My perfect day Basking in Bhuj

Tripoto
7th Nov 2014

Bin Harif dabeli

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

Border check post - Bhiriyandara

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

BSF post - Lakhpat

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

Camels enroute the Rann, do try the camel mil

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

The high transmission DD tower

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

BSF post, Dhordo

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

White desert from the Kala Dungar

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

The endless white beauty

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

The White Rann

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

Inside a Bhunga, very organised

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

Kalo Dungar

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

Fort Lakhpat, standing tall overlooking the R

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

Mandvi Dabeli, Bhuj

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

Welcome to the White Rann

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

Bajra rotlo, sabji and the spicy garlic pickl

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

Sunset over the Rann

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

Desolate, the roads just keep on stretching l

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

The ghost town of Lakhpat

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

The strong, huge horns, peculiar all over Kut

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

Handicraft at Bhujodi

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

Moonlit Rann

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

A traditional Bhunga, Hodko

Photo of My perfect day Basking in Bhuj by Nandan Dongre

Bhuj, or Kutch in general is synonymous to the White desert and birds. The Great Rann of Kutch is a magnificent wonder. The process of the rainwater submerging the dry-lands, slowly giving way to the white salt flatlands is as unique as intriguing. This unusual topography also means that the area surrounding the Rann spurns out a few gems, true to its character. 

The beauty of this place is not in the destination, but in the journey. The people, the culture, the food and the geography;  all add up in making Kutch an unexplored jewel in India's crown.

The best way to explore Kutch is to start from Bhuj, and drive your way exploring Kutch. This 1 day itinerary consists of some of these gems in and around Bhuj; with an attempt to open this rustic but serene land to the reader.

Starting from the desolate town of Fort Lakpat, we made our way towards the Great White Rann; with stopovers around Bhuj town to experience the palate and culture of Kutch. It truly is a place to discover yourself, and ending the day relaxing on the white salts, just taking in the view, is mesmerising and fulfilling.Kutch is a place which needs to be visited to be experienced, words will never do enough justice.So pack up your bags and head upto Kutch, as they say, Kutch nahi dekha toh kuch nahi dekha.

Note: The trip starts in Bhuj, and ends in an overnight stay at Dhordo.

