EPIC road trip from Hyderabad to Belum Caves & Hampi
I had been wanting to visit Hampi for quite some time. Almost 2 years. It was only after my husband motivated me to travel with friends, did I actually start planning this trip with Lipica. We decided to visit Belum Caves in Andhra Pradesh and Hampi in Karnataka during the Christmas holidays of 2016.
Backpack packed, tickets in hand, excitement in heart, I reached Hyderabad on the 23rd of December. Lipica’s colleague was going to Kurnool with his wife and he offered to drop us off till the Kurnool Bus Stand. From there we had to board another bus for Belum Caves. Next morning, we left early and after about 4 hours on the road, reached Kurnool Bus Stand at 11 am. The bus stands in Andhra Pradesh are well maintained with installed TVs and chairs for passengers. Lipica went to inquire about the buses leaving from Kurnool for Belum Caves.
Believe you me, the Bus Controller actually asked us to sit in his Control Room, took out a pen and paper and wrote the entire route for our journey from Kurnool till Hampi!! It’s always a good feeling when a stranger helps you for no reason.
Travel surely brings back the trust of people which we seem to have lost in today’s world. 🙂
He explained the route should be Kurnool – Banganapalle – Belum Caves – Vempalle – Anantapur – Bellary – Hospet – Hampi. He even gave his contact no. and told that if we face any problem during our journey, we should contact him! His guidance was like a bonanza lottery for us! We thanked him whole-heartedly and left to board the bus for Belum Caves.
Important Info – Distance between Kurnool and Belum Caves is 106 kms. If one is coming directly by train from any metro city, they should take the train to Tadipatri and then board a bus to Belum Caves. It is just 30 kms from Tadipatri.
The bus conductors helped us in identifying the correct bus since the bus no.s and destinations were written in Telugu and sadly neither of us knew the language. We boarded the bus with our backpacks and settled for a nice window seat for our onward journey.
We reached Belum Caves around 3 pm.
Time for some trivia.
Belum Caves is protected, developed and maintained by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC). It is the Largest Tourist Cave in the Indian Subcontinent and the Longest Cave in the plains of Indian Subcontinent, known for its Stalactite and Stalagmite formations. It is a natural underground cave formed by the constant flow of underground water. The black limestone cave reaches its deepest point (150 feet from entrance level) at the point known as Pataalaganga. Today, 3.5 kms of the cave has been successfully explored, though only 1.5 kms is open to tourists. There is a giant Buddha Statue near a hillock near the Belum Caves. Belum Caves has a resort too where tourists can stay overnight.
Do visit it!
After buying the Entry tickets which cost us Rs. 50 each, we hired a guide who would show us around the caves and tell us about its history & importance. We were mesmerized by the beauty of the caves and wished the expedition never ended. But as all good things come to an end, this too ended, BUT, on a happy note of exploring an exquisitely beautiful offbeat location! We thanked our guide and gave him Rs. 200 for showing us around for more than 3 hours! He gladly accepted it with a broad smile without even once asking more for his efforts. 🙂
Thereafter, we had a sumptuous lunch at a canteen in the compound of the caves. We stopped by the Buddha Statue on our way out and quickly clicked some pictures for our memories.
We reached the bus stand and waited at a nearby dhaba for our bus. The young boy at the dhaba served us tea, he along with the locals was kind enough to inform us about the bus timings. Half an hour and a few teacups later, our bus for Vempalle arrived. We waved goodbye to everyone and boarded the bus.
Travel is a great teacher and it teaches us that it’s always more about the people than the place. I was loving my trip! As I write this article, I can feel the same joy and happiness within!
We decided to take a night halt at Anantapur and started looking for a place to stay. We asked few local people about the hotels nearby and they guided us well. We finally settled for a nice hotel called Masineni Grand.
Next morning we imparted our newly acquired knowledge about Belum Caves to the hotel receptionist and left for our next stop, Bellary.
We boarded a bus from Anantapur bus stand. Local women with baskets of flowers, fruits, vegetables were traveling on the same bus. It was a delightful experience traveling the local way in its truest sense.
We reached Bellary around noon and the bus conductor accompanied us till the bus which would take us till Hospet. We reached Hospet and the same bus took us to Hampi. We finally reached Hampi, our much-awaited destination after so many heart-warming experiences!
There are 2 sides of Hampi, one on either side of the Tungabhadra river. One is the mythological side, which also has all the homestays and café s. Other is the historical side, full of ruins, rocks, and ancient history. We had pre-booked 2 nights stay at Murali’s Homestay through Air BnB. Murali’s father was already waiting for us with his tuk-tuk when we reached Hampi. After a km full of paddy fields, rivers, and mountains, we reached our temporary abode. It was amidst nature with a beautiful view!
We were welcomed by Murali who showed us our room and made us feel comfortable instantly. 🙂
We met Murali’s mother, his girlfriend Sha, his pets Manju (dog) and 20 chickens! After the introductions got over, aunty cooked some delicious hot Maggie for us.
We went out for dinner and had a delicious Italian meal at a quaint little café. The shopkeeper at the German bakery adjacent to the café was a sweet Nepali guy. He asked us where we came from, and even suggested us to try the special items in the café.
