The interest to visit the Rann of Kutch was not very high; after all it is a desert area, what could be there to see besides barren land and the hot sun.
My friends had planned a 3 day trip and convinced me to tag along so I decided to go anyway and see what the hype was all about.
About the Rann from Wikipedia – The Rann of Kutch is located in the Thar Desert in the Indian state of Gujarat with some parts in the Pakistani province of Sindh. It is a seasonally marshy region, the word Rann meaning “salt marsh”.
The fact that the area has desert on one side and the sea on the other provides the Rann of Kutch with a variety of ecosystems, including mangroves and desert vegetation (Rann of Kutch)
We had reserved seats in the Kutch Express from Mumbai. The train was comfortable and we settled in for the 13 hour journey.
On the way we saw a lot of salt pans, which made us realize that perhaps Gujarat produces a lot of salt.
It was afternoon when the train chugged into Bhuj station. The astonishing thing was that the train arrived exactly at 1315 hours which was supposed to be the actual time of arrival. Indian Railways really?
We had hired a car for our visit, so our driver cum guide, Vivek very promptly met us at the station.
We had also decided to stay in a homestay with a Gujarati family and so drove down to their house.
The homestay was the best part of our visit. The family was very hospitable and the food was excellent. If you like a taste of the local food and culture do stay in such places. They are clean and safe. The locals will also give you good guidance on the dos and don’ts and will also advise you about places to explore, eat, shop etc
Vivek, our driver was soft spoken, genuine and sincere. He never made a fuss and was always game to explore the places we told him to take us.
Since we had reached in the afternoon we decided to explore the nearby attractions.
We started off with visiting the Vijay Vilas Palace which is close to Mandavi beach. There is a minimal entry fee to the palace.
Deer, camels & peacocks roam freely on the palace grounds and are easy to spot.
The palace was worth the visit. It was well maintained.
The upper floors give a 360 degree view of the mandavi beach nearby, the bhuj airport and the areas around.
A short drive from the palace is the Mandavi beach. I did not find anything special about the beach. But you can explore the coast a little more and maybe find something worthwhile.
You can take a camel ride on the beach or maybe fancy a horse ride? Not to miss the colorful attire in which the animals are dressed. We tried some dabeli on the beach which is the local snack of the Kutchis and is very popular.
Day 2 started with a long drive to the highest point in Kutch – Kalo Dungar. During our drive up to the point we saw the area covered with black rocks. That is what gives it the name – Kalo Dungar or Black Mountain.
From the highest point at Kalo Dungar we had a panoramic view of the vast vistas of the white desert. We could also see India Bridge.
Impulsively we decided to go see the bridge up close. The India bridge is similar to other bridges, nothing extraordinary. However it connects the road toward the Indo Pak border which is 80kms away.
We were tempted to go to the border, but that would mean losing time on seeing other places. Besides we would also require permits and would not be able to carry phones or cameras. So we cancelled.
But going to the bridge and meeting the army personnel stationed there was a great feeling in itself. Since the bridge is in a strategic location we were unable to click any pics and it is strictly not allowed.
Now it was time for the highlight of our trip – the Rann ….
The Rann utsav was on during our visit. There were a lot of stalls put up by the locals selling handicrafts and other locally made items. It was definitely worth a dekkho.
I did not want to buy anything from the festival as I found the things to be a bit overpriced. However if you really like something buy it as you may not get that anywhere else. And of course you can definitely do a bit of haggling.
There is a paved road that lead us to the salt desert. There are camel carts on hire as well, however we choose to walk and enjoy the view.
My reaction on seeing the Rann for the first time was – IT IS ALL SALT. How is that possible? I need to google this to understand this phenomenon.
It felt out of this world walking on the salt crystals. We spent some time examining the salt and walking around the place.
The Rann provides good photo opportunities, especially during sunset. So it was time to start clicking away….
As the sun began to set the rays of the setting sun fell all over the white desert.
The sun was gently lulling the salt desert to sleep by slowly covering it with its golden hued blanket.
We sat for a while drinking in this scene and looking into the endless horizon where the sun embraced the desert like a long lost love.
We could hear the local musicians playing in the background. Camels were walking in the distant horizon epitomizing the desert. The atmosphere was poetic and serene.
The sun took a graceful bow and dipped into horizon.
Sunset turned to dusk then twilight and then night. The shades of light changing and turning in the white desert felt mystical and magical. The sound and light show ended serenely.
Day 3 was shopping day 🙂
Bhuj has a lot of artisan villages around the area and it should be a must visit.
The first village we went to was Bhujodi close to Bhuj .
This village mostly has weavers who specialize in shawls. They are hospitable people and will welcome you into their homes to see their work.
The artisan below was weaving a silk shawl with naturally dyed silk.
Azrakpur is a small and dusty village which we visited next. This village is well known for its block print.The artisans do the work in their homes.
When we reached the village, there were no indicators of a shop neither were there any displays of their work. We had to knock on a few doors and ask around to find the houses where the block printing was done.
The search was worth it and we finally found a house with the block printers. We received a short demo on process of block printing and a tour of the place. Our visit ended with some great shopping at unbelievable prices.
Exploring these small, unknown villages off the grid, made us realize that this is where the real gems are hidden away – in the dust. I would encourage everyone to shop at such villages as the benefits go directly to the artisans.
Another place we went to is Khamir which displays the arts and crafts of the region. But we found this to be more for the non-Indian tourists, and would have preferred to skip it had we known before. I was glad we went to the small villages earlier and did our shopping there.
The final stop was the old market in Darbargangh. There are lanes and by lanes of old quaint shops selling antique patch work native to kutch, bags, jackets, bandhani, silver jewelry etc.
You can lose you self here and carry tons of awesome stuff back home.
The car had no place to keep our bags…we were giggling gleefully at our buys.
A day well spent 😉
Kutch has mountains, beaches and the desert all in one place. This rare combination makes it one of the most enchanting places. The salt desert is one of the largest in the world.
The people here are hospitable and genuine. I found this place safe for women travelers, so ladies make your plans.
They express their emotions and state of mind with their colorful attire which is one of a kind.The food is simple but delicious.
So if you are looking for an unusual holiday, then put Kutch at the top of your list.
Pack off and take off …Happy Exploring!!!