Hyderabad - Kurnool - Mantralayam - Orvakallu - Belum Caves and Gandikota circuit
After a successful road trip to Hampi, which unexpectedly led us to visit the famed Kishkinda, it was time to the highway again. After days of deliberations I finally decided on the Hyderabad - Kurnool - Mantralayam - Orvakallu - Belum Caves and Gandikota circuit that was to be completed in two days. So one fine Saturday morning we set out on this journey. We left Hyderabad at around 6 am with a quick stop over at Jadcherla for breakfast.
Our work horse for this trip was the trusted Hyundai Grand i10, which offers just the right power and pickup for spirited highway driving. Though we drove at a leisurely 80kms/hr we reached kurnool in about 4 hours (speaks volumes of the immaculate Hyderabad - Bengaluru highway). At the entrance of Kurnool town we took a right towards Mantralayam via Yemmiganur town. The road was a bit rough at places as it's a state highway. Surprisingly as we approached the holy Mantralayam town, the road turned out to be silk smooth, which is a far cry from the narrow dusty road some 5 years ago. It took us about 2 hours to reach Mantralayam from Kurnool. Since we reached Mantralayam in the afternoon the temple, which is home to the Samadhi of Guru Raghavendra Swamy, was pretty empty. It is usually crowded with devotees from neighboring Karnataka.
After darshan of Sri Raghavendra Swamy (according to custom we must first visit and pray to Manchalamma Devi before entering Sri Raghavendra Swamy's temple) we had lunch at Mantralayam and returned to Kurnool and checked into Hotel Suraj Grand for staying overnight.
We set out to explore Orvakallu, a rock garden close to Kurnool later in the evening. Orvakallu is just beside NH 40 that takes you to the town of Nandayala. It's a large area with a different interesting rock formations as well as a small gorge that offers a pleasant outing.
Few pics from Orvakallu
Day 2 - Belum - Gandikota and back to Hyderabad
We set out to Belum Caves from Kurnool the next day morning via NH 40. The drive took us through breathtaking valleys and lush fields, which really made me wonder "is all the hype around Rayalaseema being a violent land just an exaggeration?"
Beautiful drive from Kurnool to Belum
Water reservoir in between Kurnool and Belum
We reached Belum caves after a good 3 hours drive. It was interesting to note that many people in this region depend on granite quarries for their livelihoods. It also made me feel sad that we humans are ripping apart the planet for our livelihoods.
Belum Caves is a popular picnic spot with many visitors. It is written that an explorer by name Robert Bruce Foote recorded the presence of these caves in 1884 and in 1982 a German explorer HB Gebauer explored it. The caves take you deep inside the earth and at places it becomes quite suffocated and it gets real hard to breathe despite the presence of large ventilator fans. The caves are well lit and its worth exploring them.
We started off for Gandikota, the prized destination of our trip, from Belum at about 2 in the afternoon. We took NH 67 that took us via the town of Jammalamadugu. After a good 2 hour ride we reached Gandikota fort. One needs to walk through the fort to see the magnificent Gandikota gorge. The gorge is truly breath taking and rewarded us well for all the efforts we had taken to drive to this remote land.
This is place mesmerizes you and is worth spending an evening here. I rue the fact that we could not explore the gorge fully as we had to head back to Hyderabad that evening it self.
I shall come another day for this place haunts me.