then, we spotted this opening, and I went in to see if it led anywhere
It led us out here
The view from down here… about the same as from up there
Photograph by Ramesh
We made our way back out one-by-one
We moved on further
We had to move slowly and chart our own path
I can’t stress enough on safety. It’s just rocks and boulders you will be stepping on, so take your own time. Some of these rocks are loose too.
But it was worth it, the view was fantastic…
… and I got my panorama!
Took some last few shots with the 70-200mm lens
Imagine what life must have been in those days
We would have liked to have gone all the way down to the river… but we didn’t see a way or anybody else down there (Photo from Anand’s super-zoom camera)
How cool is that? There’s a cave down there… and I would had *so* loved to have gone in there
We attempted a group shot with Ramesh’s camera atop my bag. After a few attempts, we got this.
The river flows into the Mylavaram reservoir
The rocks here are quite something
It was past 5pm, and most visitors were on their way back
It was getting darker, but I still had some more to see
I wanted to go that Mayan-like structure right of the centre
Walking away from Erramala hills
It smelt of shit here — both goat and cow (and hopefully not human)
Unfortunately as I got near the structure, the entry path to the steps was blocked by plants and weed
Hello you shitters!
Walked through the village
Everything is made of stone here
One of the village’s source of water
I walked back to the car and re-grouped with Ramesh and Anand
We still had one more temple to see inside the fort, but we just couldn’t figure out the way to get to it. So we drove out of the fort and wondered if there was another way.
Once out, the guides told us the way to Madhavaraya temple was from inside the fort itself, but they suggested we go tomorrow morning as the fort was going to be closed (more like, the guides were done for the day).
Well hello turkeys! We don’t see much of you here in India.
They may taste good, but boy are they ugly headed!
We decided to head back to the hotel. We were all pretty tired and we just wanted to rest.
We went up to the roof of our cottage
Standing on the roof I thought of how I could have brought my grill and some marinated meat in the cooler. I’m sure the staff wouldn’t have minded. It’s a perfect setting for a barbecue.
Mind you, Gandikota isn’t for everyone. It’s not what I’d call a ‘family destination,’ unless your family is the adventurous kind. The rocks you will have to walk over just to take the kind of photos of the gorge you see above aren’t easy for everyone to do. Also, there is hardly anything around for fun or excitement. Not even a hospital in case of emergencies.
If you want a weekend of peace and quiet, some privacy or even a new spot to usher in the New Year with close friends, then consider Gandikota as a perfect Bangalore getaway.
The evening sky at 6:15pm was a picture perfect end to an amazing day of discovery
There is quite literally, nothing surrounding this resort
Only stray dogs for company
I took bath without hot water because I desperately felt the need to be clean after walking amid goat droppings and all the climbing. Fortunately, it wasn’t too cold outside.
The same receptionist/attendant/waiter came to our room to ask us what we wanted for dinner. It would help the kitchen if we ordered in advance. The options weren’t many, but we asked for some rice, chapathis, dal, tomato curry, egg masala and egg burji. Everything cost Rs. 40-Rs. 45, so our expectations weren’t very high.
There is the option to have cable (Dish TV) in our room but we told the guy we definitely weren’t going to be watching television. We had ‘Mr. Jack‘ for company and the three of us spent the night reviewing our photos and chatting away.
Tomorrow morning, we had to go to the temple, drive 60kms to Belur caves and then drive back to Bangalore before nightfall. Day 1 was fantastic, we couldn’t wait to see what day 2 had in store for us!
Bonus: Here’s video of the Gandikota gorge I put together using clips from Ramesh’s and Anand’s camera