Belum caves and Gandikota

February 14, 2016 § 1 Comment

The Andhra Pradesh border is about 50-60kms from my house. Yet, I have never really been anywhere in Andhra, except Tirupati and Pulicat lake. Aswath and I have been planning a trip to Gandikota for a couple of years now. And when both us finally found the time(Pongalo-Pongal) we decided to explore the unexplored, the mystical, the late-breakfast eating state of Andhra. We recruited Venkatadri to balance the weight in the car and as a handy bodyguard in case my hindi/telugu/pidgin ended up getting us in trouble. Truth be told, both Aswath and Venkat speak pretty good  passable Hindi, while I will tell you to go inside the bridge(as against under) because it will surely lead you onto the highway to Hogwarts. We didn’t really use much of our rudimentary Telugu- to our surprise almost everyone we encountered seem to know Hindi or generally understand what we were trying to say. Of course, I’m still not sure which language I spoke in- more of a mish-mash of everything I know- for all I know, I might have sung Malare to some unsuspecting cop.

 

The ideal plan is to stay at Gandikota, catch the sunrise, go to Belum and return to Chennai. However, the only resort at Gandikota was full and we decided to stay at Kadapa instead. Not so bad, since Kadapa is about 250kms from Chennai and it was 6:30pm by the time we rolled into town- considering the condition of the road between Kadapa and Gandikota, it wouldn’t have been wise to drive there in the dark anyway. The drive from Chennai to Kadapa takes about 4-4:30hrs. The drive between Reinugunta and Kadapa in the evening was lovely. One thing though- throughout the trip we had to watch out for unmarked big speed-breakers on the highway. At one point Venk even considered buying an helmet. We found a lodging- hotel Ziara through Tripadvisor and after being given the runaround by Google navs through narrow market street, we found our way to it. A charming 8th grade kid, the brother of the owner(I’m guessing) showed us the way to dinner(a certain Meenakshi place) where we had humongous barottas.

 

Somewhere near Rajampetta

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The next day, being true Chennai boys, Aswath and Venk, decided we shall start early. Early being seven in the morning. Now, Tamil Nadu is a state which is notoriously early. You will find shops open at five and people generally getting on with their lives, like brushing their teeth while riding a bike, reading paper at the local tea stall or waiting for the first bus at four in the morning. Evidently not in Andhra. The hotel guys were sweet enough to make us some coffee before we left, and that’s all there was till about 8:30am in a random village where we had breakfast.  We changed our plan- there was no point in going to Gandikota first since we had anyway missed the sunrise. Instead we drove to Belum caves. You take the Kadapa-Kurnool four-lane highway for about 36 kms and then have to take a left(there’s a detour involved and google map’s navigation is correct), you drive past Jammalamadugu and take the Tadipatri-Jammalamadugu highway- the road here is mostly decent. There isn’t much of traffic and you pass through a few villages. A highway is under construction, so there are a few diversions along the road.  After 85kms on the road, take a right at Kolimigundla and in about 5kms you will reach Belum caves.

 

A village where we had breakfast on the way to Belum caves.

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Belum caves is the largest cave in the Indian plains, and has those pointy-pointy(Stalagmite and Stalactite) rock formations.  The caves are made of Kadapa stones(black limestone) and carved by random superpower which rules the universe, homo sculperus WATER. Considering we did not have to cross Silk board, TIDEL park or any of those awful signals, we made it in record time-9am- only to find that the place did not open till 10am. But being the bony (first sales) for the day has its advantages- by the time we left the caves, the place was infested filled with tourists. Add to this that the temperature inside is around 33C and humidity at Chennai-summer level, it could turn out to be not-so-pleasant trip. But it is fascinating. To think that water did this over millions of years, is mind-blowing and almost unimaginable( cue a few million years long movie with nothing but water flowing through the caves). Of course, some humans did feel the need to put their name on it and claim it as their work:-

writing on the wall

 

 

After the humbling experience of the caves, we headed out to Gandikota. You head back to Jammalamadugu, go into town and take the Muddanur road. Once you cross the Pennar river, take a right- the road ends at Gandikota. The trip is 60kms long and takes about an hour. The road up to Gandikota is  a winding road, which looked specially lovely in the evening. Having had only a sparse breakfast we dug into some Andhra meals at the Harita resort in Gandikota. The place was teeming with families, bikers and other sorts of humans who had all had the same idea as us. After napping for a while in the car, we finally walked up to the gorge. What a brilliant sight it was! For the second time in the day we were stunned by the power of water. And well, you just feel inconsequential in general- the world has been around for far too long, things have been happening anyway and the big bang happened so long ago, and the universe is still expanding- and just wait for the day we find out the quasars aren’t moving out any faster, but heading back in(okay, highly unlikely a) that will happen b) that will happen now, even if it were to happen).

Anyway, after being humbled beyond origins and meaning of life and what not, we clicked pictures with our fancy-ass camera and mobile, grumbled about the litter, got into the car drove back. (not before I shot this pic) –

 

The 90kms drive from Gandikota to Kadapa is bad. The road till Yerraguntla is terrible- a highway is under construction and majority of the paving was removed. Yerraguntla to Kadapa wasn’t so bad, except for the fact that there are unmarked speed-breakers which you have to wary of and there is a lot of lorry traffic with big blinding headlights. After getting suitable lost in trying to find the place we had dinner the previous night, we found another place to eat. If you are going to stay at Kadapa, I would recommend you stay near the bus stand, although the hotel we stayed at(Hotel Ziara) was good. The city does have KFC, dominos etc for those you who need your does of vapid fast food.

The next day, we found out again that Andhra just isn’t the place for early breakfast- this time at 8am, inside Kadapa city. After a quick grab at a small tea-stall-esque place, we headed back to Chennai. On the way we stopped at Kodandarama temple in Vontimitta- while I managed to get away with it, they don’t allow you to enter the temple if you are wearing shorts. We were also stopped at checkpoints to see if were smuggling red sanders. We weren’t.

Gandikota- click on photo to open album
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