A December road trip report around Kutch

#1 Jan 1st, 2013, 22:44
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#1
We are a family of 7 who traveled around Kutch in a rented Innova for around 9 days during the last week of December. It was a trip filled with ups and downs.
The weather was harsh and most of us fell sick including a family member who had to be hospitalized for a day due to food poisoning/dehydration. The extreme
cold in the mornings/nights and the scorching sun in the afternoons along with the dust/pollution did not suit us very well. The White Rann at Dholavira was
awesome but we were disappointed with the moonlight view of the White Rann near Dhordo. That was supposed to be the highlight of our trip and our
expectations were sky high. The full moon sky on Dec 27/28 was hazy and the Rann was all soggy/muddy. We loved the Safari to the Little Rann and our visits
to the various handicrafts places around Bhuj. A detailed report will follow with photographs.
#2 Jan 1st, 2013, 23:20
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Dec 21 Fri Ahmedabad Airport -> Modhera -> Pathan -> Dhrangadhra
Arranged an AC Indica Vista (for 3 of us who arrived on Dec 21) through Johnny http://bornandbredinahmedabad.blogspot.in @ Rs.7/KM
The Kilometer count includes the return trip from Dhrangadhra -> Ahmedabad. The toll charges need to be borne by us.
Stayed at Devjibhai's house http://www.littlerann.com/index.html @ Rs. 500/person/night. This includes all meals.


Dec 22 Sat Dhrangadhra
Exclusive safari for 3 (morning + evening) costed Rs. 3000 + Rs. 400 (for permit + camera) to the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK)
Rest of the 4 family members arrived in Ahmedabad and stayed the night at Hotel Golden Plaza http://hotelgoldenplaza.net/
2 Executive double bed room Cost: Rs. 1500/room/night + tax

Dec 23 Sun Dhrangadhra -> Dholavira
Arranged for an AC Innova (7 seater + 1 driver and all front facing seats) for the next 8 days through Johnny @ Rs.11/KM. The minimum kilometer count for
a day is 300 KM. The driver needs to be paid an additional Rs.150/day. Toll charges need to be borne by us.
The Innova picked our 4 family members from Ahmedabad and proceeded towards Dhrangadra. The 4 of them then went on a morning safari that
costed Rs. 3000 + Rs. 400 (for permit + camera) to the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK). Devijibhai charges the same if you do a single or two safaris in a single
day. We also had to keep our room for an extra day as checkout time is 8 AM and we needed the room for our family members to freshen up after they
returned from the safari. Lunch for our 4 family members costed an additional Rs. 500.
Post lunch we proceeded to Dholavira. Night halt at the forest department guest house. 2 AC cottages - Rs. 750 each + 1 non AC cottage - Rs. 500.
#3 Jan 2nd, 2013, 08:10
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Dec 24 Mon Dholavira -> Mandvi
Stayed at Rukmavati guest house. 3 double bed rooms + 1 extra bed - Cost Rs. 650/night/room + Rs. 200 for extra bed

Dec 25 Tue Mandvi

Dec 26 Wed Mandvi -> Bhuj
Checked into Hotel Mangalam http://www.mangalamhotels.com 1 family room (Rs. 2700 + tax) + 1 deluxe double bed room (Rs. 1850 + tax)

Dec 27 Thur Bhuj -> Hodka -> Dhordo -> Kala Dungar -> White Rann -> Bhuj
Hotel Mangalam did not have a room for this day. Checked into Hotel Shiv http://www.shivhotel.com/ 3 AC Deluxe Double bed room (Rs. 1250 each) + 1 extra bed (Rs. 250)

Dec 28 Fri Bhuj
Checked into Hotel Mangalam. They had called a week earlier and requested if we could surrender our double bed room booking because of some renovation.
They offered a complimentary single bed room and an extra bed instead. There was some confusion when we checked in earlier but that was sorted
out. 1 family room (Rs. 3600 + tax). They had previously offered a discount on the family room reservation but not this time.

Dec 29 Sat Bhuj -> Ahmedabad
Checked into Hotel Kamran Palace http://www.hotelkamranpalace.com/ 3 AC double bed rooms - Cost Rs. 1226/room/night.

Dec 29 Sun Ahmedabad
3 of us checked out of 1 room and 4 others continued staying in 2 double bed rooms. We returned our Innova in the night after having it for 8 days.

