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Old 6th February 2012, 19:00   #1
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Default Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.

This is a journey inspired by so many others that we have read online and in print. It is also partly inspired by the history and geography books that we've read in school.

The agenda is to see and experience Kutch - an area of Gujarat which not many of us visit. It is truly Gujarat's outback - vast open tracts of barren land with small villages, in between, dotting the landscape and an international border lurking close by.

We approached this trip with a fair amount of trepidation and excitement.
But at the end we are left with nothing but warm memories - the warmest, I should say, of all my trips in the past 5 odd years.
Not at a single point did we get a chance to complain about the people of Gujarat, and Kutch in particular. We are left wanting for more and can't wait to get back to this state which isn't really hot on the tourism map of the country.

But times are changing. So, go there before it gets swamped with tourists of all hues. Go there before the Rann becomes devoid of the wonderful wildlife it sustains. Go there before it's too late to go there.

Some teasers from the journey...

Day1: Bangalore - Ahmedabad
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3720.jpg

Day 2: Ahmedabad - Zainabad - Little Rann of Kutch
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3909.jpg

Day 3: Zainabad - Little Rann of Kutch - Zainabad
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4243.jpg

Day 4: Zainabad - Modhera - Patan - Dholavira
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4370.jpg

Day 5: Dholavira - Bhuj
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4486.jpg

Day 6: Bhuj - India Bridge - Kala Dungar - Dhordo - Bhuj
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4539.jpg

Day 7: Bhuj - Lakhpat - Koteshwar - Bhuj
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4576.jpg

Day 8: Bhuj - Mandvi - Bhuj
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4707.jpg

Day 9: Bhuj - Ajrakhpur - Bhujodi - Bhuj
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4753.jpg

Last edited by aryasanyal : 13th February 2012 at 14:40. Reason: Adding pics
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Old 12th February 2012, 19:27   #2
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Default The planning

The aim is to be able to cover as much of Kutch as possible without breaking into a sweat. We have a 4 year old kid travelling with us and we can't take chances.

Lots of itineraries, travelogues, experiences are read. Lots of pages flipped through both online and off it.

Team-BHP plays a dominant role in the planning, especially the following travelogues to which I am indebted to -

1. http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travelogues/95004-raiders-rann-kachchhi-kaleidoscope-gujarat.html (Raiders of the Rann: A Kachchhi Kaleidoscope (Gujarat))

2. http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travelogues/95939-we-ran-rann-kissed-ocean.html (We Ran the Rann, and Kissed the Ocean)

3. http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travelogues/79653-coastal-gujarat-great-rann-kutch.html (Coastal Gujarat and the Great Rann of Kutch)

I would like to thank Harsh and Tanveer for their inputs about their hotel stay experience in Bhuj which helped us immensely in our choice.

The hotels we stayed in:
(Note: The hotel names are links to the hotel websites)

1. Ahmedabad - Hotel Ritz Inn.

Why we selected it: This is a last minute decision that we are pleased about. Free pickup and drop from the airport/railway station. Central location. Well connected. Moderate rates. Fairly good reviews on Tripadvisor.

Recommendation: Go for it. We had a pleasant experience. If you're driving, parking might be a problem as the area is congested.

2. Zainabad - Desert Coursers.

Why we selected it: Nearly all the folks on Team-BHP, visiting the Little Rann, stayed here, so it is a safe bet. We are well aware of what to expect. Rates are moderate compared to the Rann Riders resort in nearby Dasada.

Recommendation: Go for it. We enjoyed our stay here. The only drawback is the lack of options during lunch and dinner.

3. Dholavira - Toran Tourist Complex.

Why we selected it: Actually, there's no other option to stay here. We had a minimum expectation because this is a government owned accommodation. But we came out pleasantly surprised. The folks are very warm and helpful.

Recommendation: If you plan to visit Dholavira, this is the only place to spend your night in the vicinity of the Harappan excavations. The manager and staff are very helpful. The place is neat, but watch out for the light flies at night and ensure that your bathroom has a proper slope for passage of water.

4. Bhuj - Hotel KBN.

Why we selected it: Since we weren't driving, a central location suits us. And this hotel is bang in the center of town. Harsh recommended it. The place is neat. The staff extremely courteous. The restaurant is good. Bus stand and bazaar is walkable.

