Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way

Tripoto
15th Jan 2018
Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar
Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way 1/2 by Himani Chandorkar

Landing up in the White Rann on a No Moon's Day when the rest of the world waits for a Full moon to experience its grandeur.... Waking up before dawn and driving up a hill to watch a Sunrise....and as it actually dawns , dawning onto you ....you have arrived at a Sunset view point.....Our trip to Kutch made me realize ....it's not only fun doing things the "Topsy Turvy" way.....it gives you an opportunity to become an explorer in the true sense as you search for beauty where others don't seek.

When our friends from Himachal showed keen interest to visit Gujarat.... Kutch topped the list of places to visit followed by Gir....So off we were - The 5 musketeers on a super memorable "Topsy Turvy" trip across Gujarat.

Day 01 - Great Rann of Kutch

Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way 2/2 by Himani Chandorkar

Close to 490 kms from Vadodara the road journey is butterly smooth, and if you have time on hand you could break it by taking an overnight halt at the Little Rann of Kutch on the way. We didnt have extra time and thus drove straight down to the Great Rann to the little hamlet Bhirandiyara. Kutch is dotted with little villages that boast of handicrafts unique to their village because of the skill passed on from generation to generation. Bhujodi for textiles, Nirona for Rogan Art, Ajrakhpur for ajrakh work, Dhordo for embroidery....similarly the village we stayed in Bhirandiyara, was know for its fresh " Maavo", milk reduced to a thick fudge like consistency and sweetened with sugar, best eaten hot.

As we reached around 3.30 the villager managing the bhunga homestays escorted us into our little bhungas. Bhungas are traditional houses unique to the Kutch region in Gujarat. The houses are circular walled with thatched roof. It is constructed using locally available materials like clay, bamboo, timber, etc. The exterior walls are adorned with colourful paintings while the interiors are decorated with exquisite mud and mirror work. They are known for their structural stability in earthquakes and for being climate responsive... and they surely were climate responsive - cooling down in the afternoons and warming up during the night.

Somehow there was a lull in the air when we reached our homestay and soon got to know that the sister of the villager running this village homestay was critically ill. In the evening they apologetically conveyed to us that the kitchen would not function that night but allowed our friend to cook a pack of maggi for their 11 years old son. Our meal was arranged with a large group travelling in 2-3 buses with their own caterers. I must say it was one of the most unforgettable meals during our kutch trip - super chaotic as hundreds queued up to fill their plates, being served all that we would least expect and want to have during our stay in kutch.....half baked/ unbaked pizza instead of "Rotlo", tomato soup instead of buttermilk, and regular dal and rice instead of kutchi kadhi khichadi....

Having been the trip planner was initially disappointed to have our Himachali friends' Gujarat experience start on this note.....but soon got convinced about their sporting attitude as more topsy turvy events followed which we all thoroughly enjoyed rather than fretting over.

Although we visted the Great Rann at Dhordo the first evening we reached, with the Mela and all, we all were keen to visit a more untouched and unexplored part of the Rann......or rather I would say, not contaminated by human touch, thanks to the loads of plastic we leave behind as souvenirs on these mesmerizing vast white expanses of the salt desert.

Day 2

Day 02 - Kala Dungar, Gandhi nu Gam, India Bridge, Unexplored White Rann

And so we were up the next day morning at 5.30 again ready to explore Kutch our way....and as always "OUR Way" had to come with a lot of surprises. So there we found ourselves standing in the dark in front of the locked doorway - the only way for us to step out of our homestay hamlet. Tried to call the villager who was managing our stay, but he seemed to be fast asleep as the call went unanswered....And as I saw our mountaineer friend Panki inspecting the walls, I said to myself... "Oh! Boy! I better find the keys pretty quick before the mountaineer gets us city dwellers jumping over walls and breaking our backs."...and like a scene out of a movie I stepped into the little hamlet of some 50-60 homes just behind our bhungas, calling out our homestay owner's name aloud standing outside each home, as we were unaware which one he stayed in, badly hoping to get a response!! Thankfully this scene did not stretch like a melodramatic scene from a Dilip Kumar Movie and the third home happened to be his home!! And finally we were out in the open......all set free to drive down to Kala Dungar and reach the top before the Sun rose.

