“Indian Grand Canyon.. somewhere nearby” That’s the phrase I heard sometimes last year. Googling it up I found an opportunity for photography as well as bike ride. At 300Km one way, it had to be a 2 day ride so as to have an opportunity for sunset/sunrise pics. Longer rides came and went, still did not get a chance to make this 2 days trip. Finally last week I made the trip.

As usual, rather than take the boring NH, I looked for back roads to take me there. The route I took is below and goes thus:
Day 1: Bangalore – Hoskote – Narsapura – Chintamani – Madanpalli – Kadiri – Pulivendula – Muddanur – Gandikota (350Km)
Day 2: Gandikota – Jammamalamadugu – Belum Caves – Gooty – Anantpur – Bangalore (400Km)

mapSo the morning went as usual. Got up at 0445 and was on the road by 0530. As I approached Hoskote, the sky started lightning up with a few clouds lingering around. Expecting a good sunrise, I decided to ride till Narsapura and then cut across to Chintamani Cross. I have had good experience with sunrise over the Narsapura lake.

While the clouds were mostly absent, the sunrise was spectacular. Few pictures later, I turned towards Chintamani Cross

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Sunrise through the trees
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Cloud Puffs

The stretch of road from Narsapura to Chintamani Cross is a pretty good stretch, with trees lining the road and portions of uncultivated brush. There is also an old bridge which makes for good photo opportunities.

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Leading
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Golden hues
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Old fashioned timer selfie

At Chintamani Cross, I took a break for tea plus some biscuits and then rolled on.

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Tea Selfie

A while back the road to Chintamani used to be an interesting one with tree lining the sides and some good photo spots. After the recent widening, the trees are all gone. The new road does make for fast travelling. Chintamani was avoided through the bypass. Now they still haven’t widened the Chintamani-madanpalli road and the trees are still there. There also are occasional ponds which are mostly seasonal. These are good to stop by and take a water break.

After Madanpalli, one skirts past the Horsley Hills and the rocky terrain of Andhra starts.

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Short break at one the the rocky outcrops

The road so far had been excellent and I was thanking my luck. Hunger was on my mind at Kadiri. I settled down to some excellent pongal and so-so puri.

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Breakfast

The fun started after Kadiri. The terrain transformed into something out of old wild west movies. Stretches of straight road, flanked by dry shrubs and rocks. One surprise was the city of Pulivendula. It seemed like a small city with an expansive ring road and a large university or college.

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The wild west of India
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The road stretched for miles. Straddled the county side, Licking the hills…

Just before Jammalamadugu, I turned left towards Gandikota. A small ride of 10Km brought me to the Haritha Resort of AP Tourism. The resort is well build and quite spacious, though the upkeep leaves much to be desired. It is also just half a Km from the Gandikota fort.

While there were a couple of cars parked, no guest was around. The cook and the manager eyed me suspiciously. Lone guy on a bike with KA registration; doesn’t speak Telagu or Kannada; hardly and luggage – god knows what mischief will he be up to. After a few rounds of cross-questioning they decided to give me a room by taking double room rent as deposit.

And I settled down to a short nap in the non-AC room. There was time for the sun to set.

After a nap which was longer than I had planned, I set out to explore the place. At the entrance of the fort is a small village with couple of shops. I first drove past the village/fort and reached atop a small hillock. The top presented a panoramic view of the fort.

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Panoramic view of the Gandikota Fort

Turning back, I drove inside the fort. You can drive pretty much all the way inside the fort. There are people living inside the fort. It is like a living fort. The buildings were in a state of disrepair. I wish the fort was better maintained.

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RanganathaSwamy Temple from far
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RanganathaSwamy Temple
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Jamia Masjid

After exploring some of the old building, I headed towards the gorge.

As you go down the rocks from RanganathaSwamy Temple and then scramble up on the other size, you are suddenly treated to an amazing view. For a moment it would leave you awestruck, thinking how does such a place exists. And then you would think how come so few people know about this.

After my initial astonishment passed away, I started to explore the area. The river first curves right and turns around to take a U-turn towards the left, and in the process cutting through the rock to make the amazing gorge. The pictures below speak a thousand words.

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First view of Gandikota Gorge
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Selfie atop the rocks
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The walls of the fort stretch far below
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A wide panorama
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Parting shot before the sunset

The sun was going over the hill as I reached back at the resort. Realizing that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, I asked a coffee and some onion bhaji to be delivered to my room.

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Sunset over the Windmills

The food took an hour to be delivered. By that time i had dozed off, tired of watching AAP win the exit polls in Delhi again and again. Surprisingly the bhajis were excellent. The hot coffee and snacks were a relief to the long hungry stomach.

The choice for dinner was limited and I settled for egg fried rice. 90 min later I was in the open dining area eating a very well made egg fried rice accompanied with biryani gravy. Post dinner I had a brief conversation with a group who had driven over from Bangalore.

By 2130hrs, I was ready to call it a day. The plan was to go back to the gorge for the sunrise.

The sky was just lightening up when I left the room at 0615. First I went back to the top of the hillock to have a look. It was going to be a bright golden sunrise.

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Sun illuminated the sky while the bike illuminated the ground

 

I then went back to the village and had couple of tea cups. Now I was ready to climb the rocks again.

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Tea selfie

The sun was just rising as I reached the gorge. There was hardly anyone at the place. Had I not been  pre-occupied with taking a good picture, it would be a perfect moment to meditate. Again I will let the pictures do the talking.

 

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The I, Me and Myself moment
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Mackenna’s Gold
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To jump or to not jump is the question
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Cliffhanger

After spending a couple of serene hours, I returned back to the room. Bath and breakfast later I was ready to leave.
Next stop Belum caves.

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And miles to go…
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The road to Belum caves was flush with cotton fields on both sides.

Belum caves was another surprise. As you go down a flight of stairs, a large underground caravan opens up in front of you. And as you walk down the passage it keeps going on and on. I walked around for an hour and then returned back. The place is very well maintained. Inside the caves it was speck-less clean. No plastic, food wrappers or discarded bottles. Easily one of the most well-kept tourist place I have seen in India.

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Large chamber in the caves
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The passage gets narrower
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and narrower
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There is a water fountain alao
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And an opening in the sky
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Buddh status near the entrance

By the time I left Belum caves, it was quite hot. I decided to take the fastest route home – which was to join NH7 at Gooty and then drive straight home.

Now one thing I like about Andhra is how considerate they are about the road travelers. At regular distance one can find a shaded tree with a platform below to rest. Below one of those I took a short nap. I wish the NH planners has taken a cue from these and build similar rest areas on the new toll National Highways they are building across the nation.

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Sweet dreams under a shaded tree

Pretty soon I was on NH7. From there it was a straight and somewhat boring drive to home. I stopped once for lunch and later for tea.

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Joining NH7
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Lunch

Trip Stats
Duration: 2 days
Distance: 750Km
Expenses – Food: 550
Expenses – Fuel: 1200
Expenses – Stay: 750

 

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