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Old 20th January 2011, 16:23   #1
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Default Run To Raan Of Katch

A run to the Great Raan of Katch (GRK) has been on the cards for a long long time, after tasting Little Raan of Kutch (LRK) a couple of times. This barren land can grow on you, you'd be amazed at the magnetic charm the stark land can cast on you.

A little back ground about the land: GRK (4,953 KM square) and LRK (7505 km square) is one of the largest marshy and salt infiltrated tracks in the world, due to sparse rainfall it's almost a desert with small vegetation. Because of proximity to the sea and water filtering in, the bio diversity is vastly different from a desert, unique to Kach. To preserve the rich flaura and fauna, the entire area has been declared a Biosphere Reserve, access to many BSF controlled areas require permits even for Indians. When water enters from the sea or during scanty rainfall, most tracts turn into wetland / marshes and migratory birds start nesting. The GRK is famous for its Flamingo City, north of Kadva Village, Dr.Salim Ali's work in this area on Greater Flamingos brought it to the world ornithology map; one estimate states that 100,000 - 200,000 birds lay eggs in the season here!!! Well.......... from the bird story to the human story now.

We (me, wife, Nidish-15, Brijesh-19) had about 3 days holidays during the Sankranti time from 14th to 16th, very little time to see so much. Our main idea was to spend time with our children, specially our son who is away from home, studying engineering; we decided to reach Bhuj and take things as they come, slow and easy. Our regular drive holidays are hectic, packecd with long distances, covering as many places as possible and making the best of the time. Here GRK is within 7 hours drive from Ahmedabad, we plan to do many more visits in the times to come.

Bookings were done at Hotel Prince; the ongoing Raan Utsav is a runaway success, hotels were going at a premium but we got choice rooms with a little bit of corporate pressure. The plan was:

13th: 0200 PM : Drive to Bhuj, check in, relax.
14th: See local sights and drive to Mandvi Beach and back.
15th: Drive to Dhordo / White Desert, Khavda & Kala Dhungar & back to Bhuj
16th: Drive to Koteswar / Narayan Sarovar and back
17th: See local sights and back to A'bad before 2 PM.

Some decisions we took were to see only what's possible, not to stretch, not to take any risks by running off road into the Raan, come back to Bhuj everyday before dark and cover left overs in another trip. Only after the trip we realized that there's a lot of joy in doing the trip this way too in contrast to the mad rush we were used to. The pain of consciously passing by places and choosing NOT to see, leaving it for the next time was a sweet kind of pain, at least for me.

Being a working day on 13th me and wife managed to reach home by noon; by the time we packed and started it was 2 PM. The GPS was telling us to go through Viramgam, Surendranagar and my route research for the fastest route said to take the 4 Rajkoat 4 track, Chotila, Wankanir, Samarkhali, Bhachao and Bhuj. GPS was suggesting the state roads, shorter by about 60 kms, we took the faster route which turned to be the right decision, the road all the way up to Bachao for 330 KMS was great. We reached Suraj Bari around 6 pm after 300 kms, this place is great for photo enthusiasts, you can see the salt pans on both sides, splattering of migratory birds on the puddles, the railway track on one side in a distance, the road cuts through the marshy Raan for abotu 10 kms, a sight for sore eyes. Some snaps from here:

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Bhachao came at 330 kms, we took at left to Bhuj on the state roads at 640 PM, it was dark; the next 90 kms turned out to be difficult.

The single track from Bhachau to Bhuj is wavy, gutted on the sides in many places, surface bumpy, full of sharp turns and relatively heavy truck traffic. I found the trucks traffic heavy, they were aggressive too, wonder why so many trucks here? Seeing the danger, I sowed down, on one of the turns, a truck overtaking a chakda came at me, I had to run off the road to avoid a hit!!!! We reached Hotel Prince around 0830 and checked in, large room and great food too. We had carried a DVD player and lots of movies, so we ordered dinner in the room and watched a movie.

