Weekend at Gandikota & Belum Caves

When we first came across the beautiful breathtaking images of Gandikota & the river gorge it endorses, we could not believe that we hadn’t found it sooner. Thanks to Vinuta & Yamini. We got super excited to be there, and set the date for a weekend outing immediately. Then someone suggested to club in Belum Caves which is nearby the same region. We frantically went on a researching spree for a month, somewhat cause we needed to find more information, but also because we couldn’t get enough of the beautiful sights this place offered. More photos! .. give me more images!
We went through the following blogs:
http://www.travelandflavors.com/detail_news.php?id=317
http://www.mytraveltales.in/2013/09/trip-to-gandikota.html
http://www.xbhp.com/talkies/tourer/29477-gandikota-belum-caves.html
http://www.hoparoundindia.com/andhra-pradesh/how-to-reach-Gandikota.aspx
http://thetravelreminiscences.blogspot.in/
http://highwayonlyway.com/tag/haritha-resort-gandikota/

After a couple of days, we started finding about the ways to reach there since we always rely on modes of public transportation, while most Bangaloreans often will prefer to drive a 350 kms distance.
gandikotamapGandikota & Belum Caves lie in the Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh. From Bangalore you need to reach a place called Jammalamudugu (what a tongue twister this name!) or Ananthpur, the former being a shorter route. APSRTC runs a bus from Bangalore to Jammalamudagu, there are couple of trains you can take too, but ofcourse they take longer as they don’t follow the shortest route.

List of nearest Railway stations:
Kondapuram railway station10.7
KM.Yerraguntla railway station33.1 KM.
Tadipatri railway station34.3 KM.
Kamalapuram railway station48.1 KM.
Mudigubba railway station60.3 KM.

You can find various trains from Bangalore to Ananthpur, Gooty Jn.,Kurnool etc. In any case, you will need to figure out some local bus or taxi/auto service to reach Gandikota from there. Ideally you can just rely on KSRTC buses or even private buses running regularly between Bangalore & Anantpur, ones to Jammalamadugu aren’t as frequent, but you can choose to change couple buses moving towards Kadiri and so on (refer map). From Anantpur there will be buses and auto service to Tadipatri, and then to Gandikota there on. Final lessons learnt are, the bus service runs on a tight schedule. IF you have plenty time on hand you might kill time around various bus stops, you can reach Gandikota by spending a mere 200/- bucks at max. BUT if time isn’t plenty to kill..you would often be tempted to hire a Magic taxi/Auto service quite prevalent in these areas to hop between stops – and that is what our journey was about too. Beware, it might turn out slight expensive.
If you play your cards right, you can just leave on a Weekend morning, and be there at Gandikota by noon. We made the mistake of giving into our doubts and took a bus at night from Bangalore (Rs.366/- per head). On website it may say that bus the reaches by 6 am, but obviously it isn’t so far to take 7-8 hours. When you board a bus at 9 pm, you reach by 3 am. We were a big enough group of girls and so the locals helped us hop on relevant buses even that late in the night, since the autos won’t be around then. But obviously, its stupid cause you lose all your sleep for nothing.

Anyhow, when we reached Jammalamudugu, on chatting around at bus station we found out that reaching Gandikota early morning will hardly make sense as we will end up spending entire day and next morning in one place, and Belum caves could well be covered within this whole time. So at 3:30 am sitting on the broken chairs at the bus stop, we decided to visit Belum caves early in the morning by heading there directly from Jammalamudugu. We took a bus to Kolimigundla (Rs.27/- per head) from there. By 5:30 am we were there, and took a auto ride till Belum caves (Rs.100/- for entire auto).

We were dropped at Belum Caves campus by 6:00 am. The APSRTC resort is in the same campus, and it is quite a spectacular infrastructure put up there by the AP govt. Totally tourist friendly. We barged into the Haritha resort premises..sort of unexpected by the staff. Without creating much trouble for them, we simply took the dormitory room that already had the perfect 6 beds for 6 people that we were. Clean, bright and really well maintained for a mere Rs.600/-. We relaxed there a bit over light chatter and freshened up. Since the resort restaurant wasn’t yet open we headed to the restaurant right across from the campus – which served us super duper delicious and fresh breakfast. On menu you get hot Idlis, Borugula Vaggarni (puffed rice poha preparation), and some amazing dosas made in ghee. We all loved the food, as it was so homemade and fresh. At lunch they serve non-veg items as well if you ask.
belum 3
We decided to have our lunch there too. Then we headed to the caves from there.

belum1

Belum caves is a wonder everyone must witness. I remember reading about it in school text books for being naturally formed wonder of nature. The caves extend about 100-120 feet underground, all formed naturally, and are a perfect piece of artistry.
belum 2

Entrance to the caves is Rs.50/-, and it is a very well preserved site. The Guide for the tour is free, as you can not possibly go in on your own. We had Mr. Nagamuni guide us to this natural wonder that Belum caves is, he is a very cordial person and fluent in English, Telugu and Kannada, you can reach him at +91-99441375615. He immediately made friends with Yamini’s 2 year old son, and took care of the kid through the entire tour.
belum 4
There is also a cavity of a cave inside which acts as a natural sauna, you crawl into this cavity and enter a space with 100% humidity, and in seconds you are covered in sweat. But you’d come out of it feeling fresh and cleansed..may be lighter too. I took a lot of pictures but I was enjoying the view way too much to care to take clearer images of every interesting spot in the caves – go find it for yourself! There are great formations of Stalactites & Stalagmites all over the place, also a Banyan tree formation which is quite realistic – almost real. A wonderful amusement park or a joyful ride created by nature.

