Visit to the shimmering Rann of Kutch

Tripoto
31st Oct 2016

India is truly a land of breathtaking landscapes. Every state has some unique locations to enchant us. Rann of Kutch is one such picturesque destination. Located on the far Western side of Gujarat, it is a magnificent place of dazzling white salt encrusted desert plains. This vast landscape, which is one of the world's largest seasonal wetlands during monsoons, turns into a salt-impregnated flat land during winter. And winter (November - March) is the best time to visit Rann of Kutch. More specifically, on a full moon night, when the white desert appears to be shimmering! The state's government even organizes an annual festival, called Rann Utsav (or 'Rannotsav'). This year it is being held from 01st Nov 2016 until 20th Feb 2017.

Coming to our experience of visiting this beautiful off-beat destination. And the way our journey began added to our joy and excitement!

Five of us were to take a train - Kutch Express - from Borivali (Mumbai) to Bhuj (Gujarat). The train arrived at Borivali and only two of my fellow wanderers were present at the platform, while the remaining three (including yours truly) were still on the way, scurrying from different directions with our respective luggage. We managed to board the train in the nick of time (a la Jab we Met). And incidentally, the last wanderer to board had the ticket printouts for everybody!???? And thus, we were off to exploring one more unique place.

Day 1:

It was an overnight journey, following which, we reached Bhuj around 9 a.m. We had booked a vehicle in advance and it awaited us as we reached the station. Our accommodation was about an hour's drive from Bhuj, so we decided to have breakfast somewhere nearby before proceeding. We visited a small eatery not far from the station, and had fresh, mouth-watering fafda and jalebi, with yummy papaya chutney!???? This typical Gujarati breakfast provided us a glimpse of the delicacies awaiting us!

We then resumed our journey, and reached Dhordo. We had booked a couple of cottages, which turned out to be prettier than we had envisioned. Oh, and did I mention that it was the festival of Holi the day we reached?! So, obviously, we played with colors, and our driver was kind enough to play songs on the car stereo, while we danced! And then it was time for a refreshing shower, followed by sumptuous lunch (especially bajra roti, garlic chutney and white jaggery).

Photo of Visit to the shimmering Rann of Kutch 1/1 by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Dhordo, Gujarat, India by Jyoti Desar

We started our sightseeing with Kala Dungar (or Kalo Dungar), the highest point in Kutch. Kala Dungar literally means Black Hills. En route to Kala Dungar, we visited India Bridge (about 70 km from Indo-Pak border). However, civilians are not allowed beyond a point, so we proceeded towards Kala Dungar. The drive to Kala Dungar winds up to a hill, from where one can get a panoramic view of the vast expanse of the Great Rann of Kutch. Kala Dungar is also famous for a 400-year-old Dattatreya temple, situated atop the hill. While returning from Kala Dungar, we experienced a strange phenomenon - our vehicle seemed to be moving downhill entirely on its own, even with the ignition switched off! This is similar to 'magnetic hill' in Ladakh, but much stronger. We were so intrigued that we requested our driver to let us experience it several times, before proceeding ahead.

Photo of Kalo Dungar, Kutch, Gujarat, India by Jyoti Desar

After that, we started for our much-awaited visit to the Great Rann of Kutch. Vehicles are allowed only up to a certain point, after which, we started exploring the area on foot. It was a vast white salt marsh, and walking on it made us realize the magnitude of our surroundings and how insignificant we are compared to all of it (yeah, the serene environment made us introspective). As we inched towards dusk, we saw the beautiful sunset over the dazzling white desert. And right after sunset, on the other side, we saw the moon rise, and bathe the entire landscape in mesmerizing moonlight???? We played some music and danced while enjoying the beautiful view, before heading back towards our huts.

Photo of Visit to the shimmering Rann of Kutch by Jyoti Desar

Day 2:

The following morning, we had an early breakfast and headed towards Dholavira, the next spot on our itinerary. Dholavira is about 5 hours' drive from Dhordo, hence it is advisable to start early. We reached Dholavira around noon, and a guide joined us there. He showed us the ruins of Harappa civilization, and entertained us with several interesting facts about the lifestyle of the forgotten era. Thereafter, we visited the Archaeological Museum situated near the excavation site, which houses the antiquarian remains recovered from the ancient sites.

Photo of Rann of Kutch, Kutch, Gujarat, India by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Rann of Kutch, Kutch, Gujarat, India by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Dholavira, Gujarat, India by Jyoti Desar

Our lunch was arranged at the local guide's house, after which he suggested we visit the Fossil Park, which was about 15 minutes' drive from there. The Fossil Park contains a massive fossilized tree discovered in 2007, and is believed to be about 176 million years old, roughly of the Jurassic age. Given the proximity to Indo-Pak border, there is a BSF outpost near the Fossil Park. We met few Army personnel at the Park, and chatted with them about life at the border. They were also kind enough to share their water supply with us, as the weather was very hot and dry, and we were not carrying any water bottles. We then headed back towards Dhordo, bracing ourselves for the 5 hour long return journey. We had our dinner en route, at a restaurant recommended by our driver. Upon reaching our huts, we fell fast asleep due to exhaustion.

Photo of Visit to the shimmering Rann of Kutch by Jyoti Desar

Day 3:

The last day of our trip was relatively relaxed. After breakfast, we checked out from the huts, and drove to Bhujodi. On our way, we halted at Rudramata dam, the biggest dam in Kutch.

Photo of Rudramata Dam Reservoir, Sarspar, Gujarat, India by Jyoti Desar

Bhujodi is more for shopping than sightseeing. It has some local shops as well as a dedicated handicrafts park, called Hiralaxmi Memorial Craft Park. It is spread over 10 acres of land and provides an exhibition and display opportunity to all art forms and artisans, ranging from textiles (bandhinis, block print, batiq print, etc.) to pottery, leather items, wood carvings, etc. We spent quite some time here checking out the various locally made goods and buying souvenirs. We then ate lunch at a restaurant nearby and proceeded towards Mandvi beach, the last destination on our itinerary. In my opinion, Mandvi beach was fairly ordinary (akin to Juhu beach in Mumbai).

From Mandvi beach, we proceeded to Bhuj station, to take a train back to Mumbai. We reached Mumbai the next morning, with memories of yet another marvel of nature.????

Photo of Mandvi Beach, Mandvi Rural, Gujarat, India by Jyoti Desar

Cost:

Accommodation: Rs. 12,000 (2 nights/3 days, 5 people); Vehicle: Rs. 13,000.

The above cost excludes train fare and meal expenses.

Tips and tricks:

  1. Plan your trip in such a way that you visit the white desert on a full moon night. It is totally worth it!
  2. You can choose to stay at Rannotsav to get the full flavor of the festival, however, it is quite expensive. The alternative is to stay at Dhordo, like we did (and I don't think we missed much).
  3. When we traveled, there was a swine flu scare in Bhuj, so it is best to be cautious. Maintain good hygiene, use hand sanitizer frequently, and drink only bottled water.

This blog was originally published on 'The Insatiable Wanderers'

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