This is the last post from my travel archives. After all the posts I’ve written about my travels within India and abroad, it’s only befitting I write about my hometown. Although I was raised in Bahrain (16 years) and worked in Bangalore (8 years), I am a native of Kannur (named Cannanore by the Colonial British) in Kerala.
And although it’s one of the largest districts in Kerala by area, Kannur does not offer too much in terms of sights or attractions compared to say, Cochin, with it’s more globally marketable Jew Town and easy access to Kerala’s other famous places. That said, I’m still going to showcase whatever I can from my past visits to Kannur. Or at least the places I’ve visited anyway.
After my first trip to the hilly district in 2008, I returned to Coorg for a second trip with my then office photography club – Shutterbugs. We hired a Chevrolet Tavera taxi and left Bangalore city Friday night after work.
We'd stop on the way to give our driver a coffee break, because we were worried about him dozing off at the wheel
Not that we managed to sleep sitting inside the crammed vehicle
We arrived at our homestay in Madikeri town around 6am
Don't ask me for a name, for this massive hut belong to a relative of one our office mates. We still had to pay for it though.
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!
When we called up this hotel (Ph: (o)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 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