Planning for weekend getaways with friends tends to oscillate between knowledge of destinations and battles about the theme. Heritage, adventure or active destinations are thrown into the mix, till the most persistent person wins. During one such “war of the weekend”, I stepped in with an idea that would satisfy the entire coterie: a sum total of three friends, who were gravitating towards adventure, heritage and local exploration.
We left Hyderabad early, not because Bhongir (or Bhuvanagiri Fort) is far but because we wanted to spend as much time as possible at the 11th century Chalukyan fort—two days of rappelling, rock- climbing and temple-hopping.
After depositing our luggage at the Haritha Hotel (15km beyond Bhongir), we headed back to the large, isolated, egg-shaped hill that looms over green paddy fields. At the base, the Rock Climbing School had just stirred into action, ready for the beginner-level rock-climbing, bouldering and rappelling courses that people usually sign up for on the weekends. We chose the day programme that touches all three activities.
After a detailed orientation on these activities, I was successful in heaving myself up a near 90-degree rock with the help of an instructor. Perhaps I could finally call myself a rock-climbing rookie. Rappelling was far easier, as we took turns to descend from a more than 20ft-high rock, slowly but more surely.
It was only when the temperature dropped and the sky took on an orange hue that we realized the whole day had passed productively and swiftly.
We returned to the hotel fatigued, and fell into deep sleep within seconds of hitting the bed.
The next morning was, again, an early one—7am. This time, we trekked up the wide, winding steps to reach the fort’s arched entrance. Inside, dark, narrow, steep, walled-in steps took us to the Bala Hissar citadel. The forts, moat, armoury, stables, and large underground chamber are fairly intact but the highlight, undoubtedly, is the panoramic view from the ramparts.
After the trip to the fort, we decided to visit some villages. We first drove out 15km from Bhongir to Yadagirigutta, where the ancient Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy (Lord Narasimha) temple commands an exalted address atop a hill. The colourful, multi-tiered, sculpture-rich gopurams (temple gates) can be seen from a distance. According to the priest, the temple has existed since time immemorial. Such is the faith in the healing powers of the deity that people with severe physical or mental illnesses are frequently brought here.
Further along the same route is Kolanupaka village, 21km from Yadagirigutta. Centuries ago, this was one of the great Jain centres of south India. The draw lies in the 10th century Kolanupaka Jain temple and the 1.3m-tall jade idol of Mahavir. A pillared courtyard leads to the temple, where we also saw idols of other tirthankaras. We walked another kilometre to see the 11th century Someswara temple and the Kolanupaka Archaeological Museum, with centuries-old artefacts and sculptures. Inside the dimly lit Someswara temple was a garlanded shivling. I had just one wish. That we wouldn’t have to battle it out over weekends in the future.
Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros.The writer tweets at @ArunaChandaraju.