After 3 futile attempts to make it to the Rann on a full moon night, we finally managed to travel to the Rann of Kutch on a full moon bound long (Holi) weekend. Kutch, literally means something that intermittently becomes wet and dry, famous for the marshy salt flats which dry up, as the monsoons retreat, to become snow white. Just like Paradised waiting in the middle of nowhere. This place will mesmerise beyond imagination. The annual festival – Rann Utsav, which is a big draw and is one of the best times to visit Kutch, takes place between start-December and end-February. We, however, made our trip just before the closure of Resorts, in Mid-March which turned out to be a super Happy Holi!!!
How to get there
Bhuj is well connected from Mumbai/Delhi by train and plane. Bhuj lies 335 kms from Ahmedabad and supported by GSRTC buses.
Bhuj is a 16-hour journey from Mumbai by train and approximately 8 hours from Ahmedabad.
Getting familiar before you get there
Climate: The temperature is as low as 14 degrees at night and between 28/30 degree during peak daytime during our visit (Mid-March), which when compared to Mumbai was very very cool indeed.
Permits : Permits are required to visit the Great Rann of Kutch, which you get on the way to Kutch from Bhuj or the entry point to the Rann of Kutch.
Day 1: Bhuj (Train reached noon) > Kutch
After the long ride, the only craving we had was for a “Gujarati Thali”. We made our way to Umiyaji Dining Hall , Bhuj for a finger licking experience. The food has different flavours to it, which was unlike the Thali we are used to in Mumbai, but it did have a wholesome slice of the region brewing in it.
The ride from Bhuj to Kutch was pleasant with beautiful roads leading to Kutch and a distinct lack of traffic. We were staying at “The Kutch Resort” which has comfortable AC bungas.
In the evening we made our way to the “Great Rann oaf Kutch” to catch the sunset and we were mesmerised by the flatlands. Nature somehow never stops astounding you. This was a night before the full moon night and hence we couldn’t wait to come back the next day to view the glowing Flatlands under the Moonlit sky.
Day 2 : Great Rann of Kutch, Kala Dungar and India bridge
Kala Dungar- the Black Hills is the highest point in Kutch and from there, a panoramic view of the Great Rann of Kutch is possible. Beyond the Rann of Kutch, lies our neighbouring country of Pakistan and with the help of a telescope (which kids offer on the top of the hill), one can seek the last village on the border and the people beyond.
Another unique thing about Kala Dungar is the fame of its 400-year-old Dattatreya temple. Legend says that when Dattatreya walked the earth, he stopped at the Black Hills and found a band of starving jackals. Being a God, he offered them his body to eat and as they ate, his body continually regenerated itself. Due to this folklore, for the last four centuries, the priest at the temple prepares a batch of prasad-cooked rice, which is destined for to the local jackals after the evening aarti. Yes, the Jackals are fed there first and then us humans, and hence the local jackals make their way to the temple religiously every day.
India Bridge is another destination worth exploring, which needs to be crossed from Kutch to enter the VIGAKOT outpost of the Indian army guarding the border with Pakistan. A special permit is necessary to reach the border and all mobile phones/cameras have to be left behind at the Check Post. At the end of the India Bridge (till where non-Army Personnel are permitted) lies a memorial inaugurated by our PM Narendra Modi.
After criss-crossing the Rann to visit the must-see sites, we retired to our bungas after a long day of sightseeing, only to freshen up to head out again. As the Sun sets over the Great Rann of Kutch, and the eternal beauty of the Full Moon takes over, as the glow lights up the white sands of the ran. Finally, revealing the Paradise we were waiting for. And it was worth the wait!!!
Great Rann of Kutch
The one thing that will blow your mind on this trip and will have an everlasting lingering effect in your memories, is the time spent at the salt lands of Kutch. The sheer size and scale of the region are overwhelming. It takes time for your eyes to adjust to the long stretches of white flat land, with the far horizon and the edges of the land blending into the sky so well that one can never differentiate the two.
You get an opportunity to play around with magical illusions at this place. 12 noon is the best time for such illusions due to zero shadow but we still had an experience of a lifetime and great fun, clicking these illusory photographs.
One serious advice to all of you is – Never, I say never miss an opportunity to visit this place on a full moon night. Lavishly shining on the carpet of white, the moon makes the salt sparkle like diamonds. We lay down facing the sky, mostly in silence admiring the beauty of the moon. When you stay in a populated or crowded city, you probably get to have such an awestruck experience once in a lifetime 🙂
Not everything that I saw can be described in finite or measurable words here. The experience in itself is something I will always hold close to my heart. The Rann of Kutch so to speak is empty, but it really helped me empty my mind of all the questions that were unanswered, of all the worries that were unattended to. For now, I had the company of the moon 🙂
Day 3: Vijay Vilas and Mandvi Beach
We left Bhuj well in time to make our way to Mandvi by lunch time. Once a major port of the region, Mandvi is now popular for its sunny beaches, centuries-old shipbuilding yard and an old but well-maintained palace situated near the sea. This small port city was established during the late 16th century by the first Jadeja ruler, Rao Khengarji I
We lazed around on the sun beds at the beach followed by a buffet lunch at the shacks there which belonged to – The Kutch Beach Camp Resort. This beach is pristine and serene, with windmills on one side of the long stretch, which will be the cherry on the cake
After spending a blissful time at the beach, we made our way to the Vijay Vilas Palace, which is just five minutes away. After a pleasant walk through the sprawling palace grounds, I spied an impressive red sandstone building. Famous for appearing in high profile movies like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Lagaan to name a few. Built in 1929 by the then ruler, Rao Vijayrajji, the palace is well-maintained. Its upper floor, occupied by the royal family (residing in Mumbai), is closed for visitors. The ground floor is a mini-museum exhibiting old photographs, gifts, souvenirs and hunting trophies such as a stuffed tiger.
On our way to Bhuj, we stopped over at Bhujodi, a famous village for Handloom. Rich and encapsulating history is the source of the handicraft skills of the craftsmen here in the Kutch and is famous for mirror work, embroidery, art paintings, mud paintings and sculptures, weaving industry. The colourful shops sprawling on both sides of the road will surely tempt you to shop. We ended up shopping for some quilts, and handmade bags. The quilt surely brings colour to my pastel coloured life.
Stay and Food:
In Kutch: We had booked our stay for one night at – The Kutch Resort and then at Toran Resort for the second night. Toran Resort was just a few meters away from the check post to enter the Rann of Kutch.
In Mandvi: The Kutch Beach Camp is a calm place to stay where tents are available and it is situated a stone’s throw away from the Beach.
Permits are required to visit the Kutch due to its proximity to the Indo-Pak border. One can collect permits from Border Check Post, on your way from Bhuj or just before the entrance to the Rann , there is a BSF post which issues permits. Permits need to be collected for each and everyone visiting the area
P.S. – Remember FULL MOON
This article is written by Nayana Talwar who has been happily travelling since 1998 and writing about it. A long-time advocate of solo travel, she hopes that reading about her experiences will encourage other women to stop waiting for a travel partner and pursue their own travel dreams now.