You cannot see a canyon in one view, as if it were a changeless spectacle. To truly experience it, you must toil for months through its labyrinths. I’ll start out by demolishing a myth that you’ll see on every other page related to Gandikota. They say its claim to fame is it being called ‘The Grand Canyon of India’. The Grand Canyon surely is a wonder, but Gandikota is staggering on its own terms. The amazing view plus the ethnicity of the country gives it a very eccentric ring. Gandikota is a small village by the banks of the Pennar river and can be travelled mostly by foot. Hence, it didn’t require more than 2 days. Transport should not pose a threat to your trip. On the other hand, it is a relatively remote area and food might be an issue for you if you’re picky.
It is roughly 390 kms from Hyderabad, so, the ride won’t feel hectic, unless you’re the one driving. We chose to go through a group called Muddie Trails, so the entire trip was organized by them. Starting from the logistics to safety, accommodation and travel were all taken care of by them. We started out from Hyderabad at around 11 PM on a Friday night and planned to stay the weekend there.
We reached Gandikota by 6 AM Saturday and headed straight for the camp site where we freshened up. There are washrooms near the camp site managed by Freak Outs Adventures. If you are planning on visiting Gandikota in the future, they have luxury tents and adventure sports coming up soon. The washrooms we used weren’t exactly ‘luxurious’, but we weren’t even expecting proper washrooms. So, that was a sigh of relief.
After all of us freshened up, we went for breakfast at the Haritha Resort. Breakfast was the usual Upma, Idli, Pulao, etc. The food didn’t really do much for our taste buds, although it was a blessing for our growling stomachs. Ensuing food and a gazillion pictures was the highlight of the trip, i.e. ‘Kayaking’ on the Pennar River. To get to the river, a small hike had to be done down the canyon. I tend to stay inches away from deep waters, however this was an opportunity even I did not want to let pass. You can swim or take a dip in the river if you want but not without the life jackets.
The way back was a tad bit harder to our tired selves than the haul down. We reached the top and freshened up again and before long it was lunch time already. We chose a local place this time named Abhiruchi. It’s a small shack right by the Fort and doesn’t look like much, but the food is surely better than any other place I tried.
After resting for a while, we set out for the Gandikota fort, right before sunset. The fort is mostly ruins but is an ideal spot for the camera crazies. Upon entry, we were welcomed by a replica of the famous Charminar (Not a very good one at that though). The fort also has two temples, dedicated to Madhava and Ranganatha. We waltzed through most of these structures, stopping just to click some pictures. Other structures included a jail, the Juma Masjid, a granary and a few other smaller structures. The main attraction the fort houses is the amazing Gorge view. The gorge is ‘The Place to be at’ during sunset. The breath-taking view coupled with a calming breeze and ‘Roobaroo’ from Rang De Basanti – An unparalleled combo for sure. Just the mental image of the same gives me the don’t take me back vibes. We sat there at the gorge until the sun set behind us, and then we headed out.
With darkness slowly crawling in, it was time for us to head back to the campsite. The tents were already set-up right by the canyon. We settled into the tents and started preparing for the last incredible event on our itinerary for the day. As I say, ‘All tents and no bonfire make it a dull trip’. The procurement of logs was easy, making the bonfire, not so much. Not to mention, it was a dry day and alcohol wasn’t readily available either. Somehow, we managed both and were sat around the fire, singing and dancing. Amidst all the warmth, we forgot the exhaustion and the fact that the next day was going to be a long one too. The music, the games and the chilled beer ensured we didn’t snooze off. Soon, it was late, and we disconnected for the day.
For the first time in a long time, I woke up at 6 AM on a Sunday morning and to what? – A beautiful orange sunrise view. You would regret sleeping through the morning if you missed this extravaganza.
Somehow, after the jam-packed Saturday, we still weren’t fatigued. The lot of us quickly freshened up and got ready. We sat talking at the campsite for a while and then prepared ourselves for another round of breakfast at Abhiruchi’s. The breakfast this time was delectable. The plan for the day only included Belum Caves, so we decided we’d add another place to the list – A dam on the Pennar River. The dam was a mere 15 kms from the canyon and we reached there in no time. The Dam was a really secluded yet peaceful area. We climbed down steps to reach the river bed. We spotted a few locals, fishing in the water. They were skilled to say the least. Some of them were attracting fishes at insane speed. They even let some of us take a swing at the fishing rod, which led us to understand that the art of fishing wasn’t just about offering bait and pulling out the fishes.
The final halt to this evanescent trip was Belum Caves which was about 56 kms from the dam. It was afternoon already and the sun was gleaming on us. At the first sight of civilization, we stopped for lunch. We ate our fill and hence half of the crew slept on the way. In an hour or so, we reached the wonderous caves. You’ll know you’ve reached the caves when you’re welcomed by the ginormous statue of lord buddha and Belum Caves beautifully written over a hill. The caves have an entry fee of 65/- but the experience more than makes up for it.
The caves are under the ground, stretching up to 3.5 kms, out of which only about 2 kms is open to the public, hence making it the longest and largest cave open to public in India. Even though ventilation has been taken care of by the management, we found ourselves drenched in sweat as we traversed to the deeper ends of the cave. The stalactites and the stalagmites admirably decorate the inside of the caves and we couldn’t help but marvel at this wonder. We walked for 2 hrs and hoped that we had covered a good amount, but I’m not even sure if we saw everything the caves had on display. The best part about the experience was that we could imagine the process of the formations just by looking at the incomplete ones. A large part of the cave was shut because the walls had grown extremely narrow. As we were making our way out, we felt thankful that we didn’t miss this.
Thereafter we started our journey back to Hyderabad and 6 hrs later we reached not just with tired faces but a truck load of memories and pictures to share.