The Great Rann of Kutch was on top of the travel bucket list which was finally achieved. The silence of the Great Rann is to be experienced. The East side of salt desert is quiet and holds many facets to charm the traveller.
Thirst- yes it’s the thirst to see something beyond the usual which drives us to go the extra mile. Most of the times we miss it, and sometimes they fall right into our lap. They remain on our bucket list for long, and as times go by, they get relegated to the bottom. But there are instances where the first in the list remain there. Stubborn and they just stare at you as if to say when are you coming? The Great Rann of Kutch, has been on the top of my list for ages and never did it slip down.
Our road trip from Mumbai to Ahmedabad was uneventful. After a day’s stay at Ahmedabad, we hit the road early morning, and the first pit stop was Modhera Sun Temple and the second was Rani-Ka-Vav at Patan. These two unusual places will be covered separately. So let’s focus on Kutch. We left from Patan around 2 pm and began our push towards the Rann of Kutch. The roads were superb throughout, and the only bad stretch was the one when we were about to reach the Rann that too for about 2 km. The route we took was Ahmedabad-Modhera-Patan-Radhanpur-Adesar-Rapar-Balasar-Khadir Bet. You can also approach the Rann from Bhuj, and that’s where the Rann festival is celebrated with pomp and gusto. We intentionally avoided the din and the razzmatazz of the Rann Festival and chose to enjoy the eastern side of the Rann and never regretted it.
When we spoke with Praveen for booking the resort, we anxiously asked him as to the distance between the resort and the Great Rann. He said that the Rann started from his backyard. Cheeky indeed! The drive from Balasar is beautiful. A final stretch is a straight road connecting the island of Khadir Bet to the mainland. On either side of the road, is the Great Rann. With an almost full moon for company, the drive was breathtaking. We reached Rann Resort at about 8.30 pm, and for a change, Google maps delivered us right at their doorstep. My experience with Google maps for long trips has been very iffy. My experience with Google Maps can be read here… Gir Sanctuary .
Praveen greeted us with a beaming smile and ushered us into cute cottages and informed us that dinner would be served in 15 minutes. A bonfire was lit to warm the travelers. The rooms are clean and functional. There are about 12 cottages in the resort. The food was marvelous. Rotlas were served with generous dollops of white butter and more importantly with a smile. My son suddenly demanded curd, and like magic, it was served. The hospitality showered on us was fantastic, and it remained that way throughout our stay. I would recommend a stay at the Rann Resort without any inhibitions. Also, you need to keep in mind that all the supplies are procured either in Balasar or Rapar which is about 50 to 100 km from the resort. For those who can’t live without their daily dosage of news and gossip , wifi connectivity is available too.
The Rann Resort
We were told that Pakistan lies about 60 km from the Great Rann. In 1965, Pakistan made their initial foray into India into the Great Rann and made the most crucial mistake- of underestimating India’s resolve. One can read a great deal about this in Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Arjun Subramanian’s book – India’s Military History.
During the night, temperature goes down to about 7-10 degrees Celsius and for Mumbaikars who are more used to heat and any temperature reading below 20 would bring out the monkey cap and the half sleeved sweaters, 10 degrees was all brrrrrr and woolens! After rest of the family retired for the night, my wife Vidhya and I along with Mr. Gadvi who is one of the promoters of the resort undertook a walk on the Rann at about 11 pm. Rightly so, the Rann literally was in their backyard. We hopped across a low wall, and there it was ..the Great Rann. One could hear the crunch of the salt under your feet. What an experience it was! The wind was blowing mightily, and on a full moon night, the Rann was glorious. Google is filled with photographs of the Great Rann of Kutch, but nothing prepares you for the utter silence of the Kutch. I think the better word in Hindi is shunyata (nothingness). We came back to our cottage delirious and crashed for the night.
The Rann- Glorious on a full moon night
As a first, we had breakfast with the Great Rann for a view. After devouring deliciously made theplas, we entered a different world altogether- a well-laid city which was bustling with activity 5000 years ago. Mr. Jaimal, who was the guide, took us around Dholavira. A detailed write up is coming up shortly. But for now, I will take you around the Rann of Kutch and its immediate surroundings.
After seeing Dholavira, we made our way to a fossil park which lies about 5 km from Dholavira. Here, trees which are thousands of years old have been conserved as fossils in stone. The story is that once upon a time there was a volcanic eruption. The lava from the volcano uprooted trees and took them into their fold. Soon, the earth cooled down, and the trees remained ensconced in stone! Also, there are several rocks strewn on the banks of the Rann. The rocks are smooth and are of different texture. Jaimal said that some geologists had visited the park and they were of the opinion that the stones seem like meteors since they are not similar to the other rocks found in the region. A couple of photographs are attached below to illustrate the point. We do not know the authenticity of this aspect, but surely we have not heard the last of it. By the way, this is the first ever fossil park visit of ours. Jaimal promised us to take us to a place where we can see flamingos in plenty. Only catch…we have to be up at 6.00 am.
The Fossil Park
Tree trunk fossilised between stones
We rushed to the Rann Resort to view the sunset. We clambered on to a tractor and made our way into the Rann. The magnitude of the expanse of white salt will take the wind off your sails. The sun was slowly setting on the horizon and mirage effect was coming into play. Soon everyone became quiet. Oh was it beautiful!!
It’s the Rann from ground level and not clouds
Soon, a line of flamingos flew across the far horizon which had turned pink in color. Surreal! We returned back to our rooms quiet, and the hangover of the sunset seemed eternal! Sayaji Bhai, who is Praveen’s father, regaled us with stories of the Rann as we tucked into our dinner.
6.00 am it is, and we are up and made our way to the village entrance to pick up Jaimal. It was cold and windy, and after a short drive, we reached Karni Point. We were greeted by soft moonlight bouncing off the Rann. Soon we saw the rising sun. Honestly, we did not know where to look, the moon or the sun! The Rann was filled with water, and we gingerly stepped on to the Rann. The sand was soft and slippery. Alas, the flamingos were a bit far away, and hence I could not capture the beautiful feathered friend as well as I would want to. Anyways we did manage to see a strange sight of a bird which was walking with its head tucked in and that too for a long distance.
Moon on the Karni Point
Moon shines for me!
Soon it was time to bid goodbye to our hosts and to the Rann. As luck would have it, we saw some flamingos at dawn on the Rann. What a sight it was!
Perfect good-bye gift
The Rann also offers birds of different ilk for the avid bird watcher. Couple of snaps for the birding community!
And for those who love astrophotography, the Rann is the perfect place . You will have clear skies. I managed a star trail click that too on a full moon day! In fact, the yellow light on the bottom left is that of the moon rise. Just in the nick of time!
As we drove further away from Dholavira, my mind kept wandering back to my first step on the Rann and how strange it was to hear the crunch of salt beneath the feet, the beautiful sunset and to the ruins of Dholavira. The first sight of the Rann will remain imprinted in your heart. And yes, it is just salt.