Gandikota and Bellum Caves — surreal underground, gorgeous canyon, Kadapa stones and bloody hot weather!
Sometimes you travel for long hours, drive on boring highways while the rest of the folks in the car sleep, bear the heat and dust, pay for the fuel, get lost, get back on the right track and try to stay awake throughout the journey, all in the hopes that the destination is promising as the photographs depict. And sometimes, just sometimes, the photographs lie, and the travelogues do not do justice. You blink twice, you breathe in the place, no one talks and just for a few moments you are awed. And this is what happened to us on our trip to Bellum caves and Gandikota in the Kadapa region of Andhra Pradesh during the month of July in 2015.
So the Mrs and I decided that it would be a nice idea to do a day trip with the cousins and have some “yuhin kat jayega” moments that we grew up with. And boy did we get those moments and more!!
First stop — Bellum Caves
Once you get off the main highway, the roads leading upto the Bellum caves are surprisingly good. While one starts wondering why no name villages have such good roads, the answer slowly emerges from the horizon and voila, Cement factories! The kadapa stones that abound this region is used as a base for manufacturing cement. Driving through, one passes entire villages built from slabs of Kadapa stones. From houses of both the rich and the poor, to public toilets, from temples to the solitary mosque, the Kadapa stone seems to be the one leveler here! What is the cost of this great leveler? Swathes of land mined and destroyed for the stone. The earth seems violated. Violated of its dignity and stripped bare, the landscape stands in the harsh sun bearing the arrogance of both man and machine.
Driving through terrain like this, the roads widen, the colors change from black to copper and a huge Buddha statue greets you from afar to the Caves. Speleologists (cave hunters for you and me) and historians have established that these caves were formed millions of years ago by rivers cutting through rocks. In recent millennia, these caves were inhabited by Buddhist monks and hence the giant Buddha statue put up by the local government.
The caves have a nominal entry fee which also covers the guide charges. Measured steps lead you to the strange underground, and once inside the belly of the Bellum, you stand, you see, you admire, you scare easy and you are amazed. Amazed at the enormity, amazed at the limestone formation, amazed by the play of light and engulfed by a sense of the surreal. Only 35% of the cave is open to the public and the rest is yet to be explored. The portion of the caves that is open is lit up the local authorities with strategically placed lighting that act as illumination, as well as adding an additional layer of eeriness to the caves. After spending an hour and a half underground, I had renewed respect for the speleologists of this world!
Gandikota — Emerald green waters, copper hued rocks and a picture postcard canyon
An hours drive from Bellum Caves is the Gandikota gorge on the river Pennar. Passing through dusty roads, sleepy villages, lazy buffaloes and lazier sheep, one arrives at Gandikota. An old mosque and and older temple greet you as soon as you enter the ruined fortification. Walk a tad bit further, and you witness the sun make the rocks its canvas, painting each stone in different shades of gold and copper. And then you see it, the green emerald green Pennar river, the canyon and the magnificence. Perhaps the kings built their kingdoms here for the sunsets each evening. Perhaps they built it for the tranquility, or perhaps for the sheer lust of ruling a landscape such as this.
After spending hours driving and surviving on just fruits and biscuits, did we have a “yuhin kat jayega” moment? Well, you decide!