We woke up with great enthusiasm to soon leave for the salt desert. At breakfast we met couple of other travelers and I always like to strike up conversations over food. As we wanted to spend a night near to the desert we tried to know from the French & Italian guys about their night stay but that didn't helped much. Anyhow we just took off and left the accommodation thing to be explored later. We hit the highway around 9.00 am to 'Dhordo' - the entry point to 'The White Desert'
Perfect weather, almost no traffic and smooth highway, what else one could expect for a perfect ride to the extreme west of India. Unfortunately a small error in taking the right route made us ride around 30 extra kms but soon we were back on the right route. Soon we were on the road which had absolutely nothing doting the entire highway. Just barren semi-arid land till the horizon. We passed the Tropic of Cancer en-route to Dhordo. Around 11.00 we reached the permit stop.
All those who want to go into the salt desert has to take a permit from this stop. I don't remember how much we paid for the permit but for 2 persons and a motorbike we paid around 200 rupees. One needs to carry a copy of Photo ID, if not be ready to stand in a queue to get it xeroxed. Fill the form and you get the permit. Since it was diwali holidays we had to stand for nearly 2 hours in a totally chaotic queue. There is just one setup for issuing this permit, so be ready to line up in a long queue if you happen to visit there in Diwali. The permit can be taken for 2 places. 'The White Desert' and 'Kalo Dungar' (The Black Hill). Visit The Black Hill first and than proceed to The White Desert. After managing the queue and getting the permit, we straight away headed to Dhordo. From here till Dhordo there were no eateries or even small shacks where we could have a lunch, so we straight away went to Gujarat Tourism's resort looking for some accommodation, but it was packed. Instead we hurriedly went to their restaurant which allowed us after few requests as the last customers for lunch. A bit expensive but a simple and delicious lunch.
Around 3.30 pm we reached the BSF (Border Security Force) outpost where one has to submit the permit and register their names to go inside the desert. It was almost one km drive in the desert and soon we were riding on the land covered with white salt. Our excitement didn't let us stop and we actually drove a bit inside where our bikes started to get stick in the soft land. Unfortunately for us, the entire region had received heavy & unseasonal rains for once in October and hence the land had not completely dried up. We even saw couple of cars getting stuck. And it's such a tricky land that the more forcefully you try to bring out your vehicle it goes deeper and deeper. Luckily for us we just got the rear tyre lifted and we were out of the sludge. There were quite a number of tourists and the excitement was absolutely visible on their face.
The White Desert is a breath taking view. The entire land till the horizon was covered in white salt. The only dark spots visible were the trails of footsteps left by people on the still soft land. We had great fun taking pictures of us with the salt desert in the back ground. The only disappointment was that we couldn't drove our bikes a bit deep in the desert as the land was still soft. But the view was just breath taking. The sun soon was setting down and the twilight indicated we had to return as we still didn't had any accommodation fixed. If we didn't find one we'll have to go all the way back 80 kms to Bhuj.
A quick sign off at the BSF out post and we headed to 'Hudko'. It's a village 15 kms from Dhordo towards Bhuj where we knew there is a small resort. Most of the resorts here are run by the local village people who have grabbed the rising tourist inflow to earn some handsome money. They comprise of 'Bhungas' (traditional mud huts of the region) with electricity & running water. Some even have AC. The rates are quite high around 3500 rupees per night including meals. We asked for a night stay but all rooms were packed. But the owner offered us a stay in his house in the village for around 1000 rupees per night per person plus the food. For us it was even a better option as we really wanted to stay in the village with the locals. We agreed and finally we had our night stay fixed. I remembered what my client had told me the other day. In Kutch you will never get stuck up. People are extremely helpful anywhere in Kutch if you are in a fix. We asked the the family if we can have the same dinner as they cook for themselves and they readily agreed. Soon the dinner was served. A simple dinner having roti made from bajra (millet), potato & onion vegetable, buttermilk and khichdi (steamed rice with lentils) But it was spicy as people from this region love their spicy food. Next we again went to the resort for a light entertainment of folk music. The local musicians narrated the folk stories from the land singing in Kutchi language and explaining it in Gujarati.
What a perfect day it was with a great ride, breath taking view of the salt desert, a delicious local dinner, cold winter night and folk music. It was just amazing and we returned to our Bhunga for a peaceful sleep. Next day we woke up to fresh air of a beautiful morning sleeping through a very quite night. Had chai and roti for breakfast. Took some pictures of the place and finally were heading back to Ahmedabad. We had to cover around 425 kms and had the whole day. A brief stop in Bhuj for breakfast and again hit the highway. We had 4 stops including one long lunch break and some small breaks on the highway for clicking pictures. Finally after covering almost 1200 kms in 4 days we got back to Ahmedabad at 7.30 pm. A truly exhilarating experience.
Though we explored only some portions of this vast & diverse region, the variety in the ecosystem is amazing and to be experienced in person to believe it. I still wish to explore Mandvi - the beach town and Dholavira - The Harappan city, a part of Indus valley civilization and another ride into The White Desert. May be another bike trip? ;)