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Bangalore weekend drive: Gandikota and Belum Caves, Andhra Pradesh – Part 2

Date: December 17th, 2011

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.

AP tourism Gandikota room hotel India
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
Gandikota hotel cottage Andhra Pradesh India
From my phone
Gandikota hotel cottages Mithun Ramesh
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.

Gandikota fort wall Andhra Pradesh India
We drove back to Gandikota fort
Parrots Gandikota fort red stone India
From Ramesh's camera
Green parrot Gandikota fort
From Anand's super-zoom camera
Gandikota fort tower village India
We parked our car here this time
Gandikota village stone houses India
We walked down this path at first

Gandikota village home Coca Cola India

Gandikota village stones Andhra Pradesh India
But we realized we were going down the wrong path, so we walked back up and took a path right behind the tower
Way to Madhavaraya temple Gandikota
Still wasn't sure if this was the right way to the temple. There's no sign or anything.
Madhavaraya temple through twigs
But we were getting closer to Madhavaraya temple
Gandikota fort well Andhra Pradesh India
The village pipe extends all the way into this well
Path to Madhavaraya temple Gandikota
There she is
Madhavaraya temple Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
But... we didn't see anybody at the temple
Gandikota Madhavaraya temple entrance gate locked
As we walked closer, we saw why there was nobody here. The gates were locked.
Madhavaraya temple main tower Gandikota
Damn, came to the fort again just to see this temple!
Green parrot Madhavaraya temple
At least Anand's camera caught more parrots
Madhavaraya temple through gate Gandikota
I had no choice but to take photos through a gap in the gates
Madhavaraya temple tower ceiling Gandikota
The architecture and design looked impressive

Madhavaraya temple stone carving art GandikotaDespite 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…

Gandikota temple gate lock open
This smaller gate wasn't locked, Ramesh just pulled the latch and nudged it open!
Madhavaraya temple tower architecture Gandikota India
We could now enter the temple
Madhavaraya temple Ramesh closing gate Gandikota
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

Madhavaraya temple ancient architecture Gandikota IndiaMadhavaraya temple pillar art Gandikota India

Madhavaraya temple ancient stone carving Gandikota India
The stone carvings were impressive

Madhavaraya temple Ramesh Gandikota Andhra Pradesh IndiaMadhavaraya temple god stone carving Gandikota IndiaMadhavaraya temple hall pillars Gandikota IndiaMadhavaraya temple Ganesha stone carving Gandikota IndiaMadhavaraya temple pillars Gandikota Andhra Pradesh IndiaMadhavaraya temple stone pillars Gandikota IndiaMadhavaraya temple pillar boundary Gandikota IndiaMadhavaraya temple design Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India

Madhavaraya temple ancient ruins Gandikota India
Went in here

Madhavaraya temple room Gandikota panorama

Madhavaraya temple tower clouds Gandikota India
Madhavaraya temple is worth checking out

Ramesh was trying the whole ‘levitating’ shot sequence, so we all got in on it.

Ramesh Anand Mithun levitating GandikotaMadhavaraya temple arches Gandikota Andhra Pradesh IndiaMadhavaraya temple architecture Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India

Gandikota fort wall Andhra Pradesh India
We closed the gate as it was earlier and left the temple
Gandikota fort barracks Andhra Pradesh India
We walked back to the car
Gandikota fort wall steps
We were done...
Leaving Gandikota Fort Andhra Pradesh India was time to leave Gandikota

Gandikota fort doors Andhra Pradesh India

Leaving Gandikota road Andhra Pradesh India
We had to drive back to Jammalamadugu

Gandikota reservoir lake Andhra Pradesh IndiaDalmia cement factory Andhra Pradesh India

Cotton fields Andhra Pradesh India
Passed by cotton fields

Sun rays through clouds Andhra Pradesh

Suzlon windmill farm Andhra Pradesh
A lot of windmills being installed in this part of Andhra Pradesh
Road to tadipatri Andhra Pradesh India
We were taking one straight road to Tadipatri
Bindu jeera soda bottle Andhra Pradesh India
We stopped at a village on the way to have some tea
Road to Belum caves junction Andhra Pradesh India
At the end of this long stretch, take a right to get to Belum Caves

