A quick run to the Rann!

We bought our car in July 2021 and have been itching for a nice, multi day-long drive since then. We have been on multiple day trips already, had just completed 5000 kms. Our initial plan was for a Nashik-Saputara trip from Vadodara, with some friends coming over during the Christmas-New Year break. But then, Omicron started happening all across, and their trips got cancelled. We, me and my wife, decided that the trip must happen, but maybe somewhere else. The top candidate was the Rann of Kutchh and that is where we planned to go.

Day 1

Our trip began on the cloudy and dark morning of 28th of December, 2021 at around 0630h. Google maps said it would take about 8.5 hours of driving to our destination, we were expecting around 10 hours total. Our breakfast stop was planned near Viramgam. There was a hotel which provided good food and had clean toilets, so, that was the spot.
The traffic on the NE1 was moderate and there was quite a bit of weaving involved throughout, but since it is an expressway, the general speed of the traffic was about 70kmph +, so, not a lot of issues there. We arrived at the breakfast spot, Hotel Sahyog at about 0930h. 150 kms in about 2.5 hours, not bad. Our objective was to be consistent in the drive to be able to extract maximum efficiency from the car. After having breakfast, utilizing the toilets and giving the car a quick wash, we were on our way at about 10 am.

We arrived at the edge of the Rann of Kutch, past the small town of Balasar at about 1500h. This is where you get the first glimpse of the beautiful Rann (Desert, in the local language). My wife had been itching for her share of the drive and I wanted to take some photos and videos, so, we switched seats and off we went. The roads are simply wonderful and a driver’s pleasure. From the edge of the Rann to our resort in the Khadir Bet island, it was about 20 kms and we savoured every bit of the drive.

There were patches that had dried sea bed on either side to times where there was water. One has to be there to experience it and I dare say, words or photographs do not do enough justice. A point of caution, the town of Balasar is where you find the last petrol pumps. Google maps may show a Reliance Petrol Pump in the Khadir Bet Island, near the Dholavira Metropolis site, it does not exist. We arrived at the Khadir Resort close to 1530h and had some food. On the way, there was a viewpoint named Chipper Point, which we had planned to check out on the next few days, so, after a quick refresh at the resort, we headed towards the Sunset Point at the edge of the island. Again, one must say, that the roads are amazing. Even at a village level, the roads are paved, even though single lane, yet clean, and well maintained. Being a border road may have some merit though. Anyway, at the sunset point, there is a newly erected White Rann Tent City, a sister tent city of the one at Dhordo and offers similar experiences on this side of the Rann. We watched the sunset into the sea while being absolutely swept by the howling wind.

We returned back to the resort, quite cold, but happy at the location and the facilities available. Now, to combat the lack of petrol pump issue, most, if not all of the resorts maintain a stock of fuel with them in 1 litre bottles. Our resort also helped us to a few litres to top-up for the next day, we would embark on a unique kind of trip.

We had freshly baked Rotlos (bigger and stouter cousin of Rotis) made of Bajra, Kadhi, Khichdi, Chutney and lip-smacking potato curry for dinner and turned in for the night. We were tired by the drive and excited at what was coming up the next day, so we slept almost immediately.

Day 2

29th of December began with early morning tea being served. While the hosts were cooking up Poha, we made acquaintances with the other families which had arrived there already. Our itinerary for the day was one that would take us to two unique geographical features, through one of the most scenic routes ever imaginable. At around 0945h, we were on our way towards the White Rann of Kutch, through the Rann of Kutch lake. This road is formally known as the Aadhav-Dholavira Road, more commonly, as the Road to Heaven. It is a 10 feet wide, under construction road that cuts across the lake joining the landmass near Khavda (where there is a petrol pump) to Dholavira. With water or dried sea bed, depending on the season, on either side, driving on this road is a pleasure to the senses. The dried sea bed is white, due to the salt and it is so close to the road that I could actually get down and touch it. Since it was not completely dried out, the land is a bit mushy and you will sink a bit, so any thoughts of taking your car on to the Rann at this place, kindly throw it out immediately. Anyway, through this amazing road we went and arrived at the Khavda petrol pump.

Emptiness on either side and a nice road in front of us!
The road through the Kutchh lake!

Our car, being the only petrol car waiting in line got served quickly and we were on our way towards the White Rann, near the tent city of Dhordo. There is a road which borders the Rann, with absolute emptiness on either side from a little south of Khavda to effectively the gates of the White Rann, we found and took it. While the road surface is awesome and invites high-speed driving, please be careful since it is also a single lane road and you have to move away from the road to the shoulder to give way for oncoming traffic, and the shoulder is a couple of inches below the tarmac, so caution is advised. There is a BSF checkpoint at the entrance to the White Rann where you must show your pass, which can be obtained online easily, or there itself at the check post. Past that, we arrived at the White Rann of Kutch.

As far as the eyes could see, right up to the horizon, it is white. The entire ground is white with salt crystals and quite a bit of crowd around. Despite the crowd, the Rann is so huge and the space is so plentiful, it is easily possible to avoid fellow humans in the background of the photos if so desired.

There are options to go into the Rann up to a few kms using camel or horse-drawn carriages. There seemed to be provisions of driving on the Rann too, but I was not interested in that, so didn’t explore further. Toilet facilities are lacking at this spot. There is a toilet block nearby though, which is still in the construction phase and lacks water supply, hence cleanliness. Toilets are available at the border checkpoint and the tent city though, which should be accessible.

