January 2018 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Gujarat’s White Rann: A Must Experience Natural Wonder

A gorgeous white rann sunset, Great Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India

This region was once the base for one of mankind’s earliest and most successful civilizations. I am talking about the Indus valley civilization as the mighty Indus river meandered its way into the Gulf of Kutch making this an extremely fertile valley. Maritime trade with the Middle East and Africa made it one of the most successful on the Indian subcontinent. Engineering and business thrived making it an extremely rich place. But, somewhere after the devastating earthquake of 1819, the land completely transformed.

A White Rann Sunrise and the ship of the desert

The Indus shifted its course to today’s Pakistan and the land dried to form one of the largest salt deserts of the world. But, the beauty of mother nature’s transformation is that it creates something sensational and in this case it is the spectacle of the thick white salt crystals that sprawl an area larger and bigger than what the eye can see. The expanse is so mighty that if you walk in the middle of it for a while, you might lose your sense of bearings as your 360 degree view remains more or less the same, which is white all the way.

A winter morning sunrise from the White Rann Salt Desert

And that I think it is this sheer vastness, bleakness and remoteness that makes this place so surreal. It offers something that is a total rare commodity. Be it the sunrises or sunsets here, the moonrises, the look of the star glazed sky on a no moon night or the reflections of the moon on the white salt crystals on a full moon night, every regular celestial event seems to become a spectacular sight here.

Getting ready to capture sunrise at the white salt desert of the Greater Rann of Kutch

Located real close to the Dhordo tent city that celebrates the annual Rann Utsav festival, this part of the Greater Rann of Kutch that locals fondly refer to as the White Rann is maintained by the Indian army as our border with Pakistan passes somewhere in the middle of this remote expanse. The character of the Indian army adds a special charm to the entire White Rann experience as you can see them almost everywhere right from the check points, the surrounding areas and even the main entrance to the White Rann. Your respect for the border force increases many fold when you see the unforgiving nature that they live in, especially in the summer months, when temperatures consistently hover 50 degree Celsius or more.

The setting sun at the salt desert of White Rann, Greater Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India

A trip to the White Rann doesn’t simply entail a sight of one of India’s best natural wonders, but it also allows you to experience the colors, handicrafts and art of the creatively rich Kutchi people, the amazing Gujarati cuisine and a closer peek at Greater Flamingos, Lesser Flamingos, Bustards and Wild Asses that call this salt desert their home. I sometimes ask as to why do we find the most color in dry landscapes. May be, we humans tend to over compensate to make up for the lack of color. Most of us think Rajasthan is India’s most colorful state, but I think the region of Kutch will beat it hands down. And not just that, the art, culture and handicrafts that has been passed down many generations for hundreds of years bears testament to the rich history of this place. In all, a total holiday package to one of Incredible India’s most beautiful and vibrant locations. And if you happen to be there tomorrow, do not miss the special celestial event of Blue Moon, Super Moon and Lunar Eclipse from this salty desert.

A White Rann sunrise on a misty morning at Great Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India

Best Season to Visit

October to March should be the the best time to visit this region, though I would say November to February is best, if you yearn for pleasant weather.

Where to Stay

Gujarat Tourism runs two tent city properties real close to the White Rann. These places are a bit on the pricier side, but they offer a perfect place for your Kutch family holiday as they bring entertainment, food, culture, shopping and luxury all in one massive cultural city. If you are on a road trip and are looking for budget options, stay with Kutchi families in their village homes for a more authentic experience. What you lose in oomph, you make up for in true local character. Villages such as Nirona, Gandhinugram, Bhirandiyara are great bets as they offer you a rustic Kutchi experience while offering proximity to the White Rann.

Sunrise over the salt desert of the Great Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India

How to Reach

Bhuj is the city with the closest airport and railway station, but connectivity is limited and cost might be a bit high, especially for flights. For cheaper options, look at Ahmedabad, though this would mean you drive close to 400 kilometers to reach the White Rann.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Dabeli: The World Famous Burger of Kutch

The man who creates Dabeli, the burger of Kutch

Street food of India never stops to amaze me. Wherever you are visiting in this country, you are never too far away from lip smacking street food. The hygiene might be a bit treacherous at times, but if you have a strong stomach, there is no richer gastronomic experience to be had in Incredible India. Take the rich district of Kutch that lies in India’s far north west. Most of us know of the dishes of this state that sound like war cries – Dhokla, Fafda and that iconic travel companion of Khakhara and Thepla. But, did you know that the state of Gujarat has its own burger and that this burger was invented in Bhuj, the largest city in the district of Kutch.

Referred to locally as Dabeli, this famous street food of Bhuj now goes by the trendy nickname ‘Kutchi Burger’, a term coined for the foreign travelers who visit this region. It is your simple bread or pao that is toasted on butter and stuffed with a secret tomato vegetable gravy, sweet sauce, tangy sauce, nuts, pomegranate fruit and spicy peanuts. One or two of this Dabeli and you can happily skip your meal. It is somewhere in between a Vada Pao and Pao Bhaji, but has its unique taste. And it goes fantastically well with a strong cup of Elaichi (Cardamom) chai/tea.

Famous Elaichi Chai (Tea) Of Kutch at Bhuj, Gujarat

Another street food that is very popular in Kutch is Kadak. Made from salty wheat biscuits, it doesn’t have the pao, but it has a similar vegetable based gravy, nuts, fruits and an assortment of sauces to give that crunchy lip smacking bonanza. This street food is a bit spicy and hence goes extremely well with a glass of Chach or butter milk. Both Dabeli and Kadak can be tasted at Kishan Dabeli and Bhel on Bhuj’s main bazaar. It is one of those must have experiences of Kutch.

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Monday, January 01, 2018

Upcoming Travels: White Rann Full Moon Festival, Gujarat

Happy New Year 2018 to all you lovely people! May this new year usher in lots of happy moments and interesting journeys for all of us!!

Rann of Kutch, Gujarat

As mentioned in my earlier blog post where I spoke about my blogging hibernation, I intend to hit the road a bit more in 2018 given that I have had an extended break from travel. Now, it is time to get back to exploring the world. In line with that promise, I spent the first day of the year packing my bags as I head to the white salt desert of Kutch tomorrow. I will be visiting the Rann of Kutch after 9 long years. This time, I am not going for flamingos or other birds or to see the wild asses, but to get closer to the people who live in these salt flats and to hear their stories.

Lesser Flamingos at Rann of Kutch, Gujarat

I will catch the full moon (Jan 2nd) at Dhordo tent city, which I hear is already decorated in a rich festive atmosphere and then over the next few days, I head to the villages of Hudko, Ludia, Dhamkana, Kavda, Nakhatrana, Nirona and others to get closer to the local art and culture, especially the famous Kutch handicrafts. Somewhere in between, I will be heading to the White Rann salt desert for sunrises, sunsets and may be some desert drives. I am very excited about this trip as it will be the first trip of the year, a first in quite a long while, a great location and celebration and a unique culture that I dig a lot. All in all, I am sure there will be lots of stories, photos, videos, bits and bytes. If you wish to tune in, I will stay active on my social channels with periodic updates. And once I return, I will have the full experience on the blog well supported with photos and videos to give you the best destination feel.

White Rann, here I come…

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