Road to Belum caves Andhra Pradesh village

Anand car parked sunflower field Belum
We knew we were getting close, so we stopped here to take a proper photo amongst some sunflowers
Sunflower field Belum Andhra Pradesh India
We had driven past so many sunflower fields, but never stopped to take any good photos

Sunflower pollen Andhra Pradesh IndiaBack of sunflower India

Sunflower pollen yellow Andhra Pradesh India
I love taking macros shots of flowers

Sunflower yet to bloom India

Mithun Ramesh sunflower field Belum India
Photograph by Anand Phadake

Sunflowers Belum Andhra Pradesh IndiaFord Fiesta sunflower field Belum IndiaSunflower fields Andhra Pradesh India

Belum caves entrance Andhra Pradesh India
Reached Belum Caves at 12:45pm
Belum hill buddha statue Andhra Pradesh India
There's a massive Buddha statue here
Belum caves white buddha statue Andhra Pradesh India
From Anand's camera

There was ample parking space for our car, we then walked to the ticket counter.

Belum caves entrance Andhra Pradesh India
The entry ticket costs Rs. 40 ($0.75), none of that 'pay extra for camera' nonsense here
Steps down Belum caves Andhra Pradesh India
Down we went

Entrance to Belum caves India

Gebauer hall Belum caves Andhra Pradesh India
You see this as soon as you enter the caves
Belum caves rabbit hole Andhra Pradesh India
This is called Gebauer Hall, named after a German speleologist (cave explorer) who re-discovered these caves in the 1980s
Belum caves Ramesh Anand
We went in

Belum caves attractions facts Andhra Pradesh IndiaBelum caves start Andhra Pradesh India

Belum caves attraction Andhra Pradesh India
It wasn't until recently that Belum Caves was turned into a tourist attraction
Belum caves stalactites Andhra Pradesh India
There's droplets of water dripping down the stalactites above
Belum Caves shadows photographers India
Ramesh and Anand
Belum Caves Andhra Pradesh India
We kept walking further in

Belum caves Chalapathi Reddy hall Andhra Pradesh India

Chalapathi reddy hall belum caves Andhra India
Chalapathi Reddy hall, where some work was going on

Belum caves steps stones Andhra Pradesh India

Belum caves visitors crowd Andhra Pradesh India
I tried my best to take shots without any people, but some sections were just too crowded
Ramasubbareddy hall Belum caves Andhra Pradesh India
Ramasubba Reddy hall
Belum caves steps inner sanctum India
We went down
Belum caves steps down Ramesh Andhra Pradesh India
You'll have to mind your head at certain sections
Belum caves walk Andhra Pradesh India
It would have been nice if they sold little maps for say, Rs. 10, just so we know where we were going
Belum caves hollow path Andhra Pradesh India
We honestly had no clue where we were headed as there are multiple paths

Belum caves lighting Andhra Pradesh IndiaBelum caves tunnel Andhra Pradesh India

Belum caves vandalized Andhra Pradesh India
Even underground, our precious natural wonders aren't spared from being vandalized by our country's idiots!

Belum caves inside Andhra Pradesh India

Belum caves tunnel path Andhra Pradesh India
I tried my best to take photos as steady as possible, couldn't set up my tripod everywhere
Belum Caves Anand Andhra Pradesh India
We often had to wait for paths to clear while other visitors took photos
Belum caves dark area Andhra Pradesh India
Some areas are really dark, so you have to watch your step
Belum caves Anand posing India
This wasn't just a section to pose for photos
Belum caves ceiling vents Andhra Pradesh India
There are ducts above pumping fresh air into the caves. Oxygen wears thin in certain sections and it can get quite hot deep inside.

