Weekend ride from Chennai to Gandikota, The Grand Canyon of India

Weekend ride from Chennai to Gandikota, The Grand Canyon of India

When life becomes mundane, with the daily innumerable hours spent at work adding to the monotony, one feels the need for a change of scene. An exit from the monotonous – a hobby or something you enjoy doing such as reading, writing or listening to music – is what helps maintain one’s sanity. For a motorcyclist like me, riding is certainly one of the best options. Motorcycle riding is a time-intensive affair, especially when you are planning a long one – good luck trying to go for long rides more than once a year! Short rides on weekends are my go-to to beat the routine.

I am Yogesh, and I am from Chennai. I am the proud owner of a Royal Enfield Classic 350 and I love to take this beauty out for a ride at every opportunity. Around December last year, I had been feeling my daily routine of work and chores getting to me. I was itching to take my bike out for a short, fun jaunt out of the city. A little bit of research helped me zero in on Gandikota, a beautiful village on the banks of the river Penna, which is not too far for a short ride from Chennai. It is around 15 km from Jammalamadugu in the Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh.
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Gandikota is a place of surreal natural beauty, evident from its nickname, the Grand Canyon of India. Its name is derived from the word ‘gandi’ in Telugu, which basically translates into ‘gorge’ – a valley between hills with a river flowing through it. Gandikota is a gorge formed between the Erramala range of hills (also known as the Gandikota hills), with the river Penna flowing through them.

Thanks to xBhp, India’s largest motorcycling community, I set out on my ride to Gandikota on December 28 with my Classic 350, fitted with the brand new CEAT Gripp XL tyres. Since my destination was around 380 km away, I was confident of making the round trip over a weekend with some time to spare too. I decided to explore and take a longer route from Chennai through Thirupathi, Raychoty, Kadappa, Jammalamadugu to Gandikota. I set out early on Saturday morning and reached my destination by the day’s end.

The onward journey took around 7 hours of riding time, including three pit stops. The entire route is full of scenic beauty. However, one must be careful since the ride can get a little daunting because of the less than ideal road conditions at some places due to the gravel on the edge of the road. Try not to veer away to the edge, and if you do, try to minimize the rider input and use minimum braking since traction is hard to find in these conditions.

The Classic 350 employs a 19” wheel in the front and an 18” wheel in the rear. Though not a common combination, it is rather helpful when it comes to straight-line stability. Having ridden on stock tyres all my life, the CEAT Gripp XL tyres were a revelation! My Classic 350 rode more confidently in the corners and was rock solid in a straight line. Even when the road conditions deteriorated, the tyres held their own thanks to the wider grooves and well-placed blocks. Though wet patches were scarce, whenever I encountered one, the tyres handled them with relative ease. I was pleasantly surprised to find the tyres offering the same level of comfort even on extremely uneven roads. I made it to my destination comfortably.

I have rarely seen such beauty in nature as I did in Gandikota. It is aptly called the Grand Canyon of India. Though it can feel intimidating if you have a fear of heights, believe me, if you are a shutterbug, the mesmerizing beauty all around you is going to make you forget everything while you are compelled to capture every bit of it. Once I had finished taking pictures, I decided to pitch a tent and camp for the night. Getting out of the hustle and bustle of the city and simply looking at the moonlit sky studded with stars is a truly liberating feeling. Those quiet, peaceful moments spent in the open helped me realize why I love to ride. My bike made the journey as beautiful as the destination.

One of the highlights of the trip was the mesmerizing sunrise I woke up to the next morning. You have to see it to believe how stunning it is! No matter how hard you try, photos cannot capture the absolute beauty of the rising sun against the scenery. The river, the canyon, the rustic feel of the rocky walls – all of it looks like the hills were ripped apart to make way for the majestic Penna.

After the beautiful sunrise, I went out to explore the Gandikota Fort. In ancient times, Gandikota was ruled by many dynasties. The fort that we see today was built by Pemmasani Ramalinga Nayaka and consists of 101 towers. It replaced the previous sand fort built by Kaka Raja, vassal of Kalyani Chalukya. The ruins of Gandikota Fort testify to the fact that time takes its toll on everything. The debris, the ancient temples dedicated to Madhava and Ranganatha, and the many ancient structures around make for a beautiful outing for those interested in heritage structures. Trekking inside the fort made for a wonderful adventure, with several spots where you can sit and enjoy the calm.

While this 2-day trip was enough to rejuvenate me to go back to the normal walk of life for a couple of months, I find the downside to such short trips is the part where you must head back. I always feel there is so much more to see and absorb that I may have missed out, but then that is just how life is.

Before starting on my journey back home, I took some pictures of my Classic 350 around the fort and had fun riding around in the dusty stretches full of gravel. While my Classic 350 may not be the right choice for such shenanigans, I was quite curious to see how the tyres would cope with the rough terrain. The uniformity of the big-block treads of these tyres ensures a steady hold even in loose gravel and dirt. I was convinced of the fact that if one were to get a bike that is more suited to this kind of riding, the CEAT Gripp XL tyres will add to the fun of chasing even the toughest of trails.

The CEAT Gripp XL is a fantastic set of tyres. They provide amazing grip on wet roads and the wide grooves make sure that water is expelled quickly and efficiently from the surface of the tyres, ensuring maximum grip. Even on a dry surface, the tyres provide great straight-line stability and a comfortable ride. While manoeuvring corners, the tyres back you up fully by offering a sturdy grip. It took some effort on my Classic 350, though that is mostly because of the larger wheels and a relaxed rake. Overall, I have found great companions for my motorcycle in the CEAT Gripp XL tyres. They are available in a variety of sizes in both tube and tubeless variants – my bike made use of the 90/90 – 19 and 110/90 – 18 variants. You can check out the complete range here.

On my journey back home, I took a different route from Gandikota through Jammalamadugu, Kadappa, Renigunta, Puttur, Thiruvallur to Chennai. The overall good condition of the roads coupled with my newfound confidence in my bike because of the CEAT Gripp XL tyres helped me make good time on my way back. I completed the journey in 6 hours, including two pit stops. Gandikota is a paradise, and if you happen to be within a 400 km radius, get your bike out for a great weekend excursion!

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