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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Rann of Kutch

Kutch ---- the sweet and salty experience

Vast area of land covered with salt. That does not sound very interesting, does it? Well if the area is more than 7000 square kilometers making it one of the largest salt desert in the world attracting tourists from all over the world, makes it a place worthy of a visit.

Gujarat, among other things is now known for the Modi phenomenon. Lots have been said and discussed about the progress in Gujarat. Tourism too has got a large push in this region. Initially my plan was to see Gir, Diu, Dwarka , Somnath and Narare Marine park as well. Due to some reasons, our plans got cut down to only Kutch-Bhuj.

Planning for the trip was not too difficult. Bhuj has connectivity via trains and flights with Mumbai making this place easily accessible. The resorts in Dhordo and Hodka(villages near to the Rann of Kutch) have online websites which made the bookings quite simple. There are a number of tour operators in Bhuj from whom you can book a car to travel around.

We reached Bhuj early morning around 8 AM where we met our driver for the next 3 days, Imran. First thing we needed was to have a typical breakfast, something which would be easily available.

This was what we found.... fafda and jalebi......a bit too heavy for breakfast but awesome in taste.

We started heading towards the Kutch region. The roads are great so we did not feel the 80kms go by.
On our way we stopped at Nirona village. Kutch region is very well known for the Handicrafts as well. There are lots of small villages between Bhuj and Dhordo where you can visit the houses of the people doing these work for generations. Our first stop was Nirona village where a family has been doing a kind of work called Rogan painting from eight generations.

Each piece they work on takes a couple of months to make and this is the only family in India who does this art.

There were various other interesting work going around like lacquer work( wood work with lac colour) , copper bells and more.

Our next stop was Kalo Dungar ---- the highest point of Kutch. The rann or the white desert is nicely visible from here. There s another interesting thing here. We reached just before 12pm. Its the time for the daily aarti to end and their ritual of feeding the jackals there. A person goes with food and keeps it approximately a kilometer away from the temple point. Everyone gathers around to see if the wild animals are going to accept their food today. A man beats a bell to call the animals and sure enough, I see two jackals appear and savor the food.

We also see the last village here before the Pakistan border and the India bridge which is the last point for civilians. Sadly, no photos allowed.

Tired and hungry we reach the Gateway of Rann resort in Dhordo. Dhordo is the last village before the Rann starts. For all these places a BSF permit is required which is a very simple 10 minutes procedure. We had booked the resort online and true to its description it was beautiful. A very rural , yet comfortable setup. There were some 20 bungas(mud house) in the resort.

After a meal of gujarati food and some rest we headed towards the white desert. The whole experience was different. I have seen hills and seas but seeing vast barren lands was very new. The rann was just amazing. White, untouched land for miles. As far as you can see its white and empty. Perfect setting for a photo shoot indeed.

Day-2 ......We left the resort and went back to Bhuj. Our plan for the day was to see the places around bhuj. We visited Jain Temple , Vijay Vilas Palace, India House, Mandvi Beach and more. All these places can be easily covered in a day and they were all magnificent in their own way.

Day 3 - We decided to cancel our plans to see Narayan sarover and instead just see Bhuj and indulge in some shopping. Turned out to be a great decision actually. The pragmahal palace, aaina mahal and kutch museum were not to be missed. And the shopping!!! Great prices and so much to shop for. It was a great day for me. On our first day in Kutch we had actually gone to the houses of the people who make bandhini, rabari work and seen the variety of handicraft work which was made there. The problem is that these villages now see a large number of foreign tourists and therefore quote a higher price. We found the prices in the shops in Bhuj to be reasonable. Bought some beautiful bedsheets and kurtis for family and myself.

The last photo is of the part of Aaina Mahal destroyed in the 2001 Earthquake in Bhuj.

Hope my raw words and the photos do justice to the amazing place.

Till next time, Bye.