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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Gandikota


My interest to travel in Rayalseema began a few years ago when I explored Ananthpur district in 3 days. Everything about that travel was special - The food, friendly people, fields and uncrowded historical sites. When I read about Gandikota, nicknamed as the Grand Canyon of India, I was very excited to go there. Finally, on the 1st of October, along with my friend Manohar, I drove towards Kadapa district. 


Since we had only two days in hand, I decided to drive directly to Gandikota. On our way, we stopped once at Gummayyagaripalli for breakfast. I enjoy eating in small village restaurants that are setup by the main road. The dosas were delicious. The chutney, especially was spicy and tasty. One of the important thing to notice about food in Andhra is that they are hot and spicy. 



Gandikota is around 285kms from Bangalore via Kadiri and takes you around 6 to 7 hours to reach there. We started at 7:00 AM from Yelahanka and reached our destination at around 1PM.




Just outside the fort, is the only hotel in the area called Hotel Haritha. The place is run by the Government of Andhra and mandates visitors to pre-book the rooms online. Unfortunately, we had no such information so we tried to see if any rooms were available. As expected, all rooms were pre-booked. I had already thought of a backup plan to stay at Jamalamadagu, a town only 15kms from Gandikota. 

It was lunch time, so we had some good vegetarian meals at the hotel. I always enjoy eating pappu. After lunch, we decided to explore the village. 

Gandikota, loosely resembles Hampi. It is not as vast as Hampi but has several ancient architectures spread across the fort like the ruins of Ranganathaswamy and Madavaraya temple, Jamia Masjid, Chaarminar and an ancient jail. 



The Chaarminar has been renovated and the Jamia masjid is under renovation. 









Well crafted pillars of Ranganathaswamy temple are very impressive and has stood the test of time.





The magnificent main entrance of Madavaraya temple still stands tall. 



At one point while entering the Madavaraya temple, I wondered the life of the villagers during the Muslim invasion. The temples were ruined so that no worship could be continued in a damaged temple without a main deity. There were no other temples around. Then how did the Hindus live in such an environment? I wondered how they worshiped God during those times? Where they allowed? Where they not? I must read through the history books, if at all there are some details about it. 

Manohar and I also discussed whether it is important to rebuild or renovate these temples and we came to a consensus that perhaps it is not the most important thing to do. We recollected the scene from S L Bhyrappa's novel Sartha where when the Muslim rulers attack the sun temple of north west India the people get worried and they decide to die protecting it.  The main protagonist tries to convince them that they could always build another temple. and it may not be wise to die protecting it. But what still remains important is to be aware of the history and not shy away from it in the name of being secular. However, we should be mature enough to not associate this event with the people of the same community today but at the same time, we must also not deny a terrible history that has shaped our present. 



However, what is more popular here is the picturesque gorges and the river Penna cutting through them. The views of red sandstones topped with some green patches were mesmerising.





We drove to Jamalamadagu and began hunting for a hotel to stay. There are limited options here and the hotels are not very clean or comfortable. So, if you are traveling with family, it is advisable to book Hotel Haritha in advance or find a bigger town like Kadapa or Tadipatri for overnight stay. Luckily for us, we found a hotel, the name of which I do not recollect. It was not the best but it was manageable. 

While locating Gandikota on google maps, I had seen a small temple on the other side of the gorge. I thought it would great to explore the opposite side as I knew it would have fewer visitors. So, we decided to drive there. Google maps showed some really crazy path to this location. We drove over a dam to get there. It was a bit scary to drive over the flood gates but it was quiet an experience. 




We reached Mylavaram on the other side of the dam. There is a famous museum here which unfortunately was closed on the occasion of Muharram. There are a few artefacts displayed on the outside. 



The deserted road to the other side of Gandikota gorges was interesting. The road ends at a Agastyeshwara temple. We walked towards the gorge. Apart from a troop of monkeys, there was nobody there. We sat there for a while absorbing the serenity and beauty of nature. At the valley, we saw a few wild boars roar. 





It was a perfect moment to pull out my art kit and sketch. Here is what I could complete in half an hour, before it got dark. Deciding to complete the sketch later, we left.





