Gandikota is a small village in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh. Jammalamadugu (14 km) has the nearest railway station and APSRTC bus stop. It is popular as weekend destination and for adventure sports. Small but beautiful surroundings of Gandikota has a lot to offer with respect to history of South Indian Kings and natural beauty of the Gorge.
The street lamps at some distance and full moon were the only source of illumination, as I started my dinner beside the campfire arranged by Shiva and his Team (my tour coordinator at Gandikota). This was my first night and I was all set for an exciting tent stay. 9 PM then, being Friday, not many camping partners were around. Silence started to touch my soul.
As I was trying to focus on my Andhra Style spicy chicken and chapati, I felt something blunt is trying to push me on the lower end of my back. I immediately turned around to find a HOLY COW!!She appeared to be hungry, munching the green grass on the hilltop. As I was sitting on grass she tried to remove me with her horns.She was thrice my size and certainly more powerful. Confusion prevailed… I was not sure how to tactically handle this situation. Should I leave my dinner and make space for it or try to drive it away? The paper plate were certainly not helping my cause as it was difficult to carry it with the food loaded… Few gentle SHOO! SHOO! but gestures with my hand failed to convince her. As I started to put back my food in the polythene bag a dark human shadow with a long stick jumped from the back. “Shiva the saviour” came back to check if I needed anything. He saw the monster bothering his guest, so he jumped to my rescue. I finished my food quickly and collected few sticks of several size for my self-defence against any further intrusion. What an exciting welcome at Gandikota!!The gorgeous sand fort stood firmly on my left as I face the Pennar river from the Erramala hills bathed in full-moon.
Preferred time and month to visit
In Andhra there are mainly two seasons, summer and extreme summer. So November to January are the best months to visit. In December afternoon, I witnessed a temperature rising up to 31 degrees Celcius. So early morning and evenings are the most preferred timings for the visit.
Location and how to reach
Gandikota a small village in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh. Jammalamadugu (14 km) has the nearest railway station and APSRTC bus stop. Since not many trains are plying to Jammalamadugu I reached via Vijayawada-Nandyal- Allagadda-Jammalamadugu route. The alternate route starts from Kurnool. APSRTC live tracking app helped me immensely to know about bus timings and frequency. If someone wants to hire a car he/she must do it from Nandyal or Kurnool. The nearest airport is Bangalore. One can also access the place from Tirupati, Vijayawada or Hyderabad.
Point of Interests and Places to see
The place is a complete package offering the natural beauty of river, gorge, hills, wind mills as well as historical monuments. One night and two days are suggested by most. The best part I liked was trekking down the Erramala hills (around 300 mtrs) to reach the banks of alluring Pennar. Each bent of the trek offers a different view of the gorge. Dense forest and numerous birds accompanied me all the way. I just needed to follow the white line drawn by the locals to understand the trekking route.
Kayaking (hand-driven small boats) is the best way to have a look around the gorge from the river. They will start to bargain from Rs 500/-. It depends on how much you can negotiate. If you can directly reach the spot without any middleman you will get a better rate. Don’t forget to carry your towel and bathing costumes. The dark green water of Pennar is too much to resist for a dip or two. It took me 30 mins to climb down, 45 mins to climb back, 20 mins for kayaking, 20 mins for the dip. The difficulty level is moderate but certainly not for weak hearts. So I did not find many people here. Morning is the best time for this adventure.
Jaw-dropping view of the gorge from Gandikota drags numerous tourists every year. It has two views, front and back. The front side opens in the wide-angle view of Pennar and the Erramala hills. The backside view offers ruins of the fort and the serpentine walls of the fort deep inside the gorge. The enormity of the fort-walls is likely to bring flavors similar to the Great wall of China.
The serpentine walls and back-side of the gorge
Once done with this, I wandered around the Fort to visualize the wonderful architecture of Madhavaraya Swamy Temple, Ranganatha Swamy Temple, Granary, Jail, Mini Charminar, swimming pool and the Jumma masjid. I also climbed up the fort-walls to see its serpentine course. The history of the fort goes back to 13th Century and represents the glorious days of Kapa and Kamma Kings of Vijayanagaram dynasty. The fort also experienced Muslim invasion by Mir Jumla the general of Abdul Qutub shah in secret connivance with Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
Left to rightJumma Masjid, Ranganathaswamy Temple, Main Entrance of the Fort, Madhavaraya Swamy Temple, Outside of Madhavaraya Swamy Temple, Outside of Ranganathaswamy Temple, Jail, view Madhavaraya Swamy Temple from Ranganathaswamy Temple, Mini Charminar, Steps of Sandstone leading to Ranganathaswamy temple.
Where to stay
If you are looking for a comfortable stay, check in to nearby Haritha Resort of AP Tourism, the only one available in the vicinity. The fort is only 300-400 mtrs away from Haritha. So you can walk any number of times. The local people were very helpful to me as they offered lift on their bike every time I moved. Room rate ranges from Rs 1500 in week days (Mon-Thu) to Rs 2000 on weekend (Fri-Sun). For online booking and more information log on to www.aptdc.gov.in. In case you cannot find a booking the nearest decent place to stay is Nandyal (NOT Jammalamadugu or Tadipatri as suggested by many) around 100 Km/ 3 hrs journey by car from Gandikota.The tent packages are around Rs 2000/- which includes food and Kayaking. The food as of now is provided from Haritha Resorts only. There are many options available online (freakouts.com, gandikotatourism.com) or else you can book it at the spot to get a better deal. Sharing few local contacts which I could gather Shiva (9985444233), Muni (6281763966), Vinod (7901009904), Mahesh (9964408503), Srinivas (9912794501), Anand (7989462193), Gurunath (9515297874).
Dusk is more appropriate than dawn as the dawn tends to be foggy. Erramala hills is home for wide variety of birds so don’t forget to carry your zoom in lenses. The 300 mtrs trekking to the river bed gives the best possible varieties.
For mobile shooters
Since most of the time you will take pictures in bright sunshine select white balance as ‘Cloud’ or 6500K in professional mode. This will give the desired warmth in your picture. Keep the ISO minimum (100 or 200) While capturing the temples focus on inside walls of the temple with spot/centre metering mode. This will capture the details of the inside of the temple walls rather making it dark. Don’t take portrait (picture with people) in bright sunlight. Find a place with shadow. The fort and temples are tall enough to give you such places.Banks of river is the best place to capture flying birds with the gorge or forest in the background.