Dec 30 Mon Ahmedabad
Checked out of Hotel Kamran Palace
Last edited by schumifactor; Jan 2nd, 2013 at 11:38..
#4 Jan 2nd, 2013, 09:24
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#4
We found Pintu the owner of the Indica Vista at the Ahmedabad airport parking lot and he was our driver for the day. We first drove on to Patan passing the
smooth broad roads of Ahmedabad and their successful Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT). It was the day after the Gujarat state election results but found very
little evidence of the elections in terms of posters, billboards, flags etc along the way. I guess Modi winning the election was a foregone conclusion that
the campaigning by most parties also appeared subdued!

Some photos of the Rani ki vaav step well at Patan below. We could only descend up to a point with a guard keeping a close eye. There were also
other sections that were off limits to tourists. Nevertheless it was a beautiful structure of walls, pillars and sculptures.







#5 Jan 2nd, 2013, 09:28
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#5
Good start Mate. Surely watching the next in this thread. Awesome snaps of Patan.

Debashish
#6 Jan 2nd, 2013, 20:55
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We heard quite a bit about the Patola sarees that are hand woven in Pathan and stopped by at the Patolawala farm house, one of the few remaining families
that work on this exquisite art. These sarees cost upward of Rs. 1.5L, need to be ordered in advance and take around 4-6 months to make one! We were given
a tour of the facility and saw some of the artisans at work.



Our next stop was the Sun temple at Modhera. It had a nice step well too and temple itself was built very beautifully. We heard that this place is best
visited during sunrise.







#7 Jan 9th, 2013, 00:49
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We planned on a morning and evening safari to the Little Rann with Vijaybhai our host who was running the guest house at Dhrangadhra. We left at around
7:30 AM and it was a 30 KM drive on the safari jeep from Dhrangadhra to the Bajana entrance of the Little Rann. We stopped for a permit and proceeded to
the highlands of the Little Rann where most animals seek shelter during the monsoon. This place also has a huge lake and is ideal for bird watching. We
spotted many a birds and the common animals of the Little Rann. Posting photos of some selective birds and animals

Common Crane - Migratory bird from Europe and we found flocks of them here.


Khur - Indian Wild Ass, the Little Rann being its last major refuge.


Male Nilgai - Largest Asian antelope.


Greater Flamingo - the state bird of Gujarat


We saw canals bringing in water from the Narmada en-route. We heard how the once arid lands have now become suitable for farming. Dhrangadhra has a
rocky earth. Farmers dig and carve squares out of them bringing in soil from the outside.


We found Cotton as the most commonly grown crop here.
#8 Jan 9th, 2013, 13:38
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Mirage of an oasis in the distance


Chakdo - A popular transport option with the locals. It is supposedly an old bullet motor bike with a cart attached. The number of people that fit into the
cart and the powerful bullet engine that tugs it is truly phenomenal.


A female Nilgai


We returned back to the house to have a delicious home cooked lunch of roti, sabji, dal and rice. We enjoyed the food in the house right through our stay.
After a couple hours rest, we started on our evening safari. We first visited the outdoor salt storage unit where the salt collected from the little Rann is
stacked up. The salt workers first dig bore wells in the little Rann to pump out the saline water onto rectangular salt channels. The dense saline water
settles down and naturally flows to the next rectanglar channel through pipes in the bottom. This goes on from one rectangle to the next each of which are
built at varying heights until the last one which collects most of the salt. Salt is then waded and stored in a heap as below.


Sunset over the Rann and the artificial salt rectangular pans


Last edited by schumifactor; Jan 9th, 2013 at 14:56..
#9 Jan 9th, 2013, 16:29
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#9
Excellent Snaps.

Debashish
#10 Jan 9th, 2013, 23:32
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#10
Thanks for your encouragement Debashish.

On Day 3 post lunch, our entire family left to Dholavira on the rented Innova. Rapar was the last major town around 100 KM before Dholavira and we
stopped for tea there.

Local dressed in traditional Kutchi. White is the predominant color worn by men. Makes sense considering the scorching sun here.


Cow attack - Large herd of cows returning to Rapar and blocking a long stretch of the road. We once had a sheep attack during a trip to Pahalgam
but never expected to be slowed down here by so many cows/oxen, some of whom looked muscular and had majestic horns.


All of a sudden we spotted the White Rann on both sides of the road. It was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen and all of us got very
excited. It was almost time for the sunset and we stayed on.









We then checked into the forest department guest house at Dholavira after waiting briefly for a VIP to checkout. Our dinner for that night was at
Gujarat tourism's Toran tourist complex whose cottages were completely booked for the week.
#11 Jan 10th, 2013, 22:57
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The forest department guest houses at the break of dawn.


