Dates: 25 Feb 2015 – 29th Feb 2015
Travel: Train travel from Mumbai – Bhuj (Bandra Terminus-Bhuj)
Bus service from the organiser from Bhuj- Rann Utsav & Back.
Who ever thought of habituating in a desert was the coolest person ever!
The plan was not to visit the beaches nor the mountains, instead the desert lured us!
We decided to stay in the desert at The Rann of Kutch which hosts the Rann Utsav – courtesy the Government of Gujarat.
Package & Bookings details:
Bookings can be done on official websites accepting online payments. The package of 2 nights costing Rs 11500/- pp included accommodation, food, transfers & sightseeing. We were an enthusiastic group of 10 people with ages varying from 26 -87 years.
Train journeys in my opinion are the best way to travel; there is so much to do, so much time at hand, and a lot to learn & experience.
Our journey a 16 hour long one, started at 2.50 pm scheduled to reach the destination at 7.00 am next day morning. Beware there is no pantry on this train but food can be delivered at certain stations with the help of Food Express.
My train ride was a nightmare. A passenger sleeping right across my berth was snoring away to glory throughout the night. I had a long day ahead hence decided to get some sleep with a pillow on my head.
Bhuj Station to Dhordo Tent city:
Before we reached Bhuj, we receive a message from the Rann Utsav team to gather at the office outside the station and our bus was to depart at 8.30. Once at the station we head towards a spacious tent put outside the Bhuj station. From there on our luggage was taken care by the team, all we had to do was relax. Our bus ride from the station to Dhordo-the tent city hosting the Rann Utsav was a 2 hour, 80 Km ride.
On our way we noticed::
-The train tracks ended at Bhuj- this was the last stop on this route.
-Bhuj was a military station, with its proximity to the Pakistan border so the station was shut once passengers are out of the station.
-This was a small city with the army airport & the railway station in close proximity.
We drove through barren lands to reach Dhordo the tent city. We were greeted with a warm welcome; drinks, a drum roll played with local artists performing local dance coupled with the Tilak ceremony.
Dhordo, Tent City:
The month of Feb had it’s advantage as the climate was pleasant. Tents were allocated and we were ferried by buggies to a destined zone for the AC tents – zone H. There are zones A-I, each having 50 odd tents, with a total of 340 odd tents in the entire city.
It was during the year 2001, that people evidently noticed the White Rann and later with the vision of Mr. Narendra Modi along with the Government of Gujarat recognised this place as a tourist destination, and thus the Rann Utsav was conceptualised. The Government of Gujarat brought out tenders and Lallooji an event company from UP – the lowest bidders were handed over the reins of the event. Initially a month long event this culminated from year 2, into a 3 month long event spanning Dec to Mar. After March, during the monsoons the Arabian Sea washes out the entire land so the tent city needs to pack up after March. During December the event witnesses a huge influx of tourists, noted celebrities and VIP guests. The new year celebration is quiet an event here. The event prides in its fact that it is managed by management college & other professional course students and has quite some good service reviews on the internet. This was the 4th year of the event and after next year bidders would be invited for the best quote; maybe the Rann Utsav may no longer run, so a wise decision for us to make it this year.
Lunch was served in 2 common dining halls, close to the respective zones. A perfect blend of Kutchi & Punjabi food; we ate to our heart’s delight during breakfast lunch and dinner.
Out tents were make-shifts with decent furniture, and basic amenities within the tent.
The White Rann:
The schedule was to visit the White Rann in the evening. This place is a 7000 sq Km area of white salt, the remains of the Arabian Sea when the water permeates the arid desert marsh lands. Summer temperatures reach 49 degrees, although the temperature towards the end of Feb was around 35 degrees during afternoons and reduced drastically during the nights upto 15 degrees. The transfer to the Rann was either a camel led cart or the boring bus ride, which half of us preferred given the scotching heat.
The rule: you go by a transport vehicle, you come back in the same way. Most of us didn’t take a risk but for those who did, it was well worth it. At the White Rann the most enthralling experience was of the sun setting across a brazen land unto the horizon which no camera can ever capture. The camels were freed from their carts to be used for camel back ride for the photo hungry tourists. The Kutchi dance artist with the puppet horse returns, this time he leads the audience into wearing the puppets and dancing to the dhol.
Other activities at the Dhordo tent city:
Each night at the Rann Utsav, cultural performances are part of the evenings until 10 pm. There are mehndi sessions and a star gazing activities too. For the youngsters, there is a gymnasium and a set of indoor games available too. One of the most interesting activities is the star gazing activity with the help of a telescope. We watched the 4 natural satellites around Jupiter and got a glimpse of the craters on the moon’s surface. ATV rides and motor paragliding are also available, although a little heavy on the pockets, absolutely worth a try. Early booking for motor paragliding was essential and can be decided basis the wind movement only. You can also cycle around the 2 kms area.
The next day we lazed around until our bus took us to Kala Dunger at 3 pm. Kala Dungar was a 2 hour long journey with a stop at a village called “Gandhi no Gaam”.An NGO requested the Government to name this village upon Gandhiji after its rehabilitation due to the Bhuj earthquake. Kala Dungar is the highest point in Kutch & is around 60 kms from the border of Pakistan. You can get a panoramic view of the vast expanses of the salt desert of the Great Rann of Kutch from here. BSF personal, (border security force) are posted here and they are responsible for the area. The jawans posted here face grave difficulties in line of their duty & yet with a smile on their face guard the country’s borders. A bridge at a distance was the only connection between India & Pakistan. We returned to our camps, with patriotism filled in our veins after hearing the BSF guard speak.
The Rann Utsav is a pleasurable experience if you like to spend relaxed time with your loved ones, cosy up in your tents and de-stress and watch sunrises and sunsets on the horizon.