Rann of Kutch (Part 1) - Rohit Upadhyay
(Part 1: Pune - Samakhiali)
Day 1 - Pune - Lonavala - Mumbai - Surat - Vadodara - Ahmedabad - Viramgam
The idea of visiting the “Rann” began with a discussion among friends about what to do for Republic Day 2012. Independence Day 2011 remains a sweet memory for us as we celebrated it in the best possible way; six of us conquered “Chikhaldhara” which is the only hill station in Maharashtra where coffee is grown. The discussions as usual led to thousands of suggestions about places to visit. We finally zeroed in on the "Little Rann Of Kutch". I proceeded to make a rough plan of how all of us are going to get there and back and what places we would visit. So the plan was as follows:
Day 1 - Pune/Mumbai to Ahmedabad
Day 2 - Ahmedabad to ROK to Nal Sarovar (Night Stay)
Day 3 - Nal Sarovar - Vadodara - Daman
Day 4 - Daman - Pune
26th Jan 2012, D Day.
The day began super early for the seven riders who would embark on the ride to the Little Rann. We showed up at our rendezvous, Dehu Road, at 4:15 am CBR250, Sanjay on his Classic 350, Vivek on his P220, Shashvat on his CBR250, Maverick on his CBR250, Siddarth on his ZMR and Akash on his ZMR. Through the sleepy night we rode, and made it to Fountain Hotel at an ungodly 6:15 am. Four more riders joined us from Mumbai; Ninad on his P135, Saurabh on his P220, Rahul Kakkar on his FZ and George uncle on his P220. The day’s run wad quite straightforward as we planned to reach Ahmadabad by evening. I briefed everyone about the day’s plan and we set off on our merry ride.
The NH8 is a dream if you plan to rip. It is all four-lane till Delhi and is part of the Golden Quadrilateral. After covering close to 120 km, we stopped for breakfast at a Parsi hotel. An hour of filling our tummies later, George uncle started his ride home as he had just come out for a short spin. He proceeded on to head back to Mumbai, and the rest of us continued towards out destination, crossing Surat and reaching Bharuch by 2 pm. Till this time, the going was quite fast and easy but just a few kms before Bharuch, we encountered a huge traffic jam which stretched for close to 3-5 km. The reason for this turmoil was the single bridge that spans across the Narmada River. There is another bridge which can be used by light vehicles and two-wheelers, but we had no idea about this. So there we were, cooking in our gear for close to an hour as we sat there stuck in traffic. A much needed tea break was announced to kill the frustration.
Vadodara was another 75 kms to go and we were actually running ahead of schedule. So we all went on to laze around for about 40 mins as usual. Post the tea and rest break, we headed on to Vadodara. From here on, we had to take the old Vadodara - Ahmedabad highway which is single lane infested with traffic as two-wheelers are not allowed onto the superfast four-lane Expressway between Vadodara and Ahmadabad. It was 5 pm when we finally made it to Ahmadabad and stopped at Sardar Patel ring road for our mates who had fallen behind to catch up. We had decided to skip lunch due to the heavy breakfast and the tea brake post Bharuch. But now we were a little hungry so we proceeded to munch down on some Pani Puri. As we had plenty of daylight left, we decided to ride on to Viramgam and halt there for the night after covering a total of 720 kms.
After reaching Viramgam, we checked into Hotel Janpath to rest out weary bones and aching bums. Post dinner we followed on with a nice Bakar sessions, as is tradition among us Pune and Mumbai guys, and also planned out what we would do on Day 2. The day held a surprise in store for us. Stay tuned....
Day 2 - Viramgam - Dasada - Radhanpur - Adesar - Rapar - Dholavira - Rapar - Chitrod - Samakhiali
Day 1 ended with all of us crashing out at a hotel in Viramgam and making plans for day 2. Unknown to others, I had other plan was a discussion about whether to change our plan and visit the Greater Rann. Surprisingly, there was little to no resistance to this plan and it was on...
