Rann of Kutch Diaries – 1
One would associate the Rann of Kutch with images of white sands, never ending deserts and the Rann of Kutch festival. However, the real Rann is not on the festive grounds, its miles away deep into the desert, where the sky merges with the salted land and time holds still.
You have multiple options to reach the Rann of Kutch, ours was a road trip which took almost 16 hours from Mumbai. What one does in a desert is highly subjective matter and would differ from one person to another, the solitude could be uncomfortable for some, but those who enjoy it would not want to leave. The Great Rann of Kutch is a seasonal salt marsh located in the Thar Desert in the Kutch District of Gujarat, India and the Sindh province of Pakistan. The desert is no one’s friend and discipline will go a long way in ensuring an uneventful off-road experience. The Rann of Kutch begins to dry up in October every year, steadily transforming into the desolate and surreal salt desert.
The Rann of Kutch is a sensitive area, due to its proximity to the Pakistani border. Therefore, written permission is required to visit the salt desert.
Kala Dungar (Black Hill):
Kala Dungar which effectively means Black Hill is the highest point in Kutch and known for the spectacular views of the Kutch region. Mornings can be chilly even on a summer day with the wind blowing at you in full strength. As the sun rises up in the mountains, you feel blessed for being alive to be able to welcome this beautiful day. If you are up early, don’t miss out the moon setting on one side of the mountains welcoming the sun.
Moon setting behind the mountains
Kala Dungar welcomes you, away from civilization and gives you a taste of what the real Rann is, vast expanse of dry terrain, mountain ranges which talk to the sky, sand which keeps blowing with the wind and skies with myriad clouds which keep moving through the day. The Rann of Kutch is definitely not for those looking at luxuries and worldly comforts, and this is a stark reminder of things to be. The solitude of the place embraces you with both hands and while driving back to the city, even the light traffic would seem to irritate you.
Ekal Ka Rann- The Rann of Ekal (When Cranes Cry)
They say this is one of the entry points to the Rann of Kutch and ends by an estuary which gives it an appearance of a beach. This is where the salt meets the sea. Experts recommend visiting the white sands from this point simply because this is less commercial as compared to the Rann of Kutch festival grounds.
This is an ideal spot to sit and enjoy the sea and behold the quiet sun setting. A place where no one will trouble you. It was just us, our cans of beer, the sea and the sun. Time flies and it is easy to lose track of time. We had stopped our vehicles about 2 kms away, because the desert is nobody’s friend. Beyond a point you cannot drive, then it is about walking it up till the place where you cannot walk anymore. Remember the Rann is essentially a salt marsh and nothing looks or remains the same forever. Tracks change, solid land becomes water bodies. Someone from our motley group pointed out at the silence groping us and some cranes crying in the background. The cries of the canes getting louder by the minute and the sun setting faster then we could have comprehended.
The eeriness of the place had us mesmerized to linger longer then necessary and we would have stayed there for more time, but better sense prevailed and we decided to move out. That’s when we broke out of our reverie and realized that it had become pitch dark and we could no longer go back the track. This is where the desert changes and the salt starts emitting water which makes solid tracks marshy.
All you see around yourself is pitch darkness, even the full moon was hidden amongst the clouds. Fortunately for us we had our mobile phone network, we called our driver and asked him to switch on the headlights of our vehicle. The three of us made a mad dash towards the light which could be seen at a distance.
Once we were back in our vehicle we breathed easy, it is easy to get lost in the desert and it could be too late by the time anyone finds you.
The moral of the story - let nature be your guide when you travel and when it shows any signs of impending danger, respect it and act accordingly.
----Continued in Part 2-----