Kurnool: My first solo adventure

Friday, October 17, 2014 Unknown 0 Comments

Befriending farmers and cabbies, spending a night inside a 600 year-old temple, receiving a hero’s treatment, hitchhikes and visits to some surreal places: All done alone without knowing a word of the language local to the region. These were the highlights of my 45 hour journey through rural Andhra Pradesh - my first solo adventure.

Despite having read countless accounts on solo trips, I never really had the impulse to set out on one of them until last month. My 8 week internship at J.P. Morgan Chase in Hyderabad had given me a chance to explore a region I had never been to and the fact that I didn't understand Telugu only fuelled my desire to take the plunge.

Route Taken:

My plan was to visit a few locations in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. I had come up with a rough itinerary prior to the trip which I improvised on during my journey. Here’s the 850 kilometer route I ended up taking.

Route taken: Hyderabad – Mantralayam – Tadipatri – Belum – Banaganapalli – Yaganti – Banaganapalli – Oravakallu – Kurnool City – Hyderabad

The journey:

Started by taking a train from Hyderabad’s Nampally Railway Station at 2300 on Friday, June 13. Here is an account of the places I visited in the 45 hours that followed.

Saturday, June 14

1. Mantralayam

Built in the 17th century and located on the banks of the river Tungabhadra, Mantralayam is a popular temple erected at the place where the saint Sri Raghavendra Swamy had attained moksha.

I arrived at the temple in a shared auto I had taken from the Mantralayam Road Railway Station at 6 am. What was most memorable during my visit here was joining the pilgrims for the holy dip in the river. There was some sort of peace associated with this temple despite the large number of people visiting it and I loved that. Here’s what the place looked like.

Entrance to the temple
The Tungabhadra
Inside the temple

Learnt that the 0915 train to Tadipatri was the quickest way to reach my next stop, Belum. Took an auto back to the station and reached in time to catch the train.

2. Tadipatri

Got down on the platform, took an auto to the town’s bus stand and caught a bus which dropped me right next to the entrance to the Belum caves.

3. Belum Caves

Known for its black limestone and Quartz deposits, Belum is the second longest cave in the Indian subcontinent. The cave was used as a dump site until the locals convinced the Government of AP to convert the area into a protected zone in the 1980s. The AP Tourism department converted the area into a tourist attraction in 2002 and has taken care of it ever since.

Overall, the beauty of the cave's long passages, meditation chambers (believed to have been used by Buddhist and Jain monks), fresh water galleries and stalactite and stalagmite formations more than made up for its stuffiness.

The caves
Statue of Buddha built outside the cave
Inside the cab

Entered a restaurant after exiting the cave. Sat with a man, whom I later came to know was a cab driver and struck a conversation with him. When he learnt that Yaganti was where I was headed for, he offered me a ride to a village named Banaganapalli, which he said was 15 km from it. Couldn't believe my luck!

4. Yaganti

Took an auto to Yaganti after the cabby dropped me at Banaganapalli. It was dark when I arrived at the temple and I decided to repeat what I had done during my Kumara Parvatha trek - sleep inside it. Wasn't with my friends this time around though.

Dinner offered by the temple was a fun affair. Met an English-speaking pharmacist and I thankfully didn't have to resort to the broken Hindi + sign language that I was forced to communicate in throughout the day. The man was so awed by my story that he shouted across the hall, called the 20 odd members of his family (yes, 20!) and told them all about how the “rough and tough” me had travelled “okkade”. Surrounded by kids within moments, I spent the next few minutes narrating my journey and showing the family the pictures I had taken. Don't mind admitting that I enjoyed every bit of the attention I received that night!

Went back to my sleeping spot inside the temple where a few sadhus were now smoking bidis :P. A group of young men who had seen me surrounded by people during dinner gestured me to join them and I fell asleep at once. Funny how well I slept despite lying on the cold stone floor.

Sunday, June 15

Woke up at 6 the next morning. Since it was dark when I had reached the temple the previous night, it was only now that I got to see what the place actually looked like. With the hills and the clear sky serving as a picturesque backdrop, this isolated temple did look stunning indeed.

The Yaganti Temple

The temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, was built by one of the Kings of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 15th century at the spot where the sage Agasthya had performed his penance for Shiva. A feature of this temple is a small pond called the pushkarini, which receives sweet water from the hills surrounding it through the mouth of a Nandi statue.

The pushkarini
The ever-growing Nandi
On the farmer's bike

Swam in the pushkarini and explored the temple and the caves surrounding it. After the temple, I visited the nearby Nawab Bungalow. The only person there apart from me was a farmer who had a bike. Did what I do best: In a few minutes I was on a 15 km hitchhike back to Banaganapalli.

5. Banaganapalli

Breakfast at a small shack at the village. Not jesting, but the 10 rupee dosas I had there rank among the best I've ever eaten.

Explored the village and took a bus to Oravakallu.

6. Oravakallu Rock Gardens

A slight disappointment. Felt that this place which was rated 4th on TripAdvisor's Places To Visit In Kurnool was more suited to honeymooning couples than solo travellers. The igneous rock formations formed between pools of water I had read about were all part of a resort managed by the AP Tourism Department. Nevertheless, I walked around the place a bit before heading back to the highway to catch a bus to Kurnool.

Villas by the Garden
Rock formations at the Garden
Kurnool City

7. Kurnool City

Explored the city; Lunch; Took the 1500 train to Hyderabad’s Secunderabad Railway Station; Arrived at 2000.

Aware of how vulnerable I was travelling alone in an alien land, I'd say that this journey most certainly did make me step out of my comfort zone. There was also something about it that probably made me assimilate my surroundings better. Having said that, I do feel that experiencing all your trips alone is just sad since the beauty of a trip is all about the people you spend it with. Carrying them out occasionally however, might just be the way to go. Go for it and experience what it’s like yourself. SoSpeakUpNow!, share your experience and show the world how amazing solo travel is!

And does this end here for me? Hell no! This is only the start of many to come! Stay tuned to SoSpeakUpNow!'s Travelogues for more!