Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The next two days at Rann Utsav, The Great Rann of Kutch

The first day at Rann Utsav was exciting and eventful. The second day also had packed schedule under its sleeves. The day started with morning tea at 5:30. The guests are then taken to the White Rann for watching the sunrise. There's no camel cart ride as the distance to the sunrise point is more than the distance it was to the sunset point. We took our seats on the bus. It was a short 10 min ride to the point from where we had to walk around 200 meters. One can take camel carts or individual camel ride from here till the vantage point. We decided to walk so that we could stop wherever we want and click photographs. It was cloudy over the horizon and looked like we would not be able to watch the sunrise. The sky showed vibrant colours though as the sun was rising behind it.
Sunrise in Kutch
First rays of the sun over the horizon

Walkway towards Kutch
Posing on the way to the sunrise point
We started walking on the White Rann. Unlike last day's walk, this ground was firm and we were able to walk as far as we could without trouble. The sun had risen over the horizon but we still couldn't see it because of clouds. We were a bit unlucky I guess. We climbed the sunrise point tower, which is a 3 storey structure to get a better vantage point for viewing the sunrise. It gives a 360 ยบ view of the White Rann. It was time to leave the place back to the tent city.

Sunrise point in Kutch
The sunrise point. It was full by the time we reached there.
sunrise, kutch
Sunrise behind clouds. It was our unlucky day as we could not witness the sunrise properly.
We were the only ones left as everybody took off to get a seat on the bus. By the time we reached back, it was time for a sumptuous breakfast. The breakfast included continental as well Indian options. We had free time till lunch as a complimentary tour to Kutch village Gandhi Nu Gam and sunset time at Kalo Dungar was in the itinerary.

Rann of Kutch
Panorama of Rann of Kutch from the sunrise point tower
There are lots of options to spend time in the tent city. There are fun activities like paramotoring, ATB ride, archery, cycling/Segway ride, shooting and pool. The caveat is each activity has its own price and is not free of cost. I felt the prices were a bit on the expensive side. I really wanted to do paramotoring but a 10-minute ride was for 2.5K.

Sunrise in Kutch
Wide angle view of sunrise over the horizon in Kutch.
The cost made me drop the idea. We did cycling later in the day though. My wife did some shopping at the kiosks set up by local villagers selling handmade stuff. Their prices were exorbitant as well. Make sure you bargain before buying anything here. Bargaining hard is not recommended though as the village folks are directly selling here and it's their major source of income. We took rest before going for lunch as we had to leave for the tour just after lunch. There were 2-3 buses waiting at the exit gate to take us first to Gandhi Nu Gam. This village took the worst hit during the tragic earthquake and was completely destroyed. The village was redeveloped post-earthquake by Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF). Full details about the project can be read on their website.

Gandhi Nu Gam village, Kutch
The traditional Bhungas redeveloped in Gandhi Nu Gam, Kutch.
Gandhi nu Gam village shops, kutch
Local villagers attending to tourists from their homes turned into showrooms.
Gandhi Nu Gam has several traditional houses known as Bhungas which is a circular structure built with adobe bricks and clay. The folks residing in these Bhungas had kept it unbelievably clean and tidy which really made us all wonder how is it possible. Some of the villagers had set up shops selling items ranging from clothes, bedsheets to jewellery and decorative items. The tent city staff onboard the bus gave us refreshments and we continued for Kalo Dungar.

Local Kid, Kutch
A kid enjoying the attention of the tourists 
kutch village art
Art and decoration at village huts made by locals.
Some of the handmade stuff made by locals of Gandhi Nu Gam
It was around 30 minutes ride from Gandhi Nu Gam. Kalo Dungar, which literally means Black Hill, is the highest point in Kutch from where a panoramic view of Great Rann can be seen. It's probably the closest point in Kutch to Pakistan so you'd see an Indian military post on the top of the hill.The hill also has a 400-year-old Dattatreya temple which has its own legend. Our buses stopped at the base of the hill and we had an option to either walk up to the top, take a shared jeep, or a camel ride.

Kalo Dungar welcome board
The welcome board at the parking area for Kalo Dungar.
The rides don't take you all the way to the top either. It stops at the foot of the temple. Although the temple is 400-year-old, the walls are reconstructed to keep it safe. We were provided complimentary tea/coffee here. I am guilty of having a couple of cups extra as the tea was amazing. We started ascending towards the top. The weather was again not in our favour. It was cloudy and the horizon was barely visible. There were kids with binoculars who were playfully asking each one of us to check out an Indian military post, and border using their binoculars for 100 bucks. I had my 55-200 lens so I didn't need a binocular. I tried searching for the post but could not due to poor visibility.

Kutch view from Kalo Dungar
The endless Rann of Kutch from the top of Kalo Dungar. Photo is dark as I had to add black to cancel out overcast gamma.
View from another side of Kalo Dungar. There's a military post somewhere in the hills in the photo
This blog has some great shots of Kalo Dungar surroundings. The sunset didn't look spectacular either because of the clouds so we disappointed folks started walking back to the parking area to return to the tent city. We were quite tired after full day excursion and most of us slept immediately after boarding the bus. We reached the tent city and went to our respective tents. We had some time to kill before the dinner starts which we utilised by taking rest. The food in the dinner was delicious as usual. It was time for the cultural activities.

Chhakda Rikshaw, an indigenous and unique mode of transport of Gujarat

There were three activities scheduled but two of them were a repeat of the first day. The tribal folks dance, and local villagers performance. The third activity was a band who played contemporary Bollywood songs. Their performance was average and didn't compliment the other performances. The management should include more traditional activities which resonate with the Kutch culture.

Dhordo Tent City props
Posing with one of many props at the tent city.
The next morning we woke up early as we had to leave after breakfast. We had breakfast on time, took photos with props around the city and finally left the place before 10 as we had to drive till Ahmedabad. The checkout process was fast and efficient. We left the place with amazing experiences and wish to visit the place sometime soon again. The Rann Utsav 2017-18 is already in progress now and it is till 20th February 2018. It's a must do activity at least once with your family. There are other staying options in Dhordo as well but it doesn't give the same holistic experience as staying in the tent city.

sunrise over tents in tent city
Sunrise over the tent cluster at Dhordo Tent city. 
Tent city cluster panorama
Panorama of the tent cluster where I stayed.

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