This is a blog of the trip I went with lots of friends to Gandikota and Belum caves in Andhra few months back.
Gandikota – Earth:
The rocks they stack , form layers and sit majestically. The sheer beauty of these is seen when a river cuts a gorge and exposes the spectacle after a millennia of working. In Telegu it is called Gandi and I knew about this on a visit to Gandikota. The fort near the gorge. The fort was built during the western Chalukyan king of Kalyana. This is in Kadapa district of Andhra. The place with its fort, temples, red granite boulders and hills , the river Pennar is one of those forgotten and discovered surprises.
Belum caves – Water:
Water flows as a river between the sand stone gorge it formed. Then there is the water of the river Chitravati that “flowed” over limestone to form the Belum caves. After tirelessly working for eons, the river dried and left the caves. These then got used by Buddhists, Jains to seek a god. Later, much later it is there for us all to wander and marvel at the creations. As you go through the caves you sense the power and beauty of water. Of the geometric patterns and slow deposited growth. The Belum caves are around seventy KMs from Gandikota. Note that kids may hate this place as few of us grownups will want to teach them about Stalactites and Stalagmites. It is the textbook rendition of the phenomenon here.
Bajaj Avenger Club – Air:
The bike riding is about being free and feel the air. The air-petrol mix in the engine thrusts the rider. Sounds carried over to riders’ ears like music. Wind through the helmet and jacket brings one close to nature. Being on the road in a car is good but on a bike it is elemental. It is you, the machine and nature. BAC mixes this freedom with little group discipline and safety to make it a blend. Like air needs gravity to form and keep the atmosphere on earth, rules keeps the riding safe.
Me and my family – Fire:
After the last trip ( Ride to the Valley) the fire to go again would not stop. The more I talked about it and wrote about it more Wify dear too caught it. As the time went by this fire to hit the roads together made us plan for the little beast, the black beast (J.Bolero) to come together for a trip. You see, me going off to rides and the family staying back was little not done. Even if I and Wify dear could go on the bike what of the dotty dear ? So we planned for us to go with the little beast and the black beast-J.Bolero
These four elements came together and strong was the pull of the roads. Independence day 15th Aug, Friday set us on a three day trip to Gandikota, Bellum caves. It was also confluence of three chapters of Bajaj Avenger Club – Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai.
We from Bangalore had a double header planned. We went to Nandi hills as part of the freedom ride with rest of the Bangalore biker fraternity. Flag hoisting , National anthem and TV 9 interviews happened. Again it was an early morning start and by the time we were done it was sun up and we were massively hunger. Some sixty of the bikes went for the ride, twenty from those were to carry on towards Andhra for Gandikota. The ride to Nandi hills is one of ascending wonder. Early morning mist on the hill and the suspended dew kissing the cheeks is an experience. Add to it fervor of independence day and milieu of a thousand bikes. Well may not be thousand but lot of hundreds. Of course All the woman bikers had prime time with the TV9 and so did our machines.
An auspicious coconut cracked on the road and that is how Srinidhi flagged us off. The roads were good and we went two file formation and raced on, the black beast followed. Start of the trip brings the analyst in me. Check list of items packed and some forgotten, struggle to identify the new folks, thrill of following days and niggling concerns on the unknowns. The flat, smooth, marked and tarred road evened out all these points and it was about getting the bearings and let the muscles with the bike takeover. Keep to the formation, look out for the signals. Mind then goes into some form of introspection. Best time to wrest a tricky problem is to mull over it once the senses are focused on the drive. While the mind was meditating, the more elemental needs of tummy took over and we stopped for breakfast at the Kamat upchar bhavan on the Hyderabad highway.
The Hyderabad four lane highway is good and fast but I miss the smaller highways though. I think those have more of life integrated with the road. On these four lanes you can enjoy the speed but you do miss the life a bit. For now the ride was good, weather was great, mood was fresh, speed fantastic, felt blissful. And so as with any well working system a snag came along. The photographer’s bikes gear screw fell and they had to resort to some “jugad” with a rope put them back on the road. Later a mechanic fixed it with a proper, stock bolt and the riders with the black beast were making speed again.
