Friday, October 23, 2015

#CaveBikers Trip 1 - Trip to Belum Caves

Busy days in the concrete jungle, makes me yearn to escape to a paradise where there is no noise during the weekends. A week full of heat, pollution, noise, stress n fatigue I finally live up in the weekend. I live the week in reverse. Weekdays are full of workouts n rest and weekends are the days I look forward to live. 

One such escape was to the Belum Caves of Andhra. Biking through the dry lands of Eastern Ghats we went on a journey of 400 kms. The most awaited Saturday came. Raj and I started from my place to meet the remaining bunch to Koyambedu at 0400 Hrs. This was supposed to be my first ever bike trip and my excitement was natural. Best part I didn’t have a bag to pack my essentials. Raj got a tiny little bag rolled up into a ball. I was wondering how m I gona fit my stuff into it. But it unrolled into a bag sufficient enough to carry my stuff hassle free. So this is how I was all set for the journey. We reached the usual meeting spot in 20 mins where already the bunch was waiting. This was the bunch of guys with whom I was gona spend my rest of the 48 hours. Mani, Dinesh and Khaja were here and all the bikes were here. But we were still waiting for someone.
And that someone was Sudharshan. He arrived in a car and was late. On top of that he didn’t have his helmet. And the day began with Raj giving it nicely to him for his great thinking. It seems people were counting on him for riding as well. I was enjoying my sips of a hot morning tea with all this going around. With all the travel songs on my playlist and full volume on my fone, this patakha guddi started for the trip. 
It was a little cold as it was the beginning of March and also due to the speed at which we were riding. Raj and I were on the bullet, the sound which seemed like noise on the normal days sounded like music today. We were on the way to Nagalapuram when the day broke. We didn’t even leave the Tamilnadu borders when I started feeling the first rays of the sun.
The highways of Chennai are beautiful with trees on both sides and smooth and wide roads. It makes the riding much more fun. Unending roads, just to enjoy the fun called travel. I felt that I don’t need the travel songs to enjoy the ride. Took off my earphones and kept all my gadgets in the bag. I was able to hear the birds chirping after a long time. The surroundings seemed so beautiful. It felt like I was experiencing the vivid colors of nature in HD vision. And all the old Hindi songs started making sense. 

Crossing Nagalapuram, we reached Tirupati around 0700Hrs. That was the place where the fork divided into pilgrimage and our destination. But this was the break time for the hungry travelers. These highways offer really lovely food. Much cleaner and tastier than what we get in the city. We all hogged like pigs and fueled up the tummy for the rest of the journey and were set to start again. Our GPS started acting funny and kept showing longer routes. Somehow, after all the wrong bunch of turns we figured out our route and were on track.
Some experiences just can’t be described in words. These are just meant to be felt. Trees forming themselves in the form of cave on the highway, the dry mountains all the way, the dry heat, the sand, the empty roads, the occasional passing of villages, the fields, and the bumpy rides everything was simply the way to get myself connected to the nature in its raw form. I have had the privilege to visit a few countries abroad, but my India never fails to surprise me. Just keep going and you will always find something new and breathtaking here. I have the serendipity of meeting amazing people and visiting the places that I have dreamt of. This reaffirms my faith in dreams and its coming true.
At 1200 hrs we were still on the roads of Andhra searching for food like nomads. Dry, thirsty and dirty, we were in perfect shape to be called the hooligans of India. We found ourselves at a tiny shop where they were selling coconut water. The coconut water was equal to elixir at the moment. We all had a couple of drinks and embarked on the journey again. But once thirst is satisfied hunger pangs are on. As soon as we reached the next village we started searching for some eat out. We were a bunch of wanderlusts who didn’t even know the native language. But the best part about traveling in India is that that if you know even one native language down south and Hindi, you have got the all India permit to go around. It’s always fun to know new things. And the one new word I learned in this trip was ‘Majiga’. ‘Majiga’ is the Telugu word for Buttermilk. Buttermilk is a necessity to me and surely this word goes down in my travel dictionary. At least am not gona suffer without my daily dose of ‘Majiga’ if I get lost in this part of India. LOL
After this refuel we made it a point to reach the destination and make a stop or else the caves will get closed. Now we crossed Kadappa. Lots of cement factories placed near to each other. The whole side way was filled with special ‘Kadappa Kallu’. This place is known for the limestone deposits and thus lots of quarries and cement factories. There were so many tiny huts made of these stones. We now reached Jammalmadugu from where the fork went to Belum Caves and Gandikota. We decided to go towards the caves and camp in the Gandikota fort.

The uphill biking was pretty tough as the roads were very smooth and we had to slow down. Finally we started seeing signs of nearing Belum Caves. Finally we reached the mountain where it was written ‘Belum Caves’. Time for a click – Say cheese.

