It was 1 of August I was browsing TripAdvisor for resorts and planning my road trip to Bhandavgarh when I received a message in the WhatsApp group from @PrashantKMathur sir. I never miss his messages, and so this one. I was surprised and happy on seeing the message about the most loved SUV and most awaited drive from Ford. I immediately cancelled all my meet-up plans for the weekend.
Fast forward to 3 days, it was Sunday, the drive day. I woke up early in the morning, took my camouflaged rain jacket which I bought for the monsoon drive meet-up but never wore and begin driving towards Chevella. The traffic throughout the drive was almost nill and I could constantly maintain 60kmph enjoying the empty road, drizzle and my TDCi engine's roar.
The area is 70kms away from my house and I reached the venue by 10:00 AM starting at 8:15 AM with 20mins break waiting for my friend who never turned up.
I was the first person apart for Team Ford. Was received really well by Vibrant Ford AGM and team where I get my car serviced and by Modi Ford team where I bought my car.
20 minutes later after finishing all the formalities and coffee break I was into the huge and beautiful Off-roader the ENDEAVOUR.
I was accompanied by Mr. Sarath Ford's off-road trainer and he took me for the first round. The track was really good with lush green trees surrounded and even more tricky due to continuous rain and drizzle the night before event. He explained me everything about the capabilities of the vehicle, different drive modes and showed me how it performed in 4low with ease and how it struggled in 4high.
The track and the experience was so good that I wanted to go on another round and he agreed for it.
Finished two rounds of the drive and the time was 11:00 AM when I met @Jag's. Few minutes of discussion with the trainer and AGM Vibrant Ford sales I was back into my car carrying all the memories and small souvenir (Ford Hat) from the trainer going back home.
These obstacles were really scary to see.
A small souvenir from the trainer (Ford Hat) on the music system.
He's the trainer Mr. Sarath.
Precursor to the trip(Skip if you want to know Only about the trip) :
All five of us went on to a trip nearly 10 years ago. And in all these 10 years , all of us together haven't met even once. We were working at various places - Hyderabad , Chennai , Pune , New Delhi & Bengaluru. As years passed by, 4 of us moved to Hyderabad due to various commitments. Only one was left out in Chennai.
At the end of Jan 2018 , Mr.Chennai , gave me a call ans started discussing about his boring and torturous boring IT life. He suddenly pops up the idea of a weekend trip from Hyderabad, only guys trip without wives. Over the next couple of days , we made whatapp group and discussed various options and finalised Belum Caves and Gandikota. We planned to go at the March 2018. As weeks passed by , each one had to drop off due to some or other reason. At the start of March , only Mr.Chennai and me were onboard ( My wife had to go to her parents place).
But Mr.Chennai , was very adamant, he used to share the photographs of 10 year old trip on the whatsapp group. People became nostalgic , First to say yes was Mr.Microsoft , Then Mr.NRI and a day before the trip we have a confirmation from Mr.Daddy.
Day 1 of the Trip :
Plan was , Mr.Chennai would reach my house by 6 and we would have an early breakfast and leave by 7 from my house. But Indian railways have another plans. Mr.Chennai arrived at my house at 7:45. After freshening up we started at 9:00 A.M to pick up Mr.Microsoft and Mr.Nri. And last pick up of the day was Mr.Daddy , from ORR Gachibowli.(We wanted to give more time for him to spend with his daughter). By the time we picked up Mr.Daddy , it was 10:00 AM and we started cruising on ORR , towards Kurnool.
My car has Fastag, and i zipped past the traffic on ORR and the Highway. At 12:00 P.M we stopped at Food Pyramid to have brunch. We had heavy lunch and then off to our first destination Belum Caves.
The road till Kurnool was NH and was good , After Kurnool we has to take Rayalaseema Expressway(Toll Road) , this was beyond good. It is better than national highway.
(Rayalaseema Expressway - Road work going on the Left lane)
By 3:00 P.M we were at Owk reservoir, MR.Chennai was mesmerized by scenic beauty and wanted to stop for few photographs. And indeed the place was super scenic. Its just that it was mid afternoon in Rayalaseema. The cool breeze flowing from the reservoir was a bit of relief from the hot Sun.
(From L-R : Mr.Chennai, Mr.Daddy, Mr.NRI & Mr. Microsoft, Im Mr.Driver & designated photographer for the trip)
(Panoramic view of the Owk Reservoir)
The owk reservoir has APTDC center , with restaurant , and has boating and other activities. But we wanted to head to Belum Caves before they close it down. We next stopped directly at Belum Caves. The caves close at 5:30 P.M , and you have to exit the caves before that. We Reached Belum caves at 4:00 P.M. There is an entry fee and parking fee. We were charged somewhere around R.s 285/- for the 5 of us.