Narrow path Belum caves Andhra Pradesh India

Lighting Belum caves Andhra Pradesh India
I must say, they have done a good job of illuminating the caves

Belum Caves narrow path Andhra Pradesh India

Pathala Ganga Belum caves Andhra India
According to mythology, 'Pathala' is the kingdom of demons; Ganga is the river (Ganges to Westerners)
Belum caves tunnel lighting Andhra Pradesh India
I wondered which way to go next
Belum caves Pathala Ganga Andhra Pradesh India
Went the other way instead

Stalactites stones Belum caves Andhra Pradesh India

Belum caves stalactites stalagmites Andhra Pradesh India
It led to this hall
Anand Phadake standing under vent Belum caves
Anand cooling off under a vent, and this section needed it!
Ramesh remote Belum caves India
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.
Ramesh Anand Mithun Belum caves Andhra India
It worked just fine
Zoomed out Belum caves Andhra Pradesh India
Took one zoomed all the out to give you an idea how wide the hall is
Stalactites light Belum caves Andhra Pradesh India
I wonder if these lights do the rocks any damage, given how hot they can be
Limestone small stalactites Belum caves India
We left the hall

Belum caves walkway stalactites Andhra Pradesh IndiaCommon hall Belum caves India

Belum caves underground Andhra Pradesh India
Instead of going back the way we came, we tried another path
Belum caves limestone smooth ceiling Andhra Pradesh India
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 πŸ˜›

Belum caves silhouette Andhra Pradesh IndiaWalking back tunnel Belum caves

Belum caves tunnel Andhra Pradesh India
These caves were well worth the visit!
Belum caves limestone rock formation
Never knew such sights were this close to Bangalore
Belum caves way out Andhra India
We headed back

Belum caves rocks IndiaBelum caves hole Andhra Pradesh IndiaBelum caves big tunnel Andhra IndiaBelum caves limestone smooth ceilingBelum caves going back Andhra Pradesh India

Way to meditation hall Belum caves Andhra Pradesh India
Once back in Ramasubba Reddy hall, we went to the 'Maditation hall'
Maditation hall sign Belum caves Andhra Pradesh India
See? Maditation πŸ˜›
Ramesh Mithun Anand meditation pose Belum caves
We 'maditated' for a photo

Ramasubba Reddy hall Belum Caves Andhra Pradesh IndiaStairs Belum Caves Andhra Pradesh IndiaBelum caves from elevation Andhra India

Chalapathi Reddy hall flash photo Belum caves
We stopped on the way back to take one last group photo in front of Chalapathi Reddy hall
Mithun Divakaran camera Belum caves
I set up the camera...

Ramesh taking photo Belum caves India

Group photo Belum caves white limestone Andhra Pradesh India
Belum Caves 2011... officially done!

Belum caves Andhra Pradesh panorama

Belum caves hollow underground Andhra Pradesh IndiaBelum caves walking to entrance

Belum caves water dripping limestone panorama
Panorama comprised of 2 shots

Belum caves limestone stalactite formationsBelum caves entrance area India

Gebauer hall tour group Andhra Pradesh India
They have organized tours to Belum Caves. At the ticket counter, you can arrange for a guide too, but they only speak Telugu.

Stairs Belum Caves entrance IndiaStairs up Belum caves Andhra Pradesh IndiaAs 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.

Aiwaafine bottled water Andhra Pradesh India
No Aquafine, only Aiwaafine πŸ™‚

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.

Belum road Andhra Pradesh India
It was going to be one long straight drive from here to Anantapur

Road to Anantapur windmills

Windmills hills Andhra Pradesh India
Loads of windmills
Granite mine Andhra Pradesh India
We had to stop briefly when we saw this granite mine on the way
Granite mines Andhra Pradesh India
Never seen earth being cut like that! Look at all that granite!

Windmill hills Andhra Pradesh India

Cement factory Andhra Pradesh
Couldn't take a clear shot of this huge cement factory we passed

Haystack truck Andhra Pradesh road IndiaRoad to Anantapur tricycle Andhra Pradesh India

Anantapur town Andhra Pradesh India
By 3pm, we were in the town of Anantapur

Golden YSR statues Anantapur Andhra Pradesh IndiaAnantapur lamp posts Andhra Pradesh IndiaWe 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.

Water tanker leaking Andhra Pradesh India
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!

