I have been inspired by the great saying that “while job fills your pocket, travel fills your heart”. Having travelled almost every nook and corner of India, the only adventure spot that was left for me to explore is the Great Rann of Kutch. Situated in Gujarat, 108 kms of bhuj to be precise, it is also called the white desert. Gujarat, a state of India, known for its culture, has many places of historic importance and scenic beauty, but Rann of Kutch is arguable the must go travel destination. The place has so much to offer including the great Rann Utsav, the new moon view and the sunset point that makes this place an ideal vacation spot not just with friends but with family as well. The heritage of the place can be easily seen in the locale people which makes it a culture rich place.
Talking about its existence, this salty marshland stretches across approximately 7,500 square feet of area in Gujarat and shares its endless expanse of white desert with Pakistan’s province Sindh. In India, this vast desert is accessible from Khargoda in Surendranagar district of Gujarat. While, I took a taxi to reach the desert expanse, other motor vehicles such as buses and two wheelers also ply on the route charging varied rates.
When to Visit the White Desert
Rann of kutch is known for its extreme weather conditions. While, in summers the temperature increase to a maximum of 49 degree celsius as the sun is at its peak, the temperature plummets to 0 degrees during night and in winter months. Therefore to avoid extreme weather, I prefered visiting the desert post October when the desert starts to dry up. During monsoons the desert get submerged into the water and there are high chances that you might not enjoy your stay here in the marshland. As Tropic of cancer also passes through the Rann of kutch and this makes it particular hot and humid.
As the desert lacks some of the basic facilities such as food, water and toilets, the best time to head out to the dessert is early morning after having the breakfast or during the night when the sun is not at its peak. I took up a locale guide to understand the weather changes and the best time to stroll the place. This is how i understood that strolling the white expanse during the full moon is the beauty to behold. Therefore, I made sure that I capture the glowing full moon during my visit at night.
The Traveling Permit
As the white desert has proximity to the Pakistan border, this makes it a highly sensitive area. Therefore, a written permit is required for travelling to the area. As I stayed around bhuj and took a car to go the dessert, the permit was taken from Bhirandiyara village police station. I was charged Rs 100 for strolling around the usually silent desert but charged an extra Rs 50 for using a car. Besides, a valid Id proof was taken to approve of my existence and identity. Though this might seem unusual but the area is full of vigilance and security personnel monitoring the area.
World Heritage Site
During my visit to the Rann of Kutch, i was introduced to wild ass sanctuary that is also the little Rann of Kutch. This wild ass sanctuary is a surreal place that UNESCO has attributed as a world heritage site. This wildlife sanctuary is the biggest sanctuary of India that harbours one of the endangered species Wild Ass (Khur) that is on the verge of extinction. During the safari in the sanctuary, I saw some really bizzare species of reptiles, invertebrates, amphibians and zooplanktons that are easily spotted. A trip to this sanctuary makes your stay in Rann worth while.
The Camel Safari
Being in Rann of kutch and not going for a camel ride is seriously not acceptable. Throughout my stay in Rann was the camel safari was one of the most exciting adventure. The magnificence of the desert can be witnessed from a height and what is better than a camel safari. Sitting on its hump and slowly allowing the breathtaking view to unfold with the sun in the backdrop is one of the must to do things in Rann of Kutch. As i stayed in Rann for two days, i particular went to the desert during sunset to see the spectacular view of the sun setting. It seemed as if the desert is slowly swallowing te sunset and hue of the rays radiated the desert.
When I planned my gateway to Rann, I specially choose November as this is the time of the year when I could see the glorious Rann Utsav. The Utsav that offers a plethora of activities is a marvelous way to spend your time while in Kutch. The utsav is characterised by sequenced tent houses or stalls, shops selling Gujarat rich culture especially the embroidery, heritage artefacts among other precious products that will remind you of the immense heritage that Gujarat has. The locale people selling products wearing colourful clothes and lehenga choli is also fascinating. Though I didn’t understand their language properly, i could still tried my hand at bargaining and bought a bed sheet made out of block painting.
Another major attraction is the facility of staying inside the Utsav as large tents are given luxurious makeover for tourists to stay and enjoy the three month long festival. I booked a tent for my stay and was really satisfied with the experience. Staff was really accommodating and serves every guest equally. I strolled around the utsav to witness the glorious heritage of the place in embroideries, wooden boxes that are carved out with design, jewellery boxes and other sculptures that speak of the vast art of different communities of the areas such as Jaths, Rabaris, Sodha and Rajputs.