After our lunch at the same restaurant, we left for Gandikota at about 2 pm. This time the auto guy charged us only Rs.5/- per head to Kolimigundla. From there we took another auto to Jammalamudugu (Rs.27/- per head- which is the same as bus rates) and then another to Gandikota (Rs.20/- per head).  We reached there at 4:30 pm.

We had already called and booked with Haritha Resort at Gandikota (call at+91-9440353009) a month in advance as we anticipated it to be booked by the time we reach. It was true, it was infact housefull on the weekend. Thankfully we had our rooms. We had some tea, freshened up, and headed straight to the fort before the sun went down. It was almost sunset when we reached the fort campus. The Fort is about 1 km from the resort, walking more than once may seem taxing. While we got lost wandering in the Madhavaraya temple, which was refreshingly empty and free of boisterous and loud crowds of people who act so uncivilised. We sat down in the corridors of the temple to revel in the quiet and calm.
gandi 2

Suddenly then the memory of the beautiful river Gorge struck us and we almost sprinted towards it immediately. The breathtaking and most sorted after view was waiting for us.
gandi 3 copyWe soaked in the view till the skylights went off, then headed back to the resort for dinner. At Haritha, as an update to blogs online, you will find decent food on the menu like roti, dal, rice and sabji – all cooked to perfection. Except that the portions they serve you are really tiny in a small bowl, so you will be surprised if you ordered 1 dal for 4 people to share, it is served in a tiny bowl good enough only for 1 or 2 people. We ate enough and retired soon so we can make it for sunrise at 5:30 a.m.
gandi 5
At 5:15 a.m. we left for the gorge again, it was pitch dark, moon-less night when we got out. But the stars were scattered all over the sky, and suddenly the long walk didn’t seem too long. We also saw some shooting stars! 🙂 We were at the spot by 5:45 a.m. and the sun made us wait till about 6:00 a.m. to fully make an appearance. We however utilised the time to click as many pictures of this amazing locale.

gandi 6Back at the resort, chatting up with staff some of us found out that there is a boat ride possible into the Pennur River Gorge from Mylavaram, a village 11 kms away from Gandikota. Since we had some people who weren’t game about climbing down the terrain to reach the river (it is possible, people do it, no matter how much the resort staff tries to convince you it can’t be done), we gave into the idea of taking a boat ride – which frankly was way too expensive an affair, as it is not a prevalent tourist activity. Also, since we didn’t have much say on bargain, we agreed to an expensive transport to Mylavaram (Rs. 400/- for entire auto) and boat ride into the river (Rs.1300/- for entire motor boat), this whole ordeal was basically a gimmick resort staff imposes on you if you are naive enough to fall for it – ofcourse it cannot be that expensive, Rs.400/- for a 11 kms?. Once into the river, it was a very very long ride, going and coming back requires 2 hours. Frankly if you are well traveled and have done boat rides before, you will find this boat ride very boring and taxing, as it isn’t something too unique, Mini was smart enough to carry a book to kill time on the boat, wish I had too :P. We saw the same gorge from bottom being at the river, and personally I found the view from top more rewarding, but that is my opinion. Others seemed to be quite smitten.

gandi 4There is this cave thing I read in a blog at the bottom of gorge, busted! it isn’t really a cave, just an erosion into the stones and not too deep 🙂

cave-like formation at the bottom of gorge

cave-like formation at the bottom of gorge

There is a submerged Masjid enroute this boat ride, which we skipped as we had already lost lot of time since morning. Even though we were back from sunrise visit to Fort campus by 8 am, we had killed more time at resort for no reason before leaving for Mylavaram. At 10 am we left for the boat ride, and we hadn’t anticipated the hurdles ahead. Being on a budget trip, our group has so far been unsuccessful in planning and preparing well enough to stick to certain principles of budget traveling. We tend to waste lot of time in relaxing and then due to lack of time, often give into paying for easier options like taxi.

Sunflower fields - enroute while returning

Sunflower fields – enroute while returning

Returning to Bangalore was a taxing ride as we had to change multiple buses. Being a Sunday, bus service is scarce, mostly there aren’t too frequent buses available. We didn’t want to spend time traveling from Jammalamudugu to Anantpur (4-5 hours), and then spend 7 hrs from there to Bangalore. Jammalamudugu to Kadiri seemed an easier option, as Kadiri would bring us 2 hours closer to bangalore. However, reaching Kadiri turned out to be a long drive in a Magic taxi for various reasons, it took 4 hours anyway. We only reached Kadiri at about 5:30 pm. We missed a bus to Bangalore at 5:00 pm. Next bus was only at 10:00 pm. We finally found a taxi guy with great difficulty and bargained as much to cost us Rs.600/- per head. We left at 7:00 pm and reached Bangalore city by 10 pm.

Our planned budget was max Rs.1500/- per head, which inadvertently had now increased to approx Rs.2500/- per head.

Any which ways, the places we visited were beyond expectations, and turned out to be a pretty decent weekend outing. We now know the little villages map for this route quite well (almost).
Since this lies in the arid land, best time to visit will be Nov/Dec/Jan as the weather is quite pleasant, and you hardly need much warm clothes even in winter here, sun is pleasant too.

Panorama view - windmills and Gandikota Fort

Click image to view Panorama – windmills and Gandikota Fort

Other sites of importance in this region – Lepakshi – read here about it https://www.travelblog.org/Asia/India/Andhra-Pradesh/Anantapur/blog-865785.html