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Last edited by ramkya1 : 20th January 2011 at 16:34.
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Old 20th January 2011, 17:32   #2
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Default Re: Run To Raan Of Katch

That is an interesting trip, looks like it is "raining" Kutch here in the forum!

Yes, the Bachau-Bhuj road is like that only, but I was told that it is better to come via Anjar since you have the benefit of 4-laned roads till Anjara and then the Anjar-Bhuj road is better apparently.

Any tariff and contact details of Hotel Prince in Bhuj?

I am planning a Rajkot-Jamnagar-Dholavira-GRK trip myself next week, so your inputs will be most useful.

Isn't the SH via Viramgam and Dhrangadara also 4-laned nowadays?
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Old 20th January 2011, 17:34   #3
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Arrow Re: Run To Rann Of Katch

14-01-2011: Those who have teenage children would understand how difficult it is to wake them up, make them ready as per your standard and go out to see the sights. During breakfast we decided to see what's available locally and after lunch head to Mandvi Beach. By 12 noon we reached Darbargadh Palace complex, built by King Pragmalji in 1860; a splended palace of marble and sandstone built on Itlian Gothic style, the whole building looks so out of place in India.

We took tickets for us and camers, the main hall, Darbar hall was added later and is full of trophies, anilal heads and aged chandliers; an old caretaker a meek witness to years neglect of what was once a grand hall. This hall is famous for the animal heads, chandliers, classical statues, corinthian pillars and jali works; this hall also featured in Hum dil De chuke Sanam, Lagaan and other local movies. We move on to other halls equally neglected now lorded over by thousands of pegions who seem to have taken over form humans, some Ravi Verma paintings there are exquisite.

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The most interesting part is the still working clock tower which gongs every 15 minutes, we climb the spiral staircase to reach the top. The view from the tower of Bhuj the lake and areas around is beautiful, the huge bells are protected by a wire mesh, it goes off every 15 minutes and the 1000's of pegions take off in a flock, it was a great sight to see, we wait for 12 O clock, the pegions go mad and fly in cross cross carpets. The place closes at 12, so we had to scoot.
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We spend time in the court yard taking pictures and watching the pegion carpet. Unfortunately Aina Mahal which is nearby has holidays till 17th so we have to wait it out, we decide to drive to Mandvi and try our lunch there.

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Last edited by ramkya1 : 20th January 2011 at 17:38.
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Old 20th January 2011, 17:35   #4
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Default Re: Run To Raan Of Katch

Great Start up Ramkya1, nowadays Raan of Kutch is the hottest place for tourism in "Apnu Gujarat", after the success of Ranotsav and Kite Festival.
We are also planing to visit the white place of raan on the full moon night.
Looking forward to your travelogue, and what they say "Katchhdo bare mas!" (or something like that)
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Old 20th January 2011, 17:39   #5
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Default Re: Run To Raan Of Katch

So finally ramkya1 is penning his travelogue.

The Viramgram road is not four lane one. I think it is better to go via Chotila-Morbi than Viramgram-Dharangdhara.

HVK and TSK1979 should then be in same area at same time.
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Old 20th January 2011, 17:44   #6
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Arrow Re: Run To Raan Of Katch

@ HVK: Will mail you details.

I asked a friendly taxi driver at A' bad, he emphatically told me to take the Chotila, Bhacho road and to avoid the Viramgam one, don't know about the 4 laning. Anyone????

@ Sudev: Yes, thought I'd share what I have. Yes, if HVK hits Bhuj aroud 26-28, he'd be there when TSK would also be there in Hotel Prince.

@ Hiren: Isn't it great, something so interesting almost at our doorstep!!!


Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
That is an interesting trip, looks like it is "raining" Kutch here in the forum!

Yes, the Bachau-Bhuj road is like that only, but I was told that it is better to come via Anjar since you have the benefit of 4-laned roads till Anjara and then the Anjar-Bhuj road is better apparently.

Any tariff and contact details of Hotel Prince in Bhuj?

I am planning a Rajkot-Jamnagar-Dholavira-GRK trip myself next week, so your inputs will be most useful.

