A long weekend was nearing by and I was excited to go for a trip. Plans were on with my friends and I was extremely happy to see people turning up. But as it always happens, most of the people backed out. However, this time I was in no mood of giving up. I was determined that I would go for a little vacation by any means. I found a group of people from an adventure club going for a visit to Gandikota and Belum caves. But I did not know any of the members joining. After lot of hesitation I decided to join them. Thoughts were racing my mind about how would the experience be with unknown people. But I was too stubborn this time and was all set to go.
The trip began on a Friday night. The group met at the bus station and we boarded the bus to Jammalamadugu. Gandikota is a village at a distance of 15 kms from there. The journey began with people trying to give a formal introduction of themselves. The start seemed boring to me and I was not expecting any fun. In the morning we reached Jammalamadugu. After we freshened ourselves we started for Gandikota. We were a little behind schedule and missed our bus. So, we decided to take an auto. It took a little more than half an hour for us to reach there.
We started off towards the most awaited view- the canyon. The river Pennar flows between the Erramala or Gandikota range forming a gorge which reduces the width of the river to 300 feets only. The view of the pile of rocks on both sides with the river flowing by is mesmerizing. We had planned for a short hike to the way down the river and back. The day started turning hot as we were descending. It was afternoon by the time we reached. On the river banks, we all took rest beneath the rocks and doing photography. By the time we had to start back up the sun was on the peak. With lot of effort the team reached the top. Post the hike, we had our lunch which was Andhra style and comprised of style rice and a spicy curry. With the tummies full, we now sat down for playing Uno cards. It was crazy and felt like revisiting the childhood memories.
The plan for evening was to visit the temples dedicated to Madhava and Ranganatha, the Jamia Masjid and then view the sunset from the top of pile of rocks at the far end away from the crowd. We spent a couple of hours doing photography and admiring the architecture of these monuments. For the sunset point, we had to go for a small hike to the other end. It was a great experience walking on the stony path to reach the point. But the day as too cloudy and we could not have the sight of sunset. By this time, the weather had become amazing. The gentle wind flow was soothing. It was an awesome evening amidst nature. The sight of Pennar river flowing below cutting through the rocks and forming a George, together with orange sky and cool wind made me feel like I am in altogether different world. Suddenly it started drizzling and turning dark and so we had to move back to our stay. We spent the night on the terrace and decided to sleep there. Sleeping under the stars and gazing at them was an experience I cannot put to words.
The history of the Gandikota fort dates back to 1350 A.D. The place is said to be ruled by the Mikkilineni King Rama Naidu, who did not have sons. He had an only daughter whom he got married to Pemmasani Kumara Thimma Naidu. Rama Naidu then made Pemmasani Kumara Thimma Naidu as the ruler of Gandikota. Gandikota was then ruled by the Pemmasani rulers. In the 18th century the Marathas became the supreme power in Deccan India including this Rayalaseema region. A century later this fort was conquered by Hyder Ali of Mysore and eventually went into the hands of the British.
The next morning the plan was to view the sunrise. But again the sky was too cloudy and we missed it. After freshening up, we took a bus back to Jammalamadugu from where we would board another bus for Belum Caves. The caves are situated in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh and was a 2 hour drive from Jammalamadugu. We reached there in the afternoon and started post lunch. The Belum caves are the second largest and the longest natural caves in India, the first one being Krem Liat Prah caves in Meghalaya. The length of the caves is around 3Kms. Geologists say that the caves were formed over the period of tens of thousands of years by constant flow of underground water. These were discovered first by a British surveyor, Robert Bruce Foote in 1884. From 1982 to 1984, a team of German speleologists headed by H. Daniel Gebauer conducted detailed exploration of the caves. Thereafter the state government declared this as a protected site in 1988 and took initiatives to develop tourism. Historians also found Jain and Buddhist relics in the caves which have been kept at a museum in Ananthpur.
At the entrance of there are a series of stairs that lead downwards towards the caves. We took around 3 hours to visit all the sections. There is a map of the caves at the entrance which can guide you to understand the pathways. The passages are quite deep and lights have been placed at different points to ensure tourists can navigate. At the deepest point was the section named “patalaganga” where one can witness a stream of water flowing down from amongst the rocks and disappearing in the depths. We spent a lot of time trying to look through the different rock patterns and exploring the different sections. We assembled back out thereafter. There is a large Buddha statue near the caves. We spent some time clicking pictures and having some group activities there before taking the bus back to Jammalamadugu to proceed back to Hyderabad.
The trip gave me some beautiful memories which I would treasure for my lifetime.