Lake Singanamala Andhra Pradesh India
Of course, when we saw this massive water body, we just had to stop!
Singanamala tank Andhra Pradesh India
This was Lake Singanamala

Lake Singanamala Mithun Divakaran Andhra Pradesh India

Anand Phadake dog chips
Made do with chips for 'lunch,' it is all we could find

Anantapur tower Andhra Pradesh India

Anantapur road connecting NH7 Andhra Pradesh India
We were finally back on NH7 (Bangalore-Hyderabad highway)
Bangalore Hyderabad highway NH7 Andhra Pradesh India
From here on it was super-smooth sailing!
NH7 Andhra Pradesh hills windmills
More windmills

NH7 Bangalore Hyderabad highway IndiaMonkeys NH7 Bangalore Hyderabad India

Hill range NH7 Andhra Pradesh India
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!

140kmph Ford Fiesta speedometer
The ride handling in Anand Phadake's Ford Fiesta diesel was incredibly stable even at speeds of 140kmph. It's a really good car!
Evening sun NH7 lake India
We were in Karnataka by around 5pm
Evening sky pink clouds Nh7 south India
Ended the day with a beautiful sunset

As we neared Chikbalapur, finding dhabas became easy and we stopped at one to our left.

Dhaba window Chikbalapur India
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 seeΒ Madhavaraya temple yesterday itself, we could have finished Belum Caves by 1pm and been back in Bangalore by sunset.

The last epic weekend drive we managed to undertake was when we drove from Bangalore to Pondicherry on Saturday and then drove to Mahaballipuram, then Chennai and back to Bangalore by Sunday night. This in some ways topped that one because we managed to see all there is to see in Gandikota and Belum, and the trip didn’t feel incomplete in any way.

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!

Previous post in this series:

Bangalore weekend drive: Gandikota and Belum Caves, Andhra Pradesh – Part 1

Gandikota gorge Pennar river end of hill

Bangalore weekend drive: Gandikota and Belum Caves, Andhra Pradesh – Part 1

I interrupt my current Singapore series to bring attention to a place I never knew even existed in India!

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.

Foggy Sarjapur road morning drive Bangalore
We started from Sarjapur-Outer Ring Road… which was rather foggy at 7am
Airport road towards Devanahalli Bangalore
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.

Route map to Kadiri
We got off the main highway at a major intersection from where you need to take a right (Image: Google Maps)
Untarred road to billur
We did get a bit of rough road…
Road to Billur Karnataka
… but got back on to smooth tarmac soon after
Goats blocking Indian road
But we had to slow down when we saw this
Goats on road Karnataka India
Bangalore’s mutton supply discovered!
Goats crossing road India
There was a LOT of them!
Goat herder crossing road India
We waited until the herd passed by
Goats ram Karanata road India
Papa goat?
YSR golden statue junction Andhra Pradesh
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
Road to Kadiri Andhra Pradesh India
We were now in the state of Andhra Pradesh

Lake Andhra Pradesh India

Road to Kadapa Andhra Pradesh
The road got narrow for a bit
Temple lake Kadiri Andhra Pradesh India
By 11am, we were in the town of Kadiri
Raja Reddy wedding photo
Raja looks pleased

Kadiri temple Andhra PradeshMixture namkeen shop kadiri AP India

Kadiri town AP India
Kadapa is the nearest major town to Gandikota, but we decided to drive through an alternate route that would take us straight to Gandikota
Jalamadugu turn at Kadiri Andhra Pradesh India
We came down that road and took a right towards Jammalamadugu
Ramesh Anand Phadake Ford Fiesta AP India
We stopped for a tea break at a dhaba along the way
Gopi Punjabi Dhaba Andhra Pradesh India
Gopi was the name of one of our ex-bosses… but that’s not why we stopped here, I swear πŸ˜‰
Kadiri rocks Andhra Pradesh India
The landscape in these parts is completely different. Lots of rocks…
Inner Andhra Pradesh rocks geography
… and the rocks just stay (Taken by Ramesh)
Ramesh Iyer tea Andhra Pradesh India
We had our Rs. 5 chai

Mithun Divakaran taking photo outside Kadiri

Anand Phadake tea stop dhaba
It was 11:45am, and we still had a long way to go
Inner Andhra Pradesh old man
We hit the road again
Road to Jamalagundu bridge
This was pretty cool
Hindu temple under huge rock India
This temple under that huge rock

Temple beneath rock Andhra Pradesh IndiaDriving to Gandikota bridge

Andhra Pradesh interior electricity lines India
For most our journey, we traversed through sparsely populated villages and barren landscapes — and hardly any vehicles with a ‘KA’ registration
Road to Jammalamadugu trees
(Photograph by Ramesh)
Sunflower fields Andhra Pradesh India
There were SO many sunflower fields on either side
Sunflower fields Jammalamadugu Andhra India
(Mind you, just about all the shots above were taken from behind the car window)
Ramesh phone GPS Ford Fiesta drive
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
Goat crossing Andhra Pradesh
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!