Isn't the SH via Viramgam and Dhrangadara also 4-laned nowadays?

Last edited by ramkya1 : 20th January 2011 at 17:51.
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Old 20th January 2011, 18:55   #7
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Default Re: Run To Raan Of Katch

Wow. Just 2 days back I was talking about you with HVK saan. Especially with him planning to drive to Rajkot, your name popped up automatically. And you come with a nice log.
Loved the shots of the parrots! Now I'm almost tempted to join HVK saan in his drive to Rajkot, if there's a possibility of meeting in AHD.

HVK. Is there space?
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Old 20th January 2011, 19:39   #8
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Default Re: Run To Raan Of Katch

>>>

It is indeed raining Kutch.
Great travelogue.

Ramkya, how about some nuggets on Kutchi cuisine? I've heard that it is less sweet than Gujarati cuisine.

hvk had mentioned that he will be driving to Rajkot; the Kutch drive is the excursion, which might be the piece de resistance of the drive!

One question - how difficult is it for a 'normal' car to drive in the Rann of Kutch, both of them? Any precautions to take ?

I read in a Kutch travelogue where the t-bhpian had recently done the Rann and he said that his Sierra got stuck in slushy ground, which was not apparent visually.

By the time hvk finishes his drive, between him and Ramkya, we will all be in a position to know which is the optimal route ( smoother roads, less traffic, in that order) from Bombay through Ahmedabad to Kutch.

Regards, drive safe

P. S. : There used to be an exclusively Kutchi cuisine restaurant in the market complex roughly opposite Cafe Coffee Day on the 100 feet Ring Road in Satellite. This was in 2004!
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Old 20th January 2011, 20:41   #9
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@ MX6: Thanks. I have a great equation with HVK, love his enthusiasm for the long drive and get inspired myself, was with him throughout the GQ drive. I'd strongly stuggest you join him, he would cover all of Kutch in 3 days where others might take 7-10 days, so you'd save barrels of time. I usually meet HVK on the Ring road when he passes through, meeting you guys again would be a pleasure.

@ issigonis: Thanks again. We had great Thalis at Hotel Prices, expensive at 160/- but authentic Kach food, it's too sweet for me and my family.

I am not surprised at the Sierra getting stuck, you don't need talent to get stuck out there.

No problem for a normal car to drive anywhere, stick to tarmac and if at all you want to drive off, drive on the periphery of the Rann, within eyesight to the road, villages etc., you cannot say anything about the slush in Rann, it could surprise you. I would'n't go anywhere off road into the Rann without a 4X4, even if I do, I'd ensure some back up. On the 2 trips I took a jeep and went deep into the LRK from Zainabad with some birdy friends was enough to convince me not to take any chance here, it's a pretty spooky place where you'd loose all sense of time and distance, you would loose reference points with only a bleak horizon to guide you.

That said, I've seen many very lucky dare-devils from A'bad going in and coming out OK, not for me Sir.

--Ramky

-----

Quote:
Originally Posted by MX6 View Post
Wow. Just 2 days back I was talking about you with HVK saan. Especially with him planning to drive to Rajkot, your name popped up automatically. And you come with a nice log.
Loved the shots of the parrots! Now I'm almost tempted to join HVK saan in his drive to Rajkot, if there's a possibility of meeting in AHD.

HVK. Is there space?

Last edited by ramkya1 : 20th January 2011 at 20:43.
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Old 21st January 2011, 09:50   #10
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Default Re: Run To Rann Of Katch-Darbargadh Palace

Still at the Palace Grounds, some more photos....

Wonder if the pegion sitting would slow down the clock?

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Old 21st January 2011, 10:14   #11
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Default Re: Run To Raan Of Katch

Though my physics is a bit hazy but a still pigeon would not make any difference to the
pendulum. A take off ....

Nice thought and capture. Get out of Bhuj...and show us more
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Old 21st January 2011, 10:34   #12
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Arrow Re: Run To Rann Of Katch - Out of Bhuj

The Man said, get out of Bhuj, so we do.....

