The saying goes “KUTCH Nahin dekha, to KUCH nahin dekha”. The English translation is: If you have not seen Kutch, you have not seen anything. And it’s very much TRUE.
The area is indeed a unique geography & add over it, the masala of colorful culture. The presence of military to guard one of the most tensed & harsh international borders of the world, gives it a bigger ah! & Oooh! Factor. Also, it is one of few successful govt. sponsored & developed tourism site. I guess one of the many factors, people voted Mr. Narendra Modi so many times, despite all the criticism of his policies & decisions.
Rann of Kutch Geography:
- Western part of India, in state of Gujarat.
- It’s hot, marshy & salty land spread over 1000s of Sq.km.
- Winters (November- February) are best time to visit it.
- In Summers, it can be “Valley of Death”.
The Ooommph factor:
- Vast (Infinite) salty & muddy plains, with patches of thorny shrub in name of greenery.
- Trees are hard to find in 100 of KMs of drive and thus natural shade is missing.
- Fittingly called White desert. White because of precipitated salt.
- Rann Utsav, held in months of November to Feb, is a colorful cultural extravagance.
- Food, Cloth, Mud houses for stay & remains of 2000 yrs old Harappa civilization.
- Many Bollywood movies have been shot in this region. Lagaan, Refugee, Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam, to name few.
Places to visit:
Mandvi: A sleepy beach town on coast, which can be skipped, if on a short tour (< 3 days)
- Mandvi beach: Bathing facility, horse rides, Camel ride, Amateur water sports.
- Vijay Vilas palace: Palace of erst while king, now turned into small museum. Lagaan movie was shot here. Entry fee, parking fee etc. applicable
- Godhara Ambedham: Neat & Clean temple with free lunch.
- Shyamji verma Memorial: An European styled house, in middle of no-where, belonging to a freedom fighter.
Narayan Sarovar & Lakhpat:
- Again, because of distance, these two places should be done, only if tour is >3 days in this area.
- ~150 kms from Bhuj/Mandavi. Narayan Sarovar is the extreme most West point of India.
- Narayan Sarovar is a temple village right on the coast. Has beautiful sight of coast. Got basic facilities of parking, toilets & snacking.
- Lakhpat is a huge (village) fort on shores of sea, which gets dried in winter leaving vast stretches of white sand (i.e. salty sand). Got some excellent view of white desert. For us, the excitement & wow! Factor was more, as we saw White desert for the first time.
Mata No Madh:
- Temple town dedicated to Ashapura Mata.
- Neat & clean temple premises and the town has got basic facility of food, lodging etc.
- A 2 days must stay tent city town which gets raised in Winter months, welcoming lakhs of domestic & international visitors.
- A huge shopping area, local folk dance & performances, camel rides, great view point, hot air balloon ride, variety of food.
- Main attraction is “Salt molecule” shaped structure, to view vast white sand desert or as they say “WHITE RANN”. It is the best point to see Sun set, moon rise & moon light lighting up the white sand.
- One can also opt from hundreds of mud houses to stay, around the main Rann Utsav.
India Bridge & Vighakot fort (India-Pakistan Border):
- Till India Bridge, one can drive. But to go beyond, permit is needed which is available only in Army base of Bhuj.
- Drive beyond India Bridge is through middle of vast salty plains, with not a single shade of tree available. The only human being available after this, are rough n tough Indian army men. Road is very narrow & only one vehicle can pass at a time.
- Also, mobiles, cameras etc. have to be submitted to army men at India bridge.
- Army men do give a small brief at Vighakot & Pakistan posts are clearly visible from here.
- The place is highest in Kutch and thus offer stunning view of Kutch & white desert.
- Famous as Sun set & sun rise viewpoint.
Tropic of Cancer:
- Tropic of cancer run across the highway drive from Rann of Kutch to Bhuj.
- A signboard (pin available in google map) shows same.
- Biggest city of Kutch and is well connected by Train from various cities of India
- It has got an airport, but only flight is to/fro Mumbai.
- Main attractions: Aina Mahal & Prag Mahal (seemed like Pilot version of CST terminus of Mumbai), Bhujia fort atop hills, Vande Mataram Museum, Swami Narayan temple, Lake.
- If in Bhuj: Prag Mahal, Bhujia fort & Vande Mataram are must visit & can be covered in 1 day. Others can be done, if time permits.
- In n around Vande Mataram Museum, is handi-craft village, from where at least memento can be bought for Kutch memory.
Drive from Bachau to Morbi:
- This road is what connects Kutch with rest of country. A very picturesque road, but equally busy. It has got good dhabas/restaurants like Honest etc.
- Sea has entered land here, thus a small parcel has it all: roads, rail, power transmission tower, wind mills.
- Kandla, Gandhidham are other two big port cities in the region.
- Most truck traffic on highway is because of these two ports.
- Adani port is now largest port of India, in terms of tonnage of cargo handling.
- It is the other (east) side of Kutch and would be need a day on its own.
- It used to be a port city when Rann was actual Sea during Harappa civilization.
- The archelogy remains, and museum is reminder of same.
- It is supposed to give same feeling as Rann of Kutch, albeit with less crowd & extravagance.
- Weather: It can get very hot in summer. Donot attempt to venture into plains without proper help/guidance. Nights in winter can go very cold (feels like temp of 5-10 degC kind of range).
- Vehicle malfunction: Certain roads are in No man’s land. Vehicle technical help will be very limited in certain highways/roads. Better be prepared/trained. We had the experience of puncture in middle of white desert. Kindly driver had the tools & skills to amend same.
- Special dietary requirements: After & beyond Bhuj, very limited options of food will be available. Better be prepared, if you are very choosy.
- Donot dis-obey army rules. This is a border area
- 5 families: 17 homo sapiens including the children
- Mode of transport: Force tempo traveler
- Total Distance covered: ~1500 Kms
- 23:30 hrs of 10th Jan to 22:00 hrs of 14th Jan 2020 (~4 days)
- Day 1: Reliance green -> Dhrol -> Morbi -> Bhachau -> Bhuj -> Mandavi (Sight-seeing)
- Day 2: Mandavi -> Narayan Sarovar -> Lakhpat fort -> Mata No Madh -> Gorewali (Rann Utsav)
- Day 3: Rann Utsav -> Khavda -> India Bridge -> Vighakot (India _pakistan border) -> India Bridge -> Khavda -> Rann Utsav
- Day 4: Rann Utsav -> Tropic of cancer point -> Bhuj (sight-seeing) -> Bhachau -> Morbi -> Dhrol -> Home
- Cost: Rs ~25000-30000 per family
- Stay in Mandavi @ Radhe Motel. A decent hotel, providing neat toilets & bedsheets.
- Stay in Rann: @ Rajvi home stays. Very good huts like neat bedsheets & toilet, providing home cooked kutcha food. Has got facility of bon-fire, music etc.