Recommendation: Go for it. But ensure to get rooms that don't face the road and is not under the kitchen on the 3rd floor. Our room had both these issues, but since we were out all day and tired by evening we could afford to ignore these. The airplane restaurant is pricey. Only veggie food. Noorani Mahal, closeby, is famous for non-veg options.

Bookings:
All the hotel bookings are done online or over the telephone, except the Toran Tourist Complex. Since Bangalore doesn't have a Gujarat Tourism office, I have to request my folks back in Calcutta to do the booking on my behalf.

Our route:

Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-gujarattriproute.png

How we travelled:

1. Bangalore - Ahmedabad: Indigo Airlines flight.
2. Ahmedabad - Dasada: GSRTC Express bus.
3. Dasada - Zainabad: Pick up by Desert Coursers.
4. Zainabad - Modhera - Patan - Dholavira: Rented cab. A Mahindra Bolero.
5. Dholavira - Bhuj: Same Mahindra Bolero as above.
6. Bhuj - India Bridge - Kala Dungar - Dhordo - Bhuj: Rented Cab. A Tata Indica.
7. Bhuj - Lakhpat - Koteshwar - Bhuj: Rented Cab. A Tata Indica.
8. Bhuj - Mandvi: Toofan. A Force Motors' Toofan shared cab.
9. Mandvi - Bhuj: GSRTC bus.
10. Bhuj - Ajrakhpur - Bhujodi - Bhuj: Rented auto rickshaw.
10. Bhuj - Ahmedabad: 19116 Bhuj-Bandra Express
12. Ahmedabad - Bangalore: Indigo Airlines flight.

Bookings:
All flight, train and GSRTC bus tickets are booked online.
Cabs are booked at the place of stay using local contacts. In Bhuj, I use Devsach Travel Agency (found them through JustDial) for rental cabs. Very professional and recommended.

Last edited by aryasanyal : 13th February 2012 at 14:44.
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Old 13th February 2012, 10:40   #3
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Default Day1: Bangalore - Ahmedabad

After a late Friday evening with work, the alarm rings early at 5:00AM on Saturday morning, January 21st, 2012.
We get ready and drive down to the bus stand outside our apartment at 6:40AM. We catch the BIAL bus that takes us to the Airport.

Traffic is sparse this early morning and we reach the airport in an hour. We breeze through security check and wait for our turn to board the 10:10AM Indigo flight to Ahmedabad.
Our flight gets announced and we board the plane. Everything is on time and we touch down at Ahmedabad airport on time. The folks from Hotel Ritz Inn are there to receive us. I love the idea of free airport pick-ups and drops to guests.

Roads are excellent and we soon pass the cantonment area and cross a railway overbridge and reach a pretty congested part of town housing the main railway station. Our hotel stands in the midst of this mess. There is a bakery next door, which looks good.

Check-in done, we find our room to be neatly laid out. It's clean and has all the basic frills that we require. There is Tata Indicom wi-fi, but it's charged at Rs.111/hour.

We shower up and have lunch. Plan to visit the Sabarmati Ashram and the Adalaj Vav.
By the time we finish lunch, it's nearly 3:00PM and we decide to do Sabarmati Ashram and skip Adalaj Vav. After discussing about the commuting options, we decide to take an auto. It takes around 20 mins to reach the ashram and the fare turns out to be Rs.50.

From The Gandhi Ashram - Sabarmati - Ashram History -
Quote:
The Sabarmati Ashram (also known as Harijan Ashram) was home to Mohandas Gandhi from 1917 until 1930 and served as one of the main centres of the Indian freedom struggle. Originally called the Satyagraha Ashram, reflecting the movement toward passive resistance launched by the Mahatma, the Ashram became home to the ideology that set India free. Sabarmati Ashram named for the river on which it sits, was created with a dual mission. To serve as an institution that would carry on a search for truth and a platform to bring together a group of workers committed to non-violence who would help secure freedom for India.
We are welcomed by an Ashok tree, planted by Pt. Nehru in 1963. Next to it we find a location map on the wall that lists and points all the notable structures within the ashram compound. The problem with this map is that it doesn't tell us - You are here – which makes it a difficult task trying to figure out where we are in relation to the mapped structures. A simple but big flaw methinks.