This is the first time im entering a cave system , and i was amazed. The caves were neatly maintained, and properly ventilated with the help of electric fans. They were well lit too. I'll tel the pictures do the talking from here. And if you are planning a trip to Belum caves , be ready to carry a huge water bottle , as it is humid as hell, and also wear stretchable clothes , You have to bend and crawl through some spaces.
(Map of the caves )
(Entrance to the caves)
The entrance has a flight of stairs , at the start of which the security checks for your tickets. Once you show his the tickets , you have to walk down nearly 40-50 steps. Any body can do it, both old and young. Once you get down the stairs you will see this plaque.
(This is where the Plaque is posted. After this its all dark)
(Notice the pipe behind, circulating fresh air)
(L-R - Mr.Daddy & Mr.Driver-Me, you must be wondering why i was wearing goggles in a pitch dark cave, i have sight , those are powered , and i forgot my normal glasses, and yes i put this picture only to point that out )
Soon it was 5:20 and we were off to the entry/exit. And while we were ready to leave , suddenly there was a small power cut and everything went dark. It was pitch dark , and even with cell phone torch we couldn't figure out the exit. Luckily for us it was just intermittent power loss. And the power cut lasted for a maximum of 45 seconds to 1 minute.
After coming out of Belum caves , we went to the Budha statue near by to click some sunset pics.
(Mr.Chennai Tried to be creative)
(Budha Statue at Belum Caves)
(Last Pic of the sun set into the clouds)
On our way we stopped at a small place called Kolimigundla to have some tea. There is a APTDC restaurant at Belum caves , it closes at 5:30 P.M along with caves.
Next day we planned to visit Gandikota , and wanted to stay as close as possible. We couldn't get a reservation from APTDC Gandikota. And place nearest to Gandikota was Jammalamadugu. But we could find any hotels online to book. However during the trip we found that there are a lot of lodges and small hotels available at jammalamadugu. You can directly go and take a room for rent , without pre-booking. We could only reserve a room at Prodattur. Our reservation was at Sri Devi palace. Imagine the shock of our life when we found out that Sri Devi Palace is actually Sri Devi Palace Function Hall , and there was a wedding happening when we went there.
(Surely made our trip memorable )
(Full scale wedding with Guests outside)
Surprised and Shocked we called the contact provided on booking.com. The owner was friendly , apologized and said he would rent out the rooms on normal days, when there is no wedding and arranged us a place(lodge) within in Proddatur. There is nothing special about the lodge , the washrooms have leaky faucets. But since all of us are guys , and we wanted to enjoy the trip , we were ok with good beds and AC , for having a good night's sleep, Which it had. But if you are going with family , there are many new lodges with similar price range. You can go , check the rooms and then make a reservation. Same is the case in Jammalamadugu. You will find most of the lodges in Bus-stand road in proddatur.
After checking in , and unloading our luggage in our respective rooms, we went out to have dinner at the Andhra Spice Restaurant. It was good for family , but there is no parking available, the security made some adjustments and arranged some space at the entrance. We has a sumptuous dinner, had the restaurant special - "Chicken Navya" , did some shopping for toiletries and went back to hotel to rest for the day.
(Chicken Navya - Boneless Chicken curry , made in butter with roasted cashew's and stuffed in an omelette and sprinkled with grated cheese , roasted cashews & coriander)
Day 2 - Gandikota , Orvakal Rock Garden , Alampur.
Next day woke up at 5:00 A.M got ready and woke up everybody else. Everyone was ready within an hour. Advantage of not having women in the trip. Our idea is to reach Gandikota before sunrise. If you are planning a trip to Gandikota , plan to reach gandikota before sunrise. Reached Gandikota at 7:00 A.M , it was already sunrise , but God it was beautiful. The canyon, the rocks they were in explicable. I would have stayed there for eternity , enjoying the beauty.
(First shot of the Canyon , when we reached there by 7:20 A.M)
(Sunrise reflection on Penna River)
(Mandatory Group Pic)
(Mr.Microsoft, Mr.Daddy & Mr.NRI were happy looking at the scenery and dint want to explore any more)
(Mr.Chennai on the other hand doesn't want to leave any nook or corner.
