While planning for Gujarat trip, I can’t exactly recollect how I stumbled on Rann of Kutch, but I am glad I did, for I had one of the most eventful time. The trip made me richer in experiences as I travelled using more than 8 ways of transport, saw stunningly amazing things, and felt scared to death, all in a matter of just 3 days. Here is the whole experience.
I set to Ahmedabad, Gujarat in Duronto express after having a joyous time with cousins in Mumbai. I was a frugal traveler for next 3 days. Took few water bottles from the train. I freshened up at Ahmedabad Railway Station and boarded a bus to Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar. I liked the ubiquitous shared and affordable auto services in Ahmedabad which is very much unlike Bangalore.
I feel Akshardham temple in Gandhingar is small compared to the one in Delhi which made it less exciting for me. I missed the main highlight – the water show, due to my schedule. Rains thwarted my moments around the temple and after futile efforts to watch the movie shows (due to lack of change in my wallet), I left the temple to reach Dholavira, Kachchh which was around 300kms away as soon as possible. I guess I zeroed on this place after reading a blog, on the maps too this place looks exciting. Situated in an island amidst the Kachchh desert with a 5000 year old history is quite a place to be missed. Along with the destination’s name, I had only an Android phone with 2g internet connection. My plan was to go west on the highway number 947, take a diversion at Samyakhali to north and then again west to Dholavira from Balasar via Rapar. I was open to any mode of transport and was bent on reaching Dholavira by nightfall either by hook or crook. I went to Sarkhej near Ahmedabad which falls on Highway 947 from Pathika bus stand, Gandhinagar. There I got onto an AC seater/sleeper bus. This was the first bus I travelled which had an attached lavatory. I was constantly checking my progress in the maps. Lying on the upper sleeper bed I eyed the salt producing areas parallel to the highway. This place is the largest producer of salt in the world. As the water from seas flows inland during monsoons the salt-makers barricade the water, leading to evaporation to leave behind the salt. I reached Samakhiyali by around 5 PM. The last bus for Dholavira had left at 4 PM, so I had no direct access. A person going to Rapar by car gave me a lift until Rapar. It was around 7 PM by the time I reached Rapar and after futile attempts to get a mode of transport further, I decided to stay in Rapar for the night. I shared an AC/TV room with a fellow traveler in a very shabby guest house.
I was ready by 7 AM to catch a vehicle. Though there was a bus at 9 AM to Dholavira, I didn’t want to wait that long. After waiting for an hour or so, I got onto a Maxi cab to Balasar. Squeezed between a person and the door, listening to the conversations of locals, I waited to reach the place. I alighted at Balasar and sadly had to wait here for hours to catch the same bus which was supposed to leave Rapar at 9. I was enjoying the fact of Gujarat being the Dry state, the smell was non-existent. But, most of them chewed tobacco which had reddened their mouth. I saw these amazing rickshaws called Chaggada all over Gujarat which had Royal Enfield engine attached to a wheel in the front and had a two wheeled spacious carriage attached behind. After spending some time speaking to the locals there, I saw a BSF vehicle. The acronym BSF has been special to me since 11 years. When I was in Navodaya, my Social Studies sir was conducting a quiz in the class. When it came to our group, Sir remarked “Nikhil is in this group, let’s give something difficult to them”. Then he asked us to expand BSF. My friend and I contemplated for a while and came up with “Border Security Force” and to our surprise, we were right. I have always been fond of army, and hence went to the vehicle hoping to get onto it. Fortunately, the