Gandikota. Doesn’t the name have an interesting ring to it? It almost has a mystical tone.
Situated on the right bank of the river Pennar in Andhra Pradesh, Gandikota is popularly known as the “Grand Canyon of India.”
Once you see it, it actually feels like one. Though, I’ve never been to the real Grand Canyon yet.
“Gandi” in Telugu means “a gorge,” and “kota” means “a fort.” So, Gandikota literally translates to “a fort around a gorge.”
I’ve been planning to ride to this place since a terribly long time. It’s not that far away from Bengaluru; just around 300km away.
The ride-and-camp plan was etched a month in advance, and off we 4 departed on the morning of 12th March 2016.
Route: Bengaluru – Gorantla – Kadari – Pulivendula – Muddanur – Jammalamadugu – Gandikota
Distance Covered: ~300 km
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/dgHJpU
Bengaluru to Gandikota: A Late Start
We started a bit late than usual, which turned out to be a pretty bad idea. More on that later as you unravel the adventure.
I reached my friend’s place in Wilson garden at 7:30 AM to pick up my riding jacket, fueled up at Shell, and headed towards Kodigehalli gate.
My bike’s accelerator cable was acting up. The throttle wasn’t turning beyond a certain point, thereby limiting my speed to 60kmph.
I was thinking of places where I can get it fixed, when suddenly it freed itself without any notice. That’s Royal Enfield for you in a nutshell.
It was fun to ride with all the power returned. I roared towards the International Airport Road. I halted in front of Coringa and called my friend. It was 8:13 AM. He asked me to wait at the toll gate just before entering the Airport.
I reached there in a few minutes and waited till 8:50 AM. After a quick chat, we moved towards breakfast.
Breakfast at Nandi
Nandi Upachar, the recently opened restaurant near Nandi Hills, is where we decided to have our breakfast. It was a light affair. The time was almost 9:45 AM by the time we’re finished.
It was mildly hot now. The sun was up, but it was still far away from showing off its full glory. We’d experience that soon.
We reached Gorantla at 10:48 AM, took the deviation towards Kadiri, and stopped for a drinks break. Coconut water is a lifesaver on highways, especially in this blazing hot weather.
One-third of the ride was already complete. It looked like we’d reach Gandikota sooner than we’d planned.
Horrible Road and Hot Weather
The road from Gorantla to Kadiri was in an atrocious shape. It was single-lane road (or a 1.5-lane road at max). The surroundings were drier than anything I’d seen in a long time. The temperature was rising to unexpected levels along with the sun.
It was 40⁰ Celsius. We were getting parched in the hot sun out here. It took us more than an hour to ride just 30km.
My body was dehydrating out here real quick. We stopped for a small break at around noon. Did I mention it was unbelievably hot?
We were feeling damn thirsty. The drinks break (and smoke break for the rest) was much needed. We stopped at a roadside stall in Kadiri. It was around 1:00 PM now.
A Refreshing Break
The first sip of the masala soda felt so good. I gulped the entire glass in a second and was ready for a second one.
I noticed that the shopkeeper also had Nannari syrup. So, we ordered a round of Nannari sherbet (also with soda). We drank two of these (or three, not sure). It felt great to rehydrate myself. Nannari is also claimed to be a coolant. So, that helped too, I guess.
The time was around 1:15 PM now. After almost 190km of riding, this half-hour break was worth it. The weather was still unbearable. There was almost 100km more of riding before us.
We came across a scenic bridge a few km later. It was surrounded by glorious rock formations, which gave it a captivating allure. Under the hanging rock formation, on the right, was a temple perched in between the ground the rock.
It looked kind of abandoned and out of place.
A few pics later, we were on our way again towards Gandikota. We stopped for a short drinks break, again. Yes, we were getting dehydrated in minutes.
I think we’d already drank more than 3 liters of fluids each.
I could literally feel the heat emanating from the road while riding. It felt like I was placed in a big oven, and I was riding inside it. The heat waves splashed over me as I cut through the dry air.
It was around 3:00 PM now. I checked the temperature in the area on my mobile. It was still 40⁰ Celsius. I guess that’s pretty normal here.
