Thursday, February 4, 2016

Discovering India's hidden jewels - Gandikota, the Grand Canyon of India

Guest Post
Author: Meghana C R

It was a few months ago when a friend showed me a pic of a place and said it's called "The Grand Canyon of India", somewhere in Andhra Pradesh. Impressed by the pics, I decided to plan a trip to this place called Gandikota. I failed. My friends planned and they failed too.

Finally, another good friend "Mahi" came up with an idea to the same place but with a different plan. A road trip on bikes with the Bangalore Jawa Yezdi Motorcycle Club! At that moment, all I knew was that I am going, no matter what!!!

So, on a cold December morning, we gathered at Hebbal junction at 5.30am for a brief introduction and instructions by the lead rider as there were both regular bikers & first timers too in the group. By 6am, the bikes started to roar and our epic journey began. This was my first trip with BJYMC and I was neither a rider nor a pillion! I was part of the 'backup' crew in the car.

We had some hiccups on the way, but we managed to overcome challenges quickly. Looks like the rides are well accustomed to their bikes and issues that tend to crop up. After breakfast at the border of Andhra, we stopped at a town called Kadiri for a short break around 10.30am. Soon enough, these roaring bikes attracted a huge crowd. People looked at us as if we were some celebrities, or aliens or even daciots I guess because all of us were in black riding jackets!
Sunflower fields on the way to Gandikota
The day started getting hotter, but the roads were a real bliss. The curves and turns just delighted the roaring lions. We passed through lush paddy and sunflower fields before reaching the fort town of Gandikota. It is around 285 kms from Bangalore via NH 7 & SH 28. It is a small village of Kadapa district and has a history of several Kings. Like any other place, this village too had temples, mosques, ponds, lakes, most of which are now in dilapidated state. We reached the Govt run Harita resort at lunch time and enjoyed the typical andhra meals. After taking a short break, we headed to the grand canyon which next to the Gandikota fort & the temple for sunset.

The fort is  around 300 years old and is pretty well maintained by the AP tourism board. It depicts ancient structures and languages, paintings, kings names and so on. There is an old cannon too in the premises. The aura of the sun setting down by the fort and the valley can be captured only by the human eye. We walked further up on the rocks to see the breathe taking view of Pennar/ Penna river alongside huge red stones. Completely amazed and lost in thoughts, one can only wonder the number of years taken for this beautiful natural formation. The red blocks of stones next to this reservoir looked just amazing.
Panoramic view of the Pennar River and the canyon

We spent enough time sitting there, enjoying the view, clicking pics, selfies and then took a short off roading ride to Madhavaraya temple and back to the home stay before we called it a day. For the rest of the night we had goodies being distributed, music, dance, laughter, booze, food and full on masti with the awesome company of 28 people. What more can one ask for?

The next day, we checked out after breakfast and road 40 odd kilometers to another historic location called Belum Caves. This is a 1.5km long cave network with natural mineral formations is one of the longest caves in the country. The AP government offers free guided tours of the cave which is definitely worth a visit.
Entrance to Belum Caves
Passage inside the cave
My special thanks to the BJYMC riders for making this a memorable trip!
If anyone wants to treat their eyes, just ask them to visit The Grand Canyon of India!!!

- Meghana can be contacted via email

Monday, February 1, 2016

Pushing the limits - Bangalore to Goa and back

Guess the headline says it all. When you have been riding one of these classic Jawa's or Yezdi's for so many years, you sometimes wonder how far can you actually push these machines. Remember, the youngest of the lot, the Yezdi Roadking was last manufactured in 1996. So that make it at least 19 years old.

