My intoxication with road trips continues to be high. If you read my previous blog on Road Trip: Bangalore to Hampi, you know what I am talking about. Caught in the whirlwind of office to home to office that keeps devouring weeks and months together, roads trips are a great payback that accord the pleasure of gulping down long distances under the wheels of my car.
Road trips also give my wife and me an opportunity to ponder, reflect and spend quality time. She is a perfect partner and my Columbus on these trips because I am terrible with directions (I wonder if she accompanies me to save me from getting lost). We both enjoy these trips for sure. Gandikota is our fifth road trip of the year and it’s definitely one of the best so far, because this journey is as beautiful as the destination. Isn’t that what dreams are made of?
Journey from Bangalore
There are 3 routes available from Bangalore to Gandikota. We took the the route which goes via Airport road and takes right from Kodur junction.
Bangalore > Lepakshi (Pit stop for Lunch) > Royal County hotel at Proddatur> Belum Caves > Gandikota > Night Camp @Gandikota> Lepakshi Temple > Bangalore
We started from Bangalore around 11:30 am and our original plan was to visit Lepakshi temple. We wanted to spend the night in Lepakshi before moving on to Gandikota. However, when we reached there around 2:30 pm, we realized that the place has almost nothing to offer beyond the temple and Haritha Hotel. The hotel has a mess style restaurant which offers fixed menu all you can eat meal. There are some rooms as well which were occupied. But the place didn’t feel inviting as a stay destination on a holiday. We had our lunch there and quite liked it.
Food Options on the way
A word of caution is that you don’t have much going around in terms eating joints and food options. Haritha hotel is the only place to have a decent meal once you cross Nandi junction on your journey. Post lunch, we decided not to visit the Lepakshi temple and continued on our journey to Gandikota instead. The journey from Lepakshi to Gandikota doesn’t offer much in terms of eating joints along the highway. Small road side stalls apart, there is absolutely NOTHING!
The road quality is absolutely phenomenal and it indulged us with breathtaking views , vast expanse of land or rocky mountains on both sides are exhilarating to look at. The rocky soil catches your attention, so do long distance unobstructed views on the sides of the road. The weather was great and sky was almost purple basking in the hue of setting sun and dark clouds.
We stumbled on to a Shiva Temple on the way which is quite an amazing place. There is a huge statue of Shiva and innumerable artistic depictions of various stories from mythological scriptures. You don’t really find so many of these around these days. Gladly it was evening aarti (prayer) time and we sat through the aarti, a blessing that came out of nowhere. The chants and bells were soothing to the core after a long drive.
We parked ourselves in Royal County for the night which is a resort 35 kms from Gandikota and it turned out be a great experience. This resort does surprise you with it’s ambience, especially given it’s location and surroundings. We had a good relaxing night at this place which perfectly poised us for the sight seeing next day.
Next day, we started around 9 am towards Belum caves which is approx 70 Kms from Royal County. The road is as smooth as silk and you don’t get to say that for many roads in India! Belum Caves is an awe inspiring place. The idea of traversing underground into the depths of the earth feels hot & humid to the body but fascinating to the mind. The caves are huge and relatively easy pathways & access make it an enjoyable experience. It took us an hour and half underground to cover all the routes.
The story of no food joints kept haunting us on our way to and fro from Belum Caves to Gandikota. Gladly we had carried some packed snacks with us which came to the rescue.
On the return from Belum Caves, we reached Gandikota fort around 2 pm. The approach road to Gandikota, especially the last 5-7 kms will captivate you, it’s scenic and beautiful! The weather was hot but not unwelcoming and the beauty of the place makes up for it anyway.
The banished ruins of ‘once a great fort’ facing the rocky mud colored mountain, a gently flowing river making it’s way between the mountains, a large dam at a distance as the only sign of urbanization, all of it comes together and almost agitates your mind before making it peaceful and serene. The views are unforgettable. This place is called the Grand Canyon of India, it may be that or not, but it’s grand and magnificent for sure.
Camping at Gandikota
We decided to camp at Gandikota for the night. The camp site or Haritha Hotel are the only 2 accommodation options within miles. Haritha has very few rooms which are generally occupied. We chose the camping experience which turned out to be perfect. Weather was windy and cool, food tasted well and tents were just about fine! There are two kinds of camping options available,
A) tents in open area with no access to toilets (you can use toilets at Haritha hotel which are 300m away, yes you read it right, that’s the expectation!)
B) tents in cordoned area with air conditioned tents as additional option but more importantly with trailers on offer as restrooms.
Trekking & Kayaking
Early morning next day we trekked down the mountain to reach the river for Kayaking. The camping package comes inclusive of these activities. Rappelling is also an option but we chose to skip it given our current state of fitness (read minimal exercise & stamina). Kayaking was a wow experience given the water level was just 5ft deep which made it pretty safe and the guys are generous with the time they let you be in water. Many people were swimming/walking through as if in an open pool, with muddy water!
We started our return journey around 11:30 am. The road for first 15 Kms from Gandikota to Lepakshi is stunningly scenic. The quality remains good throughout the journey. We again reached Lepakshi around 3pm. Had lunch at Haritha again (rings a bell!) and then visited Lepakshi temple.
The temple is almost mystic adorned with monolithic art, primarily depicting gods, goddess’ and short stories. The temple is big and has a very rustic, old age feel with ample space to sit around and wonder what it would have been like when it was at its full glory.
I wondered how many people would have spent countless hours to build this, pillar by pillar, and the temple stands firm today as a testimony to their reverence to their work and the lord.
We got back to Bangalore comfortably around 7 pm and finished what turned out to a very different and memorable experience. So much so that it inspired me to write again after a hiatus of months all together. I saw a lot of people taking this journey on their bikes which is a very good option given the quality of roads (I know i have been harping about it throughout). This is all from my road trip for now. I’ll be back with more stories as I indulge in my intoxication. Go burn some rubber, Cheers!
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