Five of us hopped into our car which hit the road with the Google Maps Aunty guiding us through dusty, bumpy roads making our dainty Sedan roar and throw up dust all around like a mighty SUV only to realize within 10 minutes that the Google Aunty seemed to be still getting over a hangover at 6 in the morning and had thus led us into the opposite direction. Thanks to a "Chaggda Driver" who stepped into the shoes of Google Aunty for some time, we got back on the right route.... and the rest of the drive was smooth making us reach just in time for the Sunrise. And as we parked our car we read a sign there which said "Sunset Point". But I must say, watching a Sunrise at a Sunset point has its own advantages......The top one being, you have the Kala Dungar all for yourself....not a soul around... taking you through a beautiful tranquil experience as you see the Sun rising. Yes, you are on a hillock....so the Sunset might be its highlight but that does not mean you can't see a sunrise there. All you need is to look the other way to see the beautiful Sun gradually rise and change the hues of the skies from soft pinks to flaming oranges to finally brilliant yellows as the Glorious Sun is up and shining.

The pink hues

Photo of Kutch, Gujarat, India by Himani Chandorkar

The pinks in the skies turning to oranges

Photo of Kutch, Gujarat, India by Himani Chandorkar

Time for "Paghdi" posing

Photo of Kutch, Gujarat, India by Himani Chandorkar

Folk music

Photo of Kutch, Gujarat, India by Himani Chandorkar

The camel ride workout

Photo of Kutch, Gujarat, India by Himani Chandorkar

After enjoying the beautiful Sun Rise, posing with Kutchi paghdis, listening to folk music from a local musician, enjoying a camel ride workout (was nothing short of a workout and a scary one with a constant fear of falling off ) and yes finally having our youngest musketeer Prikshit leave his mark by flying a kite atop the Kala Dungar (He didn't leave a single town without flying a kite on it's land )....we were off to explore Kutch the off beat way. A young local boy offered to be our guide and got us to the Real White Rann close to the India Bridge the closest border with Pakistan

Spotless white expanses of salt spotted with blues where the water was still logged and where beautiful tall cranes flocked....flying all together at the slightest hint of human presence. If you really wish to experience the beauty of the White Rann you need to be here....away from the commercialized chaos at the more popular RannUtsav at Dhordo.

Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar
Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar
Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar
Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar
Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar

After spending some quality time strolling across the white desert, spotting birds and simply enjoying the beauty of nothingness we headed for the village "Gandhi nu Gaam"

The post-earthquake redevelopment of the Gandhi Nu Gam village was carried out through a holistic, participatory approach that maintained the socio-cultural traditions and building systems of the local area as well as improving economic conditions and opportunities.

Gandhi nu Gaam

Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar

Shopping time

Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar

As we reached this village little girls surrounded us trying to sell little cloth dolls. We visited a number of homes in the village and found members of all homes were related to each other in some way or the other. They had beautiful handmade quilts to sell and we observed that quite a few had got damaged because of rat infestation. When asked why they didnt try to get rid of the rats, to our surprise we received a reply" Like you and me, a rat also has a heart that beats....a life within it, how could we kill it."

The villagers served us freshly cooked shaak, rotla and athanu ...perhaps the most satisfying meal during our trip, as we sat on the floor in a cool bhunga on a warm afternoon gulping down glassfuls of buttermilk...

With almost evening time we had to make it back to Kala Dungar to see it for what it is known for....the Sunset ofcourse! ????

And there we were back at the hill....first to watch a pack of jackals arrive at the call of the temple priest to have Prasad followed by seeing the flaming sun gradually mellow down with the beats of folk music playing in the background as it bid adieu to finally vanish like magic into the salt land.

Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar

As we drove back to our homestay we decided to close the day "Our Way" ..

Being pretty late the permits to visit the White Rann at the Rann Utsav were already closed, but we wanted to see the Rann the way no one else prefers to.....on a No Moon's Night...and there we were at the gates with our friends from Himachal requesting the guards to let them see it one last time just for 10 minutes....and they did manage to strike a chord with them thus letting us in for 10 minutes.

And there we were amidst darkness, not a sound but of the strong breeze blowing.....and as we lay down on the ground looking up to the skies , with the smell of camel dung making its way through the nostrils.....that was a moment of feeling connected with the planet will live on.....the kind of moment that fills u up with a sense of what a little speck you are in this universe....the same feeling that engulfs me when in the mountains.....and with this we closed the day our way again, returning back to our homestay.

