Gandikota – Grand Canyon of India

I am back to the routine of crediting my blog! This time it is Vikram Mallesh all the way and his blog. When I uploaded the pictures after this ride, many asked me which place? Even I was asking the same question to Vikram after his ride. It was indeed hard to believe that Gandikota was in South India and a bike ride was possible to this place. I literally started to dream about this place and informed all my buddies. The Rameshwaram group on Whatsapp was not deleted and I renamed it as Gandikota. But the group increased drastically as some of my friends also said YES to the ride. And when the date came, the number was reduced to just 5. It is really difficult to get everybody for a ride and I decided that no more postpone. So finally we were left with: Me, Dileep aka Preamble Dileepa, Chiranjit aka DC, Mithun aka Road Runner and Arun aka Bethal! And our rides were Royal Enfield bikes and these were all new bikes waiting to hit the tarmac. And this was the first big ride after the running-in period for all three bikes.

Bikes:

Thunderbird 350 (March 2015) – Me & Arun

Classic 350 (April 2015) – Mithun

Thunderbird 350 (May 2015) – Dileep & Chiranjit

The plan was to start early in the morning and reach Belum Caves first then see Gandikota. And the next day after sunrise we were supposed to leave for Bengaluru. But at the last moment there were too many changes and it was finally decided that we leave ASAP i.e late night 1 AM and reach there for the sunrise. Thanks to Mithun’s suggestion and Vikram’s insistence that we finally decided to do this crazy night ride. Probably none of us will forget this ride, because this was planned two hours before our departure and all of us slept for not more than 2 hours!

The rendezvous was at our college aka office (we guys are Professors!!!). I knew about the petrol bunk at 8th mile which was open 24×7 and decided to head straight to tank up our bikes. Dileepa and Chiru decided to meet us at Hebbal. We all were elated and the excitement about this ride was palpable. We all could feel the atmosphere and the goose bumps as we were about to leave. The route that we decided was Yelahanka – Chikkabalapur – Anantpur – Tadipatri – Belum Caves – Gandikota. This distance is roughly about 370 km. The roads are amazing and the traffic at night is low with just few trucks plying.

@Hebbal flyover around 2 AM
  • Be careful with the long trucks which carry the wind turbine blades. They seem to be small but as you overtake them the length of their chassis are like a train and you would be caught in a tight spot if there is an onward vehicle (small patch of road was under maintenance and hence there was vehicle movement from both sides).
  • Also be careful about the sand bags which are kept as divider!! Could be dangerous and disastrous if you ride on them and slip because of the sand.

Caution: Careful of these trucks carrying wind turbine blades
Caution: Careful of these trucks carrying wind turbine blades
The first 100 km was easy with anything to stop us and the cool breeze blowing over our faces. Mithun was nowhere to be seen, as he was badly waiting for his bike to touch 90+. It was same with Dileepa also. And that meant, I was last cruising at 80 KM only. I had decided and mentally prepared that till my bike crossed 2000 on the odo I won’t be going beyond 80 KMPH. We had our first stop somewhere after Chikkaballapur for a cup of tea. On a long ride and especially with very little sleep/rest to your eyes it is advisable (my advice only; it’s not a hard and fast rule) that you stop at every 100 km and take a break for 5-10 minutes. This is good for your backbone and also your bum!

As you are to reach Pennagonda, there is a small four-way junction at which one can take a right and hit Kadiri to reach Gandikota. We preferred to continue on the Anantpur-Bangalore highway just to ensure that we had good 2 lane tarmac. It was 6 AM in the morning and we reached Anantpur. I suggested that we cover some more distance before the dangerous AP sun gods were out. Enroute we stopped at numerous places to click some pictures. Soon after the temple (image with horse chariot) you have to take the service road and then immediately take right to reach Tadipatri.

Early morning 06:00 on NH44
Early morning 06:00 on NH44

My bird enjoying the sunrise
My bird enjoying the sunrise

Selfie
Selfie
Everybody was hungry and badly wanted to stop for breakfast. At a small village we pulled over and had a good and decent breakfast. The cook was curious to know about our ride and the bikes. It goes without saying, what could be his first question? Sir mileage??????? He was shocked at my answer – ‘40 in city and 45 on highway’………….and the next obvious was, how much? He was even more shocked with the answer 🙂 that is when he changed topic and said ‘it is too hot sir’…

Maybe he was surprised to see our faces sweating like hell at 7 AM in the morning!!! Yes it was 7 AM in the morning and our faces were literally CRYING.  We ordered idli-vada and then a cup of tea for each. The bill was shocking to me and if the same amount of breakfast we had in an A2B, Sarvanan or Darshini then the bill would have been 3 times….

Idly Vada with Sambar & Chutney
Idly Vada with Sambar & Chutney
We paid the bill and asked the owner about Gandikota. To our surprise he did not know and was asking for any landmarks or villages nearby! This continued with almost everybody around there. We asked at least 5 people and none of them knew about this place. And then at the petrol bunk one old man knew about this and asked us to remember Tadipatri, from there it would be easier to find.

