During YHAI’s Goa Expedition, Ishan had expressed his interest to do Rann of Kutch. After returning from Goa, we all got busy in work routines and forgot the talk. One day while seating against my laptop, rann sparked into my mind, and immediately I checked for distances, places to visit and planned a loose itinerary. Talked with my colleague and co-rider – Ankur. He was also interested to do so.
As everybody talking about, beauty of the rann expanses to bloom on full moon night, so I checked when is the next full moon, and to our luck the next full moon was on Saturday. I called Ishan and briefed little about the program, and in just few minutes his message appeared on my screen – “Tickets booked”.
Now the time started to finalise the itinerary. Details available on net was not sufficient or detailed, so called a tourist guide, Abhubhai Buch, who was referred to me by one of my friend. Abhubhi has expertise in this area. He guided about itinerary and arranged for accommodation. We planned for Sunset at White Rann at Dhordo and next morning Sunrise from top of the Kala Dungar (Black Hill), and accommodation was planned at Hodka village. Ishan suggested that to enjoy full moon, we should pitch our own tent at rann. We gathered information from net, came to know that camping might not be allowed at rann itself. At the same, a risk factor sparked into my mind, whether cycling will be allowed? I immediately called Abhubhai, and he also told that if the cycling in rann is the prime goal then forget the white rann at Dhordo, as being close proximity to Pakistan border, BSF might not allow that. He suggested to go for rann at Ekal and to contact Ramjibhai Meriya for further information.
Next day, I called Ramjibhai, and clearly discussed about our wish. Ramjibhai was too happy to know that someone is interested in cycling in rann. He confirmed that there shall be no restriction in Ekal ka Rann, and cycling can be done leisurely. He also arranged for our stay at his farm house at Chobari, which is near to rann. After talking with Ramjibhai, I rechecked the things on map, and re-routed the plan.
On the day, when Ishan was to board the train for Kutch, I called him and told to alight at Bhachau, we were supposed to pick him there. On the planned day, we loaded the the cycles on the car rack, and left at around five in early morning, as Ishan was supposed to reach by seven at Bhachau. To our bad luck, while passing Morbi bypass, a speed bump was oversighted and crossed at full speed, a boom sound was heard and what we saw to the rear of car – cycles were on the road few meters back. A couple of rack straps were broken at the time of jumping over the bump. We somehow managed with alternate straps to hang the rack, and moved ahead slowly. Till this time, Ishan was reached Bhachau and was waiting for us. We passed through salt pans on both sides of road near Samkhiali and reached Bhachau, late by more than an hour to our planned time. Ishan was waiting outside the railway station.
By this time, we were too hungry, so we took car into the town, and stopped at hawker, who was selling Dabeli (a local food speciality of Kutch, something looks like burger). After getting stomach full breakfast, we went to market and bought a good quality rope to tie additional support to rack as it had been on two straps only after bump jump. In few minutes, we were on small road towards Chobari at Ramjibhai’s farm house.
Chobari is a small village, Ramjibhai’s farm house is at two km after passing Chobari. We were warmly greeted by Ramjibhai at his farm house. When we reached, there was some shooting of kutch’s culture was going on at farm. They were also happy knowing our cycling plans, and shot few stills with our cycles too. Ramjibhai’s farm is simple but beautifully developed. There is a kutchi bhunga and few rooms with basic facilities. A small garden, crop fields behind, a well, cows and bullocks, a seating lounge under a large tree and dining area – all these adds natural vibes to the atmosphere and takes to feel villager’s life style. Ramjibhai is avid nature lover, he has made arrangements in farm such like to save electricity and other fuels. Even all rooms are equipped with solar powered lights, and electricity is used only where its needed hardly, like charging phones and other devices etc. We were offered tea and snacks. Ramjibhai asked about our plan for lunch, but we were eager to see the rann, so we said ‘no’ for lunch. Ramjibhai guided for route to Ekal Mata Temple, from where rann starts. We took our cycles and started towards Ekal Mata temple.
Ekal Mata Temple is merely 12-13 km from Ramjibhai’s farm. We took our lunch at the temple. The food served was simple but delicious and with great hospitality. Since it was sunny day, people at temple suggested to take some rest and go to rann after four. They allotted a rest room to us, we took rest there for a while. A guy came in few minutes and asked to have a cup of tea. After few minutes, we left for rann.
Rann starts just behind the temple campus, but the white rann appeared after ride of approx half kilometer. When we reached white marsh, we were amazed to see infinite barren land – all white. It was little slushy at the start but was rock solid as we moved ahead. We rode leisurely in rann for almost 4-5 km deep and clicked so many snaps. From this point the site was fully white till we could see in every direction. The joy what we felt was fantastic which can not be expressed in words. We sat for a while there and had snacks there which we carried with. The sun was now moving slowly towards horizon at west. We shot few snaps with the setting sun, then sat and enjoyed sunset. We started moving back slowly as it was getting darker. When we left about 2 km, we stopped there and waited for the moon to rise.
The wait was over, the moon started appearing at horizon. We were too excited to see the scene. We never had such a marvelous moon rise view. We enjoyed riding our cycles here and there in moon light and clicked some snaps. After 2-3 hours enjoying our ride, we started riding back. In few minutes, on reaching Ekal Mata temple, we stopped for a while to mount our lights on the cycles, and moved ahead. When we reached Ramjibhai’s farm, he was eagerly waiting for us, he had tried to call us too but network was not available in rann. Tradition dinner was ready for us. After having finished it we sat in garden for a while but it was getting colder so we went to sleep in the rooms.
Next day, we woke up little late after sound sleep whole night, as we all were too tired. Tea and breakfast was ready. While having breakfast, Rameshbhai heard sound of a pump, he asked Ramjibhai about, and we came to know about a diesel pump to fetch water from well for crop fields. Although hot water was available, we loved to bath near well under water hose from pump. We washed our cycles there and put them to sun dry. We went stroll around in farm with Ramjibhai, and gained knowledge about Kutch and Rann of Kutch. Ramjibhai suggested to visit either Dholavira or Kalo Dungar (Black Hill) in today’s excursion. We chose to go Kalo Dungar as Ishan’s return train was from Bhuj, and visiting Dholavira might be little hectic.
We put cycles into rack, and said good bye to Ramjibhai. We drove directly to Bhuj via Bhachau. Few kilometers before Bhuj, I called Abhubhai asking suggestion for lunch. He suggested a restaurant to hang on. We had wonderful traditional food there, without shaving pockets. Then we headed towards Kalo Dungar, passing over Tropic of Cancer. The road from Bhuj to Kalo Dungar is excellent and mostly straight. We had plan of riding cycles uphill at Kalo Dungar, but we were running late and needed to drop Ishan at Bhuj station timely, so instead of cycling we drove to the top on Kalo Dungar. Kalo Dungar is highest peak in this region. Sunset and sunrise both can be enjoyed from here. White rann at Dhordo is seen from the top. We enjoyed scenic views. Few hawkers were offering view of Indo-Pak border with powerful binoculars or telescopes. We then drove down the hill and visited the last point towards border till which civilians are allowed – India Bridge. Met soldiers there and started back toward Bhuj.
In one and half hours, we were at Bhuj Railway Station. Ishan’s train was at platform. As we said good bye to Ishan, he boarded the train, and we started towards home. By late night, we were at our homes with wonderful memories of Kutch.
Photo Courtesy: Ishan Gupta