Day 3 - Chhari Dand Bird Sanctuary, Mandvi

Up at 5.30 in the morning we were off to Chhari Dand Bird Sanctuary. A relatively less know one I would say looking at the awareness of the locals about it….took quite some effort to finally find a person who would take us there. Had to reach there before sunrise to catch the birds there.

It took us a good one hour thirty minutes to reach as our guide drove his jeep through rough terrain, through terrain which in fact had no marked paths. This is a place which has to be visited with a local guide, else a sureshot place to get lost. As we approached the waterbody at Chhari Dand at dawn, we could hear the sounds of birds and the next moment there were thousands of them flying up in the air………a sight which felt nothing short of magical. As we walked through marshy lands we finally witnessed a flock of flamingos. Unfortunately we weren’t carrying a pair of binoculars but were carrying a telescope which was named Vasco Da Gama through out the trip….and yes Vasco Da Gama did come pretty handy in spotting the birds.

Chhari Dand is something not to be missed during your visit to kutch. In fact you could plan to reach earlier than us to get to see more birds. But being surrounded by lakhs of birds is certainly an experience that cannot be described in words.

Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar
Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar
Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar
Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar

Our brief stay at Great Rann done, it was time for us to move to our next destination – Mandvi.

Mandvi Diaries

A comfortable 2 hours drive from the Great Rann of Kutch, Mandvi is a beach destination in Gujarat not to be missed. We had booked ourselves with the Beach Camp Site of the Vijay Vilas Palace and it feels absolutely worth it as you walk on the white sands of the beach against the sea breeze with the turquoise blues of the ocean soothing your eyes…. perhaps the best beach of Gujarat. The private beach of the property is a gem in itself…well, if you see the pictures below you would realize it looks nothing short of a Mauritius beach………..Amazingly blue waters, absolutely clean sands, no crowds….so much better than many of those crowded Goa beaches. The glamping experience assures necessary luxuries without losing out on the rustic connect, with Nilgais for company in the sea facing cafe. The beach is dotted with trees that house a lot of beautiful sunbirds. Our agenda for the day was just lazing around by the sea side and that’s what we exactly did…..ofcourse the kite had to be flown on the sands of Mandvi beach and so it was!

Mandvi or Mauritius...

Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar
Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar
Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar
Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar

Our kite is up there.....but God only knows where :-)

Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar

Good morning!

Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar

Day 4 : Roaring our way to the land of lions - Gir

Up at 5.30 in the morning we were off to Chhari Dand Bird Sanctuary. A relatively less know one I would say looking at the awareness of the locals about it....took quite some effort to finally find a person who would take us there. Had to reach there before sunrise to catch the birds there.

It took us a good one hour thirty minutes to reach as our guide drove his jeep through rough terrain, through terrain which in fact had no marked paths. This is a place which has to be visited with a local guide, else a sureshot place to get lost. As we approached the waterbody at Chhari Dand at dawn, we could hear the sounds of birds and the next moment there were thousands of them flying up in the air.........a sight which felt nothing short of magical. As we walked through marshy lands we finally witnessed a flock of flamingos. Unfortunately we weren't carrying a pair of binoculars but were carrying a telescope which was named Vasco Da Gama through out the trip....and yes Vasco Da Gama did come pretty handy in spotting the birds.

Chhari Dand is something not to be missed during your visit to kutch. In fact you could plan to reach earlier than us to get to see more birds. But being surrounded by lakhs of birds is certainly an experience that cannot be described in words.

A comfortable 2 hours drive from the Great Rann of Kutch, Mandvi is a beach destination in Gujarat not to be missed. We had booked ourselves with the Beach Camp Site of the Vijay Vilas Palace and it feels absolutely worth it as you walk on the white sands of the beach against the sea breeze with the turquoise blues of the ocean soothing your eyes.... perhaps the best beach of Gujarat. The private beach of the property is a gem in itself...well, if you see the pictures below you would realize it looks nothing short of a Mauritius beach...........Amazingly blue waters, absolutely clean sands, no crowds....so much better than many of those crowded Goa beaches. The glamping experience assures necessary luxuries without losing out on the rustic connect, with Nilgais for company in the sea facing cafe. The beach is dotted with trees that house a lot of beautiful sunbirds. Our agenda for the day was just lazing around by the sea side and that's what we exactly did.....ofcourse the kite had to be flown on the sands of Mandvi beach and so it was!

Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar
Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar

The next day was a long journey of 400+ kms to Gir - the land of lions. After paying a quick visit to the Vijay Vilas Palace to see the terrace where Salman and Aishwarya danced to the tune of Kaipoche and getting a quick old styled instant group picture clicked by the local photographer we were on our way to Gir. The youngest musketeer in our group kept us adequately entertained with his riddles and games till we reached SasanGir around 10.45 in the night.

Thanks to a recommendation from a dear friend Chinar who is a regular visitor, we stayed at a farm house although basic but at a location like no other in Gir, being adjacent to the forest unlike the commercial big resorts. We quickly went off to sleep as had booked ourselves in the morning 6 safari.

Our farm house caretaker Tamsibhai also doubled up as our forest guide during the jeep safari, as we went through the forest shivering with cold having underestimated how cold it would get and hence the light woollens.

Photo of Dating Kutch & Gir - The Topsy Turvy Way by Himani Chandorkar

A few deer sightings and a leopard on top of a hill to finally see a lion, but to our disappointment too tame to be called a lion with a tracker sitting right there with his bike parked.....perhaps a senior official was expected to arrive and so the poor lions had to make an appearance come what may.

More than spotting the lion, we enjoyed the drive through the forest....and by the time we were out of the forest, although we didnt hear the roar of the lions my stomach was growling for sure.

After being on a gujju diet for a week our friends from Himachal were craving for alu parathas with dollops of butter....and like a genie Tamsibhai said....your wish is my command.

By the time we reached back to the farm house his wife was ready to serve us piping hot parathas with loads of fresh butter and a pitcher full of buttermilk.....and we did hog enough to doze off on the local "Khaats" for the next hour for sure.

A walk through mango orchards followed before we had a sumptuous saurashtra meal. That's when Tamsibhai offered to take us through the adjacent forest area....tall trees, entwined roots, little water bodies with the flame of forests - the Kesuda growing in abundance we returned to go next to watch crocodiles in a marshy river.

After a bonfire that night, Tamsi bhai also took us for a walk through the pitch black forest with sightings of deer prancing across with only their sparkling eyes visible. We also visited a small jaggery processing unit near the forest area to see the sugar cane transform into golden yellow jaggery before we walked back through the eerie dark silence with occasional sounds of rustling leaves, as we we returned to the farm house.

And with this it was time to return home the next day morning. Being a super organized trip planner this is the first time I lived through a "Topsy Turvy Trip" with a lot of things not going as per the plan....and to be honest it was fun as it did add a zing of adventure.

And as we made the long journey back home I thought about the experiences we had - the great ones, the ok ones the topsy turvy ones.....

During this trip, we neither checked off too many tourist spots off our checklist, nor did we stay at places that are known to pamper you with the best of luxuries, yet there was something that made it special......and that something was "People"....... Starting with our friends from Himachal who made every moment feel special by simply going with the flow and enjoying every bit of the unexpected changes and seeing the sunny side of almost everything.... to the locals who took good care of us right from Kutch to Gir .....from serving us an impromptu meal at Gandhi nu Gam to going out of the way to take us on off beat hikes in the unexplored forests of Sasan Gir......realized it's the people that always make your trips memorable.

Finally it doesn't matter where you are going..........it's who you have with you on the journey and who you meet on the way that makes the difference.

Quick tips to close with...

1. We had a day and a half with us at the Great Rann....it would be worth having an additional day to visit a few more of the handicraft villages.

2. Instead of staying at the crowded Rann Utsav, would suggest a stay at Shaam e Sarhad, again a village resort beautifully managed by the village panchayat. We didnt stay there but did visit it.

3. With more time on hand Dholavira can be added if interested in history , unesco world heritage sites, old excavations.

4. One day is enough at Mandvi, but you need to book yourself at the Mandvi Beach Camp to experience the beauty of the private beach

5. When in Gir, farmhouses like the one we stayed in would appeal more to people like us who enjoy rustic vacations rather than luxurious resorts.

PC: Rohit & Panki

First published at mytraveldoodles.wordpress.com

Be the first one to comment