Monday, December 18, 2017

First day at Rann Utsav, The Great Rann of Kutch

The most anticipated leg of my sabbatical trip had finally arrived. We were arriving in kutch from Bhuj for a 3-day stay at Rann Utsav. Rann Utsav is a festival of celebrating the culture of Kutch. It is organised every year for 3 months, from November to February. The dates vary from year to year which can be checked from any official travel partner, like this one. The packages are diversified well enough to suit everyone. They have 1N/2D, 2N/3D and 3N/4D packages. The packages are further divided into different room types. All the rooms are tent style. The cheapest room is  "economy swiss cottage" and the most expensive is "Premium tents".

RannUtsav Banner
Posing near the main gate




The prices are a bit on the expensive side if compared to hotels, but it is understandable as it is just a 3-month festival, not a permanent hotel. The rates can be negotiated a bit with official partners and you can go with the one who's giving the maximum discount. Rann Utsav is organised in a village named Dhordo and the Utsav venue is also known as tent city.

The road from Bhuj to the tent city is pretty straight forward and marked well. We reached the tent city at the reporting time of 12 PM. There's a huge parking area outside the tent city for tourist coming by their own vehicle or groups coming by bus/taxi. The staff greeted us and asked us to wait at the reception area for allotment of a tent house. The bell boys took our luggage in the golf cart at our designated tent and we followed on another cart. We really liked the promptness of the staff there.

Road to kutch
The road leading to Dhordo. Notice the topography change
There are several golf carts running around the campus and it works like a hop-in-hop-out service. The tents are divided into clusters based on the tent type. The premium tent's cluster is just at the entrance and the non-AC ones are a bit far. We crashed on the bed as we had around an hour for lunch. 3 meals per day are included in the package and you get coupons for it. We went for the lunch which is in a common dining area. It was a huge hall and had a large buffet spread. We were expecting Gujarati cuisine but it was a standard north Indian spread. We had our lunch and returned to our tent for a quick nap before leaving for the first tour of the White Rann in the evening.

entrance of rann utsav tent city
The Tent city gate

They have limited camel carts for transferring from the city to the White Rann, that too on first come first serve basis. The rest go by buses. We managed to get to the parking spot on time by skipping evening tea/snacks and took our seats on the camel cart. It was around 15 minutes ride to the spot after which people can explore the grandeur of Rann, witness the sunset and return back to the spot. Our camel cart driver advised us to take care of our shoes while walking on the Rann. The Rann is a salt marsh land and while walking it feels as if you're walking on a cushion.

Camel cart
Our Ride for the evening
camel cart in rann
Our camel cart group
The shoes make a depression beneath it and as soon as you walk ahead, the land jumps back to its original position. It was a strange feeling walking on such surface but was fun. We continued walking forward and now the land was becoming wetter and our sandals started going deeper inside the ground. Some of the people there got a bit scared of it and started returning to the carts. I didn't want to return, nor did my wife. My wife took her sandals in her hand which I realised later was a better idea than walking with sandals. We continued walking further in spite of walking getting harder. I had my DSLR too which was adding to the difficulty. There were only a handful of people around us now which gave us a chance to watch the grand Rann without any distraction. It was an amazing view.

Rann of Kutch salt marsh land
The cushioned Salt marsh beneath my feet. My adorable sandals whom I donated to Rann, god bless you
Rann of Kutch
Land of salt across thousands of kilometre

Rann of Kutch
We left the people quite far behind. Notice the footstep impressions all over the salt land
The sun was about to set so we decided to return back. Just when I thought it would be easier while returning, my left leg went deep inside the ground and I was not able to take it out as my sandals got stuck. I got a little nervous and asked my wife to take my hand and pull me out. I decided to leave my sandals and pull out my leg. I continued walking barefoot which was easier as sandals were putting more force on the ground. My feet got bruises because I had tightened the sandals by the fingers. It was hurting more because of salt all over it. A lady was kind enough to offer me an antiseptic cream. We took off on the camel cart after viewing the sunset for a while, reached our tent and crashed on the bed for a quick recharge.

Sunset over The Great Rann of Kutch
Sunset at Rann of Kutch
A Camel and his companion watching sunset over the Rann
Sunset
Closeup of sunset over the Great Rann of Kutch
We started getting ready for dinner and cultural activity post that. The dinner spread had all Gujarati cuisine like Dhokla, Thepla, Undhiyo etc. We had dinner up to our heart's content and proceeded towards the activity area. There were a couple of cultural activities lined up for the night. The first performance was by a folk band whose members were from nearby villages. They were playing traditional instruments like Manjira, Morchang, Ghatam. It was a treat watching these guys play.

The folk band performing using traditional instruments
The second performance was by an artist Rajender who holds a Limca record for longest uninterrupted rotation on his feet, while simultaneously performing unbelievable acts. Rajender Bhai rotated for 10 minutes non-stop while his hands were doing some incredible stuff like rotating swords on his fingers, making a peacock using a saree. Check out this incredible performance here.

Stunt performer
Rajender continuously rotating using his feet while keeping a sword in his hands
Stunt perfomer
The peacock which Rajender made from a saree while continuously rotating on his feet
The last performance was by a group performing a tribal dance. They had an interesting attire and performed some scary stunts while dancing. The activity came to an end with Garba dance music. Some local tourists enjoyed it while we were watching from a distance as we're bad (read terrible) dancers.The Garba dance reminded me of Dayaben from Taarak Mehta TV serial.

stunt performer
Last performance by the group performing tribal dance
We took some photos with the artworks near the stage and retired for the day waiting for the next day packed with full of activities. Stay tuned for the post on the 2nd and 3rd day at Rann Utsav. 

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