This is supposed to be second largest caves in the Indian subcontinent. And is one of the tourist attractions in Andhra. This place has its own historical importance which can either be googled upon or be searched on Wikipedia. Not much of a research is needed for that. ;) We were welcomed by a large limestone Buddha. These caves are made of limestone and have amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations. 

It’s hot, stuffy and suffocating inside. It’s said that there were some monks who have dwelled in these caves and you can find places where you can find remains of theirs and places of meditation. But you will truly wonder how they actually lived inside this tiny barren place. Nowadays, as this is developed as a tourist attraction, they have put up lights, made pathways and ventilated a few places. Or else it’s difficult to get enough air to breathe inside. The popular spots are the Banyan Tree and Patala Ganga . But there is still quite a lot of cave unexplored. We tried going to those spot but it was quiet slippery to walk. But my eccentric bunch of unknown people whom I was quiet familiar by now had to explore somehow.  

We explored the depths of the caves and came out. I have heard people saying it’s comfortable traveling in a pair of jeans. So wrong. I guess it was coz I wore my normal pair of skinny jeans. It made the hot trip unbearable. Happily changed into my shorts. Phew! Such a relief.
After resting for a while we started for Gandikota. We still had to ride at least 50 kms and the sun had started setting. We reached Jammalmadugu and refueled the bikes and started for Gandikota. It was pitch dark. We could lights only at a distance. There road was narrow and still busses were coming and going. We finally reached the APTD Hotel. The fort was just 2 kms away from there. So we thought it’s a good idea to halt there and finish off the dinner there. As soon as we went inside we all were searching for chargers. Finally food arrived. It always awesome, to relish the meal after a great day. We camped in the parking lot. Saw the stars shining bright above me after a long time. Ghost stories, history, chatting and nobody slept. 
It dawned and we rushed to our bikes. We had to be at the Gandikota Gorge to experience the sun rise. It was a one in a million sunrises over the Pennar River and breathtaking view all around. I love experiencing the sunrise in all possible ways. And this was so captivating a moment. 

This world is an amazing place to live. And if you ask me, this is the heaven. I feel so lucky to be able to experience life everyday and in every way.

The Gandikota fort is an ancient town having its archaeological importance. There were 2 temples and a mosque in the same place. The ancient grain silo and other monuments were kept well preserved over these many years. This village is very dry but at one point of time it surely would have had lot of greenery due the proper channelization of river water around the fort. This tiny place is beauty in its own way. There is a lot of history that has its own story to tell. But we had to bid adieu this place. 
It was already 1000 hrs when we started back. Now only one stuff was left on our to do list. We were searching for the sun flower fields now. But we were all worn out and I finally understood the phrase ‘Pain in the Ass’. We were just looking places to sit down for a while. But we had a distance of 420 kms to cover. Finally we reached a Punjabi Dhaba where we had a refuel and we just slept off there for a while. We were still looking out for the sunflower fields. Finally we found one and I was able to wish the lovely ladies a Happy Women’s Day from the fields.

The trip concluded in the next plans to be executed as soon as possible. Lots more to come from my Jolly good world. Life is amazing. And this women’s day I learned that there is much more to explore in life than just sitting and dreaming.

Saturday, February 28, 2015


The understanding of a human being is far beyond the capacity of himself. What he thinks, what he perceives and what he understands? Even he doesn’t know. Think for a while, everyone lives a similar life. They are born, grow up, they eat, drink, sleep and die. Nothing is new. Even then people don’t understand each other. There is an old Hindi saying:

Samajh samajhkar samajh ko samajho
Samajh samajhna bhi ek samajh hai
Samajh samajhkar jo na samjhe
Meri samajh me vah nasamajh hai
Understand the understanding for understanding the perception
Understanding the understanding is an art in itself
Even after understanding this if one doesn’t understand
He is a stupid in my understanding

Too much of a tongue twister isn’t it? The meaning here is very simple, each and every one in the world has his own opinion, priority and perception. If people understand this simple fact then there won’t be any room for fights. Misunderstandings will be always be there but that doesn’t mean anyone is wrong.

What a man thinks and what he understands are two totally different things. He thinks something and understands something else. It’s like – he thinks he understands, but many times he fails to understand the thought. Understanding is that supreme power which defines everything in this universe. Just imagine, it is the same heaven and earth since ages but our understanding and perception has given it a new identity.

