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Old 21st February 2009, 22:42   #1
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Lightbulb 'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...

This is a trip from 07, dug up from the archives. I lost quite a few pics and videos from this trip when my laptop hard-disk crashed and only a few pics could be retrieved.

Going on to the travelogue: Ever since I moved to Bangalore in 2001, I have been doing the Bangalore-Hyderabad route atleast twice in a year. On several such trips I remember coming across a sign-board near Anantapur / Kurnool mentioning the distance to Belum caves. (The boards have now been taken out during the 4-laning work). Also, on a couple of occasions when we had stopped over at Kurnool, I remembered seeing tourism dept brochures mentioning Belum caves. So the thought of visiting this place was there for quite a long time...

One day we were drawing up our plans for the weekend and our thoughts steered towards Belum caves and I looked it up on the net. Since the distance was around 300kms+ from Bangalore, it would be a 5+ hour drive each way. The plan was to start at 5.30am on a Saturday, reach Belum caves by around 11.30am, spend 2-3 hours at the caves and start our return drive by around 2.30pm and reach Bangalore before 9.00pm. If we do get delayed, we could always halt overnight at Anantapur and return to Blr the next day.

We started off as planned at 5.30am and the drive up to Anantapur was quite uneventful. However the Anantapur to Tadpatri route was horrible and we got delayed quite a bit and finally reached Belum only by around 12.30pm.

We spent around 2 hours in the caves, had lunch at Tadpatri since there was no food available in the hotel/canteen near the caves. We started our return journey close to 4 pm.

Having no intention of driving back on the Tadpatri - Anantapur stretch, we looked into our maps and decided to go via Gooty instead. Though this would add to our travel distance + time, the guides at the caves had mentioned that the roads were far better.

It was quite late in the night by the time we came back home. I remember mentioning to Sangeetha that if we had covered a couple of more Kms, we would have driven 700kms to spend 2 hours at Belum! Was it worth it? Yes!!!

Ideally this should be done as part of a two day trip, including other nearby places worth visiting, such as Gooty fort, Penukonda fort, Lepakshi & Ahobilam temples etc.

Route taken to Belum caves:
Bangalore > Anantapur > Tadpatri > Belum caves (around 320kms)

Return route:
Belum caves > Tadpatri > Gooty > Anantapur > Bangalore (around 360kms)

Would be great if anyone who has done this route recently can add an update on the current road conditions.

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About Belum caves...
These natural caves are located in the midst of flat agricultural land in the limestone area close to 'Kolimigundla' village, in Kurnool district. Though the total explored length of the cave complex is around 3.5km, around 2 kms is open to the public. There are still several passages that are yet to be explored and cleared of debris. This is one of the longest cave systems in India. [The longest caves in India are in Meghalaya, with 'Krem Laitprah' topping the list at 22+ kms.]

Belum Caves gets its name from the Sanskrit word 'Bilum' which means 'cave'. There are three well-like sinkholes in the cave complex, one of which has been converted into the main entrance.

Though these caves were known to the locals for 1000s of years and are supposed to have been used as shelters by monks even as far as 4500BC, they were not on the tourist map till the late 90s.

The first official records about the caves were written in 1884 by Robert Bruce Foote, a British geologist and archaeologist who conducted surveys in India for the Geological Survey of India. In the 1980s some local leaders and officials worked with a German expedition to explore and map the caves.

The Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation took over the caves in 1999 for beautification and maintenance. They cleared up the mud and debris inside, built pathways, provided illumination and sunk ventilation shafts to make the caves accessible to the public.

How were they formed?
Limestone is a sedimentary rock that was originally formed millions of years ago at the bottom of the prehistoric seas. Due to tectonic movements, these formations were pushed above sea level in many regions of the world. Limestone is easily dissolved by weak acids. When rain-water falls through the atmosphere, it combines with minute quantities of Carbon-dioxide to form Carbonic acid. This weak acid can dissolve the limestone and work its way into the rocks to form caves. As water seeps into the rocks and forms pools or flows into the water table, underground chambers, caverns and passages are formed.

This process of the formation of such limestone caves, stalactites and stalagmites is an extremely slow process. So the formation of the Belum caves started probably much before the evolution of man.