person in command was a Kannadiga and he agreed me to drop for some distance just because I wanted a ride in that vehicle. He explained me something about the companies and battalions stationed there to guard the border. He was a constable and was in service since 19 years. I was glad to start my “Art of Appreciation” post (I will keep updating it from time to time, appreciating the people who have made a positive impact on me). Here is the link: https://nixieslife.wordpress.com/art-of-appreciation/. He dropped me at a bus stop near Lodrani, where I got into a luxury bus (Just a name for private bus in these areas) to Dholavira. I immediately asked the conductor if I could go sit on top and fortunately he agreed. This part was the best mode of travel in my entire trip. Sitting on top of a slow bus with locals in the Kachchh having a 3600 view was more than what I asked for. I was wearing a dark green Cargo pants with pockets. But I think, looking at my fitness, people were asking me what Battalion I was in. 😀 I sadly had to tell them that I am not using my structure to protect the borders, but had only come to visit it. We encountered numerous birds and a snake on the road during the journey. But something more beautiful awaited me as the bus was going to cross the greater Rann of Kachchh to reach Khadir Bet(Island). The Great Rann of Kutch is a seasonal salt marsh located in the Thar Desert in the Kutch District of Gujarat, India and the Sindh province of Pakistan. It is about 7,505.22 square kilometres in size and is reputed to be the largest salt desert in the world. It’s so huge, Olympics can be hosted for entire universe. It is rightly considered to be one of the wonders of India. It was a migratory season and I gazed at numerous birds in the lake. It was a visual treat to see them fly in unison when someone shooed. There was a vast expanse of water as the rainy season had just ended. During the dry seasons there would be barren land stretching till the farthest point in the horizon. The place looks best during full moon during summer. Sitting on top of the bus with this amazing gift nature gave me, I was more than happy to have decided to make the trip. This ride was no less than a safari to me. This was indeed a luxury bus for me. After making numerous stops at different villages, I finally reached Dholavira. The last few meters were fun as I had to lie flat to avoid getting hurt by the bushes. A person on bike and then some distance on tractor helped me reach the Toran Guest house. So totally I took these many modes of transport to reach the guest house.
From Gandhinagar to Dholavira:
- Government Bus to Sarkhej (20 Rs)
- AC bus till Samyakhali (200 Rs)
- Car till Rapar (40 Rs)
- Maxi Cab till Balasar (20 Rs)
- BSF vehicle till Lodrani(free lift)
- Luxury Bus, top seat till Dholavira(30 Rs)
- Bike (free lift)
- Tractor (free lift)
I checked, had lunch and set to go see the excavated region of Indus Valley Civilization. Dholavira, is an archaeological site is one of the five largest Harappan sitesand most prominent archaeological sites in India belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization. It is also considered as grandest of cities of its time. The site was occupied from c.2650 BCE, declining slowly after about 2100 BCE. It was briefly abandoned and reoccupied until c.1450 BCE. I went to the Archaeological Museum first and saw numerous excavated items on display which ranged from contemporary pottery to seals. After this, I went to the site and was spell bounded by the beauty and intricacy of the structures, reservoirs, etc. It was intriguing to know that people 5000 years ago built such perfect monuments for themselves and used state of the art interconnected water storage system. My favorites were the reservoirs present around the main palace which were connected to each other by underground channels. I took quite some time to explore the whole place in the hot afternoon sun.