Back in Jamalmadagu, we had dinner and retired for the day. It had been a long but exciting day. Gandikota truly impressed me with its magnificent rock formations and historical monuments. The image of the Penna river flowing between the coloured gorges would stay with me forever. 




Saturday, September 30, 2017

Someshwara Temple, Ulsoor

Since a long time, I had been wanting to visit the Someshwara temple at Ulsoor that is built by the Cholas. However, the thought of getting there by beating the horrendous Bangalore traffic always resulted in procrastination of this trip. But with the Metro rail running in full swing, things have been different. On Saturdays, I take the Metro to my French class and it is much easier than driving through the busy traffic. So, when I figured out that there is a Metro station very close to the temple, I decided to finally make this trip. The temple is right behind the Ulsoor Metro station. 

The temple architecture is magnificent. It is pleasantly surprising to see this piece of heritage stand tall midst the concrete jungle. 







We took the Metro back to Jayanagar 7th Block  and had lunch at Prems Grama Bhojana. The food was delicious. The speciality here is that they do not serve rice, instead, they serve raagi and different millets; which is a trend in Bangalore these days. 


Monday, September 04, 2017

Sand Diego Downtown

I returned to the US on the 19th Of August.  I preferred to stay at Downtown area while returning. That was to get a feel for another side of the city. Saturday afternoon and evening was very busy at San Diego. I took a walk to the city centre and walked around the mall. I really did not have much to do, so just grabbed some food and returned back to the hotel to go to bed early. I had a 6 AM flight to catch next morning. The downtown looked impressive and in the evening, was getting ready for the weekend party.



My flight from San Diego was at 6:00 AM the next day. I reached San Francisco and from there, took a long flight to Delhi and then another to Bangalore. So, another trip to the US had ended and this time, I had met many new people, made new friends and it was a truly one of my best visits to the US. 




Sunday, September 03, 2017

Mexican Food and More!

Well, I had so far eaten Mexican food only in the US and have always heard that it is different from what is found in Mexico. So, this was a great opportunity for me to try some local food. 

My favourite place of all is this small café that Pedro and I stopped at on our way to Tecate. Here, I got to eat Dulce de membrio (Ate) with wheat tortilla. Its a caramelised paste of a fruit called membrio. I liked it so much that, the same evening, I walked to the super market opposite my hotel and bought one pack to carry back home. 



When 25 of us partied at a Sushi bar (Nigori), I was the only vegetarian in the group. So, the Chef prepared some good veg varieties only for me. The best was this Veg sushi. It was delicious. 


One afternoon, I tried Mollete - Open sandwich. I also tried the Jamaica juice. Its a juice made of a flower. I tried a vegetable called  Jícama that is very juicy and eaten raw similar to Cucumbers. 


I had some great local tacos at a taqueria in Tecate. Pedro helped me order some quesadillas with vegetables. It was like a normal dosa stall in India and many office goers seemed to stop by to have a bite during lunch time. 


About half a kilometre from my hotel (Coral & Marina) is a restaurant called Osho. I was curious to try this place so, I went there one evening. During my conversation with server, I confirmed that the name was indeed inspired by the spiritual Guru from India. He told me that the owner is a follower of Osho. I must say, that it is in this restaurant that I had one of the best foods of all time. 

For main course, I tried Chimichanga de vegetales,



The server suggested that I try their special salad made of lightly roasted brinjal and asparagus with Jamaican sauce and mozzarella cheese. I must tell you that this was one of the best salads I have ever had. The sweetness of the jamaican sauce and lightly salty mozzarella cheese added flavour to the brinjal slices. 


For dessert, I wanted to try Piña a la parrilla con salsa de tequila - Pineapple with Tequila sauce, sounded interesting. It was delicious too. I am not sure if these are authentic Mexican cuisine or not but they were absolutely yummy. 


So, on my last day in Ensenada, I decided to go there again for breakfast. I had some delicious Ranch omelet and Chocolate rolls. Both were as yummy as they look. If you are in Ensenada, do try restaurant Osho.