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Gandikota Canyon, an ace adventure destination in India

January 3, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A trip to Gandikota canyon near Kadapa in Southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh last month was an adventurous one, thanks to the magnificent natural wonder that is best explored through hikes, treks, climbs, kayaks and rappel’s. Professional help by a team of adventure experts from the state run Academy of Adventure Sports made it an experience to cherish. 

The trip was organised by Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) in the lead up to its annual convention at Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh from 17 to 20 January 2019.

We travelled from Vijayawada to Kadapa on a short flight by Truejet, a local airline and travelled 59 kilometers by road to Royal County Resort at Proddatur.  After a night stay at huge rooms of the resort with vast lawns and gardens, we set off at 5 am to catch the sunrise at Gandikota. Having covered the 35 kilometre distance in less than an hour’s drive gave us enough time for a cup of hot ginger tea at one of the many teashops. Adventure professionals Kamlesh and his team of four met us at Gandikota fort entrance and led us through huge gates of the historic fort, the village within and then by a hike up the red granite rocks and boulders to reach the tip of the beautiful gorge. Sun was masked by looming clouds but emerging morning rays swept the darkness to reveal the gorgeous canyon and the pleasant river Pennar that ran through it. The Mylavaram dam was visible in the rear. Flowing strength of the narrowing river as it touches Erramala hill range has, over thousands of years, carved a 300 feet gorge through the rock hill to form a grand canyon. Natural cuts and formations through red stone here are unique and a beauty to behold.

Kamlesh of Academy of Adventure Sports @ Gandikota

Many rulers since 12th century have used the naturally shielded place for anchoring their kingdoms. Rock fort along the gorge stands testimony to human intelligence and endeavours. Kamlesh pointed to well stacked boulders and stones at some peaks along the gorge which have been created as strategic sentry points during those days. Panoramic view of the gorge, river and the fort made the tricky climb through the rocks at dawn worthwhile.

We descended to visit the stone built Ranganathaswamy temple with its beautiful inner corridor, a huge granary and a Juma Masjid. Many tiered tower further down was a tempting attraction and indeed, the temple of Madhavaraya has exquisitely carved stories of epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. A small hike from there, through a narrow path of cool trees and shrubs took us to a serene Rayalacheruvu pond. It was an abode of birds with chirps that faded as we hiked back through the village to the fort entry point. Uniformed children at the village school were cleaning and watering the corridors before the start of studies. Two happy chicks ran around the mother hen while the rooster crowed to signal sunrise. Witnessing natural lifestyle of local villagers came as an added attraction.

Adventure group with training team

We drove to nearby Haritha resort run by Andhra Pradesh Tourism for replenishing our energies before venturing onto other adventures. The resort with 10 cottages was completely booked by a Tamil film crew who were shooting at Gandikota fort. Our prior order for Idlis and upma with peanut chutney and vegetable sambhar tasted yummy after the morning workout. Kamlesh mentioned of his trainer’s advice ‘eat what the locals eat as that is the age tested food suitable for the region’.

We drove back to the point near Freakout Adventures camping site near the gorge, for a rappelling and kayaking expedition. After climbing down to a strategic point, Kamlesh briefed the group on the techniques of rappelling. Arun and Vinod helped all with rappelling gear, gloves and helmets while Srikumar and Jaswanth anchored and prepared ropes. They hooked one by one to the anchored rope for the adventurous descent through rappelling. Two of the trainers descended first to monitor each one’s descent from the bottom end. It was an exhilarating 3 minutes as each of us walked perpendicularly on the 70 feet straight rock by holding the hooked rope in the left hand and loosening the free rope through the right hand held at the back. What a feeling of accomplishment!

Madhavaraya Temple at Gandikota

There was a further hike of another 60 feet down to the tranquil Pennar River. We could find a few ruined ancient stone structures at the riverbed. Gorgeous canyon offered some rare, beautiful views from this vantage point. Being lone kayakers along the gorge with expert Vinod for company was the coolest activity followed by swimming. Clean, cool waters washed away all the fatigue of getting there.

International standard Academy of Adventure Sports is a public private partnership venture by   Andhra Pradesh Tourism and Transcend Adventures, run by professionally trained mountaineers.  The Academy trains enthusiasts at three and five day adventure camps in natural terrain of  Gandikota and is building an administrative block and a dormitory style accommodation block near Haritha Resort. Once ready by June next year, it can accommodate 100 adventure enthusiasts.

Panoramic view of Pennar river gorge at Gandikota

Kamlesh said: “Gandikota, fondly called as Grand Canyon of India, is a perfect place to conduct various adventure sports related to aero, terrestrial and aqua. We teach sports such as kayaking, canoeing and cliff diving at Pennar river gorge. The hills made of red granite offer an excellent canvas for rock climbing. Surrounding wilderness offers plenty of locations for trekking and hiking, along with various terrestrial crafts such as map reading, night navigation, bush craft and survival. Currently, the ground work for identifying & setting up of a permanent bungee jump platform is in the works. The Aero sports sector will cover parasailing and para-motoring.”

In accordance with the academy’s sustainable environmental practices, we carried back our trash of water bottles on the way up. We returned as thrilled adventurers, thanks to their attention to safety and usage of internationally certified equipment. Look forward to rekindling the experience again.

Rappelling@ Gandikota

Fact File

How to reach: Gandikota is, located at 80 kilometers from Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh State of India. Nearest Airports are Tirupati 220 kilometers (4.5 hours drive) and Bengaluru 345 kilometers (6 hours drive). Nearest train station is Jammalmadugu (18 kms). Gandikota is well connected by good highways of Andhra Pradesh.

Good time to visit: Winter months of October to March are pleasant in this tropical region.

Where to stay: Currently Haritha Resort Gandikota is the nearest at one kilometer. Contact + 91 07382237380. Royal County, a private luxury resort is 35 kms away at Proddatur. Contact: 91 770 241 1911.  Dormitory accommodation by the academy will be ready by next June.

Contact:  Kamalesh T, PR in charge, Academy of Adventure Sports-Gandikota (A unit of AP Tourism). Mobile: +91 8660855977 Email: kamalesh@transadventures.com

Written by Anand & Madhura Katti

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