The KSTDC website mentioned Badami as the capital in the early days of the Chalukya dynasty. It was founded in the 6th century and remained as the seat of power up to the 8th. Its primary attractions are the cave temples, which are excavated out of solid rock. But the nearby sites of Pattadakal and Aihole are also popular tourist spots.
We left the hotel room at Hospet at 7:00 am and stopped at a darshini along the way for breakfast. Hot idlis, washed down with excellent filter coffee primed the mood for the day’s riding. At 150 kilometres away, we were confident of reaching Badami by lunchtime. But first we would have to tackle 20 kilometres of bad roads through Hospet town itself and the rest through the highways outside municipality limits. We managed to tackle this in good time due to the early hour and light traffic, and were soon staring at a signboard pointing towards NH 13 and Kushtagi.
Repair work on NH 13 is nearing completion, but it has its share of detours and rough patches yet. Road work ends at around Budugumpa, where we had to take the bike from below the support scaffolding of an under-construction flyover. It’s all smooth sailing afterwards. However, the bare, featureless landscape made for some really boring riding. We had to fall back upon the all time favourite – antakshari – to keep ourselves awake and interested. Singing on a motorcycle is a surefire way to run your voice hoarse. Sudden gusts on strong westerly crosswinds helped break the boredom once in a while. In all, while my original estimate to reach Kushtagi from Hospet had been one hour, it was closer to two hours later that we finally reached the town.
After Kushtagi, the going became much simpler. The state highway was narrower, but had thick tree cover or other wind-breakers. Whatever was left of the wind would come as headwinds, which did not affect handling much. Clear weather and decent road quality helped make good time all the way to Badami.
At Badami, the hotel was a non-descript guesthouse converted out of an old stone bungalow. Being run by the state tourism department, the facilities were predictably average. The air-conditioner worked, but gaps in the vintage door and window frames ensured the room did not turn too cold. The television worked, serving up every possible Kannada language channel being broadcast, with a smattering of Hindi and English thrown in between. Tossing out a couple of lizards added some excitement to an otherwise boring afternoon. The dal fry and rice we had for lunch at the hotel restaurant was palatable.
We rode out to the Badami Caves late in the afternoon. As far as distances go, Badami isn’t much. And well positioned signs guide the tourist to all places of interest without trouble. Side roads are rubble, littered with flowing garbage, and infested with pigs who dart across with surprising agility. Be careful around them. The caves were nice as far as monuments went, but were completely littered with all varieties of smart alecs out to fleece visitors. One group of stags, obviously smelling of alcohol, tried to make a strong bid at ‘fraanship’ with us. They would continue to follow us out of the caves complex and cause a slight change in plans later in the evening.
The caves themselves obviously impressive, but it is obvious that artistic skill and architectural technology had increased substantially in later years, as is evident at Lakkundi and Hampi. The carvings are not quite as finely made or interestingly laid out. Nevertheless, the breathtaking views of Badami, Bhoothnath Temple and Agastya Lake from that altitude made the trip worthwhile.
As we left the parking lot, I noticed a white car following us in undue hurry. I slowed down under the pretext of navigating around a pig and saw that it was the same guys that were trying to get friendly at the caves. We were now on the road towards Banashankari Temples over SH 57, backtracing the same road we had followed yesterday. Not wanting to be harassed by these guys any more, I let them pass ahead once we reached the parking lot, then continued ahead instead of stopping. It would have been nice to sit at the banks of the tank, but that was not to be.
We turned left at the next junction on the road to the back country roads nearby. It was 6:00 in the evening and the weather was pleasant. The landscape was very rustic, with mud-built houses along the way, shepherds taking their flocks home and the evening calls of birds rending in the air. We stopped for a bit at a bridge to take in the sights of flowing waters before heading back to Badami. Unknown to us, the route we took rounded off back to the Banashankari Temple parking lot. But by the time we reached there, the car following us was nowhere to be seen.
Dinner at the Heritage Resort had a wider range of options than the lunch at Mayura Chalukya. We made short work of it before heading back to the hotel. There’s little to do in Badami in the evenings. If you’re planning to visit, either get a large group together or carry plenty of board games with you.