We stayed for more than an hour and we are way away from shade. It was getting Sunny and hot , hence we decided to explore the Gandikota fort. There is nothing left at the place. Only places remaining are Ranganatha Aalayam , Gandikoda Granary , and kathula Koneru. The places in pristine condition are Juma Masjid. Heard from locals that it has been redone in recent times by archaeology department, and they will soon improve the other remaining places too.
(Inside the Masjid)
Came out of fort , there are multiple roadside eateries , all of us are hungry and just stormed into one of the eatery where we all will fit. The eatery is an extension to the home and is managed by father - daughter duo. We had dosas for breakfast , and had coffee right after. The eatery owner told us that there are tents available for rent , and other adventure actives are available to do during evening time. (Campfire, Canoeing, Boating etc , also sleeping bags are also available for rent).
After breakfast i observed a road split off and going in the direction of the near by mountain and windmills, looked more like a service road. I inquired if tourists can drive up there , and to my surprise , they said yes. Drove to the top of the hill , and view of Gandikota fort from there is pretty awesome. we decided to take some pics before leaving.
(The view of the fort is towards the left of the pic , with penna reservoir in the background, not quite visible)
We left the place at 9:30 at started towards our next destination Orvakal Rock Garden. The Rock garden is opposite to the Kurnool Airport Gate , we reached the place by 12:30.
Google maps took us through a route with is not great till we reached the Rayalaseema express way, but it was very scenic. Too bad we didnt take any pictures while driving , and just enjoyed the views.
It was 12:30 , by the time we reached Orvakal Rock Garden. There was a APTDC resort. And entry Fee to enter the rock garden. As it was 12:30 we decided to have lunch before heading into the resort, but each one of us went and bought an ice cream or Kulfi , ( Feels like child , when wife or parents are not around). Went ahead to Orvakal Rock Garden.
It was not big, but the rocks have been sculptured by air flow over thousands or millions of years. But since it was 12:30 in the after noon , it felt very big.
Entrance to the Rock Garden , stairs are neatly cut , and anyone can reach it without any difficulty
Once you climb up the stairs , you will be greeted with this statue , and then similar statues of multiple animals
It was so hot that we settled under the iota of shade available in the entire rock garden.
Notice Mr.Chennai missing from the picture , he again went to explore every nook and corner of the Rock Garden. We waited till he came back and started off to our next destination Alampur.
Alampur is one of the 18 shakthipeetas , it is the place where Krishna meets Tungabhadra , and is the place for deity Jogulamba. It is said that when Sati immolated herself , Lord Shiva carried her body across the universe. Vishnu not able to see Shiva's sorrow , cut the body of Sati with his Sudarshana Chakra. Those body parts fell back on earth. And it is said that alampur is where Sati's Upper Jaw/teeth fell.
The road to Alampur was well paved , and Telangana tourism has provided drinking water and other amenities to pilgrims. Mr.Daddy who was here some years back was surprised to see the roads and amenities provided.
The temple has Medieval architecture , and even if you are not a religious person , but interested in history , you should visit this place. There is a Museum for History buffs.
We left Alampur at 3:00 P.M and reached Food Pyramid at 4:30 P.M , had some tea , snacks , and started back to Hyderabad.
We reached Hyderabad at 7:30 P.M , went to DLF to have chai. And after chai , everyone went their own separate ways . May be all 5 us will together be on a trip in 2019 next.
P.S : This is my first post , please provide feedback , on Pics , mistakes , Spelling , writing style , any thing which you felt is out of place.
Exploring Yanam Part 1
Origin: Ramachandrapuram, East Godavari, Andhra Pradesh.
Destination: Yanam, Puducherry.
Route Taken: Ramachandrapuram - Tallapolam - Draksharamam - Kuyyeru - Yanam
Time Taken: 1hr
Car: Honda City VX i-VTEC
Road Condition: Mix of good, average, bad and worst.
Scenic Views: Single lane roads with beautiful scenes at either side of the roads. The roads are surrounded by lush green farms on either side.
Yanam, the place that I first visited in 2013, when I was 17. And this time again I wanted to visit the place only to know it better and love it more...
Started early in the morning at 5:10 and reached the area in 1hr.
The only thing I thought I could do in the place is to take the initial sunrise photo touching the waters. That's a beautiful sight and I never missed that. But surprisingly this time I got more than what I expected. I got to know about the area more and explore the area and the backwaters. This time, unfortunately, I could take my favourite shot, the sun touching the waters because of clouds. But got a chance to explore the area a bit.