As this stop, fix, get on the road was unfolding for that bike, the rest of the group realized that they had missed the tail at the right turn towards Kadri. The thing with a group ride is that we need to look out stop when some on in the rear has issues. It adds to the time but also to the charm of travel. It is in the breaks that you notice others. If you are an old member you get to know the new ones. New ones get the feel of the group and lot of gyan flows. The lead uses this time to brief, inform and correct. Sometimes tempers flare too, who needs a preacher ?
On top of it this is the time to interact with the villagers. For the bike and the car to catch up we stopped in front of a village school gate. A bunch of kids congregated, very very excited. With their childhood curiosity and boldness were trying our biking gear, one sat on my bike, posed we clicked. They had loads of questions with shiny, naughty eyes and enchanting smiles. Two of them filled our water bottles. The moments like this connect us to the other world and them to us. We gave the kids our flags and they darted around clutching them in their hands and I am sure they will talk about us like I am mentioning them. Long after the sun set on that day.
At this point I coaxed wify dear to take on the bike and I switched to the car. I have said this before and will say this lot many times. Sight of a score or more bikes racing ahead over turning roads is a symphony. Being a rider in the group is one feeling. Looking ahead at uniformly placed fast pacing bikes, perched from a high seat of the Bolero with the tail lamps of the bikes singing on the road is another. No wonder the passersbys pause and smile. Wify dear was fifth or sixth rider from the back and her scarf peeking out from our yellow helmet was waving vigorously. A rebel declaring its own independence. Thus the convoy zoomed into a temple town Kadri and halted for the lunch.
Sometimes all the care and protocols break down. Post lunch we were moving along when one of the riders and I had to fuel up. So Ankit, marshals, I, other rider and the car stopped. Others sped along. Either we turned wrong or them but we got separated. Few calls back and forth and we all decided to meet at the APTDC resort. With that we rode through some very pretty landscapes. The Erramala range of hill formed gentle ghat roads and sweeping descents. One of the views from the top of a hill, overlooking a gentle curved road that stretches and turned left at a distance was so spectacular it made the trip pay for itself. Twice. Add to it a late afternoon sun playing hide and seek with few black silver edged clouds. This made us forget all that happened. The black beast has accelerator issues so on these up slopes it was lagging. As the truncated group moved along we came across a large bridge and on the sides of it were steep cliffs made of the red granite. Clean wide cemented bridge with its railings and these imposing red, orange walls and the trickle of water below. Sight that begs for an action western to be shot. I swear we did nearly see the hoofs, guns, wide hats, rugged men and lissome, graceful lasses. And thus we crossed the bridge bikes fully tuned and eating the ground, us very happy.
Our navigation was all from the google maps and now it showed a short cut. We of the courageous clan took it. The narrow road went winding via villages, fields, cattle, huts and smiles followed the motley of bikes, cameras and a car. There were traces of the ancient dynasty along. An odd old strong wall, a temple or a stone shelter that defied time. All of these formed mesmerizing silhouttes in the light cast around by a setting sun. Prashanth got tons of cover pics, profiles pics and panoramas. Past a village next to a rising curve was a small old temple, possibly centuries old. I looked at it and thought of what all it would have seen. Empires rise and fall, villagers be happy with their celebrations and sad with the tragedies. It would have had kings , robbers under its roof. A scared son or a waiting lover would have prayed here. Now and here a bunch of us doing the freedom drive, passing by.
The last 5 KMs brought the twilight dusk. My favorite time of the ride. As we climbed yet another steep one, the view at the right with river and the George was so good one of us slipped slightly. That haled the small group and we had a photo session.
With the dusk falling and evening enchanting us we turned left to the APTDC tourist guest house in Gandi kota. The Hyderabad team was already there and the Chennai team and the splintered Bangalore team were on the way. The teams re grouped, discussed the misses and the joins. J.Bolero went off to prepare for the night with bags of few of Bangaloreans. We waited. Finally got the bags back, had a shower, dinner, celebrated Pavitrha’s birthday. Pitched a yellow black tent, swung on the resort swings. Ended the day with thoughts for the next day.