We walk into the museum find lots of memorabilia, of the Mahatma and the Ashram in general, on display. There are miniatures of the Mahatma breaking the Salt Law at Dandi, the Sevagram at Wardha, etc. There are lots of photos of those turbulent times and originals plus facsimile copies of handwritten and typed documents, correspondences, laws and strictures adorning the walls of the various sections of the museum.

It is all neatly done, but I am a bit lost on the ergonomics. There are no clear indications of a path to move around the museum making our tour somewhat arbitrary. Labeling of the displayed stuff is also not what one would expect from a monument of such national importance. These are some of the nitpicks in an otherwise beautiful place.

Gandhiji breaking the Salt Law at Dandi
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3727.jpg

After spending some time at the museum we move on towards the banks of the Sabarmati, where we find the Mahatma's house – Hriday Kunj – on the right. A simple, elegant house containing a small courtyard flanked by the Mahatma's room, Kasturba's room, a kitchen, a store room and a guest room.

Hriday Kunj - Gandhiji's residence at the Ashram.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3770.jpg

Gandhiji's room at Hriday Kunj
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3750.jpg

Aradhya taking his turn at the Charkha
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3765.jpg

We walk back along the banks of the Sabarmati to Maganlal Gandhi's house behind the museum. Maganlal was the Mahatma's nephew and manager of the ashram from it's inception till his death in 1928.
We come back to the museum and spend some more time there going through the displays in detail.

The Sabarmati from the Ashram.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3768.jpg

Maganlal Gandhi's house at the Ashram
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3783.jpg

After spending a wonderful evening at the ashram, we walk down to the Vadaj bus stand to catch the bus back to our hotel in Kalupur.
Bus no. 89 comes down, it's a bit crowded at first and we don't get seats, but soon the crowd thins down and Sonali and Aradhya even get seats. Tickets cost Rs.8 apiece – much cheaper than the auto ride. Plus I love travelling with the general populace of any city – it gives me an opportunity to mingle with the local crowd.

Back at the hotel, we pick up some bakery biscuits from the Moti Bakery next door. This one is a famous bakery and a kind of landmark in the area..
We sit back and watch the Hindi movie Ra.One on TV while dinner gets served. Post dinner we hit the sack after a long, long day.

Looking forward to our 'Express' bus journey to the Desert Coursers resort tomorrow.

Last edited by aryasanyal : 13th February 2012 at 19:06.
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Old 14th February 2012, 10:38   #4
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Default Day 2: Ahmedabad - Zainabad - Little Rann of Kutch

Bus 30 min se lagi hain. Aapko ek ghanta pehle aana chahiye.
Abhi main logo ko seat se kaise uthau?

(Bus is on the platform for 30 minutes. You should have come at least an hour back.
How do I tell the folks to vacate the occupied seats?)

Thus begins our day of 'Express' bus journey to Dasada at 11:00AM.

Having booked the tickets online through the GSRTC website, I find that the virtual reality and ground reality are somewhat different.
Fortunately the driver/conductor are able to request the folks occupying our 'reserved' seats to move back. Putting in our luggage is a tad difficult, but finally everything's settled and we are on our way.

Earlier, after finishing the complimentary breakfast at the hotel, we had taken an auto to the Gita Mandir bus stand - the main bus stand of Ahmedabad. It's hardly 2-3 kms from the hotel.

Radhanpur ke liye ticket hain na? Sab thik hai.
(The ticket's for Radhanpur, isn't it? Everything's okay.Here... take the tickets.)

That's what the conductor came up with after a long hard glance at the e-ticket that I handed him.
I have a hard time suppressing my smile, and then update the conductor saying that we'd be getting down at Dasada and not Radhanpur.

Lesson for the day: Do take a ticket printed in the local language apart from the English one.

We rush through the roads of Ahmedabad and out of the city towards Sarkhej. We soon pass through Sanand, the site of the Tata Nano factory.
Around 1:00PM we reach Viramgam. The roads in this small town are pathetic to say the least. Actually, there are no roads, just mud tracks. We pass by the smallish railway station and onto the bus stand. The bus refuels, changes driver and conductor, picks up some more passengers and waits there for the next 30 mins.

