Monday, January 27, 2014

Kutch 11-13 Jan 2014

"Kutch Nahi Dekha to Kuch Nahi Dekha"

This famous caption of Gujarat Tourism was one which got me interested in visiting Kutch area of Gujarat.

Also being a birder GRK is known to be a wonderful birding location.

The discussion about planning started with looking out for information about Rann Utsav, an yearly Utsav organised by Govt. of Gujarat to promote culture and tourism.

We found that location of Rann Utsav is at a village called Dhordo around 80km from Bhuj. It basically provides an oppurtinity for tourists to witness folk dance, music, crafts, camel safari, live-in tents and visit various tourist locations.

But we also found that it is already fully booked and the stay and food is quite costly.

So we decided to plan our own itinerary and stay.

The list of places contained a variety from palaces to temples to beach and of course a plan to eat authentic kutchhi / gujarati food and dhabeli. Most of the people in our group are very much foodie and really enjoy good food of different varities.

We booked the train tickets for 12 of us on BDTS-Bhuj SF AC express starting from Bandra terminus at 11:55pm on Friday 10th Jan and reaching Bhuj at 1:30pm in the afternoon next day.

Our return train was to be after 2 days on 13th Jan Monday 10:15pm from Bhuj.

So this left us with 2 and half days to plan all the places we wanted to cover.

One of the initial plan was to cover part of Bhuj in the 1/2 day on the day we reach Bhuj, 1/2 day for Mandvi, 1/2 day for Narayan Sarovar, 1/2 day for remaining of Bhuj+shopping and 1/2 day for White Rann - the main attraction of the trip.

One thing that we learned while doing the planning of this trip is that information available in blogs and also Gujarat Tourism website are to be taken with a pinch of salt.
    - Rann permits are said to be not issued on Sundays but that is not true.
    - Prag Mahal in bhuj is supposed to be closed on Sat as per Gujarat Tourism website but it is not so, it has the same timings as Aina Mahal.
    - Vijay Vilas Palace is supposed to be closed in the afternoon from 1:30 to 4:30 but it was open.

So we could make some good changes to the itinerary on the fly.

Day1 - Bhuj: Prag Mahal, Aaina Mahal and Swamy Narayan Temple

Reached Bhuj at around 2:00pm and our Tempo Traveller was waiting outside.

For freshening up we had talked to the hotel in which we were going to stay on Day2 night and he had promised to give us 3 rooms.

We decided to have a quick lunch and then proceed to freshnup.

We had authentic gujarathi lunch at a restaurant called Viram.

Finally we started for Aaina Mahal by around 4:30pm and found out after reaching that Prag Mahal is also open and that both are open only till 5:45pm.

So we had just around 45min to cover both.

Aaina as by its name was supposed to be a mahal full of mirrors. But not many mirrors are remaining and those remaining on the pillars of the mahal are not so much reflecting anymore.

But still one can imagine by looking at the part of the room on how magnificent the entire mahal would have been in its prime. 

There are also a lot of precious stones, chandeliers, carved wooden doors and paintaings of different styles.
There were some other interesting artificats like a herberium, door with ivory, an old weighing machine and the most interesting a clock showing lunar calendar.

The is still one room which is full of mirrors and all precious stones.

Prag Mahal which is in the same campus as Aaina Mahal was built in 1865 in gothic style and has 45feet tall clock tower and the clock in working condition. 

From the terrace of the Mahal one can start the climb to the top of the tower.

The tower has spiral stairs inside to move to the top of the tower. One gets a good view of Bhuj and the Bhujiya fort in the front 

and the palace itself below.

We did a lot of photo 
sessions here :-)

From here we went to the Swami Narayan temple. As with the other Swami Narayan Temples it was grand and on the occasion of Makar Sankranti it was decorated with flowers.

The rear view of the temple and from here we could see a nice sunset.

The entrance of the campus taken from the temple.

An innovative fountain of ganga, shiv and parvati.

After this was shopping time for most though I did not buy anything others bought many different stuff. We also bought kites here for flying at Mandavi and White Rann.

For dinner we again went to Viram and had wonderful dal kichadi with also a dosa :-)

Left Bhuj by around 9pm and reached mandvi by around 10. It was very cold (compared to what we are used to in mumbai :-) ) and the hotel had a wonderful extended terrace on the first floor on which we had most of our rooms.

The terrace had some chairs and a nice zhoola. We sat there for long chatting and when cold became really too much for we moved to one of our large rooms to continue our chat  till 2am :-)

Day2 - Mandvi: Vijay Vilas Palace and beach

Generally most of our trips are stuffed with lot of places to visit leaving no time to relax (though some may differ with current trip :-)). This time around too that was the same with Mandavi beach and Vijay Vilas palace to be covered in the morning time along with the market, followed by a 150km one way travel to Narayan Sarovar and almost same distance travel to Bhuj.

But everyone this time were in mood of realxing and the next day morning everyone got up quite late at around 8:30am except for Jai and his wife who visited their Kula devi mandir in the Mandavi city.

Till the time everyone got up and were just starting to take our first tea, Jai and his wife were back too.

The kites bought last evening from Bhuj quickly came into action and Mandar and Sachin & almost everyone tried in vain to fly the kite from the 1st floor terrace. 