So, a few of us from BJYMC lead by Sreedhar Kacchu got together and decided to test the limits of our bikes and our butts :) And so, the Goa plan was formed with the ride titled 'Kings Raid Goa'. The plan was simple, start early morning and ride as far as possible before breaking for breakfast. Enter the western ghats before stopping for lunch and reach Baga (Goa) before night fall.
Route from Bangalore to Baga, Goa

12 handpicked riders came together with their well oiled machines and began the ride at 5.30am on 12th Nov'15. The team consistently rode till Sira (120kms) which was the designated stop for breakfast and meeting point for the Mysore riders. However, the Mysore boys were delayed due to rains and rerouted towards Shimoga and Karwar to save time. Hence, we decided to ride beyond Sira and stopped for breakfast at a quiet restaurant (Hotel Amar) to gorge on hot idlis and vadas. One of the very few restaurants right beside the highway.
Coffee Day regrouping at Shiggaon, NH4
By 8.30am, we were ready to get back on the saddle and rode past Hiriyur, Chitradurga, Davangere, Haveri and stopped at Cafe Coffee Day by the highway at Shiggaon by 11.45am. The total distance covered till then was 360 kms. After a 30 min break, the group was back on the road to cross Hubli bypass toward Dharwad and finally got off the expressway to enter the Alnavar - Ponda road.
Lunch was at Hill View Hotel after Naaglaavi about 12 kms off the highway. All 12 bikes were running like a charm.

From here on, the ride got interesting on the single lane highway cutting across the majestic western ghats but also hampering our pace. The road beyond Ramnagar deteriorated for about 20 kms till we crossed into Goa at Mollem at around 4.30pm. The first batch of riders cross into Panjim by 7 and reached our homestay in Baga Arpora (Christos) by 7.30 pm with the last batch coming in by 7.45pm. A new milestone was achieved that night as all 12 bikes had covered a total distance of 640 kms from Bangalore in 14 hours without any breakdown whatsoever.

Full of energy, we were greeted by the Mangalore riders (Mangalore Jawa Yezdi Motorcycle Club) who had covered about 400kms. After settling down, we kept our ears peeled to hear the thump of two more bikes belonging to our Mysore team of PC and Vow. The last two riders rolled in at 8pm successfully covering a distance of 660 kms from Mysore to Baga via Arsikere, Shimago, Honnavar, Karwar, Mudgaon and Panjim.
Christos' pet boxer Matrix
Day 2 was reserved for some team games (Lemon and Spoon race on bikes and Slow bike race) at the homestay followed by vocal entertainment by our talented rider Shawn from Mangalore. Our evening was spent at the popular and crowded Baga beach followed by dinner at Anjuna.
Sunset view from Anjuna Beach
After a good night's sleep, the entire contingent was keen to explore the beach destination and headed out to the northern most part of the state. Our destination was Terekhol Fort, next to Keri Beach which is now a private hotel. Access to the fort is via a river crossing after Keri Beach on a large ferry and a short ride up the hill. On our return, we stopped at the beautiful Ashwem beach before heading to Anand Restaurant for lunch and Cafe Lilliput in Anjuna to catch the sunset.
Enroute to Keri Beach

View of Keri Beach from Terekhol Fort
Before we knew it, our holiday had come to an end and it was time for us to head back. Sunday morning started with simple breakfast and trophy presentation to the most deserving riders and winners of contests. After a brief presentation and group picture, we loaded our bikes and began our journey back to Bangalore by 9.30 am. After regrouping in Dharwad bypass road, we stopped for lunch at Kamat on the outskirts of Hubli by 2.15pm.
As the sun began to set, our pace remained consistent with all bikes running in their prime and munching miles by the minute. The backup crew did a splendid job in sweeping behind the last two bikes till we stopped for dinner at yet another Kamat hotel near Tumkur. After waving our goodbye's, we all split to head home with the first lot arriving at their destination by 10pm and the last batch by midnite. Overall, one hell of an experience.

Quick facts:
Total distance covered: 1370 kms
Average fuel consumed: 40 - 45 liters + oil
Average speed: 80 kmph
Time taken Blr - Goa: 14 hours
Time take Goa - Blr: 12.5 - 14 hours
Breakdowns: Couple of minor issues, but all bikes were road worthy