This rational thinking ability is what we think sets us apart from the fellow creatures on this planet. And we proudly call ourselves the superior being for the same reason. Well, is this true? It’s time to do a self-check.  All these animals don’t need instructions manual like Gita, Quran or Bible to enjoy their lives, but we do. They travel the world without boundaries and communicate without any fuss. They co-exist peacefully. But when it comes to us, we see and perceive what is told or shown to us. We don’t take time to think and understand.
The three major survival instincts for a peaceful life are – thinking, understanding and belief. Without these it is very easy to lose control over the life.

But these are Greek and Latin for everyday life. Lemme give you a simple tip. Many people complaint that – nobody understands them. But the answer to this problem lies within. Self-belief is the key to life. If you don’t understand yourself then nobody will because nobody cares. And if you understand yourself completely then you need not wait for the opinion of others. Understanding thyself is an art.

At the same time, you cannot live whimsically based upon your own perception. To coexist you need to make peace with the surroundings. Understood? Or your understanding limits itself?

Keep your senses open. Life is wonderful and magical and nothing less than a miracle. That’s how stories happen.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A day out to Nagala

Had heard about Nagalapuram from my friends many times and every time I heard about it, the craving to visit this place just kept increasing. I have a big appetite for adventures that brings me one step closer to the nature. And this wait was finally over on Valentine’s Day when I went for the Social trek. Its gona be a year now since I got associated with Chennai Trekking Club, thus I had a few familiar faces. But as usual, the beauty of these outings is the new faces we meet up. Many were pretty new to this trek and had the same conundrum in the head regarding the unfamiliar faces. Ah! Nostalgia. I still remember writing about the unfamiliar faces becoming good friends by the end of the day, and yesterday I was hearing the same for myself. 

The day began at 4:30am when I started from home. People get blind dates on Valentine’s Day. I got my blind date in the form of unknown new friends. Picked up food on the way and reached Nathan CafĂ©, Koyambedu by 5:00am. This trek was specially organized for kids from Bala Ashram. And we all were eagerly waiting for them. Finally our very own Pons arrived with them at 5:30am and we started off. After battling with the city traffic for some time we reached the quiet highways. Within no time I could see Telugu writings on the walls and hoardings. Happy realization that Andhra is too close to Chennai. After a few twists and turns I could see the mountains having big rock face. Those mountains stand majestic covered by mist. Beauty past compares. We suddenly made a halt. When I got out I came to know that we had to pay a toll for going beyond. We felt as if it’s for the road construction and stuff. But when we entered that road, one of the worst ‘Kachha’ roads you could ever get in. We all had an LOL moment. After some bumps we reached our base camp. By this time we all were super hungry. It was time for the home made breakfast from Rajasekaran. Awesome idlis and vadais. One of the best breakfasts ever. The kids were busy fishing the tadpoles from the stream nearby. Nambi was the smallest child among them. ;)

The kids were of varying ages. The little ones were of about 5 years old and the oldest was probably in his 10th or 11th standard. After refueling ourselves we started for the trek. When climbed the embankment we saw a lil dam. It had some water and some burnt trees. It looked like a place where these Bollywood romantic songs are shot. We crossed that and were treading n the trail. At first it looked like a path way. But slowly we were climbing the boulders. The biggest task was not only being careful of the steps we take but making sure the kids coming with us are fine and enjoying this trip as much as us. But it turned out as if they are leading the way for us. Amazingly energetic kids. Keeping up with their energy was a tough task but was super fun. After reaching the first pool we relaxed and it was snack happy time. Delicious apples filled our tummies. And we started the climbing again. Now the boulders were a bit bigger and little smooth. We were losing grip here and there. Some edges had spaces only enough to keep one foot. In no time we reached the spot marked X for us for the day.

A beautiful pool and a little water fall, nice shade. Superb spot for picnic. Within minutes we could see not 20 but 40 kids around. And ya we had our very own Scooby Doo around us all the time. No no. The headcount of kids didn’t increase, but we all were one among them as soon as we saw the water. There were rocks that seemed like slides and with life jackets we swam across to the falls. I drank the purest water ever. Slipped many times on the rocks, while trying to stand by the falls. We got free fish pedicure thanks to the little biting tadpoles. And our very own friend Kamal had a scorpion sitting on his head. He was the one giving shocks now and then to all of us. We lost the track of time. We all left the waters only after hunger pangs started. Puli Sadam or Tiger rice never tasted so awesome before. After a sumptuous meal we had the nanari sherbet.
Sindhu started with the antakshari and dumb charades. Saw myself in those kids. Reminded me of the trips my mother used to take me. As kids we don’t have any inhibitions. As that’s how we all were today.
We started back by 4:00pm and the return journey seemed much smaller than onwards journey. Groupies, selfies and photo time. Astonishing view. 
By the time we came down we could see the sunlight fading away. Numbers were exchanged. New friends were made.

It’s said that “a weekend well – spent brings a week of content.” And I am sure that all were content.