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.
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
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'
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.
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