Fort Lakhpat is an abandoned fort-town situated in the far west corner of India, with the Pakistan border a mere 35 Kms from the fort. This used to be an important trading port till the 18th century, with the fort built along the banks of the Indus river, which once flowed its course through here into the sea. The name Lakhpat comes from the fact that it gave an annual revenue of one lakh Kori’s (Kori was the Kutch currency during the king’s rule). The river basin was fertile with rice plantations, and maritime activities in the river basin contributed to the revenue. But an earthquake in the 18th century caused a shift in the river’s flow, leading to virtual abandonment of a once bustling town. What remains today is a ghost town having a sparse population of about 400 people, with a Gurudwara and a BSF post at the fort, and a small BSF unit in command in the area. The town wears a deserted look, and the tomb of Ghosh Mohammad, which cannot be missed, is proof of the once populated town with its architecture and influence on both Hindus and Muslims. A drive through the sandy terrain gets you towards the wall, which is accessible at the location which houses a BSF post. The wall that still stands strong, overlooks the western end of the Great Rann; which is filled up with water from the Arabian sea during the monsoons. The BSF post has 2 jawans overlooking the Rann and the Pakistan border straight ahead, with the air distance not being more than 20 kms. A chance to talk with the jawans, and you would know that their duties are switched every 8 to 12 hours, with 2 jawans being posted at the fort and a further 20 in the camp at Lakhpat. A border patrol is scheduled for the 2 jawans once every fortnight. A mark of respect to the armed forces protecting our borders in all conditions, from the cold in the north to the dry and hot conditions in the Rann, housed in a post made of tin roofs. Lakhpat has to stand apart as one of the least explored, but most intriguing forts in India. The silence of the Rann, the occasional flock of birds swaying over you, the eeriness of the abandoned town and the warmth in the Gurudwara; it is a fulfilling experience. Start from the Bhuj at 06:30 am, it will take about 2hrs to reach Lakhpat. Arrival at Lakhpat - Approx 08.30 am Distance from Bhuj to Fort Lakhpat is 135 Kms. Tip for brunch - The Gurudwara serves a sumptuous meal of dal and roti for travellers coming in to explore the area, which you can savour while making your way into the fort, or on your way out. There are options at Nakhatrana on the way back to Bhuj as well. You will reach Nakhatrana by 12.00 pm on your way back. For the experimental, roadside eatery lovers; there is a ‘chaupati’ once you cross the Bus stand, with cart vendors spurning out fresh dabelis, fafdas or even chola bhaturas if you are lucky. For the ones who prefer a restaurant; hotel fun-n-food just after Nakhatrana serves a host of South-Indian, Punjabi and Chinese items on their menu.
Photo of Lakhpat, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Lakhpat, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Lakhpat, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Lakhpat, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Lakhpat, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Lakhpat, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Heading down the narrow lanes of Bhuj, making your way past the Bus stand onto the street which houses a host of food vendors; you will come across ‘Mandvi’ and ‘Bin Harif’ dabeli walas. The shops have benches to sit inside, while the dabeli makers work on their trade, spurning out one delicious dabeli after another. Dabeli is essentially a traditional Kutchi snack, a sweetish-soft bun like bread filled with a flavoured mashed potato filling, which is spiced up with a thin sauce (chatni) and peanuts. While it is available in a fried form; where the bread (paav) is shallow friend onto a flat pan in butter; the bread is served as is in its most original form. Both the Dabeli vendors recently won an award for the best dabeli vendors in Bhuj, on a national food show named ‘Highway on my Plate’. While the dabeli served by ‘Bin Harif’ is a bit pungent on the spices, with the typical muslim flavours hitting you with each bite; the ‘Mandvi’ one is more easy on your palate in terms of spices, and a bit sweeter as well. The Mandvi once would suit a wider palate, but the sharp flavour on the Bin Harif one made it for me; though I would say it is not for one who would be affected by spices.
Photo of Mandvi and Bin Harif dabeliwala, Bhuj by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Mandvi and Bin Harif dabeliwala, Bhuj by Nandan Dongre
Bhujodi is a sleepy town, 10 kms from Bhuj, but houses at every nook and corner will have merchants selling you Kutchi work. Ranging from home décor items like ‘torans’ and wall hangings; to garments, bed sheets and even accessories like bags; the handicrafts are available in all the traditional Kutch embroideries as well as the infamous ‘bandhani’ work. The person we visited to buy garments from told us that they do home deliveries all over India as well, provided the orders are in bulk; orders for at least 10 people. The shop owners buy the garments from local tribes in the Kutch area; hence displaying a wide variety of the various types of ‘Kutchi’ hand-work. The handicraft shops are essentially a part of the owner’s house, with a room converted into the shop exhibit, and the ladies make their own handicrafts in their home. This does mean that the supply is usually slower than the demand; but the number of such shops is quite reasonable.
Photo of Bhujodi, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
This is a village at the heart of the Banni grasslands, famous for its Banni handwork as well as a famous bird spotting destination during the post monsoon. Unfortunately for us, lack of rainfall meant there was no migration this year. The landscape as you cross the military establishment outside Bhuj changes from low lying desert shrubs, making their way for the dry sands of the desert (Rann). You are most definite to come across herds of camels with their shepherd’s; and the really experimental ones can ask for a trial of camels milk to the most willing tribesman (Tip: they might ask for 10 or 20 bucks, but that’s nothing compared to this experience) Before entering Hodko, you will need to take permission to enter the Rann (being a sensitive area due to its proximity to the Indo-Pak border) at a border check post just past a town called Bhiriyandara on the Bhuj-Dhordo road. All you need to do is submit your Id proof and vehicle number, and the charges for entry are Rs. 100 per person per day. This town is famous for its Mawa cake, and is a must try. Bhujodi - Hodko - Approx 90 Kms Travel time - 1hr30 mins approx.
Photo of Hodko, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Hodko, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Hodko, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Venture into the village to meet the locals who live in their traditional Bhungas (a mud house constructed on a circular platform), eat their local fare consisting of rotlos (flat bread made of bajra), a spicy veggie and pickle made from garlic and red chillies. The lunch is satisfying, and the spices are complimentary to the dry heat around you; making the meal enjoyable to say the least. The women in the village make and trade traditional Banni-work, selling handicrafts like quills, bedsheets and dresses. The men farm staple food like Bajra and chillies; while farming their cattle as well. Life is tough out here, especially in the heat; and tourism is catching up fast in the villagers as well. The younger generations are getting educated, and also work as guides and have set up small resorts for people visiting the Rann.
Photo of Late lunch at Hodko, Gujarat by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Late lunch at Hodko, Gujarat by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Late lunch at Hodko, Gujarat by Nandan Dongre
Kalo Dungar is the highest spot in the Rann of Kutch area, giving you a panaromic view of the Great Rann. This place is also famous for the 'priests' feeding the jackals which come here during the monsoon. The drive is short, but the roads are narrower as you make your way out from Hodko, going past the Border check post and the town of Khavda, up towards the summit of the hill. The views of the Rann from the Kalo Dungar are fascinating. For any traveller, it is a must as an introduction to the Rann. The beauty and span of the white desert amazes you. Magnificent would be an understatement. If one does come here just after the rains, you could also spot the migratory flamingos at the great lake just a detour from Khavda village. Hodko to Kalo Dungar - Approx 30 mins
Photo of Kalo Dungar, Kutch, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Kalo Dungar, Kutch, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Kalo Dungar, Kutch, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Kalo Dungar, Kutch, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Kalo Dungar, Kutch, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Kalo Dungar, Kutch, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
A short drive from Hodko takes you to Dhordo, the gateway to the Great white Rann. The landscape will change drastically and suddenly from the tall grasslands and shrubs of Banni to the dry plants on the desert. At Dhordo, the plants and the sand disappear; and as you approach the BSF post, all you can see in front of you is the white salt stretching beyond the horizon. You make your entry at the BSF post, submitting your permit, and drive up into the White Rann till the road leads you. The BSF will warn you against driving on the Rann, especially if you visit it during the drying months. One is allowed to venture out into the white desert till 11.30 pm during the dry season, that runs from late October to February. Park your car, take out your tent if you have one; or just wander aimlessly into the Great white salt desert stretching in front of you. A Full moon’s night adds to the delight of the visual; just lie down beneath the stars as they begin to appear in the sky and feel the peace of mind.
Photo of Dhordo, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Dhordo, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Dhordo, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
Photo of Dhordo, Gujarat, India by Nandan Dongre
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