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.
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.
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…
Ramesh was trying the whole ‘levitating’ shot sequence, so we all got in on it.
There was ample parking space for our car, we then walked to the ticket counter.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
As we neared Chikbalapur, finding dhabas became easy and we stopped at one to our left.
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 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 eventually reached a small village where we had to stop at a railway crossing. Something that took an ungodly long time!
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.
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?!)
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 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).
Oh, if you thought the above photo would make for an awesome wallpaper, here’s a 1920×1200 version! 🙂
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.
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).
We decided to head back to the hotel. We were all pretty tired and we just wanted to rest.
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.
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
I got up at 5:30am, and had to freshen up using water from the hot shower as the tap water was freezing cold!
But I ended up waking up just half-an-hour later when I briefly opened my eyes. I just had to take my camera out now and take a few shots of the terrain I was passing through.
I arrived at Baguio just past 1pm. Where the bus stopped was at some lot inside a shopping complex. Didn’t look like a main bus station or anything, so I asked around how I could get to Angeles City. The locals told me I would have to go to another bus depot near SM Supermall and catch a bus from there. So, in a taxi I went.
Riding through Baguio, you could see why Baguio is a predominantly a ‘university town’. Students from all across the North come to Baguio for higher education as it’s the only developed city in this hilly region of North Philippines.
I never had any plans of staying in Baguio because I didn’t find any of the attractions worthy of spending a night here. A short 5 minute ride later (which cost less than ₱100), I was at the bus terminal very near to SM Supermall — the only major mall in the city.
I asked for buses going to Angeles City and was instructed to board any of the buses going to Dau. I bought my ticket (₱290/$6/€4.7) from one of the private bus companies that operates the route and dumped my backpack on my seat. I had a few minutes before the bus departed so I quickly stepped out and went to the nearby Jollibee to pick up some lunch (Jollibee is there wherever you need it!)
The bus left at 2pm and I had my lunch watching a very charitable man give away gifts and cash to Filipinos on TV. As the TV signal strength weakened, they put on the usual pirated copies of low-budget action films (first, an unheard of horror movie starring a really fat Val Kilmer).
I didn’t take many photographs on this leg of the journey — mostly because there wasn’t a whole lot of scenery worth capturing. It rained a little bit and the bus moved slowly because from here on, we were going downhill and it was quite misty outside.
After a few hours, it got really cold inside the bus as the air-conditioning was truly working. I had to wear my jacket and use my camera bag for additional warmth.
You know it’s an impoverished part of the country when you see the locals rejoicing with banners when one of their residents become a lawyer. Saw a few of those.
Soon after one B-grade movie ended, they put on another. This time a Tagalog dub of a Thai action movie starring a popular Thai actress whom I cannot name at all because I only remember seeing the ‘making of’ this film on a show on NHK. Sigh.
I kept wondering how much longer I had to sit in this bus. By sunset, the bus had stopped in the city of Tarlac — and it stayed there for some time. And by now, there weren’t many passengers in the bus. I stepped down to ask if this was where I need to get down but the driver who was taking a break said “no”. I went back in and waited for the bus to move again.
And move on it did. We were on McArthur Highway by nightfall and I again wondered just how much longer I had to go to get to Angeles City.
Around 7:30pm, we finally reached a very busy Dau bus terminal. From there, I got into a trike and asked him to take me to my hotel. The journey took another 10 minutes (he charged ₱110) but I finally got to Red Tulip Hotel. I chose this hotel because I didn’t want a place on Fields Avenue, near all the nightclubs that go late into the night, and Red Tulip Hotel looked like it was a safe distance away. But that was as per the map on their website. In reality, it was a little too far from the main jeepney hub. But more on that later.
I had spent more than 12 hours today just sitting in buses. I was tired, so I quickly stepped out to have dinner at 9pm and then went to sleep immediately after getting back. For the first time this week, I didn’t have to wake up early tomorrow!
Day 5 – 21st April 2011
I don’t know how many hours I slept, but I slept well. Lord knows I needed the rest after the last three days! I switched on the television and watched the news reports of how crowded EDSA was yesterday night, with everyone rushing to get out of Manila. In some ways, I guess it was a good idea to arrive a bit early.
By the time I got out of bed, freshened up and made my way down for breakfastbrunch, it was noon.
I ate lazily, chatted with the waitresses who asked me where I was from and where all I had been to in Philippines so far. Then I went online for a bit after brunch and only at around 2pm did I finally decide to step out of the hotel! I wanted to take it easy for once.
A security guard came up to me as I took the above photograph, and he told me the mall was closed today and tomorrow, being Good Friday. I asked him how far the Clark Duty Free was from here and he said around 8kms and he told me there’s a high possibility that would be closed today as well.
I sighed and walked towards the jeepney drivers nearby and asked them if the Clark Duty Free was open today but they confirmed it saying it was a holiday today.
But I wondered if it was just because it was in the afternoon.
As I reviewed my shots, I noticed they were all quite dark and that I couldn’t change my shutter speed now. It was stuck at 1/1250! Grrh, I hate it when things like this happen, and that too just before a big event like tomorrow’s crucifixion ceremony! I had no choice but to continue shooting with it.
I walked back to my side of town and felt the urge to have some ice cream.
Bought my ice cream from a convenience store at a Petron station on this side of Perimeter road, which houses a few more nightclubs, and little else.
Once back in my room, I fiddled with my camera for nearly an hour, switching it on and off, taking the battery out multiple times. Fed up, I went online to find a solution. Saw a few threads on such issues and then felt like an idiot after reading the ‘solution’. I had accidentally pressed the ‘Lock’ button near the dial which stuck the shutter speed at the last setting.
Anyway. After ‘fixing’ my problem, I sat in the room and worked on a few photos to upload and stepped out only for dinner. I went back to the Turkish restaurant as I miss Middle Eastern food and I wanted to make the most of the authentic food available as much as possible. (The restaurant was run by Turks)
At night, there were a lot more people out and about, but it still didn’t look like this is the most action Angeles City usually sees. So yeah, if you are coming to Angeles City purely for the nightlife, Holy Week isn’t the best time for that 🙂 Some of the nightclubs were still closed.
Back in the room, I packed my camera bags, kept all my batteries for charging, cleaned my lenses, set my alarm, and went to bed. Tomorrow was going to be the big day, and I couldn’t wait for it to begin!