Come another weekend and my feet begin to get itchy to explore the hidden and offbeat places around me. This time, I stumbled on a lesser known place called “Gandikota” located in Kadappa district in Andhra Pradesh. Around 290 kms from Bangalore, Gandikota can be easily covered over a weekend drive of approx 6 hours one-way. The drive is mostly comfortable except for a few kilometers of patchy roads here and there but the irritation is soon negated by vast sunflower fields acres of red chilli farms that one would encounter enroute.
Gandikota got its name from “Gandi” which means a Gorge and “Kota”meaning Fort in Telugu. The gorge, holds in its womb, the Pennar river, which seems as though gallons of dark ink has been poured with the utmost care into a deep valley.The river shivers intermittently with the blowing wind cut by the massive boulders on either sides.
As you pass through the gloomy hamlet leading you to your final destination; you have the slightest clue of the unexpected view that is about to strike you in your face! Within moments, you find yourself witnessing a spectacular wonder that you can’t get your eyes and heart off!This mesmerizing landscape offers some breathtaking views of sunrise and sunsets amidst the granite boulder-clad cliff lining the river.
One can carefully perch on the edge of the cliff to get an adrenaline rush! Just one glance at the depth below will make you wonder of how the universe can make you feel totally minuscule in a fraction of a second!
Gandikota has a ruined fort which protects the river with all its might and strength. One side of the fort provides a very subtle and subdued view of the gorge. Here the Pennar takes the contour of a marshland fringed by a bald mountain sparsely dotted with vegetation.
You can choose to stroll freely as there are no signboards anywhere. Alternatively, you could walk on the fort wall without pulling your sight off the gorge. Well, if you feel that the adventure -bug has suddenly bitten you, go that extra mile to attain Nirvana on an isolated rock. Be cautious one wrong step would lead to a deep free fall..
The Fort, with two ruined temples and a Masjid, has its own captivating beauty. The odd fact that every single idol within the temples has disappeared, will amuse you. You can explore the fort throughout the day, but ensure you reserve the sunrise and sunset exclusively for the gorge.
It’s no surprise why the number of tourists flocking to Gandikota is on a rise. Who wouldn’t be eager to witness the magical landscapes of “The Grand Canyon of India”!
Since the place is tucked away and not easily accessible, tourists rely on the recently built “Haritha Resort” – the only rest house in this area. Run by the Government; the resort is decently built with Kadappa stones and has a good number of guest houses, dormitory, cafeteria and a small exhibition hall. Though the resort is not crowded , online booking has been made mandatory. Expect a very basic meal with only a couple of items on the menu; people who dread chillies need to place a special request to the staff here to reduce pungency in the food!
It’s a paradox in India that when a place starts gaining popularity either due to its historical significance or its unrivaled beauty; we start displaying our insolent attitude and mark the stamp of our very existence! Gandikota, sadly has not been spared of this devastation either.What comes as a warm welcome as you make your way to your room; are loads of beer, vodka and water bottles, plastic and other garbage dumped carelessly into the Resort’s vicinity!
We witnessed litter-festooned benches that a few foreign tourists had merrily perched on the night before. The authorities in charge of the guest house are least bothered about the situation in and around the resort.
This is not all, the story continues as you make your way to the fort and towards the gorge, both of which are a kilometer away from the resort. You pass through the scruffy village by literally holding your breath and stealing your site away from human waste and trash all the way up to the temple premises. The locals carelessly lead their cattle to graze into the fort creating “dung delight”!
More so, civilization itself has tip-toed into the fort’s vicinity. Huts have emerged right inside the fort paving way for more garbage accumulation. It wasn’t surprising to not have spotted a single authority or security in the entire area to guard the gorge or the fort.
All said and done, Gandikota left me short of words with its charismatic beauty. Capturing magical images of the rising and setting fireball over the ultra-calm gorge only made me hungry for more. But what I also brought along with me are the images of devastation and a strong and immediate urge to raise an alarm to plead the government, the villagers, the travelers and tourists to do their bit to save Gandikota. Awareness, respect and responsibility towards conservation are the rudiments of the Rubik’s cube that will keep Gandikota from giving in to “litter-terrorism” and burying itself irreversibly under the garbage grave.
After you have basked in the absolute bliss of Gandikota, you could visit the Belum Caves, around 60 kms ahead. A guided tour is recommended to understand the history and information of the stalactites and stalagmite structures formed here.
Further more, take a quick off-route diversion at Tadipatri to witness the plateau lined up with windmills; you could stand right beneath one and hear it go whoof-whoof!
The perfect way to end your trip would be to munch your way into the sunflower seeds while driving back from your weekend destination!