Avani -> Chandragiri -> Pulicat -> Vontimitta -> Nandalur -> Siddavatam -> Pushpagiri -> Gurramkonda -> Horsely hills
Continued from here
Day 3 :
We woke up to the sound of the conch shell from the Vontimitta temple. We freshened up and headed off for another round of camera work there and had some of the pongal they were distributing as prasad. After breakfast our next stop was Nandalur. We’d read it had remnants of an old Buddhist site.
We followed maps and reached a place with an extremely rusted gate that led to a path overgrown with thorny plants on either side. In a moment of bravado, and a scene befitting a horror movie with stupid explorers, we continued in, almost expecting the gate to close behind us at any minute. The path ended at a grave like that in a dargah, wrapped with chadar . There were steps with a hand rail that led uphill too, but visibility to the top was not very good due to the shrubs everywhere. The place was completely deserted, the only sign of life nearby were the small rice fields around it.
Just a few steps up were 2 caves, both very dark and filled with bats so we chose not to enter. Some way up and we saw the promised stupas.
It was very hot by then and I chose not to climb up but Anand did. From the top, we had a view of what would have been the Cheyyeru river but was completely dried up and so looked more like a distant desert.
While I waited, an older gentleman came climbing up from the other side of the site, perhaps from the fields below, probably thinking we were lost. He started a conversation with me but I had to tell him I was pretty useless in the Telugu department. Disappointed he waited for Anand to come down but met with the same fate there too. There had been nothing more to see from atop than a larger area than what I had seen. “Arming” me with a pen-knife for my safety (?) Anand went on ahead following the hand-rail. However, that too seemed like a never-ending path with no clear boards and so he returned in a short while.
We next headed back into civilisation and the Sri Sowmyanatha Swamy temple. The temple was functional and at first glance, looked quite huge too. It also had a small pond in front of the temple. Unfortunately, it was also a place where we were severely visually appraised despite being completely covered in appropriate clothes. The devotees also took it upon themselves to insist we do not take any pictures in the temple, even of the pillars and walls, despite no sign stating so. It is supposedly a temple with interesting architectural and mythological details, however, we were turned off by the cold stares of the people to really enjoy it. We sat a while at the temple pond beside a mum feeding her child the prasad and then headed out.
From here we went on to the place called Sidhout fort, that we’d seen in a picture hung up in our previous hotel. However, I preferred the local name Sidhhavatam instead. We could view the fort even from the bridge on our way towards it. We loved it right from the get-go. It lies on the banks of the Penna river. Since we noticed a board just before getting there, we drove ahead to what was the Lankamalla sanctuary/reserve forest. Though understandably because of the traffic through it, there were no animals or birds visible, it was a pleasant drive after which we returned to explore the fort itself.
Right beside the entrance was a small rice field that had a bird making a point sitting right on the scarecrow.
It was hot but we were lucky that it drizzled twice while we were there, reducing the temperatures to pleasant levels.
There are 2 entrances to the fort and both of them had beautiful work on their halls and pillars.
The fort itself houses multiple temples, mosques, Hindu and Muslim burial places and interesting little structures in various levels of ruin. One, I decided, must have been a charming little area to store potions or makeup!
Beside the mosque is a house where they sell soft drinks and snacks. This is the only place inside or around the fort with anything to eat/drink at all.
A couple of meters ahead from here is a small narrow passage with steps leading right to the Penna river! That was quite the little treat to come out to the river and dip our toes into its calm waves so easily.
The fort has vast lawns the allow for children to have a fun time playing there. We were the only non-locals around. This place had so much to explore, admire and learn from that we could have easily spent the day here if we had food along. It has very surely been added to the list of our most favourite places.
Tip: carry water, wear comfortable shoes and have a hat/scarf to protect your head from the sun. Give this place enough time to enjoy its little treasures. Also, you may have couples canoodling at various locations inside so you may want to make yourself heard to avoid mutual awkwardness 😀 Sometimes a loud voice like mine is a gift.
We next headed to Pushpagiri to see the temple by the river. We love rivers and so this was something we couldn’t miss. We checked-in to the AP tourism hotel at Kadapa and then left from there following maps. However, when we reached the end of the road, we realised that what we wanted to see was right there, but on the other side of the river!
There were a couple of temples on the side we had reached but I instantly lost interest in them in my longing to go to the other temple instead.
Tip : Search for Chennakeshava temple in Pushpagiri when you try to go here. Looking for just Pushpagiri will lead us to where we had reached.
It was already 5:30pm by this time and we had to go quickly to the other side by going all the way back to the highway and then going on a parallel road to that we had come on. The route was 13km long and we were worried if we’d get there before dark to be able to enjoy the temple and more importantly the sunset on the river.
On the edge of our seats, we drove on but the situation had decided to turn as dramatic as possible. First, a rickety auto decided to block the narrow road by going as slow as it could for most of the route- the kids seated at the back decided to also judgmentally snicker at our poor car that was still awash with slush from the Pulicat lake. Next, a pair of buffalos decided that the best place to mate was just ahead of our car on the road. And after that, a rooster jumped right on top of the car while the villagers laughed out at the scene to their heart’s content before getting it off . By now, a cow decided she was in love with Anand and insisted on kissing him throw the car window. After that series of comical moments, we finally got to the temple but daylight was fading.
Anand stayed back to take photos of the temple while I rushed in, completely ignoring the devotees, the priests, and the idol, running directly to the back of the temple and the river. And there it was, worth it all, a beautiful evening scene with everything we had hoped it’d be. By the time Anand joined, the sky had turned a delightful shade of pink that was eagerly reflected in the placid river.
A few people were performing a pooja on one side and letting into the water, small lamps in containers made with leaves stitched together by sticks. Yet again, we seemed to be the only tourists around. We sat by the water watching people, the river, the sky and truly absorbing the perfection of the moment. We were the last people to see the curtains closed on the idol in the temple, but well, we weren’t complaining.
We headed out as it had gotten quite dark and it wasn’t a very well lit place. Just as we drove off and looked at the river one last time, our last view of the place was that of a single oil lamp floating away in the river alongside us on the road. Now if that’s not a great Diwali, I don’t know what is. 🙂
Coming up next : The Ooty of Andhra Pradesh and some not-so-welcoming places