A travel experience - Gandikota and Belum caves

28th Sep 2019


Photo of A travel experience - Gandikota and Belum caves by prashanth

Gandikota- accepted as ‘the Grand Canyon of India’ is a village and a fort on the bank of river Penna in Andhra Pradesh, India. A gorge (‘Gandi’ in Telugu) formed between the Errmala range of hills and the river Pennar which flows at its foot earned the fort, the name Gandikota.

It came as a blessing when Hygge journeys, a company that bestows trekking and camping experiences on people popularly across South India, slashed their prices for this place. Being a travel enthusiast it was hard to stay months at home without packing my bags somewhere. But my bank balance made a compelling reason that I stay the hell home.

The first thing I did after punching out of the financial crisis was to book this trip. Gandikota had been on my bucket list for so long that I couldn’t postpone it anymore. I had to go. It felt like a calling.

The Van Journey

The pickup point was at SAF games village, Koyambedu. Born and brought up in Chennai, I had no idea such a place existed. It was picturesque with lush gardens and play areas.

A group of 12 individuals started our journey, with a fair share of them being solo travelers (including me!). For some, it was their first solo trip so we all connected on the same enthusiasm.

Getting some sleep became the humongous task at which I failed after flipping unsuccessfully in different directions for 8 hours (The destination arrived after 8 hours, that’s why). I 100% blame by height (6 ft) for that and this is one of the rare instances where I feel jealous of short people. They comfortably fold their legs on the seat while I struggle to find any legroom (I think every tall person can relate to this!).

Day 1

The Majestic Gorge

Photo of A travel experience - Gandikota and Belum caves 1/1 by prashanth
The Majestic Gorge
Day 1

Our stay was arranged at Heritage resorts (for food and refreshments, but we had a private campsite nearby). After refreshing, we had a quick intro session and started our trek to the mysterious waterfall. Usually, the itinerary would be kayaking but since a boating accident occurred on the Godavari river, all river activities were banned temporarily (Damn, I was looking forward to Kayaking).

The first sight of the Gorge gradually came into view. I vividly remember my first word which came to my mind, Majestic. With the Pennar river flowing gracefully in the gorge’s foot, it was a truly captivating sight. You can’t help falling in love with it.

Our trek leaders, Yogesh and Vimal, literally had to drag us away from the gorge as everyone started clicking pics uncontrollably (well, what else were we supposed to do!?).

There was a guy named Santhosh, who resembled the actor Prabhas. So we made cliched Baahubali jokes every chance we got along the journey. Actually for the whole trip.

The hidden waterfall trek

The local guides led the trek after providing us with life jackets. Supposedly, there was a beautiful waterfall accompanied by a swimming area (yay!). The trek took us through some rocky land patches and we reached the waterfall, or so I thought. It was a stunning but compact waterfall and we could see some people swimming beside it.

But then they unveiled another trail surrounded by forestry wilderness with some narrow rocky areas to climb down. A hidden waterfall wedged between rocks came into view, which is one of the stunning waterfalls I laid my eyes on.

The hidden waterfall

Photo of Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh, India by prashanth
Day 2

Belum caves and Fish Spa

We said our goodbyes to the beautiful resort and left for Belum caves. Belum Caves is the second-largest and longest cave open to the public in India. From the entrance, it reaches a depth of 46m and covers a maximum length of 3229m.

We were greeted with a magnificent Buddha statue standing tall.

Buddha statue

Photo of Belum Caves, Opposite Indian Oil Petrol Pump, Kolimigundla, Andhra Pradesh, India by prashanth

Even the ones who were reluctant to take a bath before the trek jumped into the falls. We had loads of fun and clicked several bunches of pictures. Then we went to the swimming area and bathed for a second time. We never wanted to leave that place.

My first Rappelling

We were all dead tired after we returned and had a typical Andhra style lunch. But there was Rappelling scheduled for the evening (screw you tiredness!)

Reaching the Rappelling spot, I was terrified when the crew showed us a demo. But that has never stopped me before. The more terrifying it seemed, the more push I had.