It was 7:00 AM, the sun just started rising pushing the clouds aside. And there I saw a person in a white shirt and white pant, assumed him to be a local and approached him to inquire more about the place. To my surprise, he turned out to be the government boat operator. Upon asking him, he arranged a boat ride into the waters and at 7:15 I was on the boat moving gently on the backwaters.
The boat driver Ramakrishna, is a very nice guy. I finished taking photos and started talking with him. he spoke many things, from the political situation in Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh, their lives, the local MLA and not to forget, the insider information about the place. Yanam, a very beautiful place, mostly unexplored and left undeveloped. "Yanam chala manchi ooru Saru, Kani Chala mandi teliyaka raru. Tourists perigite maku income perugutundi" said the boat driver.
Yanam indeed is a really beautiful place, there are many places to explore from Yanam.
The first one,
Bhairavapalem Mangrove Forests (Where we can find many rare migratory birds. It takes 2 hours to come and 2 hours stay on this island. Total of 6 hours. Price for 10 is 6000 INR) Koringa Mangrove Forests And many small unexplored islands (We can find many migratory birds)
I think the area should be developed, but that development shouldn't destroy the natural beauty and serenity of the place. The local activities early in the morning, sunrise, birds chirping and the fishing activities are really beautiful and the development should not destroy these...
Part 2 coming soon... I'll be writing about the places that in have visited in part 2.
Places to stay:
The Regency Hotel (best for families as per trip advisor) Sarva Inn Puducherry Government Guest House
A day to be remembered forever, 2016 is the year that I have joined in this beautiful group since then Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve was always on my bucket list. many attempts plan since then and nearly after two years, I got the chance to go. I don't want to stress more on the routes and other details as there are enough threads regarding the same. rather I would like to share my favourite photos that I have shot in my three days stay and safari and Pangdi and Madnapur gate. never the less I will share with you people some necessary information like stay, safari details, gates, and some knowledge of wildlife that I have gained.
Started at 6:00 in the morning from Kompally and reached by 3:00 in the afternoon. remember that no one can help you with the routes. it's always better to contact someone at the resort and ask them to guide you in person. except Jio, no other sim card is going to work. I stayed at Mahua Tola Resorts, I can say that it is the best in the place. a bit on the higher side, yet friendly staff, manager and good food. we were the only family the three days and never we felt insecure. Manager Shukla is a very nice person, he will come with us to the Safari and make it a very memorable and enjoyable one.
Coming to the safari, it's always good to ask the resort people to book. because at the gate I have seen few facing some problems. if it's the resort people, its hassle free. this is personal opinion though.
As people see, it's not so easy to spot a tiger. a tiger spotting depends on our luck. a tiger mainly sits just beside or few meters away from us inside the forest, yet not visible most of the time. it's just because of the bamboo trees. Tadoba is full of bamboo trees and that makes it very difficult to spot one even if it near us. you will be tempted by the pugmarks, but not always you'll see a tiger. I was really lucky to spot Tigress Junabai with her cubs on my last day safari with the resort manager Shukla at Madhapur gate. Ultimate sightings I can say. It is my father who spotted her while she was resting under a tree shade few meters away from us covered with bamboo trees.
I'm not a pro, yet telling my experience with the camera focusing modes and how I got a perfect focus mode settings by experimenting and with the knowledge I have on focus modes which I have learnt studying few books, articles and discussing it in our WhatsApp group.
The device, Sony Alpha A6000 with 55-210mm zoom lens. manual mode, shutter speed around 1/500 and above, ISO range 4000 (thanks to my cameras high ISO range ie, 25600), Aperture F:6.3
Focus Mode: Auto, Focus Area: Wide, Metering Mode: Multi
This was the mode that I have shot at first only to get the defocused face of a tiger. Thought "this is over, I'm not going to get any more beautiful photos". thought of the focusing modes and settings I have learnt before and adjusted it again to try my luck.
Focus Mode: Auto, Focus Area: Centre, Metering Mode: Spot
And then I got some amazing pictures.
Used Auto Focus Continues while the subject was moving and I can say that this is the camera for super fast autofocus. never missed a detail while shooting with this in AF-C mode.
You can check out the langur monkey and male spotted deer jumping. shot in AF-C mode with shutter sped around 1/1000 or above. couldn't get a zoomed one because of the lens.
Here are the pictures.
PS: I have written Neelghai female. but that's a male Sambar deer.
'Hyderabad to Mahabaleshwar , Panchgani' - Monsoon Drive Meetup
Hyderabad to Koilsagar - Overnight BBQ camp under the stars - Report