Anand Mithun Ramesh in car
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.

AP toursim Gandikota hotel road sign
Finally, we were getting nearer!
Road to Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
The roads for the most part were good… and there were *hardly* anybody else driving through these roads
Windmill blades Suzlon Andhra Pradesh India
There’s quite a lot of windmill activity by Suzlon in these neck of the woods
Road to Gandikota fort Andhra Pradesh India
The road got narrower — which meant we were getting close
AP tourism Gandikota hotel entrance
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?!)

Gandikota hotel restaurant granite pillars
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…

Mithun sunglasses reflectionWhen 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.

Gandikota hotel garden playground Andhra Pradesh India
We decided to take a few photos of the hotel
Gandikota fort from APTDC hotel
You can see the Gandikota fort wall from here
Aptdc gandikota hotel granite buildings
Everything is made of granite stone
Gandikota hotel rooms Andhra Pradesh India
Our room was in the back
Gandikota aptdc hotel resort panorama
The cottages are on the extreme left (Panorama comprised of 9 shots)
Mithu Divakaran AP tourism hotel Gandikota India
(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).

Gandikota fort masjid Andhra Pradesh India
We parked by the side
Gandikota masjid entrance Andhra Pradesh India
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

Gandikota fort masjid architecture Andhra Pradesh India

Gandikota fort masjid Andhra Pradesh tomb
The Jamia Masjid

Gandikota masjid minarets Andhra PradeshGandikota fort masjid halls IndiaGandikota fort passage hall sun rayGandikota corridor wall writings Andhra Pradesh IndiaGandikota fort dome IndiaGandikota fort tree lawn IndiaGandikota fort masjid behind Andhra Pradesh IndiaGandikota fort masjid architecture IndiaGandikota fort cowGandikota fort minaret Andhra Pradesh India

Gandikota fort masjid minaret dome parrots
Anand’s Canon SX30IS super-zoom is truly impressive
Gandikota fort rocky building Andhra Pradesh
After the masjid, we went in here to pay the ‘camera fee’
Ramesh Mithun paying fee Gandikota fort
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

Gandikota fort hall windows panorama

Gandikota fort hall pillars panorama
Panorama comprised of 4 shots
Anand Mithun taking photos Gandikota fort
Photograph by Ramesh
Rangaswamy temple Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
I walked to this temple while Ramesh and Anand walked towards the gorge
Red granite temple rocks Gandikota
The stones are mostly red granite

Rangaswamy temple entrance Gandikota Andhra Pradesh IndiaRangaswami temple hall Gandikota IndiaΒ Ranganatha Swami temple elephant stone carving Gandikota

Gandikota Ranganathaswami temple pillars ancient art India
The temple is called Ranganatha Swamy temple

Ranganathaswami temple art stone carving GandikotaΒ Ranganatha Swamy temple back red rocks GandikotaRanganathaswami temple pillar stone carving Gandikota IndiaRangaswami temple pillars GandikotaRanganatha swami temple pillar stone carving Gandikota IndiaRanganatha swami temple pillar stone art Gandikota

Ranganatha swami temple door Gandikota
I was too chicken to enter this dark room

Ranganatha Swamy temple stone carving art Gandikota IndiaRanganatha swamy temple pillar stone carving GandikotaRanganatha swami temple pillars art carvings Gandikota

Ranganathaswami temple gates Gandikota India
I left the temple and walked towards the gorge
Gandikota panorama from Ranganathaswamy temple Andhra Pradesh India
A panoramic view from Ranganatha Swamy temple
Granite rocks Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
Tread carefully, its all rocky grounds here
Rocky hills Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
I was walking towards the main reason I wanted to come to Gandikota
Gandikota Erramala hills towards Pennar river
Wait for it….
Gandikota gorge Erramala Pennar river panorama Andhra Pradesh India
… 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! πŸ™‚