Since it is a festival that is famous world over, what makes it so popular is the constant dance and music. Illumination with fluorescent lights and incandescent lamps that make it even more beautiful. Other activities such as cultural dance and live music was something that i got involved into. The activities started at around 7:00 pm and gave enough time for everyone to enjoy.
The Cultural Music
The folk music of Gujarat was heard even from a distant. Locale people of the area sag beautiful renditions that are hard to comprehend but sound really pleasing. People from around Gujarat come to the festival to sing and gain attraction of the tourists. Through the the day I could listen to live soulful music that added an edge towards the entire journey of strolling. The culture of Gujarat can be smelled in the air as danced and traditional music is being played around. The vigour of perfect Indian music by Indian artists with their band using traditional music equipments was so peaceful, that I stayed there the entire night to enjoy the festive mood.
The Ethnic Clothes
In the vast expanse of white desert, the people of kutch perfectly complimented the place with their selection of vibrant coloured clothes. The women’s dressed in lengha cholis and mens in dhotis are full of colour that add life to the otherwise dull and silent desert. Not just people of kutch but I found camels wearing the same traditional colours and donning the embroideries with pride. This is another stand out point of the place that can be easily spotted.
I was introduced to the natural grandiose of the place and the exhibition had on display everything that belongs to the city and the state. The cultural ethnicity and vernacular architecture is evident from the stalls that put up a great show and offers a large variety of the cities magnificence on sale. I personally bought some products and other as souvenirs for my family and friends as it came really cheap.
As I walk through the utsav, I was excited to see paramotoring, ATV rides, camel rides, kids fun zone and other activities on offer. Tourists in huge numbers from around the world have flocked the place and kids especially enjoyed doing the activities. The air was filled with giggles and screams that made it even more fascinating. Even I couldn’t resist and participated in paramotoring. As i don’t know how to ride a bike, a driver accompanied with me. These activities make the festival even more adventurous to visit during this time.
Foreigner were seen involving themselves in spa treatments however that was a bit more expensive that made me stay away from spending my money on that and instead choose another camel ride. Cultural shows are played throughout the day to show the cultural importance of the place and to make tourists aware about the historical instances of the place. A package is what I preffered as it included majorly all the activities and this saved me of spending more money on other not so interesting activities.
When I talk about travel, eating is one of my favourite activities and being in Kutch food was everywhere. From chats to gujarati thalis the place has everything as per one’s liking. However, the one biggest disadvantage of the place is that except during the festivals at other times of the year, food is generally not available. Moreover, vegetarian food is served in the state and alcohol is not available as it is an alcohol free state. Though I visited around the festival I made sure to carry some food that is ready to eat and loads of water as the temperature soar you begin to feel dehydrated.
After spending two nights in Rann of Kutch, I began my journey to vist the other nearby places of Kutch. Nandeshwari temple being one of them. The temple is located near the border of India and Pakistan in Banaskantha.
Another marvelous place that I got introduced to is the Kalo Dunger or the Black hill. It is the highest point in kutch and provides a clear view from the altitude of the white desert. A staircase leads up to the top point that gives a panoramic view of the white expanse. As i was travelling by car, it took me a hour to reach the place but it was worth it. One can assimilate the topograohy of the place, rocky surface and still desert that makes it really breathtaking.
Kalo Dunger also has the famous Dattatreya temple. The temple has a fascinating story of hungry jackels that are feeded vegetarian food before serving the same to devotees and visiting tourists. Therefore, I made sure to visit the place to approve of its life long history and to witness the food serving practise in real.
As i stayed in Rann for three days which is enough to explore the place, i made a list of key things that needs to be accompanied. Getting a permit to visit the place is one of them. It is vital to carry sunscreen if you plan to stroll the desert in the afternoon. Drinking a plenty of water is mandatory to remain a fresh and gain energy to walk long miles. Visiting not just the desert but also the nearby places will better to see the beauty that Gujarat has to offer. As the dessert is salty, it might get to your eyes if it is airy in the desert, therefore wearing a eye wear is also recommended.
Umbrellas can be taken handy in case you visit close to monsoon. A camera is a must to click all the magnificent beauty of the place and its topography. Staying at the tent is highly recommended in order to enjoy the great Rann Utsav. The cultural shows are also a great way to understand the history of the place and the figures that are of huge importance. Lastly, summery clothes and light cotton wearables are best to make the journey comfortable.