We resume our journey and reach Dasada around 2:00PM.

I had spoken to Mr Dhanraj Malik, the owner of Desert Coursers in the morning, and he had mentioned that there would be numerous autos and shared taxis at the Dasada bus stand that would take us to Zainabad in 10 mins.
But when we get down at the bus stop, we find a couple of jeeps which quote Rs.300 for a drop at the resort hardly 10 kms away!
Aghast, I call up Mr Dhanraj and he says that it is definitely not the rate. The rate in a shared auto is around Rs.10/ head. He asks us to wait at the bus stop.

We wait for 10 mins and find Mr. Dhanraj driving in with a red Tatamobile.
We reach the resort in 15 mins.

The kooba allotted to us.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3804.jpg

By the time we finish lunch, it's 3:20PM and the safari starts at 3:30PM. I grab my camera and lenses and rush out to board the open-top jeep.

We enter the Little Rann of Kutch around 4:00PM.
The Rann is filled with small shrubs, which are numerous at first but, gives way to the vast emptiness as we venture deeper.

The vast emptiness of the Rann.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3876.jpg

We are accompanied by a bunch of birding enthusiasts, who have come down for the Global Bird Watcher's Conference at Ahmedabad. This company is good for us as it helps us know and recognize various birds that we sight.
But most of the birds are very far away for my humble lens to capture them clearly.

Common cranes in flight.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3857.jpg

Flamingos.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3898.jpg

Some Pelicans and Ducks are also sighted.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3937.jpg

Soon the flamingos take flight.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3918.jpg

We sight various other birds on the way and mammals like the Khur, Chinkara and Nilgai.

The parched surface of the Rann.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3909.jpg

A shy Nilgai running away on seeing us.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3971.jpg

We spot the first Khurs of our trip.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3993.jpg

Soon, they also run away...
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4005.jpg

It is a heady tour and we are blessed with beautiful weather and light. But due to cloud cover, we are unable to get a good sunset. Around 6:30PM we start on our way back to the resort.

Cloudy sunset over the Rann.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_3952.jpg

We reach the resort around 7:30PM and say our goodbyes to the group of birders. We take our dinner around 8:30PM.
Post dinner I have a chat with Mr Dhanraj about the events of the safari and also meet Saleel Tambe, a birding enthusiast from the UK who has written 2-3 books on birds in the Western Ghats.

Tomorrow we take it easy and plan to spend a leisurely day.

Last edited by aryasanyal : 14th February 2012 at 12:08.
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Old 14th February 2012, 13:49   #5
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Default Re: Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 14th February 2012, 14:47   #6
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Default Re: Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.

Beautiful snaps. We too did Saurashtra last October. Kutch is our next destination. I am hooked to the log.
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Old 14th February 2012, 15:31   #7
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Default Re: Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.

Beautiful.
I am completely amazed at the beauty of all those places.

These days on FM Radio - Amithab Keeps teasing you in a Gujarat Tourism advertisement. It goes some what like this

"Aap Katch nahi dekha tho Kuch nahi Dekha"

Thanks for sharing, and hooked.
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Old 14th February 2012, 21:19   #8
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Default Re: Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.

Mindblowing pics there Aryasanyal. Loved the Modhera snap that you've put there. lovely cloud formation there. And your patan stop I guess was for Rani Ka Vav. This is definitely a 5 star thread in the making. Now I need to kick start that log that I've been rolling around on Modhera, Patan which is on hold due to my Goa trip last weekend.

It's not just Kutch that you've covered. There's Kathiawad as well rolled in there I guess. Lovely beginning. The first photograph moved me completely. Seeing the Mahatma's name written in so many languages - Man. Goosebumps all the way!
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Old 15th February 2012, 13:42   #9
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Default Re: Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.

