Amitabh Bachchan is an all time favorite..well! who isn’t a fan of this man..and when he speaks on TV..no matter what he endorses..you do notice. It was in the month of December 2014 when I started to notice the television running the Rann Of Kutch festival advertisement with the mighty Big B inviting everyone to experience the White Desert. I was hoping to catch the festival sometime in my life but little did I know that the opportunity presented itself when the husband was to undergo training in Gujarat.
Staying away was too long a time and the Delhi winters adding to the “wish I was some place else” feeling, my daughter and I decided to join the man of our lives. Our stay for two weeks in Gujarat meant an opportunity to visit the Rann at the time of the festival.
On one of the long weekends that the men were free from classes (by now we had made some friends!), we decided to embark to the Kutch. With our bottles (of all kinds – water, milk and ahem!!), food packets packed, navigator in place and some music to give us company, six of us drove to Bhuj.
After enduring a 6 hours drive, we reached the quaint city of Bhuj and the very next day we drove to Kutch – an hour’s distance from Bhuj.
The thing with Kutch is that it can dazzle you from the instant you see it…from afar…it is like the feeling for a loved one who is about to come back home (many a military wife will identify with that.. waiting for our heroes to get back!). As we drove towards the Kutch, the entire highway was dotted with Gujarat tourism boards welcoming us. The boards were put in for the festival and we were in no time at the right place(I wonder at times it must be so difficult to drive on a great highway with nothing but barren land interspersed with some greens – and for that we must give it to the way the city of Bhuj has emerged after the earthquake of 2001).
So here we were amazed and bedazzled at 5 pm in the evening with the Rann Utsav’s Tent City beckoning us to experience what I call one of my life’s most entertaining time. One does not need to be staying / booked in the tent city to enter the same and see what is going around. The tent city has cultural programs the whole day which you can be a part of, colorful chhakda (big sized auto) rides, camel rides, mela, authentic Kutchi food (not to miss the dabeli), local handicraft shopping are some of the few things that the festival offers. The high point without fail is of course the Rann itself. The tent city is housed about 3 kms from where the Rann begins. One can drive upto the last gate from where one needs to walk about a km. The walk itself is enticing with the white desert on both sides.
The expanse of the White Desert I am told is about 7,000 sq km. I had always felt that the Desert just looks white but was so surprised to realize that even though it is part of the great Thar Desert, the Rann is nothing but a huge salt marsh. While we walked across the White Desert for hours together, we watched the Sun go down lighting up the whole area like a halo that descended from top. We were so eager to watch the moonlit desert that we decided to stay back till we saw a glimpse of the same notwithstanding the cold that had started to build up. And then we did, even though it was not a full moon night, the expanse of the moon lighting up the whole area was exquisite and ethereal.
With love in our hearts and joy between friends, we came back home – tired but deep inside energized to see another great wonder of nature. Many a times I am overwhelmed with the feeling to wanderlust and I ensure that I fulfill it whenever I get the opportunity. Many a times when the journey begins I try to see that we can make the most of it by doing some other adjoining places as well. So quickly for ones who would like to do the Rann here’s a checklist:
- Mandavi Beach – The city is old and quaint. For those who yearn to be amidst rustic and earthy, walk the streets. The beach is a must do but the dampener is that there is only one beach resort that is forever full – weekdays or weekends alike. The solution to this is to go for a lunch buffet, have fun at the beach on a good sunny winter afternoon.
- Vijay Vilas Palace – the haveli where “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” was shot. Apart from the luxury of the palace, you have a (mis) guided tour. Best is to keep to yourself and try and figure out what is what instead of hiring a guide.
- Shopping at Bhuj – for the one’s who want to carry back Kutchi stuff, clothes, souvenirs, don’t buy from Kutch (that’s expensive). Head straight to the old market at Bhuj with tiny by lanes and you are bound to get some real good stuff. However, if you want to experience handicrafts and do it at leisure – Bhujodi and Shrujan are the places to be.
- The ride from Bhuj to Jamnagar is very long and you do not see eateries on the highway. Recommended to stuff your bag with food and water, so you can eat on the go.
- You could do a drive to the India Bridge, which is the Pakistan border (after security clearance from BSF) and the highest point in Kutch, the Kalo Dunger.
Armed with these tips, I am sure you will make your trip enchanting and exciting as well. Meanwhile, I shall go check what else is Mr Big B endorsing – The Gir, Dwarka?..oh my ..miles to go before I sleep! Happy Wanderlusting!