From there it was an easy straight road and we managed to reach Tadipatri. Due to numerous turns we missed out the left turn at the Ambedkar statue which led us to Belum caves, instead we went 5 km ahead. Luckily we managed to come back and it is at that point of time I noticed something weird. Most of the two wheelers had a rug put on the seat!! Well for the first time I thought of it as some mopping cloth but later this sight became common to me. I really do not know the exact reason but I guess it is to avoid the excess heat that hits the bum… and they do not want a donut made out of their bums……One more case study added to the famous Indian Jugaad.

Indian Jugaad to cool your A@#
Indian Jugaad to cool your A@#
There is a cement plant which belongs to UltraTech and is visible from a distance. This is the confirmation that you are headed in the right direction. Also as you cross Tadipatri and reach this cement plant, there are numerous tractors crossing with heavy slabs (Kadapa stones). It is from this district that we have the famous stone slabs, KADAPA which are quite famous in the villages. Try to be away from them and keep an eye on them as they are heavily loaded with haphazard arrangement of slabs.

Cement Plant enroute Belum Caves
Cement Plant enroute Belum Caves
Tractors carrying stone slabs (Kadapa)
Tractors carrying stone slabs (Kadapa)
After few kilometers at a distance one can see the hills written with Belum Caves and we finally felt happy reading those words. There is a dormitory at Belum Caves which charges Rs. 150/- per head but it wasn’t operating due to shortage of water! Hence we were forced to hire tents for our stay and carried them along with us. As soon as we crossed the gate, I found Dileepa & Chiranjit sitting underneath a tree with sunscreen all over their body! Next it was Mithun and my turn. Previous day I had checked the weather for Gandikota and it forecasted 41 degree Celsius. I am happy to say that the prediction was bang on!!! And the worst part was the time, which was just 10 AM in the morning!

I can now proudly (at times modesty can take backseat) say to people that I have seen extremes. Be it Leh, Bhutan with temperatures heading south (sometimes minus) coupled with AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) or the Rameshwaram ride and now Gandikota ride where the temperatures head northwards.

Dormitory at Belum Caves
Dormitory at Belum Caves
Belum Caves Entrance
Belum Caves Entrance

The walk around the caves can take at least an hour. It is surprising and amazing to see a place which exists deep below and not many were aware of it. There is a saint seat which is believed to be the place to rest for the saints who mediated here. There are certain places inside the caves which gets claustrophobic and suffocating at times. Luckily at two places there is supply of cool air which serves like water in oasis. Most of them including me refused to leave that tiny place from where air is supplied through a pipe. After almost an hour we decided to leave the caves and head straight to our DESTINATION, Gandikota aka Grand Canyon of India.

But before that it was time to silence our growling stomach and fill our parched throats. Had we continued for few more kilometers without food and water, our situation would have been worst. Already the situation was worse with: two hours of sleep previous night, 7 hours of night ride, sultry and humid weather, sunburns, stinking bodies and dehydration. Luckily at Belum Caves there is a restaurant run by the APTDC which serves amazing, delicious, mouthwatering and tasty lunch – I mean it guys. You can try it for yourself. The lunch served is really wonderful with unlimited rice and variety of curries. My favorite was rasam and the cutney out of the whole list. One can also order Omelet along with the regular lunch, which is served with garlic favor in it. After a heavy food and good number of burps, the gang decided to rest for some time before heading out. I couldn’t sleep not because I wasn’t sleepy, but I had kept my cellphone on charge! Rest of them slept like log and had a GOOD powernap. The hotel in-charge came and requested us to leave as he did not prefer sleeping customers in his restaurant. We weren’t angry and found logic in his saying.

We applied one more round of sunscreen to protect us from the sun gods and headed straight to our bikes. The distance from Belum Caves to Gandikota is roughly around 70 KM. What was in store as we left is a nightmare for any rider. The heat waves were literally pushing us and hitting on our faces! Nobody but we were to be blamed especially ME, for choosing this time of the year for the ride…

After some distance I saw my fuel gauge and now even my bird needed something to drink. We pulled over at a petrol station to tank up and we were surprised to see that the price for fuel/liter is Rs. 2 extra. We checked with the attendant about the route to Gandikota and he directed us with good instructions.  The road to Gandikota is picturesque as you cross a tiny hamlet. Huge wind turbines can be seen in front of the roads and at a distance the river is also visible.

As you enter Gandikota, on the left side of the road there is Haritha resorts which is run by the APTDC. The tariff are economical and one can opt for them if you wish to stay at Gandikota, unlike us. As we entered the resort, there were numerous kids playing and we could hear Kannada language. It was summer vacation for these kids who had come with their parents. We quickly refreshed at the resort and headed straight to the Grand Canyon along with our tents. The entrance is a wonderful sight for the bike riders. One has to enter through the fort as if you are the king riding on your horse and are entering some kingdom!!!

There is good parking space for your bikes adjacent to the mosque which is now in a depleted state. Numerous structures can be seen as you walk up to the Grand Canyon which are now in a sorry state. This is a very disturbing sight across most of the historical locations in India. Such a wonderful place with lot of history attached to it but the places are in ruins….

