Route : Hebbal Flyover - Yelhanka - Devanahalli - Chickbalapur - Bagepalli- Penakonda - Dharmavaram- Anantapur(Regroup) right turn - Singanamala - Tadpatri - Belum -
Distance - 290 Kms approx
We were looking forward to riding to this place since riding had become infrequent for quite sometime because of the monsoons.. we planned this ride to this place since it would be pretty cool . At the outset we had planned for it to be a solo ride but then the word spread and we had a huge group who were interested and we thought the more the merrier. We planned to join the Wanderers from Hyderabad and Mad bulls from Chennai. RTMC would be also joined in by the Bike Nomads and some guys from IBM who had their own bike group. That was new but heck who was complaining as long as it was going to be a great ride...
We started at 6:45 and continued on to Yelahanka... and then through Devanahalli. The international airport my dear Bangaloreans would be an adventure to reach.. I guess.. it seems to far away.. SIGH.. It was chilly and slightly windy and the weather seemed just perfect... We passed the Nandi hills the top of which was covered with rain clouds. Anyway we continued on to the highway and stopped at Bagepalli for breakfast of some idlis after which we hit the road. The roads were smooth and there was little or no traffic to our surprise... and we ripped through the highway.. On the way we came across a lot of railway crossings on the way to Penakonda and for a moment it felt like we were going round and round in circles... meeting the same crossings over and over again..
Just after the final crossing before reaching Penakonda, we stopped for a break.. since we had covered some 80 plus kms. Anil and ourselves were the first to reach the shade since we were doing some good speed. While we waited for the rest, Anil discovered that his tank was leaking. Rocky got to work on the tank.. We thought of chewing gum but that would not hold it for a long time... since it would react with the petrol and heat. So Rocky did the next best thing possible. He took some soap and a tape and glue and worked on the hole. By the time the others arrived the hole was fixed and ready to go.
I took the time to take some pictures and to my greatest surprise there was a milestone sporting the word Timbaktu - > 3kms. I could not believe my eyes. The boys also took some pictures on that post. We were off to Penakonda after the break. I spied Kumbhakarna gardens on the way and I told to myself that we would stop to take some pictures on our way back.
After Penakonda, the railway crossings disappeared ... and we could have a long and smooth ride.. because the roads were good. The landscape was dry and very deserted but it still had an earthy charm to it... and it was really charming to see green grass trying to grow no matter what the weather... just because this place had its share of rainfall.. no matter what .. life does survive.. given a little drop of encouragement.
Unlike other parts of the south, civilization was not that widespread.. you would meet a small village on the way..which would be comprised of dried farmlands and some 10 odd houses.. The land was not worth cultivating due to the dry and hot weather... I guess..
We reached Anantapur which seemed like a decent town and had a decent population. Roads in the city were good and after some distance we reached Tadpatri. We were some 20 odd kms from Bellum now. Tadpatri was a crowded town full of dust and pollution and not a great place to take a break at all. One of the bikes had a split tyre which had to be fixed. This was a unique problem and we were all stumped. Seems like the seat was nailed from top down which caused a protrusion of the nail and that touched the tyre. Due to the friction and constant touching.. the nail split the tyre right through the middle. The tyres were changed and we carried on.
Traffic was madness and there were cars and buses coming from all directions. As if this was not enough, the city roads were pathetic with wide gaping holes and full of gravel which made a bike very difficult to apply brakes. We somehow managed to pass this town and continued our way to Bellum.
The road had lots of dips and curves and sudden bumps which seem invisible from a distance and it shows itself when you are too near it thus making it very painful for the rider and the pillion..
The land in this area was made of layers and layers of rocks laid like sheets and people seemed to be making everything out of these well formed polished stones. The whole area was like a stone quarry and it was like being transported into stone age... everywhere you looked, you could find everything from walls to houses to chairs to your daily items made of this particular stone.. It looked like black granite.. but someone told me it was Katpada stones if I got it right. And it was a strange experience to see this town...
This town was also very windy and we saw a row of windmills doing their trick.. and hopefully harnessing good enery for the people out there.
After some distance, we spotted a white Buddha in a lotus Position and Bellum Caves written on the hill.
We went and got our rooms and the dormitory was pretty clean. The place reminded me of Hampi's hotel where we stayed. It had a long driveway and a restaurant and a dorm. It boasted of a bar too but when we asked the guys they said that it was closed because of lack of license.. Well what a shame. We found out that we could get drinks from a nearby village. Two of the guys went to get the drinks while the rest settled down. The bike nomads arrived with their Bajaj Pulsar. There was some accomodation confusion but that was sorted out soon.