The Day 6 teaser is awesome. Is that sea or Rann of Kutch?? I am intrigued. Please post more.
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Old 15th February 2012, 22:52   #10
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Default Day 3: Zainabad - Little Rann of Kutch - Zainabad

Quote:
Originally Posted by MX6 View Post
...your patan stop I guess was for Rani Ka Vav.
That's correct! We had to do it since we skipped Adalaj Vav.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MX6 View Post
It's not just Kutch that you've covered. There's Kathiawad as well rolled in there I guess.
Well, I think Kathiawad and Saurashtra are interchangeable terms and they refer to peninsular Gujarat. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Okay, I checked online and found that Surendranagar district is politically part of Saurashtra/Kathiawad and Zainabad is in Surendranagar district. So you're true - I indeed rolled in a bit of Kathiawad and North Gujarat (Modhera/Patan) in our trip.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rahul_sinha View Post
Is that sea or Rann of Kutch?? I am intrigued.
Keep guessing....
Just joking...that is the Great Rann of Kutch in all it's glory!


Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4042.jpg

But my plan, today, is to take it easy.

I wake up early and step out for an early morning walk, while wifey and sonny sleep. Iqbal, yesterday's safari driver, tells me that there is a group of Storks out in a water body just beside the Camp. I walk at a brisk pace to get there.

As I approach the water body, the serene atmosphere is calming with many varieties of birds chirping around. But I don't spot any storks anywhere. Are there any more water bodies close by?
I spot quite a few birds of different varieties and try to capture some of them through my simple lens. I hardly know the names of any of them but watching them is joy and the blissful atmosphere is a stress buster for any soul.

(Note: Please feel free to correct if any of the bird names are incorrect. I am ornithologically - challenged. And for the real deal please drop by the wonderful photologue by Robi Mahanta - http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...hotologue.html (The Little Rann of Kutch-Gujarat is everything but little: Photologue))

A Red-wattled Lapwing
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4054.jpg

A Grey Heron - seems to be shivering in the early morning chill.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4046.jpg

Common Kingfisher.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4323.jpg

Are these Egrets on the top of the tree? (There are two varieties - yellow-beaked and black-beaked)
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4329.jpg

An Indian Roller.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4334.jpg

I walk back to the Camp.

We have our breakfast and then, all of us go down to the same water body for a walk. We enjoy our outing – after a long, long time. Leisurely pace of day, no office, no school, no household chores or shopping.
After spending about an hour out there, we come back to our kooba and laze around. What a day!

After showers and a lazy lunch, we are ready to go on our evening safari. We have two foreign birders from the Global Bird Watcher's Conference – one from Taiwan and the other from Sweden. Lucky again! An additional bonus is that Mr Dhanraj would be taking us around.

We start on the safari around 3:15PM and keep spotting varieties of birds at regular intervals till we reach the Rann.

A Cormorant swallowing a frog.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4179.jpg

Reflection.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4183.jpg

A Rufous-tailed Lark.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4196.jpg

White-breasted Kingfisher.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4227.jpg

Can anyone help me with this bird's name?
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4231.jpg

Bay-backed Shrike.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4238.jpg

Southern Grey Shrike.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4289.jpg


We park along side a herd of resting Khurs and have a great experience seeing them up close. Quite some time is spent here.

The Khurs - up close.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4243.jpg

Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4245.jpg

Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4264.jpg

After we proceed, Mr. Dhanraj suddenly brakes and points to the shrubs close to the horizon and cries – Wolf!. We grab our cameras and get a glimpse of the animal as it darts across and into the shrubs. Soon we come across the Short-eared Owl, a Desert Fox and the Macqueen's Bustard – which, unfortunately, I fail to spot (even wifey spots it, making the pain even more painful).

Later, we move towards the Salt Pans. The sky is absolutely clear today and the sunset over the Rann is lovely. Sonali and Aradhya move into the pans to understand how salt is made, while I dash into the open Rann to capture the last rays of the setting sun above the desert. I am late and fail to get satisfactory shots.

Back at the salt pans, we pick up the folks and make our way to the Camp and reach by 7:30PM.

After dinner, I ask Mr. Dhanraj about our conveyance to Dholavira tomorrow. He points me to Mohsin, his man-friday, who speaks to his contact and we settle for a non-A/C Bolero @ Rs.7.50/km.

Plan for tomorrow: Zainabad – Modhera – Patan – Dholavira.

Note: Desert Coursers doesn't accept credit cards, so be loaded with cash to settle the bills.