The GPS takes us cleanly away form town, we were flying on good state roads, in 70 mts we reach Mandvi and hunt for place to eat. Locals tell us the best hotels is Krishna, we turn inside the narrow lane and find the packed dining hall. The food was good and service quick, I guess this is one of the few clean A/C eating joints here.

We head to the beach, big crowd due to the Kite Flying Festival, the car parks are chocked, visible police presence to keep things in order. The entire population of Mandvi and some more was out there flying kites, was a Meaa atmosphere; not our idea of a holiday, we like the quiet and peace and avoid crowds.

See the photos, you'd get the drift..

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The tide was far out, we could see the waterlines of the mornings, spent time there for 1 hr +, tide was already coming in quickly, nice photo shoot options, would be great to spend a quiet day when the crowd is less.

Mandvi Palace has a holiday today.. pot luck. Well..... if that's the way the cookie crumbles, that's the way we take it.

We reach back to Bhuj by 6 PM with my wife at the wheel, it was that kind of a day. We come across this beautiful yellow patch of flowers, stopped to take lots of pictures, some of them here.

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I took out a Woodhouse for a quiet read ( wonder if there are Woodhouse fans still left) while wife and children go out to the local market nearby to look a the handicrafts & cloths. Will post photos of some of the purchases, the designs on the cloths looked pretty intricate and expensive; we check up the prices after reaching A'had, they were actually 50% cheaper at Bhuj, some of them look like a lot of time and effort have gone into making it.

We settle for dinner in the room and some family movies together.

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Old 21st January 2011, 15:19   #13
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Arrow Re: Run To Rann Of Katch: White Mischief

15-01-2011: We actually tossed for the drive, heads we go to Koteswar, tails we go to the Kala Dungar and the White Desert, tails won and we were off at 10 AM. The hotel staff were curious, why are we starting so late, early morning most of the tourist would be off before 9 AM, while we start thinking of breakfast at 9!!!

The GPS tells us to head towards Khavda, we pass the AFS station, the roads are recently tarred and smooth, after 20 kms we take a right turn and the road turns bad, surprising how they missed the 30 KM stretch to the BSF border where you need to take permits. A few KM's on we come across the board "The Tripic of Cancer is passing from here", every one screams stop, we want photos. We reach the BSF check post at 1130, park behind a row of busses, taxis, cars and even autos, all headed in the same direction, a sentry asks us to go inside and talk to the officer.

Pandemonium inside, drivers, tourists, touts, BSF officers some in uniform some not, lots of shouting and jostling; looked like the BSF guys there are not used to handling crowds. I stand outside queue, looking at me an officer got up quickly came to me and said, "Sir, do you need help", the crowd goes quiet for a moment. This happens to me at many places, looking at my bald trim figure (I would like to think so), people think either I'm with the police/ military or some law enforcement agency, at traffic signals cops salute me and crowds try to keep away from me. I told him I need a permit, he takes a form from under the table (the forms are for some mysterious purpose hidden away which was the cause of confusion), "Sir, Isko Barna Padega, aap army....", I deliberatrly grunt a non-commital "hhhhmmmm", he perceives it as a "yes" takes me outside the hut!!!! Can you blame me if someone misunderstands?

He explains the procedure, fill the form, get photocopies of id for myself, wife and children above 15 years age!!!! Yes, school ID card would do, but it's a must. I told him I have only mine and wife's ID card, he says OK... OK, and points me to the way we came, there's a Village 1 KM down with copy facility. We drive back, the only photocopy shop is doing brisk business, again jostling crowds.. somehow we get the copies, go to the Chowki again, the same officer help me out to get the works done quickly. We had to pay a total of Rs.450/- for permits etc., I think after 26th, this would be reduced to half!!!

Copy of permit and receipt....

