Gandikota, Grand Canyon of India

Unlike other trips, this one is a special ride and will be remembered for ages, its because of the people in the group, as this group joins together once in every year during the same season just for one cause “Ride, Explore and Enjoy the moment”. And this time it’s the so called Grand Canyon of India, Gandikota.

Gandikota is a massive structure that is built by Chalukyan King on the Erramala hills, surrounded by natural valleys and huge boulders. The fort is gorgeous and there’s one other thing that has made this location famous for, it’s the Pennar river that flows between the gigantic Erramala hills that has earned the name “The Grand Canyon of India” and no doubt it’s Ginormous.
Surfing through fort reveals a small town with hundreds of families residing for years. Other structures include a granary which shows how they used to store food for the fort in case of an emergency. Then there is a massive Masjid(Jama Masjid) and a temple(Madhavaraya Temple) right beside each other. There is also a jail, one can visualize how cruel and less tolerant the Kings were towards any wrong doers in the kingdom. This place is definitely a symbol for the rich, varied Indian culture and heritage.

What does Gandikota signify?
Gandikota is a single word from Telugu Language, Gandi means Gorge and Kota means fort.
Best time to Visit: September to February (Avoid during summer seasons)

Day 1:
4:00 Meeting this crew after 365 days, handshakes, hugs, hi5, laughs on yelling endearing names, happiness spread all around. I starred at a moment with thought running on my mind “first trip in a car, should I take it?” Before deciding, my friends pushed me in, because they knew what I would decide.

The Crew: From Bottom left Raghu, me(KK), Krishna, Shankar, Hari and Siva

11:00 First Pit-Stop Belum Caves

Tip-off

  • Timings: 10 am to 5:30 pm
  • Transportation – Tadipatri is the nearest railway station, from there one need to hire a bus to ride 30 km.
  • This place is hot during summers, though APTDC had n-number of ventilations inside the caves that doesn’t wipe out the sweat.
  • Accommodation – APTDC Tourism run dormitory that needs to be booked in advance. Near by stay – Anantapur, Kurnool or Nandyal.
  • Food – no good hotels/restaurants nearby, APTDC run canteen is available. Better to carry fruits/snacks and water bottles to be in the safe zone.

Largest and the longest cave system in India well known for its speleothens formations. The cave was formed by the action of water flow on limestone deposits over millions of years and officially it was found on 1884 by Robert Bruce Foote. It was later taken over by Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) and removed the debris to built a pathway and made the cave accessible to the public.

The entrance has a huge 40 foot Buddha statue that symbolizes the role of monks in the history of the caves.

The moment one enters the caves his/her adventure begins, though there are markings and the path is illuminated with varied lights, one still gets confused which path he/she had taken earlier. It is a maze built across black limestone’s. The entrance chamber is named after a German speleologist Mr. Daniel Gebaur, “Gebaur Hall” who explored and mapped the caves in 1982/83.

One can witness the spectacular natural creations of what a dense water flow can cause to a rock, sinkholes, narrow path (one need to curl him/her self to go through it), crawl through holes, underground stream and the saint bed. For people who are interested in the study of speleology then Belum Caves is the right place to start with.

14:30 3hrs and 30mins of exploration inside the cave, stunned by the beauty (truth – most of the time spent posing for photos 📸). Our next stop THE GRAND CANYON.

15:00 Jammalamadugu is the near by town before Gandikota, and if you need things to purchase get it from here, once you cross this town then the next 14km it’s driving through a wide spread desert. Had our lunch in Jammalamadugu before moving to Gandikota.

16:30 Reached Haritha Hotel (APTDC, the only stay near Gandikota) the fort is 5 minutes walk-able distance from the hotel. Since we had a contact (thanks to my group that explored Gandikota on sep 2017, officially I was a part of the crew, only for half way through, needed to turn back due to an engine failure then, how can I forget that day – Black day in TLT), his name was Siva, called him and told we have two 3 member tent, need to set it up and also arrange food for dinner.

Tip-off

Haritha hotel is the only stay available at this point of time , and booking a stay is not that easy.

Alternate Option

  • One can carry tent that can be set up near the valley. People from haritha hotel will guide for setting up the tent if needed.
  • There are separate restroom facility for men and women setup at haritha hotel for people who stay at tent. Just that need to walk few minutes from the place of stay and might need to stay on queue. The maintenance is very good.
  • Food is available at Haritha hotel itself, if you need separate food just put a word to the person who sets up the tent, he can prepare it for you.
  • Countable number of charging ports are available at Haritha hotel reception, just wait for your turn to charge your mobiles.
  • Apart from this if you need anything you need to travel back to Jammalamadugu.
  • BSNL and JIO have a strong network connection apart from that Airtel and Vodafone 😖, don’t ever think of it.
  • Kayaking in Pennar river is available, it is charged 500 per head for 20 to 30 mins. For all the information and tent setup contact the persons below.

