Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Kutch Kutch Hota Hai!

Sorry friends I just could not think of a more cheesy title for this post. I you have any suggestion then I would be glad to change it. :)
Ok so back to the post, so if you are stationed in Bhuj then take the road to Bhid gate to get on the highway and follow the direction signs to the The Great Rann of Kutch or White Rann from Bhuj. It's a straight 88KM road. It make sense that you leave early to reach the place by noon to explore it leisurely. We left at 9am and reached by 1130am on Honda Navi.

The journey on this day was mostly foggy to a point that half way thru we thought of returning back due to non visibility and chill weather.  However it started to clear up after around 1030am for us to resume our journey. The road is beautifully laid and gives a clear vision of the horizon. Stunning landscape. Lots of cattle around you. THIS IS WHERE ONE SHOULD STOP. Take pictures. Talk to the locals. Look out for small tiny villages to have tea with Kutchi Dabeli and of-course to admire the Kutchi culture represented by stunning women, men in their beautifully hand embroidered clothes. The people are friendly and warm. Kutch district is inhabited by various groups and communities especially Muslims. One can find various nomadic, semi nomadic and artisan groups, migratory people from Balochistan living in Kutch. Gujarati Ahirs comprise a comparatively large group in Kutch.

I was bowled over by the big rose printed scarfs these men were sporting. Apparently they are export from Pakistan till sometime back, however due to no-ties-with-our-neighbour-policy the scarfs are not available in Bhuj anymore. But not the one to give up, me and Inder explored the whole market and were lucky to find one tiny store selling the last of the lot. We bought three!

After about one hour thirty minutes of intense drive we reached the first point on the highway where one needs to fill an obligatory form declaring the identity. 

This is very important:

You cannot just drive down to Kala Dunger and White Rann, there are a few rules you need to follow.
  1. While driving from Bhuj to Kutch, You will cross a board which reads “Tropic Of Cancer Is Passing From Here”. Now, Look out for a police check point on the right. There is only one you will not miss it.
  2. At the check point fill in the simple form that they give you stating information about your ID and Car/Bike Details. Go to the window with your form and pay the entry charge. Rs.100 per person. Rs.100 per Car, Rs.50 per bike.
  3. Take the Permission letter from the police man and keep it safely.

NOTE – If you go to the white desert without a permission letter, the BSF soldier at the Desert check point will send you back to the police check point which is a 35km drive in the reverse direction.

From here there are two roads; one that is 21 km and goes directly towards the Rann and another one is 40km and takes you on a detour via Kala Dungro (highest peak of the area). We took the direct one. 

Soon after we reached our first destination of Rann and we were asked to park our bike and get into a bus that took us to another spot which is 5 minutes away. Now from this spot the White Rann is 1km away again with two options; either walk or take a camel/horse cart for Rs100 per person. We choose to walk.

Look out for the change in the soil from brown to light brown to eventually white! Walk slowly. Soak in the vast surrounding either by walking on the ground or climb the topmost point to have an eagle view. The Great Rann of Kutch has marshy salt flats which give the land a white, snowy look. As far as your eyes can see, you will find an endless landscape of pure white land. Pure bliss. Soak in.

  1. Walk on the salt land. Slowly.
  2. The weather gets very dry and chilly as you get close to the Rann hence please cover yourself with sunscreen/moisturiser and carry enough water and tit bits to eat.
  3. Except during the Rann festival there is no food available in the region for security reasons. So carry something to munch and drink.
  4. Remember to wear good footwear as there is lot of walking close to the Rann
  5. There aren't enough petrol pumps on the way from Bhuj hence fill your tank and if possible carry a litre extra for safety or better re-fill where-ever you find the pump station on the way.

After about 45 minutes of exploring the Rann it was time to head back to have lunch. While returning we opted for a horse-cart. As the Rann festival was going on, we had our lunch at the festival and decided to take the other road to reach the check-post  On the way we bumped into few young enthusiastic muslim boys who were fascinated to see our bike and started screaming loudly while waiting for their bus back home. We stopped and took some pictures with them. 

The journey started again. A 10 minutes ride and we came across a hoarding 'Handloom-Handicraft' mela which got us curious and we took the left from the highway. Little ahead on a bumpy road there was a small compound selling handicraft pieces including bags, clothes, shawl, sandals and other items. You just cannot miss this. The items here are sold at a very reasonable prices and one can shamelessly bargain as well. I bought a shawl.

Now it was really getting late and we decided to head back straight to the Bhuj town. You will leave the place and the whole experience with a big smile and thinking how wonderful this mother earth is and how beautiful its people are. One the way stop at this tiny village for refreshments and chai and rewind the memory of The Great White Rann.

Photographs by: Inderjit Nagi & Syed Ali Arif
Text: Syed Ali Arif

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