Mithun Divakaran Gandikota hills
It’s quite windy at the edge
Red granite stones formation Gandikota
Wonder how these rock formations even came to being
Gandikota gorge rocks river
The rocks just seem planted there

Erramala hills Gandikota fort rocks India

Anand Mithun taking photos Gandikota gorge
(Photograph by Ramesh)

Erramala hills Gandikota grass

Gandikota Pennar river Andhra Pradesh India
A very calm Pennar river
Mithun Divakaran taking photo Gandikota gorge
(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.

Mithun way under rocks Gandikota
Just then, we spotted this opening, and I went in to see if it led anywhere

Going under rocks Gandikota hill

Gap under rocks Gandikota gorge
It led us out here
Gandikota gorge from cave panorama India
The view from down here… about the same as from up there
Mithun Divakaran Gandikota rocks Andhra Pradesh river
Photograph by Ramesh

Ramesh taking photograph under rocks GandikotaMithun Anand through gap Gandikota

Going back out rocks Gandikota
We made our way back out one-by-one
Anand Ramesh walking up rocks Gandikota
We moved on further
Rocks boulders Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
We had to move slowly and chart our own path
Stones boulders Gandikota hill Andhra Pradesh India
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.
Gandikota fort walls river hills
But it was worth it, the view was fantastic…
Gandikota gorge pennar river panorama
… and I got my panorama!

Anand Phadake Gandikota hills eveningKite bird flying Gandikota sky India

Gandikota gorge Pennar river end of hill
Took some last few shots with the 70-200mm lens

Gandikota fort wall stone steps

Gandikota fort walls river side panorama
Imagine what life must have been in those days
Gandikota fort walls Pennar river Andhra India
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)

Gandikota red hill Errmala gorge

Cave Gandikota hill Pennar river Andhra Pradesh India
How cool is that? There’s a cave down there… and I would had *so* loved to have gone in there
Red granite stone hill Gandikota India
Red granite

Gandikota hill red stone Andhra Pradesh India

Ramesh Anand Mithun photo Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
We attempted a group shot with Ramesh’s camera atop my bag. After a few attempts, we got this.

Gandikota rocks Pennar river India

Gandikota reservoir Pennar river
The river flows into the Mylavaram reservoir
Standing stone Gandikota rocks India
The rocks here are quite something
Gandikota tourists evening Andhra Pradesh
It was past 5pm, and most visitors were on their way back
Sunset Gandikota rocks Andhra Pradesh India
It was getting darker, but I still had some more to see
Gandikota fort wall ruins India
I wanted to go that Mayan-like structure right of the centre
Gandikota hill Erramala Andhra Pradesh India
Walking away from Erramala hills
Gandikota fort ruins boundary wall India
It smelt of shit here — both goat and cow (and hopefully not human)
Gandikota fort ruins steps to platform
Unfortunately as I got near the structure, the entry path to the steps was blocked by plants and weed
Lamb shelter Gandikota village
Hello you shitters!
Gandikota village old houses
Walked through the village
Gandikota village stones houses India
Everything is made of stone here

Telugu girl child village Gandikota Andhra PradeshΒ Gandikota village cow calf Andhra Pradesh IndiaGranite stone village homes Gandikota Andhra Pradesh

Gandikota village well Andhra Pradesh India
One of the village’s source of water
Gandikota fort masjid reflection well
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).

Turkeys Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
Well hello turkeys! We don’t see much of you here in India.
Gandikota turkey birds India
They may taste good, but boy are they ugly headed!

Gandikota turkey black featherWe decided to head back to the hotel. We were all pretty tired and we just wanted to rest.

Anand Ramesh rooftop AP tourism hotel Gandikota
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.

Gandikota evening pink sky Andhra Pradesh India
The evening sky at 6:15pm was a picture perfect end to an amazing day of discovery
View from AP tourism hotel Gandikota
There is quite literally, nothing surrounding this resort
Gandikota hotel dog on steps
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

Next post in the series:
Bangalore weekend drive: Gandikota and Belum Caves, Andhra Pradesh – Part 2

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