However, many visitors who may not realize that these formations are 1000s of years old end up breaking the stalactites for souvenirs or just for the heck of it. I remember visiting the 'cave of the winds' in Colorado and someone from our group got warned off just for touching a drop of water that was trickling down from a stalactite... whereas at Belum, even the local 'guides' have ended up breaking a lot of stalactites while trying to show visitors the metallic sounds they produced when tapped hard :(

To be followed with some pics...
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Old 22nd February 2009, 10:13   #2
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hotstuffs, another flashback from you. I had planned Belum caves way back in 2004-05 (by bike) and then again later but both the occassion(s) I postponed to some other place and this one couldnt be executed till date.

Hopefully someday....

Abhi
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Old 22nd February 2009, 12:43   #3
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@hotstuff: this is some useful information. Thanks for sharing.

I have Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga (Srisailam) on my to do list. I believe the information you provided will help in including other interesting places as well when I visit Mallikarjuna.
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Old 22nd February 2009, 14:33   #4
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Lightbulb Belum caves pics...

Apologies about the bad pics. We were using a relatively low end camera then, since it is quite dark and gloomy inside the caves, the pics were taken at low-light settings and did not turn out good.

By the way, though the guides will carry torches and most of the main passages are illuminated, it is still a god idea to carry a decent torch to explore the caves yourselves after the guided tour is done.

The Sink-hole that has been turned into the entrance to the cave complex...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-1.jpg


The sign-boards at the entrance with some details about the history and significance of the caves...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-2.jpg


The caves are now illuminated, cemented paths and channels for evacuating seepage water have been created...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-3.jpg

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-4.jpg

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-5.jpg

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-6.jpg


Work was still going on in a couple of passages and they were not open to the public at that time...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-7.jpg


There are also a couple of fountains set up by the tourism department...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-8.jpg


Guides are available at the entrance to walk you through the caves...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-9.jpg

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-10.jpg


A rock formation that resembles an elephant's head. The guides / locals have painted the eye to add to the effect...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-12.jpg


Different types of rock formations, caused by water erosion...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-13.jpg


The path leading to the 'Banyan tree' formation, which is a pillar formed when the stalactite and stalagmite finally met...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-14.jpg


The 'Banyan Tree' formation...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-15.jpg


Over the years, most of the stalactites (which hang from the ceiling) have been broken off for souvenirs and the stalagmites (which are created from the floor-up) have been cleared to make the paths.

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-16.jpg

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-17.jpg

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-18.jpg


Steps have been provided to descend into the lower chambers of the cave. Even with the ventilation systems running at full blast, many parts of the caves will still be humid and hot...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-19.jpg

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-20.jpg


Geometric patterns naturally formed in the rocks...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-21.jpg


There is also an underground stream and a mini waterfall deep inside the caves, called 'Patala Ganga'. There is a siva-linga carved into the rocks here. By Nov-Dec, the stream and spring would have reduced to just a trickle of water...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-22.jpg

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-23.jpg


Another pillar formation. There are several passages that are too narrow to be opened to the public and you can only look into them and wonder what lies ahead...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-24.jpg

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-25.jpg


The guide will point out several formations and talk about the local interpretations such as 'Koti lingalu', '1000 hoods', 'Simha-dwaram' etc.

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-26.jpg

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-27.jpg


In this pic you can make out the pipe coming down from the cieling. This is actually a bore hole drilled from the fields above the caves, air is pumped into the caves from such bore holes at several places in the caves to keep the atmosphere breathable...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-28.jpg


The customary 'We were here' pix :-)

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-30.jpg


Contd...
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Old 22nd February 2009, 14:53   #5
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Lightbulb Belum caves...

In some spots you can actually see the water seeping into the rocks and gaze at the process by which the caves were created. Water seeping through the rocks dissolves the limestone and drips from the ceilings. If the drop just stops there and evaporates, then the dissolved minerals are deposited on the ceiling to form a stalactite, which slowly grows over the centuries. If the water falls onto the ground and then evaporates, the deposits will form stalagmites, which will grow from the ground up. If a stalactite and a stalagmite meet, a pillar is formed...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-31.jpg


Light strips have been used to provide low intensity lighting to preserve the eeriness of the caves...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-33.jpg

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-34.jpg

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-35.jpg


As mentioned earlier, there are still quite a few passages yet to be explored and they have been barred for the public...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-36.jpg


Tour completed, we headed back out of the caves...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-37.jpg


The walls of one of the sinkholes...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-38.jpg


The sinkhole...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-39.jpg


The Buddha statue put up outside the caves. To signify that these caves were once used by Buddhist monks as a hermitage. The relics found here indicate that the caves were in use since 1000s of years...