My first rapelling

Photo of A travel experience - Gandikota and Belum caves by prashanth

I geared up and took my first vertical step, I slipped. Every bone in my body felt terrified but I pushed on. I steadied myself and climbed down. I slipped another time, hit the rock. Again I got back up and climbed all the way down.

I felt like trying another time with all the terror now gone and filled with the determination not to slip up. But the crowd was huge and by the time everyone completed, it became dark. ( Next time, definitely!)

Campfire and Mafia

After a fulfilling dinner, we took off for the campsite. It was not on the gorge as the trek leaders felt it was too crowded to enjoy any privacy and they were right. We had a private ground to ourselves as our campsite.

We pitched our tents and started the merriment with cards (Because what’s a party without cards right!?). Then the campfire was lit and we played the signature game of the trip- Mafia. I know how gripping it can be once it picks up pace. Even the people who hesitated at first, enjoyed themselves completely.

The evening ended with lots of laughter filled with teasing and roasting others at whatever chance we got. It was truly a party.

Day 2

Sunrise from the Gorge

90% of the group woke up around 5:30 to witness the sunrise ( 90% because I didn’t get an exact count ok? :P). Witnessing the sunrise from the gorge is truly a blessing. The sun exactly along the lines of the river with the sunlight bouncing off it was simply breathtaking.

Photo of A travel experience - Gandikota and Belum caves by prashanth

We sat there for an hour or so before everyone gave in to the hunger.

The jail, the temple, and the mosque

After breakfast, we set off for the Gandikota fort.

The first stop was the jail. There was a lifting stone that we all tried to lift. Apparently in ancient days lifting stones was a marriage tradition. The one who lifts it gets the girl. Arul, our fellow traveler lifted it slightly off the ground while the rest of us were just able to roll it around. Our skin was bruised but much more than that, our ego.

Maadhaya temple at Gandikota

Maadhaya temple

Photo of A travel experience - Gandikota and Belum caves by prashanth

Next, we visited the Maadhaya temple. What was once a beautiful temple with rich cultural heritage is now in ruins due to religious calamities. I am not really a temple person but the picturesque landscape with the lush garden and the natural coolness of the place made it worth the visit. Me, Anupama and Vimal just lied down and listened to Sid Sriram’s songs. It was blissful.

Then we visited a mosque and took pictures. On return, there were village kids playing cricket. Reminiscing childhood memories, we played gully cricket for a while. Nostalgic, I know.

The cave with its stalactite formations was massive and gallant. The group split and our group which had me, Anupama, Vimal, and Mahesh ventured into the unknown.

Belum caves

Photo of A travel experience - Gandikota and Belum caves by prashanth

It was extremely muddy at several places but that didn’t deter us. We successfully witnessed Badala Ganga which was stimulating to experience. Banyan Tree Hall, Dhyan Mandir, Mandapam were also some of the other signature spots we covered.

Coming out, we spent 30 minutes cleaning our footwear. There was a fish spa nearby and we desperately wanted our foot to have some pleasure after putting them through a long muddy journey. I had never tried that before so the experience was quite titillating with tickling sensation creeping in every second.

Then we bid farewell to the caves and the Buddha and left with a heavy heart. The trip lasted two days but we all knew we would cherish the memories for a lifetime.

All the above covers about 30% of the experience. The conversations we had, the laughter we shared, the silly jokes, the roasting, the fun can’t be knit into words.

This was my second trip with Hygge Journeys. They did a wonderful job in organizing the itinerary and the stay. The trek leaders Yogesh and Vimal were jovial in nature and coordinated the group efficiently. I know it wasn’t easy with us being us. The stories and the experiences they shared and the zeal they had towards travel inspired me to travel more in the future.

Travel more

When we look back on our lives someday, all that matters are the journeys we embarked on and the memories we cherished. So those who are reluctant to travel, open your travel diary. Travel teaches you invaluable life lessons. Most importantly, it teaches you about yourself.

This is my first travel blog. I hope it inspires you to pack your bags and visit Gandikota and definitely enjoy the hidden waterfall.