Looking at the way things are going, I concur Bengaluru would join the league soon.
A few minutes of ride later, we entered a small ghat section (with a warning board at its beginning), but before we could enjoy its curves, it was over. That was funny.
It took half an hour of constant riding to reach the last stretch towards Gandikota. There was still around 40km of distance left between us and our destination.
The road was still under construction, with lots of loose gravel and dry mud. It was quite hectic to ride here, especially under the hot sun.
The last 10km of the ride was great though. It was a single lane road with decent twists, turns, slopes, and downs.
We reached Gandikota A.P. Tourism Hotel at 4:28 PM, after almost 300km of riding.
Where’s the Lunch?
The first thing we did after we reached the hotel was ask for lunch. The staff told us that the hotel was closed until night and there was nothing left to serve.
Oops! We’d decided to have lunch here, and now we’re left with nothing around us except this place.
Funnily, we could hear the cooker whistling. Such cruelty. All our stomachs were grumbling.
We settled for a bottle of Maaza each, and some water.
After some rest, I and my friend Bhargav decided to go to the gorge and check out where we can pitch our tent.
The front of the granary looked like a decent place for a tent. A few people were already planning to pitch their tent on the rocky hill.
We returned to the hotel. The sun had almost set. After catching a glimpse of the beautiful sunset, all of us went back to the gorge to check it out.
You need to trek a bit to reach the edge of the hill, but the view is worth it.
Though it was a bit dark, it was exciting to take a look at Pennar River flowing between the massive walls of rocks. I’d seen it countless times in pictures and videos, but it’s something else to see it with your own eyes, isn’t it?
We stayed here until the sun had set completely. It was almost 7:00 PM now.
A Quite Lunchy Dinner
All of us went back to the hotel, hoping that the kitchen will finally be open.
It wasn’t. We had to wait until 8:00 PM to order our dinner, which unfortunately was also our lunch.
Chicken, paneer, vegetables, roti, rice. We ordered almost everything listed on their menu. The food was decent, but I can’t really say the truth because I was damn hungry. Almost anything would’ve tasted great then.
After whiling away our time in the playground, we went back to the granary to pitch our tent. We switched on our motorbike headlights for light.
Pitching the Tent Hopelessly in Darkness
It was a messy affair. None of us knew how to pitch this large 4-person tent. It took almost 2 hours to figure it out. In the end, it was a colossal achievement.
Though it was extremely hot, we took the help of the guide there to light a fire. And then we talked, and talked, and just dozed off in front of the fire. We shifted into the tent a while later.
I woke up at 5:30 AM and roamed around the tent, just checking out the surroundings. The sun wasn’t visible yet.
I took my camera and headed towards the cliff, took a few pics, and just sat there waiting for the sunrise. The sun wasn’t visible directly because of the clouds.
Awesome view of river Penna from Gandikota – the Grand Canyon of India. #Travel #India #Landscape #River #Canyon
A photo posted by Salman Ravoof (@salmanravoof) on Mar 14, 2016 at 5:17am PDT
Bala and Bhargav joined me a bit later. Pramod took his own time. It was almost 7:30 AM now.
A Trek Down to Pennar River
We relaxed for a few minutes at the cliff, enjoying the scenery and the atmosphere. And then we trekked down to the edge of Pennar River. It was a fantastic trek, charting through loose stones and barbed branches (tip: follow the steel pipe).
Gandikota looked even beautiful from down here. It was worth all our not-so-significant efforts.
The uphill trek was tougher and even more challenging. Naturally, we were all exhausted by the time we reached the top again.
Wrapping up the massive tent was as laborious as pitching it. Finally, by hook and crook, we did pack it up. Not perfectly, but who really cares?
A Quick Brekkie
We went back to the hotel for breakfast at 9:30 AM. Thankfully, we reached just in time before there was nothing left for us.
Just 1 Idli was left for each of us, and some Pongal. That would do. We didn’t feel like eating much in this heat anyway.
After a quick photo shoot (with all of us in the frame), we departed at 11:45 AM.