Last edited by Rudra Sen : 22nd February 2012 at 07:46. Reason: corrected picture caption
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Old 16th February 2012, 11:12   #11
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Default Day 4: Zainabad - Modhera - Patan - Dholavira

We are ready to leave by 9:00AM. Our Bolero arrives by 9:30AM. After settling the bills at the Desert Coursers office, we set off for Modhera. The roads are good and we reach Modhera by 11:00AM.

An Indian Scops Owl turns up to say bye to us at the Camp.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4338.jpg

From Sun Temple, Modhera - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -
Quote:
The Sun Temple was built by Rushabh Bhimdev I of Solanki Dynasty in AD 1026. This was the time when Somnath and the adjoining area was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni and reeled under the effects of his invasion. The Solankis, however, regained much of their lost power and splendour. Anahilvad Patan, the Solanki capital, was restored to glory. Royalty and traders jointly contributed to build grand temples.

Solankis were considered to be Suryavanshis, or descendants of Sun god. The temple was so designed that the first rays of the sun fell on the image of Surya, the Sun God, at the time equinoxes.

The temple is partially in ruins after it was also finally destroyed by the Allauddin Khilji.
The ASI protected Sun Temple welcomes us with a neat, green park in front. We take a guide – Hasmukh Patel – who takes us around the temple and explains all the intricacies involved in the structure. The temple was built by the Solanki king Bhimdev around 1026 AD and pre-dates the more renowned Konark Sun Temple in Orissa by nearly 200 years. The sandstone for the temple was sourced from Dhrangadhra about 100 kms to the south.

The temple has three main sections – the Vav or Kund, the Sabha Griha (Meeting Hall) and the Garbha Griha (Sanctum sanctorum). The structure is oriented in a East-West layout such that the Tropic of Cancer passes right through the centre of the temple during the equinoxes – twice a year. There used to be a large statue of the Sun God in the Garbha Griha, which had a diamond in it's tiara. On the day of the equinoxes, the sun used to shine right on the diamond resulting in the whole section getting bathed in sunlight reflected from the diamond.
Unfortunately, this lasted for only about 60 years. Mahmud of Ghazni attacked the temple and ransacked and destroyed it during one of his numerous murderous ventures into the area. Most of the carvings depicting the Gods have been vandalised and the statue of the Sun God is gone.

The temple is adorned with intricate carvings on sandstone.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4342.jpg

The ceiling of the Sabha Griha. (Note the concrete bars jutting out on the left periphery - these are added by the ASI restoration team.)
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4345.jpg

A carving showing a woman giving birth - Janma.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4355.jpg

Probably, the Sun God statue resembled this.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4358.jpg

The Step-well kund.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4368.jpg

The Garbha Griha (left) and the Sabha Griha (right).
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4370.jpg

One final look.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4377.jpg


The temple carvings depicts the lifecycle of the human life – Janma, Kama, Karma and Mrityu or Moksha.
Depictions from the Kamasutra are abundant throughout the temple carvings, as are carvings of scenes from the epics – Mahabharata and Ramayana.
The temple is laid out according to the Vastu Shastra, with the original entrace lying to the north-eastern side of the temple – the north-eastern section being the Ishaan where Lord Shiva is worshipped. On the north lies Kubera – the god of wealth, on the north-western corner lies Vayu – the god of wind. On the west lies Varun – the god of rain.
There are 12 images of the Sun god with his seven horses between the northen and southern faces of the temple. These are supposed to represent the 12 months of the year.
On the top of all lies an image of Saraswati – the Goddess of learning. This shows that education was placed above all else in the scheme of things.

The Kund also has a step-well structure and contains 6 temples for 6 gods that the devotee would usually worship before entering the shrine, starting with Ganesha in the south-western corner.


We leave for Patan around 12:15PM and reach in an hour.

The Rani ni Vav

From Patan, Gujarat - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -
Quote:
It is generally assumed that it was built in the memory of Bhimdev I (A.D. 1022 to 1063) son of Mularaja, the founder of the Solanki dynasty of Anahilwada Pattan in about 1050 A.D. by his widowed queen Udayamati.
Rani-Ki Vav.

It was probably completed by Udayamati and Karandev I after his death. A reference to Udayamati building the monument is in the 'Prabandha Chintamani' composed by Merunga Suri in 1304 AD.