A must see when visiting the Greater Rann of Kutch is:
- Dholavira – The place is like an island surrounded by salt water on one side, greater Rann and Pakistan from the other. To get here, one has to reach Rapar and then take a single-lane road which leads to Dholavira. The journey does include some offroading in order to reach the last point till where civillians are allowed. A BSF post greets visitors at this point and restricts further movement. From this location, Pakistan is just 40-50 kms away.
- White Desert, Kala Dungar and India Bridge – In order to reach these places one has to reach Bhuj. Few permits are required which can be obtained on the way. In case one wants to go beyond the India Bridge and see the Indo-Pakistan border, he has to take special permissions from BSF in Bhuj. But for the three aforementioned places, the permit obtained on the way is more than sufficient.
- Lakhpat,Mandvi and Narayan Sarovar – Another three beautiful places which do not require any permits. To go to these places you have to come back to Bhuj and then head west. Lakhpat is a sea fort from where beauty of the Greater Rann can be seen.
Unfortunately, we did not have the time to visit all these places.
So we started off in the morning and headed to Radhanpur via Dasada. We stopped over for a photo break during sunrise. The road conditions till Radhanpur are good and were devoid of traffic as well. We made it to Radhanpur and reached the four-lane highway that connects Palanpur to Rajkot. We all took a much needed tea stop, as well as visited a fuel station and ATM for cash. We got some friendly advice that there are no ATMs at ouu destinations, nor are there any proper food, water or lodging options. During the fuel stop, a huge crowd gathered to check out the alien bikes and the accompanying riders. I guess these parts don’t get to see this sight very often. I clicked off a few pictures of the spectacle that ensued.
After reaching Radhanpur, we had to leave the four-lane road at Adesar to head to Dholavira. This trip was just 80 kms and we covered it in no time. Must say, all the riders were keeping up a good pace. We decided to take a break at Rapar for lunch after another 35 kms. A word of caution for people touring in these places; it is better to have something to eat on the main highway before reaching Rapar because the place is devoid of any good dhabhas/hotels once you leave the four-lane highway. The road was pretty lonely with no fuel pumps so all of us tanked up at the first available pump at Rapar and moved on towards Dholavira. The road was arrow straight with no traffic in sight. And suddenly there it was....the Great Rann. During summer, all the water evaporates and what is left is a parched lunar-like surface.
On our way I noticed a few Army Outposts as well as some excavated sites, which turned out to be some old Harappan site. We decided to visit this place on the way back. With no idea about where the road leads, we continued moving ahead till the road ended. Luckily we found a few villagers who guided us towards a BSF outpost ahead. After riding for another few kms, the road divided up into three roads. I asked the guys to stop and wait while me and Vivek continue on to see what’s up ahead. The road turned out to be just sand and the going was tough with little or no traction. We just kept on rolling as best we could and finally reached the BSF outpost. The view was really beautiful, with a lake on one side and mountains on the other. We saw a group of Flamingos and got busy clicking images.
India-Pakistan border is just 40 kms from here. The water in the lake dries up by April and one can ride on the parched earth with ease all the way to the border. However, one needs to take special permission from the BSF at Bhuj to do this. The view from this place is amazing and we spent a couple of hours there just sitting and chatting with each other. Meanwhile, the BSF outpost asked some of us to come over for an identity check. By the time we started back towards Rapar, it was almost 5 pm. We skipped visiting the excavation site and instead decided to catch the sunset from the spot where we got our first glimpse of the Rann. After taking some pics of the setting sun, we headed off to Rapar and stopped for some tea. Our night halt was to be Chitrod or some other place ahead of here as the only lodge in Rapar was fully booked. As fate would have it, the lodge in Chitrod, which was 27 kms away, was full as well so we had to ride on to Samakhiali. Thankfully the roads were in pristine condition and we soon reached Samakhiali and found a place to stay. For Rs. 200 per room, the place was quite cheap but the toilets were in bad shape. Ah well....all 10 of us settled into 5 rooms and began the usual Bakar session. We ended the day with dinner and went off to sleep for a good rest.
.....TO BE CONTINUED in Part 2 (The Return trip)
- Author: by PTR