I had read on a blog about a temple nearby at the edge of the Rann. It was around 12 kms away and asked the curator if he could arrange a vehicle for me to go till there. I kept asking him for some time while a person there explained me why the region was called Kachchh, this area(Kachchh district) when inverted looks like a tortoise – Kachchh (Kachua in Hindi). By then a person there arranged a bike for me. Two teenage guys came to escort me to the Fossil Park and temple. The three of us started the rough journey on muddy road managing to stay without bruising ourselves on the bike. We first went to Fossil park near the lake which had dead trees whose estimated age is 18 crore years (Jurassic era). They might have fed the Dinosaurs in their heyday. The view from there too was breathtaking. The shore had large brown water washed stones having a wavy pattern. The Sun played hide-and-seek with the clouds and birds were enjoying their share of calmness in the lake. Going in the lake is not advisable as the slushy mud as good as quicksand when it comes to consuming anything that steps on it. I saw a high point on the hill and wanted to experience the beauty from the top. I asked the guys to wait for 15 minutes and managed to climb and enjoy the scenery lit with crimson rays of the evening sun. This was followed by the trip to the temple. Few months ago I was around 40 kms from China border in Himalayas and here in Desert I was 40 kms from Pakistan Border. I just love these stats. 🙂
We turned to leave after some time only to find the rear tyre deflated. One of the guys told he would go to nearby place to get it filled. The other guy and I talked about the local life as we walked. I was startled to hear that guys there get married by the age of 19. He proudly said that he had rejected a matrimonial alliance. I don’t really know if he was lucky or not. The other guy came back with the bike but with sad news. He said that the tube had burst but they asked me to move on deceased bike to make me comfortable. As I didn’t want to add extra weight I decided to walk till the guest house which was roughly 10 kilometers away. I was more than confident that I would make it. The guys warned me of potential danger from animals but I it didn’t deter me. Everything changed after I saw the last rays of light from the bike. The sparse jungle got darker and the sounds got weirder. I had nothing in my defense except a small rechargeable torch. I took short sprints sometimes to cover ground faster. I got an adrenaline rush every time I heard a sound. The only sources of my inspiration were the crescent moon and Pole star. I walked holding heart in my hand. I heard a few dogs barking and then a couple of cyclists came my way. On asking, they assured me that the path was safe. Then I saw a lighted electric pole which made me assume that a vehicle was approaching me. In reality, sparks were coming from the pole to frighten me more. After around 100 minutes of the scariest walk of my life, I found the lights of the village and was more than happy to make it to civilization alive. I was the lone guest in that guest house that night. What a day I had!!!!! This day surely goes into the list of one of the most exciting days of my life. The room was more of a cottage with roof made of straw and I found a variety of insects and reptiles to give company. A wildlife-loving person would have been happy to spend his time here.
I had to meet my parents on the way to Mt. Abu, but due to one miscalculation I had very rough time in getting there. I got up at 4.30 AM to catch a 5 AM government bus to Rapar. As soon as I stepped out of the guest house, I was welcomed with a blanket of stars. It looked splendid. I boarded the bus and asked if I could go on top of the bus to enjoy the Rann, but sadly he turned down my request. I realized how fortunate I was to miss the bus at Samyakahli the previous day. I wouldn’t have had such an exciting time. I missed a road connecting Balasar and Santalpur(closer to Mt Abu), hence went all the way to Rapar. From there I went in a jeep to Adesar. A 35 kilometer ride took around 80 minutes. I then boarded a passenger train to Palanpur, which was followed by a bus to Mt Abu. I was supposed to reach Mt Abu by 3 PM with parents, but the one mistake I made cost me four hours more. The punishment I faced was missing the trip to the Dilwara temples. A person was collecting tax for tourists on entering Mt Abu. He dint ask me may be due to my worn out face or due to my desi attire which made me look like a localite. When I looked myself in the mirror in Maganji’s hotel my face looked as dead as those fossil trees I saw the day before. I instantly decided that I would take more care of myself during next trips.
Until before a few days, I was unaware of the fact that something like Rann existed. Now I am almost as knowledgeable as a guide. The locals were really very helpful all along the way and nobody tried to cheat me. My main tip to the readers is to travel young so that you don’t miss out the simple fun like sitting on top of the bus or riding on a bike with two others. I will cherish this trip for my entire life.
- There are lots of private transports available to ferry from place to place and they are safe.
- Buses to Dholavira are rare, the last bus from highway 8A (Samyakhali) leaves from 4 PM and from Dholavira last bus out is at 12.30 PM.
- There is something called Rann Festival which happens every December. That’s a good time to go if you don’t mind the crowd. December is still a migratory season, so you can find lots of birds.
- I got the guts to go there all alone, only after reading a blog by someone. So please share details of your visit so that others too can experience it.