'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...-40.jpg


We went back to Tadpatri to get something to eat and later turned towards Gooty to take the alternate route to Anantapur.

That ends this travelogue.
-----------------------------------------------

Where to next?
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Old 22nd February 2009, 15:10   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy View Post
hotstuffs, another flashback from you. I had planned Belum caves way back in 2004-05 (by bike) and then again later but both the occassion(s) I postponed to some other place and this one couldnt be executed till date.

Hopefully someday....

Abhi
- Abhi, Belum caves can clubbed with other places in near Anantapur and can be a good weekend trip, with an overnight stay in Anantapur. You could consider it for one of the coming weekends.


Quote:
Originally Posted by akbaree View Post
@hotstuff: this is some useful information. Thanks for sharing.

I have Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga (Srisailam) on my to do list. I believe the information you provided will help in including other interesting places as well when I visit Mallikarjuna.
- Akbaree, this website should give you some inputs on other places that you can include in your Srisailam trip plans. Travel Information - Anantapur

The links on the left side menu of the site give info on several interesting places around Anantapur, including Srisailam.

Last edited by hotstuff : 22nd February 2009 at 15:13.
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Old 22nd February 2009, 21:44   #7
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@ hotstuff...Nice stuff here. Liked your pics and narrations. It does not matter when you have visited. What matters is how much you enjoyed during this trip.
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Old 23rd February 2009, 05:35   #8
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hotstuff, very informative travelogue. Perfect for a 1 day drive from Bangalore.
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Old 24th February 2009, 00:46   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snaronikar View Post
@ hotstuff...Nice stuff here. Liked your pics and narrations. It does not matter when you have visited. What matters is how much you enjoyed during this trip.
- Thanks @snaronikar! I appreciate your comments and feedback.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dreamdiesel View Post
hotstuff, very informative travelogue. Perfect for a 1 day drive from Bangalore.
- Thanks @dreamdiesel, it is indeed a good one day trip if you like driving long distances. For families, Belum caves should ideally be done over two days in combination with other nearby places.

By the way, we had done part of the coastal route recently and when I read your 2000+kms in 9 days coastal drive travelogue (Coastal Karnataka and Goa in Swift D - 2000+kms in 9 days), it was nice to see some of the places with a fresh prespective and saw through your camera some of the places we missed...
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Old 24th February 2009, 08:19   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hotstuff View Post
- Abhi, Belum caves can clubbed with other places in near Anantapur and can be a good weekend trip, with an overnight stay in Anantapur. You could consider it for one of the coming weekends.
hotstuff, What are other places to visit in/around Anantapur?

Abhi
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Old 24th February 2009, 10:55   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy View Post
hotstuff, What are other places to visit in/around Anantapur?

Abhi
He has mentioned a website in post #6.
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Old 25th February 2009, 20:52   #12
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Arrow Other places near Anantapur...

Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy View Post
hotstuff, What are other places to visit in/around Anantapur?
Abhi
Quote:
Originally Posted by arindamray View Post
He has mentioned a website in post #6.
Travel Information - Anantapur <- This link should be useful. It has a list of other interesting places around Anantapur.
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Old 24th April 2016, 08:38   #13
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Default Re: 'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...

Did Belum caves yesterday. Took the NH 7 as suggested by google maps. No bad roads anywhere. The drive through the hills with windmills dotted on them was beautiful.

Inside the caves, it was quite humid and dark in some areas which made it more fun to explore. Since it was summer there were less people but you'd have to brave the heat outside.

Also wanted to see the gooty forts nearby but cancelled due to the heat.
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Old 20th February 2017, 14:24   #14
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Default Re: 'Xing'ing around ! - Belum Caves, 1 day , 700kms...

Which is the better route to Belum caves from Bangalore? Via Ananthapur, Tadipatri or via Gooty, Yadiki? I know the latter is about 40 kms more, but if the roads are better then it could be worth it.
We will be spending the night at Gandikota. So shortest return route is via Kadiri to NH 44 is suggested by GM. Any idea of the road conditions?
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