After travelling a lot more in India, I realised that my own country was not only affordable but one of the loveliest to explore. The Rann of Kutch is no exception. I remember photographs of friends taken there, quite a few years back. Since then I have always wanted to visit this place. In 2019, I finally got the opportunity.
Think twice before going
The Rann of Kutch is approximately 620kms flight away from Mumbai so it’s quite a trip. The climate is harsh. Since we visited in Feb we had better weather, winter was still around. While it was hot and sunny during the day, the nights were cold. However, we were assured that December was worse.
Given the distance there are two ways to travel to Kutch, from Ahmedabad or Bhuj. Direct flights to Bhuj are expensive though convenient. It is the district capital and close to Kutch. But with a little bit of stretch, you can take a train/flight to Ahmedabad and then a bus to Bhuj and onwards to Kutch. Just to give you an idea coming from Ahmedabad it is half the cost of the direct flight but easily double the time. We exercised the latter option.
Don’t think at all just go
Despite the inconvenience of getting there (especially if you use the scenic route) I realised that Gujarat culture is worth exploring:
Gujarat Handicrafts:The one thing that should be on your list to buy is the handicrafts available in the region. They are not as expensive as in the metros. I will dedicate an entire blog to this because the handicrafts are so interesting and diverse.
The whole shopping experience:The best part is that you go to the village from where they are made and shop for the products. It’s a different experience to buy from the artisans directly. Since we lived in Hodka village we went next door and bought some pretty things. They were hospitable and many members of the village came to meet us and offered us tea. It became like shopping from your neighbours.
Experience the Kutch culture:Most of the resorts are run by locals and they make sure you have an authentic experience. You get to live in Bhungas or circular houses made of mud, with thatched roofs. They are supposed to be structurally stable during earthquakes and climate responsive. The pure vegetarian food is what the locals eat. Here I must relate an anecdote :
Eating Non-Veg food in Gujarat
Our driver happened to be Muslim and we became friends. While complaining about the lack of non-veg food we requested him to take us to a good place for non-veg. He took us up on the offer.In a little non-descript place called Luckys (no relation to our bandra stalwart) we ate some great mutton biryani. The meat was actually falling of the bone as well as chicken and paratha that was lip smacking good. Hence this was the surprise element of the trip, our wish of getting a good non-veg meal fulfilled in a staunchly veg place like Gujarat. Talk about Indian jugaad (flexible approach to problem solving)!
Last but not least
The Landscape: The great Rann of Kutch is a landscape, I had neither seen nor experienced before. You see nothing but white plains (the salt pans) as far as the eye can see. Definitely visit during sunrise and sunset. As this is the time that you feel the impact of the vastness. Everything begins to make sense. The sun rises as if from the ground and it is the only thing you can focus on. You wonder if you walk upto it, can you touch it? No picture or video can do it justice. Watching this scene alone will make the trip worth it.
Bhuj Attractions: There is not much to see around Kutch with the main attractions in Bhuj.So, the first day as we arrived we travelled back to Bhuj from where our friends were taking their plane. We did some sightseeing at the Vijay Vilas palace and the Mandvi beach. Both places were lovely. There is also a cultural centre at Bhujodi that was not far off where we shopped! More on that later.
Lastly don’t worry about the Rann Utsav(Festival) we missed most of it, but it looked like a big shopping mela. Exploring the villages like we did is something I would choose over that anytime. So as Amitabh Bachhan says hope you guys are encouraged to ‘Breathe in a bit of Gujarat’ with this article.