At a distance I could finally see what we set out for – Grand Canyon of India. The red rocks were literally greeting us and the cool breeze hitting on our face made us forget all the tiredness, gruesome ride. It was worth the sleepless night ride and the heat waves that we encountered enroute. In no time I was sitting on the rocks to soak in the ambience and beauty of the place. And then ——- Photos, photos, photos and many photos 🙂

Mission Accomplished
Mission Accomplished

We spent close to two hours at the Grand Canyon of India before saying goodbye. There wasn’t a good spot where we could pitch our tents and we decided to head straight to the resort and try our luck. The resort was fully booked and there was no place for us. We decided to have dinner at the resort and then look out for some good spot to pitch our tents. As we continued to wait for the dinner, I could see a person sitting across a table with his DSLR. He was the same person who clicked our group pic sometime back. As is my habit, I got into discussion with him and was happy to know that he too was from Bengaluru. He had come with his RE Classic 350 all alone from Bengaluru, thanks to his friend who ditched him at the last moment. After a brief talk I went back to my gang, not because they called me but the smell of onion pakoda pulled me there. And these fellas did not even care to call me!!! When it’s about food, friends are the last one to be remembered…

Soon it got dark and the waiters warned us not to pitch the tents in the surrounding as it can be dangerous. Now even I was worried because next day at any cost we had to reach Bengaluru and riding whole night without even few hours of sleep is a daunting challenge (read it as, BIG RISK). So I walked up to the manager of the resort and requested for a room to rest. But he said it is not possible as all rooms were booked. That is when, one of the localite came and insisted the manager to help us out. The manager then informed us about the dormitory which was taken up by a single person and we could try our luck with him. Well I went with my fingers crossed and hoped that the person will understand our situation and agree to share the room for just 3 hours.

As I knocked the door, I see a person who looked familiar to me. Voila, it was the same fella who was from Bengaluru with whom I had a chat in the evening! He was happy to agree and allowed us to share the room for 3 hours. And we in turn agreed to share his room rent. It was 20:30 in the night when we checked-in and we decided that around 00:00 we shall start our return journey. The climate in AP is so humid and hot that even at night one cannot sleep peacefully, not even with full fan speed. Poor chap Mithun, he even poured a bottle of cold water on his bed but it was of no use and he could barely manage to sleep!!!

I slept like a log and exactly at 23:30 my mobile alarm woke me up. We quickly got ready and bid bye to our generous roommate. We decided to take a different and shorter route this time. The route via Kadiri to Bengaluru is shorter and the stretch passes through few forest reserves. We expected few animals but ended up seeing only rabbits and more rabbits as we passed through the moon lit roads.

All set for the night ride
All set for the night ride

One word of caution if you wish to take this route at night. Beware of the trucks which refuse to give way and also refuse for low beam. It is a single road unlike the Ananthpur-Bangalore highway. You have to be extra cautious when these trucks approach and most of the drivers would actually be half asleep!

It was 04:00 in the morning and it started to take a toll on some of us. Mithun, Dileepa and Chiranjit decided to pull over at a small bus stop for quick nap. I and Arun continued till some distance when we noticed that these fellas were not to be seen. Upon calling them we found the reason and it made sense that even we pull over for some quick nap. I stopped at a small village just 4 km before the Ananthpur-Bangalore highway junction. There was a big neem tree underneath which we parked our bike and our self.  I could manage only 30 minutes of sleep, thanks to the chirping sounds of the birds and also my GoldenHelmet! I was scared if somebody flicked my helmet and constantly checked it. On the other hand, Arun slept properly for an hour and I had to finally wake him up at 05:00.

Our guesthouse
Our guesthouse
Me underneath a neem tree for quick nap
Me underneath a neem tree for quick nap
The other fellas joined us at 05.30 and we had fresh cup of tea which was badly needed. From there it was non-stop ride till Chikkaballapur for the breakfast. The ride from our neem tree till Chikkaballapur was pure bliss, to say the least because the weather was amazing with the early morning breeze hitting our face. On the other side of the road we could see numerous high-end bikes and cars ripping at great speeds. My bird had crossed 2000 KM and it was time to cross the limits 🙂 110 KMPH! And then we were happy to cruise at 80-90 KMPH with our REs.

It was 08:00 in the morning and we reached our concrete jungles surrounded with numerous vehicles. We pulled over at Esteem Mall to exchange the luggage and bid good byes. I and Dileepa had an important function to attend which lasted till 14:00. I reached home at 15:00 and jumped straight into bed. My eyes finally opened and it was 05:00 next day in the morning, thanks to my daily alarm. You can guess what I did next….

Info:

Caution:

  • Be careful with the trucks while riding at night
  • Stick to 70-80 KMPH on your REs: good for you and also for your bike engine
  • Take breaks after every 100 km
  • Carry sunscreens and keep yourself hydrated always

Accomodation:

@ Belum Caves – Dormitory is available but sometimes it isn’t operating

@ Gandikota – Haritha Resort [rooms are neat, good food]

Food:

@ Belum Caves – Delicious food at nominal rates

@ Gandikota – Haritha Resort; limited food items with slight higher price

Excellent roads which are in good condition and almost no potholes

Route Map:

Onward

Return

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