Purely due to the fact that everyone else in the group had better things to do, me and Anagh Padmanabhan decided to pack our tents, pick the telescope, grab a few sleeping bags and some bread/jam and Nutella and head off to a little known destination called Gandikota.
The very few who knew about that place told glowing stories about it, the scarcity of food and hotels from the time we fork off from the NH was well documented.
As usual, getting the supplies sorted went off till the last moment with us getting to Amal‘s place late night for the tents and the sleeping bags as well as real good food from Suparna 🙂 We got home around 1215 and meticulously packed up everything and loaded them into the car all hoping for an early, 5AM start. But again, as usual, we started about 3 hours late, at 810.
Surprisingly the morning traffic was light and we got to the Nandi Hills road by 930-945, had food from the Nandi Upachar hotel. Taunting Anagh for missing the roadtrip me and Ajay Appaden had along this same road. The straight, fast, brilliantly laid roads that makes the GT go faster and faster.
The NH soon came to an end and we went off to a state-highway that was one of the best roads that I have ever driven through. Beautiful visuals on both sides of the road made the drive even more exciting. After switching drivers, I got to take in more of the beauty that was surrounding us on the road.
By then it was time for lunch and boy, there were no eateries. Absolutely nothing that looked even remotely like a food place showed up. We slowed down whenever we so hints of civilisation just to speed up right after passing it.
We finally found a place to eat just before Muddanur Railway station.
Eating from random places was never my forte and I decided to take over the driving from there to Gandikota. Boy, that was one of the best decisions I took that day. The road being beautiful is an understatement. The road was absolutely magnificent.
The first sign of “uh oh” happened about 2 kilometres from the Google Maps designated destination. We saw a flex board that said “School Bus Parking” and there were about 20 buses. Then we saw a “Car Parking” with about 200 cars. We parked there and then we saw “Bike Parking” with about 200 bikes. What we expected and what the reviews mentioned as a remote, people-less location was teeming with people. Lots of them.
There are about 364 days every year and somehow we managed to get there on those TWO dates where the entire populace in about 100km radius came to town.
We walked to the Gandikota fort, which on any other day would be the place where we would get to park our car. There were gazillion cops all around. We followed the crowed to the Gandikota view point, which was breathtaking and the cops asked us to keep to some 10 sq meter viewing area. It was understandable considering that there are just too many people around. The cops also mentioned that over-night stay is not allowed.
Being basic people-haters, we walked off from the ‘main attraction’ and decided to take an immediate left into the ‘wild’. Climbing across rocks and foliage we were going to places that not many goes. There were visible remains of the fort and with each step the view became more magnificent.
Another thing to note is that EVERY bush, dry branches on the floor and anything green got thorns. Not just any thorns, but big-daddy’s of thorns. Sport shoes saved the day. We did not see blood. But we had to pull our gazillion thorns from the shoes.
We scouted the land for camping locations with great view and peace. Did a few adventures on the cliffs and then decided to head back.
Note : Climbing up across walls made of rocks may be a bad idea with a few on the being loose. Almost got one coming smack down on my face when I tried it. So I stopped being thaat adventurous and we head back.
We saw some places where we could pitch the tent and walked towards the blaring mic’s that were screaming to the world about Gandikota festival.
We got there and had some surprisingly amazing hot drinks. ( Thanks to the festival )
We went to the car and decided to consolidate our packs. Tent went into the telescope bag making it freaking heavy! The counter-weights and a sleeping bag went into my Bombay Trooper “Trooper Bag” and we had another that held our food and the Telescope accessories.
Then we saw a barrage of bikers on Bullets and Mojos. They were planning to camp there as well. So we thought we would coordinate up with them. We scouted out alternative routes that skipped cops and got us to our preferred camping location. Once we saw that the bikers are not getting anywhere we decided to take the high road.
Walk straight through the cops and the people with the bags. And we did. I might have kept pace with a local family that had their own bags with them.. 🙂
But then we carried the heavy bags right to the stage where there was a comedy show ( I am guessing it was a comedy show based on the laughs from people ) going on. Everyone was looking at the stage and we just walked by to the sides and into the grounds. We had little light to guide us, but we found the best spot in the house! A rectangular area that was not all rock! We pitched the tent, after a demo from Amal the night before, it went off without any glitches and then I set up the Telescope. The disco lights and the general flood lights almost ensured that I get to see shit.
Then we had bread and Nutella/Jam. Anagh took out the sleeping bags and slept off under the stars after telling me “Do not sleep!”.
I tried some long exposure photos and realised that I suck at any form of photography.
Slowly post midnight, lights started going off and more and more stars became visible to my dilating eyes. I decided to point the Telescope with a 15mm eyepiece at Orion, which by then was getting lower and lower to the horizon. Pointing at the dagger, I was amazed at the amount of stars that I could see there. And behind those stars looking down at me was a cloud of white light. The Orion Nebula. I called Anagh multiple times and I got more snores as response 😀
I was getting sleepier and decided to shut shop for the day and crawl into the tent. After packing the whole telescope bits, I look to the east and see a very red moon slowly making its way up. Fuck! I had the moon filter, a 6mm eye-piece and yet I have not looked at the moon till now. I was too lazy to set up again and retired for the night.
Morning came in and with that came some beautiful sunlight that lit up the entire place in a soft warm glow. Again the two camera-challenged souls could only capture what the amaze-balls Nexus 6P camera got. And then I vowed to learn better photography with a DSLR.
Heading back after packing up, hauling the heavy gear we made it to where we had parked the car. A single lonely car sitting safe in the car parking zone. We got the car to the AP Tourism hotel with the hope of having breakfast and a shower. The queue to the toilet poured water on that plan and we decided to head off. We had seen a bridge that went to Jamalamedu and decided to get breakfast from there. After hunting for a bit, we saw a hotel and ate. We started back after postponing Belum caves for the next visit.
Anagh refused to give me the wheels. It might have something to do with me asking him, ” Like Katrina Kaif said in ZNMD, “Can I drive”, I got a firm “No”, with him quoting Abhay Deol. I should have asked him what Kalki asked, on hindsight.
Ah well, the drive was amazing even from the shotgun spot, though I slept off for about 100kms.
We reached Bangalore in about 4 hours 30 minutes, then we took another 45 minutes to get home in the BLR traffic.
Boy! I cant wait to go there the second time. Hopefully with the whole gang!