Return Route: Gandikota – The Elusive Tunnel – Muddanur – Kadari – Gulur – Bagepalli – Bengaluru
Distance Covered: ~300 km
Searching for the Darkness at the Start of the Tunnel
Before we set our sights towards Bengaluru, we went in search of an unknown tunnel. A tunnel which one of our friends (Tejus) had stumbled upon by chance more than a year ago.
None of us knew where exactly this tunnel was, but it was supposed to be somewhere nearby.
In our quest to find the tunnel, we ended up at Mylapur museum. We’d ridden almost 40km for over an hour to get here. The tunnel was nowhere in sight. Even the locals didn’t know much about it.
After ending up at multiple dead ends, we stopped at a huge construction site. Bhargav went in to enquire about the tunnel. Thankfully, they sent a guide along with him to show us the way.
We followed him to this elusive tunnel, which didn’t turn out to be what we expected at all.
Apparently, this tunnel is an irrigation canal which is still under construction (almost 97% complete according to the builders). Its construction was started way back in 2007.
The canal connects various reservoirs in Kadapa district, which includes Gandikota Reservoir too.
Naturally, it’s not meant for public transport. Since the guide was all too willing to lead us through the canal and show us the way to the other side, we just complied and followed him.
The atmosphere inside the canal was so cool. Protected from all the outside elements, and with a pool of water on one side, the weather here was completely contrasting to what it was outside.
It was a bliss to ride in here.
We rode almost 7km inside the tunnel before we emerged out of the other side (Gandikota Dam). It was a terrific experience.
The time was almost 2:00 PM now. We dropped our plan to visit Belum Caves. Riding through the long “artificial cave” was adventure enough.
Plus, we didn’t have the time.
It was hard to believe that we’d spent just around 3 hours riding. Extreme heat does that to you.
Gandikota to Bengaluru: The Journey Back
Bengaluru was still more than 270km away. We set on our eyes on that and pointed all our handlebars straight towards home.
The hot weather was killing me. I’m sure the rest were as beaten up as me.
We stopped for a quick drinks break at Muddanur. As we’d done before, we’d forgot all about lunch.
So, we decided to find a place where we could fuel up (our tummies that is). We did end up fuelling our bike’s tanks at the same place.
Unfortunately, Bala’s bike’s rear tyre got punctured. Shit happens at the most unexpected times, right?
Fortunately, there was a puncture shop nearby (though we had to spend quite some time under the hot sun to find it).
Once the puncture was fixed, we headed straight to lunch.
A Heavy Lunch and Tiring Eyes
It was a simple South Indian meal at a roadside thatch made of aluminum sheets. I also had chicken curry along with it.
The meal was highly satisfying. Too satisfying, in fact. I felt extremely sleepy.
I had to control my eyes from shutting down on the boring straight stretches. At one point, I even gave in and almost fell asleep. I parked my bike under a tree and took a few minutes break to recharge my senses.
After a few more breaks, we reached Kadiri at 5:50 PM. We stopped at the same roadside shop where we’d stopped earlier, and had the same drinks too.
A Slight Change on Our Way Back
Considering the fact that the road between Kadiri and Gorantla was in horrendous condition, we decided to take an alternate route to Bagepalli via Gulur.
Bhargav had to pester the locals for the proper directions, but it turned out be worth it in the end. Though not that great, this new route was much better than the one we’d taken previously.
We stopped at Bagepalli for a short tea/coffee and snacks break. After that, we headed straight towards Bengaluru after NH7.
A Wee Bit of Rain
It started raining after a while.
It’s amazing how Bengaluru’s weather changes suddenly. Every time I’m returning to Bengaluru after a ride, it’s always raining, no matter what the season is.
I continued to ride in the rain, but I got separated from the rest. Thankfully, the rain simmered down after a few miles.
I reached the toll gate near the airport and waited almost an hour for my companions to catch up. They didn’t. It was almost 9:50 PM now.
I found out later that they’d stopped somewhere on the highway until the rain subsided.
Back to Home
I messaged them goodbye and headed straight towards home; I took almost an hour. It was almost 11:00 PM when I reached home.
All in all, it was a great and hectic short weekend ride.
I’d like to visit Gandikota again (and Belum Caves) in a more relaxed weather. Until then, this experience would do.
If you have any comments or questions about the ride, please leave a comment.