Finally the blame was put on the wind and we decided to get ready and leave to roam around the market, buy pedhas which we had pre-ordered and eat Kutchi dabheli.

While everyone were getting ready Sachin (the true kite flyer :-) ) went to the top floor terrace and finally was able to fly the kite quite high.

The view from top of the terrace gave 3 of us birders (Abhijit, Rohit and me) a pleasant view of greater flamingos, black necked stork, pelicans, spoonbils, ibises, egrets and many other water birds.

I was amazed to see so many birds sitting next to a busy road in the midst of a city.

But thats all for birding for now as this was not supposed to be a birding trip ;-)

We roamed the market buying bigger kites, chinese latterns, which proved to be a wonderful idea from Shweta, to be flown on White Rann. Collected our pedhas (2 cartons full) and proceeded to Mandavi beach.

But till that time it was afternoon and quite hot so we decided to go to Vijay Vilas palace first and then return to beach in the evening to see a beautiful sunset.

We had already got information from the hotel owner that Vijay Vilas palace is not closed in the evening as against the information we had.

The palace is quite a good condition and we also came to know that the heirs do visit this palace regularly and that they had just the earlier day returned to Mumbai.

Being magnificient and in good condition is used in many bollywood movies and most well known being 'Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam'.

I found the terrace and the upper terrace and must visit place to just chill out and see greenary all around.

We returned back from palace by 4pm freshened up quickly, checked out of the hotel and left for the beach. 

Mandavi beach was crowded but was quite clean. We immediately decided to capture an end of the beach which was quite empty and serene. It was just in front of the huge wind mills which have been errected as a part of power generation project.

Ofcourse the kites were out and were flying quite high. Each one us took turns holding the line and taking pics. We did wet our feet in the water but it was too cold for anyone to dare get completely wet.

We witnessed a beautiful sunset at the beach and returned to our vehicle to start the return journey to Bhuj.

Reached bhuj by 8pm and had dinner at a restaurant and then went to Hotel Anjali in which we had already made advanced booking.

Again we had a long chat late in the night but only till 2pm since the next day we had to start quite early at 9am for Kaladungar and White Rann.

Day3 - Kaladungar and White Rann

On the way to Kaladungar we had to stop at Bhirandiara for the permit to White Rann. 

The permit post was a wonderful hut like structure. There was nothing else around the post except for a few shops selling handicrafts, fruit vendors, chana chor garam and a small restaurant which had nothing to sell.

There was not much rush to get the permit still it took us 45min at the post as we had fill a form with all names and id details.

From there as planned we first went to kaladungar at around 12:30pm in the noon. Its a small hillock and the vehicle goes till the top of the hillock but as there were lot of vehicles at the top we had to park at the base and we walked a km or so to the top.

Jai's wife who was feeling quite ill till this time due to stomach problem got a lift in a vehicle and they joined us at the top. 

We could see the India bridge from the top.

The sun was on our heads but sitting on the hillock looking down at the Rann with wind blowing was a wonderful feeling.

For a birder you see birds everywhere so here too we could spot a variable wheatear, eurasian griffon, Green beeeater and Brown Rock chat.

We were on kaladungar for around an hour or so taking pictures and just sitting there.
Here is a panoramic view from Kaladungar

For lunch as suggested by our driver we had already given order at Bhirandiara.
It was a nice resort with a village like look with huts and a small shade hosting a lunch table.
It was simple lunch but it was what we needed and that too with gud and ghee.
Till that time it was 4pm and we started for White Rann.

It took us half an hour to reach White Rann with just 2min halt for showing the permit.

We crossed the Rann Utsav site and took the turn on to a kaccha road leaving the nice tar road.
As soon we took the kaccha road we saw a completely plain land with no vegetation at all and no end visible.

At the far end we could see water but soon we realized it was not water but just a mirage.

An area till which it is feasible to go in a vehicle is kind of temporarily marked by wooden poles erected and almost everyone had parked their vehicles there.

There were already a huge crowd which had turned up and some had come in camel carts. But most of them were walking around.

Initially it was mainly sandy soil that was visible but as we ventured more further into the Rann we could see white crystals of salt.
It was starting to look like a White Rann.

At some point some of us settled and started flying kite and we took some photographs. But some us decided to venture further inside to find a really white portion which was untouched.

After walking quite a distance beyond which there were hardly any people we finally found the place we were look at and we took individual, ground and some fun photos.

Finally the sun was starting to set and we came to our initial spot took some more group photographs and start to light our chinese lanterns.

It was really a fun event to light the lantern and see it rise high above with no obstruction to really pull it down.

Finally the day and beautiful holiday trip was coming to an end and most of us had to catch a train back to Mumbai from Bhuj at 10:15pm. But me, Abhijit and Rohit had still 2 more days of exciting birding awaiting us in the remote areas of kutch.

But with a wonderful group and a wonderful place we ended our trip with some fantastic memories !!


Unknown said...

This time the blog is filled with wonderful pictures of Gods greatest creation - "Homo sapiens" :)

Unknown said...

Wow we are also seen in images.... :)

Parag Shah said...

Your snaps and post has confirmed that I am going to Kutch in coming year....

Ankita Singh said...

Your Blog all Post information is very unique and good. I really loved reading your blog. Superb and Interesting post. Thank you for share beautiful and wonderful pictures. Thanks for the effective information. If you have any requirements for car rental in India then you can book through our website.