Next up, we had an 85 kms long trip to the next destination. En route, we stopped at the location where the Tropic of Cancer passes through and took a few photos. Our destination was the Khari river canyon. This is a river canyon or gorge of sorts made by the Khari river. At its deepest, it is about 50 ft deep. While it is not as big as the famed river canyons, it is still a unique feature and a first for us, so naturally, we were thrilled to see it. We took photos to our heart’s content and now, we turned back.

En route, we had a quick lunch at a roadside dhaba and were looking at a drive of about 200 kms back to the resort. One can go back the way they came, across the lake, we took the conventional route through the outskirts of Bhuj, Rapar, Balasar to reach our destination. Of course, night fell before we were anywhere near the resort. The roads are quite empty, which, provide you with the confidence of driving quickly, also make you wary of the surroundings. Uneventfully, thankfully, we arrived back at our resort. The place is so pristine and has such little light pollution, stars are visible even in the dashcam’s video. We went out for a bit, switched off our lights and got off to admire the beautiful skies around, could identify a couple of constellations, saw a shooting star, then we felt cold and could hear foxes close by. My wife, not being fond of furry things, pets or otherwise, urged me strongly, to get back in the car, and hence we returned to the resort.

The second night, we stayed at the Flamingo resort, which was about 200m from the Khadir resort. The hosts are amazing and the fact that the stay at Flamingo caters to the residential school being run makes you feel good. After a hearty meal, we retired for the night. The next day, we would be visiting the nearly 5000-year-old metropolis of Dholavira in the morning, and then drive back home to Vadodara. Long day ahead!

Day 3

Our final day’s trip began with Poha and tea. A few photos at the Flamingo’s premises and off we were towards the Dholavira site. Today, we had decided, until it gets too crowded, my wife would be at the wheel, then I shall take over if required.

The Dholavira site is nothing short of a wonder. We all know of the Giza Pyramids, what if I told you, that here in Dholavira, people from the same age had homes with attached kitchens, had amphitheatres, had a complex multilevel water filtration plant, lived and traded and buried their dead. Without trying to take away the Pyramid’s thunder, I am simply saying, please come visit Dholavira. It used to be the biggest metropolis in what we know now as the Indus-Valley civilization. With a few hectares of space which has water tanks, wells, upper-middle-lower towns, houses, a common playground and a stadium, this place is not just a bunch of ruins from the past. In fact, this town a few millennia old is in better shape than a few forts we trek to near Pune. You can see the indentations made by repeated use of ropes, pulleys, earthen pots, etc. For someone who is remotely interested in history and of course has the patience to hear the guides out, this place is simply mesmerizing. We spent almost 3 hours here for the tour of the upper and middle town areas and then we were on our way back.

The route back was the same route as we had taken on the first day, we stopped at the same place again, utilized its resources, and were back home by about 2100h. In all, the car had run 1456 kms and the average calculated was 19.1 km/l. There was no physical fatigue, no joint pains or muscle cramps, but we both slept for at least 10-12 hours a day for the next two days, not complaining!

Final driving stats!

In all, the car went through some amazing roads to places with no roads and only rocks. There were patches that felt like they would kill the suspension, to getting stuck on a sandbank thanks to a wrong turn. In each of the situations, the car performed as good as it could be imagined and delivered what was expected out of it. By the end, I am hearing a faint rattle from the left front door and seats squeak a bit. The second service is due this Friday, hopefully, the issues will get sorted out with no issues and the service centre guys do not curse me on account of how dirty and grimy the car has become.

To conclude, I will echo the tagline for Kutch, Kutch nahi dekha toh Kuch nai dekha ( If you haven’t been to  Kutch, you haven’t been anywhere).

Your comments, questions and suggestions are welcome and eagerly awaited.

Cheers!!

TTL: Ahmedabad over the weekend

A couple of weeks back, I was at Institute of Management, Nirma University, to take part in their annual fest. The location was at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. I had never been to Ahmedabad, so I grabbed the opportunity and made my way there with a lot of anticipation.

My trip was for just a couple of days hence the exploration was negligible. What I did manage to do was take some shot at the fest and at a nearby temple.

The university had a stunt show organized a Delhi based group, Mototycoonz were performing. Good show I must say. Wheelies, stoppies, handle bar stands, burnouts…you get the drift. Have a look 🙂

Bikes stunt wheelie

Wheelie without holding handle bars

Bike stunt sitting on handle bars

Bike stunt stoppie

Bike Stunt

Bike stunt burnout tyres rubber smoke

Bike stunt stoppie

The next day, we were headed to the famous Swaminarayan Temple to shoot around the locality. A quite and clean locality and a well maintained temple premise. Abundance of Langoors, who are quite well behaved.

Pink kite strings maanja

Old lady selling carrots

Tea seller tasting tea before serving to customers

Dog sleeping on a scooter

Garbage collector on his early morning routine rounds

Tailor on his daily duties in Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Old lady sewing some cloth in Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Young boy sells vegetables in Ahmedabad, Gujarat

A man feeds biscuits to a langoor in Ahmedabad, Gujarat

A langoor poses for a photo in Ahmedabad, Gujarat

A puppy plays with its mother in Ahmedabad, Gujarat

A eagle gives a striking pose in Ahmedabad, Gujarat

A langoor eats a brinjal in Ahmedabad, Gujarat

A langoor eats a potato in Ahmedabad, Gujarat

This event taught me a simple thing, either we win, or we learn. I learnt that at times, having a a good shot is not enough, I must also learn how to weave that good shot into a story too. This gave rise to the concept of starting a new series of my shots, The Ones That Didnt Win.

Next up, something closer to home. Four of us spend an afternoon shooting portraits in a couple of coffee shops in the search of the elusive perfect DP. Keep an eye out, the photos shall be here shortly.

Cheers!!