...

Most of the sculpture is in devotion to Vishnu, in the forms of his Avatars (Krishna, Rama and others), representing their return to the world.
The Rani ni Vav (Queen's Step-well) in Patan is a beautiful example of Solanki architecture thematically similar to the Sun temple with sandstone carvings all round.
We spend around 40 mins here, which is a shame because the Vav deserves more. Hunger pangs are to blame.

Pathway leading to the Vav.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4379.jpg

The Rani ni Vav.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4384.jpg

Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4386.jpg

Beautiful carvings adorn the walls of the Vav.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4389.jpg


There is a stop for lunch at Hotel Navjivan at the Char Rasta in Patan, where we relish a plate of unlimited Gujarati thali.

We start for Dholavira around 2:45PM. At Radhanpur we hit NH27 and what a beautiful drive it is. We have a glimpse of water covered Little Rann at Adesar around 5:30PM. Soon we turn right from NH27 to enter a 2 laned undivided road to Rapar.

At the Rapar Char Rasta, we stop for tea. 15 minutes later we are back on our way to Dholavira. There is a hint of rain in the air, but the skies stay shut.
Night creeps in slowly and by the time we pass over the Great Rann it is pitch dark. We try and get a sense of what surrounds us, and after some time we are in Khadir Bet – the island in the Great Rann where Dholavira is located.

We pass through villages separated by quite a few miles and also cross a couple of Border Out Posts, the last of which is BOP Dholavira. We reach the Toran Guest House at 8:05PM and are first ushered in to have our dinner as they close kitchen early. Dinner is roti, soyabean, potato curry, kadhi and khichdi.

We are shown our cottage -which is built in the shape of a Bhunga. The room is basic and neat. But when we start using the bathroom, we find that the slope of the bathroom is towards the opposite side of the drain, rendering the whole bathroom filled with water once we start using it.

I venture out to have a glimpse of the spotlessly clean night sky, unhindered or unfilled with any urban objects or light sources. It's a near 180 degrees view and is the best part after a long day on the road.
Breakfast starts at 7:30AM and goes on till 10:00AM. The excavation site opens at 8:00AM. The checkout time is 12:00PM.
Upon enquiring, I get to know that the Fossil Park is about 8 kms from here, the last 4 kms of which is unpaved.
Have lots of plans for tomorrow and a long drive to Bhuj ahead of us.

Last edited by aryasanyal : 16th February 2012 at 11:24.
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Old 16th February 2012, 12:41   #12
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Quote:
It is also partly inspired by the history and geography books that we've read in school.
Really good t'log, i am sure the other part of the insipiration must be the numerous adds on TV by Gujrat tourism about the Kutch
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Old 18th February 2012, 08:45   #13
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Really nice log and beautiful pictures. Keep going.
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Old 18th February 2012, 12:12   #14
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Awesome travelogue with awesome set of pictures.
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Old 18th February 2012, 16:43   #15
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Default Day 5: Dholavira - Bhuj

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Originally Posted by motomaverick View Post
... i am sure the other part of the insipiration must be the numerous adds on TV by Gujrat tourism about the Kutch
Actually no - I saw the numerous Gujarat Tourism ads starring Amitabh only after I came back. Our TV belongs to our son now and his toony friends - Doraemon, Chotta Bheem, etc. So, we hardly get a chance to watch TV.
Amitabh was supposed to shoot for the tourism ads at Modhera and Patan 2 days after we visited it - that's how we came to know about it.


Back to the log...

We wake up to a glorious morning, with the winter sun shining brightly over the bhungas of the resort.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4403.jpg

But today, we have a late start despite waking early.

The bathroom slope is causing some issues and we have to request the staff to fix it. They provide us the opposite cottage which looks to have a better state of the bathroom.
Finally, we are ready by 9:20AM and go to the restaurant for our breakfast.

Upon inquiring about breakfast, the manager tells us that we have to order breakfast, and then it will be prepared. Aghast and helpless, we begin an agonizing wait for breakfast. It takes them 45 mins to serve puri-sabji!

Once finishing breakfast, we rush to the Harappan site, about a km away, and reach there at 11:15 AM. It's too late to visit the Fossil Park and we have to drop our plans of going there.