Just as all the bikes were coming in.. one of the IBM Pulsar riders.. riding right behind one of our Bulls, somersaulted over when the Bull braked. Now it is common sense not to be directly behind a bike at any point of time on the road.. I think it would be a valuable lesson learnt for a rookie.. Riding is just not as simple as applying brakes and accelerator.. There are some natural ethics that a rider should know about when riding long distances but I guess one learns from experience.
We freshened up, had lunch in the restaurant.. and after a short respite went to the caves. We were informed that 300 trained police men and women would be coming on an excursion to see the caves.. and we would better hurry and finish our visit.. else it would be chaos.
Just when we started we saw three buses along with cars driving in... and while the crowd waited for the tickets... we hurriedly went ahead and started exploring the caves...
As Anil got us a guide, myself, Manoj and Rocks decided to go on our own and explore the caves,... before the crowd started.. The guide seemed to be slow..The cave seemed to be very humid but it was well lighted and well maintained. There were fountains and strategically placed lighting which made it a beautiful experience. walking through it. We quickly made our way through the different crevices in the cave .. explored this and that... went through highs and lows and then thick and thin spaces wondering at the stalagcites and the stalagmites.. that were were formed... We saw a huge replica of a ribcage .,.. formation and my imagination started creating a dinosaur or a big whale which died here.. it was eerie yet a very peaceful place... to roam around.
The caves were accidentally found it seems when the villagers were digging and it has been turned into a tourist destination ... I must say that they had done a great job. As we were exploring it was all quiet and finally we went to the source of the water... which was still flowing... it was so beautiful.. just sitting there... we were sweating like pigs
but it was great at the same time... we left quickly to explore the other sections when we were met with hordes of cackling women... and that was it.. the whole charm of exploration was gone. We made a quick job of getting away from the crowd which proved to be very difficult since just as we got rid of the group of women we were bombarded with an oncoming crowd of men... EGAD...
We somehow managed to finish our visit and came out to take a breath of fresh air... Sweet Jesus.. it was heaven ...
When we headed back.. we saw that the Hyderabad wanderers had wandered in and it was great connecting with GR and the rest of the riders. The Madras Bulls had also arrived after that. It seems that they got lost and had some bike issues... we urged them to go to the caves as it would be closed after 6:00 in the evening. They rushed in while we chilled out.
Evening brought in lot of cheer and it was good mingling with the riders..Manoj introduced me to his staple drink called Black Widow but I stuck to brandy which was a good alternative to my usual Vodka. Indira and myself the only women in the group had some nice conversation going while we clicked some snaps.. and it was good to have another woman around.. Slowly as the night progressed, some continued to make merry while we had a sumptous Andhra dinner and turned in. It was a good night... and it was going to be a long day the next day...
I woke up the sound of gushing water and Bullets revving.. and in my sleep dazed mine vaguely recollected that we were here in Bellum caves and the Bathroom are right next to our room... That jolted me awake... and we freshened up fast and decided to leave by 8:00. Some who had a late night were still dozing while the Madras Bulls who
had a long ride ahead... started their bikes and were on their way. We had breakfast and were on our way some nine bikes.. while the rest started at their own time.
The highway was spread with good traffic since it was a Sunday and a day for all the truckers to ply their goods through. It was not a good feeling ... because the road kept getting blocked by the trucks and if we had a truck passing us by it would jolt us with fresh wind... and make us a wee unstable.. As we passed the town of Tadpatri, we almost had two mishaps. Jose had to backtrack suddenly because of a cyclist who thought of taking a sudden turn. We almost hit another bike who was bent on crossing the road inspite of seeing us coming forward. Luckily no one was hurt.
The winds were stronger today and we somehow managed to keep up good speeds... if you would look at a bike froma distance you would see it lean at an angle as it went... because of the wind.... Atul, one of the riders gave up and slept on his bike after stopping at the side... for sometime before continuing.
We moved fast till we reached Penakonda. We stopped for a break to take a picture of the Kumbhakarna Gardens. This garden was named because of the statue of a sleeping Kumbhakarna and rakshasas trying to wake him up.
We continued till we reached yelahanka. There while taking a diversion, a truck forced us to hit the muddy part of the road and well we were saved because of the slush there and Rocky holding the bike well. I was shaken but then I guess I thanked our lucky stars that we did not face anything serious. No damage to any part of the bike.
We said our goodbyes and we hit home and crashed.... haveing another trip etched in my memory lane...
It is NOT safe to ride with a broken mudguard stay and a pillion to boot.
It is not just about riding but also about maintaining your bike well.
Crosswinds need not take your wind away if you find your position well..
Nailing down your seat from top down may cause more damage to your tyres than you can ever think.
Riding directly behind any bike does not pay. It may prove fatal.
Having control over your bike is the best way to prevent a fall.