The previous night at the cottages was fun. There were no other visible inhabitants around us. The only person we could get in touch with in case of
an emergency was an elderly caretaker who slept at a shed close by. It was pitch dark all around us and we could see the night sky full of stars. This was
a quality family time for us and we spent it like any other Indian family does: chatting and playing cards, in our case uno :-)

We checked out next day in the morning after having some bad poha and coffee at the guest house. We were told that the White Rann at Dholavira is
so much better than the one at the much hyped Rann Utsav near Dhordo. So with a local we set off to visit the Tree fossil park and the White Rann beyond
it. The road was mostly muddy and our Innova struggled to negotiate over it. It took us almost an hour to travel around 10 KM. From the entrance we hiked
another kilometer to reach the tree that has been fossilized into a stone. We passed BSF jawans manning a border post and a forest officer accompanied
us beyond that.

Fossilized tree with the White Rann in the background.



The White Rann was very beautiful but it was peak afternoon and the sun was glaring down on us and the Rann. This place would have been so much
more beautiful at dawn or dusk.


We then headed to the ruins of the Harappan city. The excavated site was big and takes a while to explore. Do take a guide with you to understand the
meaning of each of the structures. This was part of the 5000 year old Indus valley civilization, the largest of which is in Mohendajaro - present day
Pakistan. They had a very advanced water storage and distribution system. Below was a reservoir at the South entrance to the city.


Post lunch at the Toran tourist complex, we started on a long and tiring journey to the port city of Mandvi, around 300 KM away. It took us nearly 7
hours negotiating a lot of truck traffic along the coastal route connecting the major ports of Kandla, Mudra and Mandvi. We also saw a lot of industries
emitting fumes. The quality of air was so bad that a number of us fell sick. We reached late 11 PM and checked into Rukmavati guest house. The proprietor
Mr. Vinod Bhatt helped us order food from a restaurant to be delivered to the guest house well in advance of our arrival.
#12 Jan 11th, 2013, 23:35
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#12
We checked out the sunrise at the rooftop terrace of the guest house. Nothing spectacular but good to wake early and feel the cool fresh air.


Post breakfast, we set out to explore the ship building yard adjacent to the Rukmavati river. It was Christmas day and we did not find
much activity going on inside the ships.


We spoke to some locals and they asked us to cross over to the other side of the river where we spotted a huge three storey tall ship
being actively worked upon. The builders were happy to let us in and we climbed regular ladders to explore its various levels. The ship
was all wood and carpenters were at work. It was 3 months to completion and was to be used as a cargo ship.


Later that evening we visited the Vijay Vilas palace. The structure of the palace was very impressive but found the interiors boring. They
had photos of the lineage of kings, some proudly showcasing hunted animals. The recent descendants had photos with celebrities. The
house hold items and furniture was on display. They also run tented accommodation nearby along a private beach. They used to allow
tourists not staying with them to access their beach on paying an entry fee. Due to the peak tourist season, they were not
doing that anymore.

So we headed to the beautiful and pristine Ravalpir beach as recommended by Mr. Vinod . It is around 7 KM east of Mandvi. There
was a low tide and we walked in deep along the shore. It was almost a private beach all left to us with just one another family for miles
around. The hues of the sun setting against the back drop of the Gulf of Kutch was spectacular.





#13 Jan 12th, 2013, 11:16
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#13
Lovely photos and description Shumifactor. Sorry to hear that some of you fell ill. We had plans to visit Gujarat this december but finally settled for MP/Maharashtra due to health reasons. I'm glued to your thread!

-Vaibhav
#14 Jan 13th, 2013, 15:14
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Thanks Vaibhav, was just starting to read through your trip report of MP/Maharashtra. You write beautifully! Will be updating the rest of my report soon. It was not much here on as we had to do things a bit relaxed for our folks to recover and not stress themselves. I noticed that you were initially planning on a trip around Saurashtra. That should be one fun trip!
#15 Jan 13th, 2013, 22:49
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Next day we headed towards Bhuj and visited the famous town of Bhujodi popular for its weavers. One such house was Sanskriti where
we saw weaving in action and also did some purchases. They have some award winning textiles and also recently represented India
at an international handicraft symposium. They supply handicrafts to the Fab India chain of stores. We were treated to a glass of
chaas while we chatted with them.


The Ashapura Crafts Park is close by, around 500m from Bhujodi. This has been setup by a non profit organization and display handicrafts
from different parts of Kutch. This is a one stop place for all the popular handicrafts you will see in Kutch and we spent considerable
time here that we had to skip the village of Ajrakhpur famous for its textile block printing.


We checked into our hotel Mangalam and had lunch at their Sanjeev Kapoor promoted Yellow Chilli restaurant. I liked their Kaju lassi but
otherwise their food was just okay.

In the evening we walked past the Harmisar lake (Pragmahal palace, in brown, at the background) and visited the new Swaminarayan
temple.



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