From Dholavira - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -
Quote:
The site of Dholavira, locally known as Kotada timba contains ruins of an ancient Harappan city. It is one of the largest and most prominent archaeological sites in India belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization. It is located on the Khadir bet island in the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary in Great Rann of Kutch. The site is surrounded by water in the monsoon season. The site was occupied from c.2650 BCE, declining slowly after about 2100 BCE. It was briefly abandoned and reoccupied until c.1450 BCE.

The site was discovered in 1967-8 by J. P. Joshi and is the fifth largest Harappan site in the Indian subcontinent, and has been under excavation almost continuously since 1990 by the Archaeological Survey of India.
We are met at the museum by the in-charge, in deputation from Vadodara, and the care-taker – Ravji bhai Solanki. We go around the museum and admire the wonderful artifacts from the Harappan age.

The excavation site layout.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4405.jpg

A colourful 5000 year old seal.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4414.jpg

Another seal showing an ibex. This pattern is pretty familiar to the Harappan seals that I have seen in books earlier.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4419.jpg

A part of a terracotta tile.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4429.jpg

Terracotta animal figurine.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4430.jpg

We ask the in-charge about a guide in order to visit the excavation site, and come to know that the care-taker is himself the guide and that he has gone to the Toran guest house to fetch someone visiting the site.
The in-charge asks us to go ahead to the excavation site and that the care-taker will join us there. We move ahead to the site.

No sooner than we start exploring the site, the care-taker comes in and waves us to join him. Thus begins our exploration in right earnest.
We start with the big water tank at the north-eastern corner of the citadel. It is a step-well structure and is supposed to contain about 2,000 cubic metres of water at a time!
We move ahead to the palace gates enclosed within the 18 metre wide wall and come across the late-Happaran bhungas built on top of the early-Harappan drainage system and palatial structures.

The water tank at the north-eastern corner of the site.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4455.jpg

Remains of a bhunga from the late-Harappan period.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4486.jpg

The drainage system of the early-Harappan period. It was large enough for a person to go in and clean it, if required.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4463.jpg

The most famous thing of Dholavira is the yet to be deciphered signboard written using Gypsum at the northern gate. This has now been kept under cover in order to preserve it. But there is a photo of it at the museum.

From Dholavira - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -
Quote:
One of the most significant discoveries at Dholavira was made in one of the side rooms of the northern gateway of the city. The Harappans had arranged and set pieces of the mineral gypsum to form ten large letters on a big wooden board. At some point, the board fell flat on its face. The wood decayed, but the arrangement of the letters survived. The letters of the signboard are comparable to large bricks that were used in nearby wall. Each sign is about 37 cm high and the board on which letters were inscribed was about 3 meter long
Photo of the famous Harappan signboard at the Museum.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4407.jpg

The eastern and northern side of the citadel have proper gates with steps to enter. Whereas the western side has a sloping gate that opens to the Bailey – an area earmarked for the homes of the important officials and servants of the royalty.
The southern end of the citadel comprises of a network of water storage and filtering tanks.

The Bailey at the western side of the citadel.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4479.jpg

Water storage tanks at the southern end of the citadel.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4482.jpg

After having our fill of Dholavira, we move to the Toran guest house for our lunch. Post-lunch we start for Bhuj around 2:15PM and take the Rapar-Chitrod-Bhachau-Bhuj route.

In between while crossing the 'bridge' connecting Khadir Bet with the mainland we suddenly see a flock of flamingos flying right over us. It is a glorious sight. We stop immediately and try to capture some good shots, but they are gone by the time I pull out my camera.

The bridge over the Great Rann.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4495.jpg

Some avian creatures on the Great Rann.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4493.jpg

Nearly 80% of the roads – large and small – in today's long drive are dead straight; a rarity in Indian roads.

After a long drive, we finally reach Hotel KBN, Bhuj around 7:00PM.

Our room at Hotel KBN.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4502.jpg

Dinner at the aeroplane restaurant at Hotel KBN costs a bomb!
We book a car for tomorrow's tour to India bridge, Kala Dungar and Dhordo for Rs.2650 - very costly as I am to discover later.

Last edited by aryasanyal : 18th February 2012 at 16:58.
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