Tent Setup/Food Preparation and Kayaking Support:

Siva: +91 9398300919 / +91 9985444233

Chelapathy: +91 8500603157 / +91 7989498609

17:30 Grand Canyon – Watch the Sun Go Down

Witnessing Grand Canyon at the first place, for a moment we all were immobile, stunned by the gorgeous valley that stood still between the Erramala mountain. Questioned myself why on earth have I delayed it so long to visit here.

About half-hour before sunset, found a perfect spot for camping preferably to do something unusual. This is a good time to let time pass naturally and without any interruption. It’s always tempting to have a few moments to witness one of the world’s most incredible spectacles – sunset over Grand Canyon, India. As the sun approaches the edge of the rim, the shadows within the Canyon shifts slowly, changing the colors and textures within. Moved to the near by cliff and the view it gave out was breathtaking, watched the sky spin into a color wheel, as the Canyon grew dark the sky above and the river below illuminated with reds, oranges and blues. It was an unfathomable experience.

21:30 Sky full of Stars

Just because it’s dark doesn’t mean Gandikota is completely invisible, lay on your back start watching the dark blue sky with stars sprinkling all over, adding to this was the camp fire, ah what a pleasure! Camping across the valley, with bonfire to soothe the temperature, reading the most adorable book ever (“The motorcycle diaries”, a book that’s so close to me(KK)) and gazing at the stars, it’s a magical moment. I wished this moment could last longer, not more I can expect for.

Dinner was arranged in the mean time, both veg and non veg were available. It was a buffet set up by Chelapathy. After dinner, had long fun discussion before moving to our respective tents and resting ourselves for the upcoming kayaking (Decided to quit the trek at Ahobilam, due to time restriction. Thank goodness considering my leg condition 😅)

Day 2:
5:00 It wasn’t sunrise at that moment, and yet we were awake. It was completely dark out there, but the fun never ended, started from where it was left the last night, in-fact few hours back.

6:30 Sunrise at Gandikota

8:30 Swing in Kayaking 🚣
Needed to trek down to reach the banks of the river Pennar, from where Kayak starts. The trek was around 30 minutes, jumping through the rocks and trees. Once we reached the shore, had our life jacket on and off we jumped on the kayak, the best part was neither of us knew to row 😂 (that’s how best moments are made of) Krishna being the leader, Raghu at the tail end and me(KK) being the photographer (unspoken truth when no body knew to use a DSLR you become tied to your camera) while on the other end Shankar the leader, Hari at the tail end and similar to me it was Siva there. The comedy of errors began, Krishna was with full force rowing, no sync with Raghu, at a moment our kayak started to spin because of our atrocities 😅, we had moved so long that Shankar and team were barely visible.

Shankar and team were right on the mission, row for few meters stay, stop rowing let the flowing river do the rest, take selfie, video and burn themselves in the sun. That was not the case with me(KK), Raghu and Krishna, it was total opposite, Krishna with all enthusiasm rowed sorry splashed the rowers against the flowing river such that when we walked out, our kayak was half filled with water, while me and Raghu cracking all possible dialogues and making fun out of it during the entire kayaking. Chelapathy’s stare on us while handing the Kayak spoke the rest 🤐, thank goodness we didn’t drown ourselves in the river.

11:30 Tents were removed, had breakfast and explored the fort before moving out of Gandikota.

14:00 Our return journey to Bangalore started

It’s a trip I’ll always remember as it was different from other trips – because of the people, the place, and most importantly a trip taken in TLT. And this group will once again come with an entertaining exploration in 2020.

Now comes the best part, How I felt riding in the caravan?

A first trip in a car, featured in TLT. Indeed a different experience, first ride in a car, which I usually never like to do. But believe me at the end of the trip I was fresh as I was when I started the trip, which would have been the opposite when am riding a bike. The comfort is surreal, one thing that I enjoyed being in a car is you don’t need to worry about the space, no need to be choosy on things to carry. Usually when tripping in bike I use to be very careful on carrying clothes as it should get fit in my camera bag so that I can carry the tripod too. But that never was a constraint. All I wanted to carry I did it.

Weather would be a big drawback when riding on a bike, even though when it rained me and my crew use to enjoy and ride, during hot summer that would not be the case. Being in a car, hot out there? turn on the AC, raining? no problem, sit back and stare the droplets flowing on the window shield, free from pollution and no need to stop for power naps, just swap the driver seat and keep moving. Securing things was not a problem at all. It was a hassle free ride 🚙

BUT, there’s always a but when riding in a car. There were situations where I felt riding through a bike would have been more engrossing, especially on the curves and long stretch that was similar to Leh. Wanted to feel each and every bit of the atmosphere while moving through regions, riding a bike touches ones soul, that’s what I missed. And most importantly playing music tracks🎼 can lead to a debate especially when there is an ARR(me), Yuvan and Illayaraja (Shankar) fan in the crew 😅 Usually I use to feel for my Apache not being besides on a trip, but not on this trip, “The Motorcycle Diaries” a best companion, indeed a copybook to my Apache.

Here’s The Beast who was the prime reason for success of the trip

It’s a coincidence that even Shankar has named him the Beast, in my terms the Beast has just evolved (from Apache to TUV 😆)

More trips to come for this year, stay tuned, as always follow and keep supporting. Happy reading guys.