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The drive to Dhordo village, 30 kms was good, road recently done up and desolate. After Dhordo, the next stop is at the Rann Utsav venue, Tent city, where they check the vehicles thoroughly for food stuffs and anything in disposable plastic bags, we bundle stuff and leave it for safe keeping. Next, BSF checks the permit and you enter the Rann and stare at nothingness in the horizon, Utube video here:



As yo drive the white horizon comes closer and you understand why it's so rivetting. You stop the car at the car park and walk into the White Desert.......

Met a very knowledgable gent manning a stall created for the festival, had time to kill while wife and boys went shopping in the stalls. Story goes that the great Sage Dhoramnath (he could destroy whatever he looked at) wanted to create a Banni (grassland) for the people and looked at the sea / salt / marsh land which burned away resulting in a grassland. Geologists say this is a sedementation of Indus river which flowed through Rann at one time. About 30000 people live here, 5500 families in 34 villages; comprises of Ahir dairy farmers, (claim to come from Lord Krishna) Rabaris, Muslims and others.

I ask him if there's any communal trouble, he says smilingly in broken hindi, "you city folks have time for that, we are too busy fighting for existance, we co-operate to live in this harsh land". Said he is a Mutwa, a prominant Muslin clan, basically cattle farmers. The salt sands shift over a period of time based on water inflows, the grazing fields have come down over years, cattle breeding is difficult now, most of the money comes from women working on embroidery on cloth. They specialize in mirror work, he shows an intricately worked 2 meter pieces worth 13K, 3 women worked on it for 8 months!!!!! In the distance he showed a shimmering spectare in the white desert, that factory produces Bromine, they suck up the water on the ground, the White Desert has receded 4-5 kms and will move back if this continues. There are 2-3 companies in the areas producing marine chemical products like bromine, potasssum sulphate and magnesium oxide and have locked horns with each other for the salt pans as raw materials... the bane of industrialization.

You'd also see photos where cars were stuck and tractors were used to pull them out, you can see pieces of wood in a picture, only that morning a 2X4 Safari had got mired. You'd also see a photo where the white / salty crust has broken and water is visible underneath, this is a booby trap for vehicles!!! The local lads manning the car parks had lots of stories like this....

Well.. back to the White Desert, I'd let the photos speak.

I skipped an important item: The temp was below 5, cold as hell!!!

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Last edited by ramkya1 : 21st January 2011 at 15:36.
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Old 21st January 2011, 18:57   #14
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Arrow Re: Run To Raan Of Katch- Luck Runs out

An hour flys by, the wind picks up speed with sharpnels of cold needles, temp must be around 5, exposed skin starts screaming; all water bottles were deposited back at the BSF post, we run back to the warm comfort of the Scorp and quench the thirst. We need to move to the village, look for a place to eat and drive towards Kalo Dungar in times for the evening Arathi at the Dattatrya temple.

At the Tent city, I settle down near a handicraft shop to talk shop while the rest roam around buying, turned out to be a worthwhile investment, the man at the shop was an old desert fox willing to talk. One hour later, we find the make shift A/C restaurant and try the Kachi Thali; was very tasty, all of ate to heart's content, probably a little too much.

We started around 315 PM, soon my younger son was complaining of stomach pain, he was in agony, fortunately rest of us had no problems, it must be the number of Gulab Jamuns he polished off while the rest of us skipped it. Stopped the car, took out the medicine kit, gave him an antacid + digestive enzyme hoping that would quell the pain, it did for some time. By the time we reached the BSF checkpost junction to turn towards Kala Dungar his pain had re-appeared; I had to take an objective decision to skip the Kala Dungar, India Gate and attend to a medical priority. I took over the wheel from my wife and whipped the beast; mercifully by the time we reached Bhuj, he was OK, nothing a night's fasting would not cure, looked like a reflux related spasm. Well... there would be other times for sure.

A video clip of the White desert....



=======

Last edited by ramkya1 : 21st January 2011 at 18:58.
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Old 21st January 2011, 20:35   #15
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Great writing, lots of information and awesome pics. Thanks Sir.

I will be heading there in the first week of february, so will save up on the information here.
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Speed Run 2004 pictures Dippy Indian Motorsport 19 28th April 2004 20:46


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