Kutch nahi deka toh Kuch nahi dekha was the signature line of Amitabh Bachchan for promoting tourism of Gujarat. Rann is obviously a much hyped tourist destination in Gujarat.
The title says it all with regards to the hospitality of Kutch, i am not talking about the tour operators who have been fleecing the tourists, but the natives residing over there. I believe Rann of Kutch is a much hyped destination stating that it is white sand desert. But the fact remains that it is just a salt pan, which is bereft of salt mining. The white desert has literally shifted its base 5 kms away from the original destination. One needs to either take a bus provided along with the entry ticket package for return unto a base point again one has to move forward 2 kms away which can be covered by horse cart, camel cart or by walk. The sunset is one of the best observed phenomenon in the Ran with its shade of blood red or maroonish depending on the sky and clouds. One of the best season to visit Rann is during DEC to FEB which is peak of winter season.
This year the festival of Rann was from 20th DEC to FEB 10 almost two months. There are number of craft stalls spread over the desert land along with tented cottage and hut accommodation which are on offer and they charge anywhere between 4000 to 6000 per couple with accommodation and all meals package. The other alternative is day package which is Rs 500 per pax which includes bus travel from Bhuj station up to Rann and return.
We literally began our trip on 26th January which was the day when massive earthquake in 2001, nearly destroyed half of Bhuj into rubbles however the heritage structures like the Bhuj fortress, Aaina Mahal and Parag mahal survived with minor repairs and renovation. We were well received & hosted by Mr Ramachandra and his friends at BKT Colony which is approximately 20kms away. We were literally pampered with plenty of food with freshly fried fish. Bhuj being a coastal town has plenty of catchment of different types of fishes you name the variety pamplet, surmai, sardines, mackrel, prawns etc. Mrs Ramachandran was a wonderful host who made our visit extremely homely, cooking and serving great food.
We hired a driver to escort us to Rann and other places of visit in Kutch. The roads were literally a treat to enjoy the comfortable ride across Kutch for nearly 500 plus kms in two days. We were accompanied by their family friend Hamsa as a guide for the entire destination thanks to her making our trip memorable with all the selfies and chatting throughout the journey whenever she was awake of course.
RANN OF KUTCH :
The Rann is literally is marshy salt land which spreads over 30,000 square kms from the southern edge to the mouth of Indus river on Pakistan border. It is acclaimed to be one of the largest salt deserts in the world. The borders of Pakistan is supposed to be visible from the Lakhpat fort and Kala donger portions of the land. Every year an annual festival of Kutch is conducted for a period of two months beginning from 10th Dec upto to 10th February, dates may vary according to the organisers from year to year.
There is a huge flow of crowd during the full moon days when the terrain is supposed to look the whitest and brightest due to moonlight. Walking across the wet marshy lands may not be to the liking of everybody, but having come all the way from wherever one is forced to click some photographs in the desert background. The best part is the walk on the road cutting across the creek to the end point wherein a tower is set up to watch the sun set. One experiences the inhalation of pure oxygen without much of sweating or humidity. It is light feeling one gets as one walks across the vast stretch on the desert pathway. Many prefer bus ride and are prepared to wait for limited bus drops. We decided to trudge along instead of waiting for an hour for the bus to drop us to the mid point. Others prefer camel cart ride, horse driven cart and sometimes horse ride too. Some VIPs are allowed to travel in car with an excuse that they have aged person along with them. It is a festive atmosphere all along on weekends, with the vastness of the land which is amazing.
All unique items of Kutch handicrafts are displayed and sold for those who are interested in collecting them as soveniers. Some of the clothes are embroidered locally in Rabari, Ahir, Sindhi, Bani, which includes mirror work. Rann of Kutch festival is organised by Gujarat to promote tourism and to give the local artisans some source of income. Tourists are lured with all meals package and some cultural programs such as local folk dancing, camel shows by BSF which is organised only on specific days.
The best feature of Rann is the sunset which in all its glory is visible because of the clear unpolluted skies. One can notice the exact time of sunset at Rann which is 6.30 pm. Sometimes cloud cover can act as a spoiler. But very rarely it rains in Kutch, it is quickly overcome with Sun coming out in all its glory sooner or later. Plucking or pinching the sun can be easily captured we tried it first time and were successful after a few failed attempts.
Cuisine of Kutch is served for package travelers which is mostly vegetarian fare. Para motoring and hot air balloon are some of the highlights offered by some tour operators with an indemnity bond signed for its apparent risk involved. I later learnt that sometimes kite festivity is scheduled on the Rann, which other place in the world can host such a magnificent show in all its glory because of infinite vastness and space. I was tempted to download a photograph from CN traveler for the readers.
Overall a trip to Rann is not run of mill of course. It is probably experience once in a life time to be away from the busy day to day metro life. We cannot term it as far away for maddening crowd unfortunately since crowd is seen eagerly heading towards Rann during holidays. A day package is probably worth it rather than complete package according to me. Just have a glimpse and escape to other destinations in Kutch. After having experienced Leh Ladakh tented accommodation or cottage unless forced upon stay, we were reluctant undertake the same in Rann. Most of the tented accommodation are dented too, especially in cold climate it can be daunting without the heated blanket provided. Maybe I would be tempted to try tented accommodation on the beach or forest.
Gujarat Govt has its own website wherein bookings for the Rann festival are provided online. One can get to book their limited offerings well in advance, i tried booking an failed one month in advance. The price of the package varies from 4000-6000 with for a couple per day with all meals plan. Another private organizer White Rann, a camping hospitality offers various premium packages. One can visit their website http://www.rannutsav.net or send an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Booking enquiries can be had from 18002702700 or +917940051456. Just outside the railway station there is a click hotel whose accommodation can be booked online. Another hotel Oasis is supposed to provide pick up service with an accommodation priced at Rs 950 ( Jan 2017 ) with complementary breakfast at Bhuj. There are some more accommodation options available near Bhuj Bus stand.