We had a lovely dinner and decided to trek till our homestay. It was dark and there were hardly any people around but still felt so safe! We trekked for a km, lost our way, still felt happy about it. We asked few local women singing folk songs about Murali’s homestay and reached safely after some time.
Next day, we woke up to the singing of birds and clucking of the chickens! We got dressed quickly and went to greet our lovely hosts. Murali dropped us off till the river in his tuk-tuk. We then took an auto for sightseeing the whole day, since Hampi is very big and it is difficult to cover it by foot in a day.
Thus, begins our Hampi tour!
We were chatting with the auto guy, Anju, and came to know that he has done numerous jobs before becoming an auto driver cum guide. Life teaches everything! He promised to tell us whatever he knew about Hampi from his grandmother’s stories. 🙂
We started our tour with the Sister’s Rocks. Next, we visited the world famous Vittala Temple with the Stone Chariot. Anju told us we need to go inside and he’ll wait for us outside. We bought a Hampi guidebook from an old lady selling it outside the premises. It was so touching to see her working even at this age!
We hired a guide to show us around the temple. He was very thorough in his work and kept us engaged throughout the historical tour. He even helped us to go to the King’s Balance and gave us walking directions. Overwhelming!
We then visited Pushkarani and tired of walking in the sun, waved our hands to a motor car to drop us till the main gate of the temple. The lady driver willingly took us in and informed us that the battery was down, so she’ll drive slowly. She was young, around 20, and informed us she drives people from the main gate till the entrance of the temple for a living.
We saw Anju laughing and chatting with an old lady selling cucumber outside the temple, I tell you, these small incidents truly depict the true meaning of travel!
He then drove us to the Museum, and after satiating our hunger for history and mythology, we left for Lotus Mahal, where we saw a young tourist merrily chatting away with an old local lady.
Travel surely makes us compassionate. 🙂
We then visited Hajara Rama Temple, the guide here too gave us interesting insights into the ruins of Hampi. Next on the list were Pushkarani, Queen’s Bath, Mahanavami Dibba, Ugra Narasimha, Badavi Linga, Kadalekalu Ganapathi and the Elephant Stable.
It was already evening and Anju drove us back to the river. We gave him the money and an extra 100 because he very well deserved it. The million dollar smile on his face was priceless!
We wanted to cross the river but the coracle boat ride timings were over since it was late evening. So, we decided to cross it on foot! Yes, I am serious! We crossed the river on foot. An elderly couple from Paris helped us cross it. The gentleman was holding the torch, his wife along with Lipica and myself held hands. Gratitude!
We had a rice and pickle dinner with Murali and Sha after reaching the homestay, relishing every bit of it! 🙂 Did some stargazing with them and thus ended our 2nd night in the magical Hampi!
We decided to spend one more day in Hampi, and our pre-booked 2 nights stay got extended to 3.
The highlight of the next morning was bathing Lakshmi. Who is Lakshmi? She is the majestic female elephant in the Virupaksha Temple, 25 years old and very graceful.
We went to the Tungabhadra river early morning and waited patiently for Lakshmi to turn up. It was a daily ritual of the mahawat to bathe her in the river before going to the temple. This morning, we requested him to allow us to bathe her and he agreed. We were jumping with joy! After all, who gets a chance to bathe an elephant in their routine life? We scrubbed her, poured water on her and played with her for an hour to our heart’s content! She was loving it, and so were we!
It was time to see the glorious sunset at the famous Sunset Point located on the Anjeyanadri Hill in the evening. It is also believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman, the monkey god of Hindus. You need to climb more than 550 steps before you can witness the same. The cool breeze and the mesmerizing sight of the valley & river helped us in climbing the entire thing in less than 20 mins! We visited the Hanuman Temple first and then went to the Sunset Point. The sunset was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen in my entire life!
During the evening, we went for some shopping in the local market. Hungry as we were, we visited a hippie café for dinner. There were travelers from different parts of the world, all in one place, enjoying and having a good time. We spent around 2-3 hours there and went back to our homestay.
On reaching we came to know that it was Vijay’s birthday (friend of Murali). There was a surprise chocolate cake waiting for him and his happiness was worth recording! Yes, we celebrated a birthday right in the middle of a trip!
Our last day in Hampi, we bid our goodbyes to Murali, Sha, uncle, aunty and our furry friend Manju. We took a group picture and promised to return soon. Murali dropped us in his tuk-tuk till the river and after a group hug, we crossed the river on a coracle. Not foot, this time. 🙂
We visited the famous Virupaksha Temple, on the other side of the river, also called the Monkey Temple. There are numerous monkeys in the temple and they roam around everywhere! Just like rats (fondly called kabas) who roam around freely in the Karni Mata Temple, Rajasthan. I fed them bananas and biscuits and after taking blessings from Lakshmi, left for our next stop, Bangalore.
Thus, ends our adventurous and fulfilling road trip to Belum Caves and Hampi!
We urge all of you to travel, as frequently as you can, as far as you can. Experience different cultures, meet different people, understand their perspective on life, taste different cuisines, enjoy local food and experience the beauty of nature! Travel makes us realize what a small place we occupy in the whole world! Travel solo, travel with a partner, travel with friends, travel with family, travel with pets, but do travel!!
For more thoughts and pictures of Hampi, click here
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