Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow. – Anita Desai
The last trip during my internship was something Dustin and me were looking forward to since quite a while. However, it was only the fact that I got my two unpaid leave days permitted that in the end forced us to go – after another busy week in office, spending endless times in sleeper trains and busses made us doubt about our mission. After all, the five days travel was leading towards only one goal: a couple of hours in the salt desert in the Great Rann of Kutch.
However, we made it. After replacing nearly all of our train tickets with bus rides as we were at the very end of the waiting list (and our north-east experience taught us better!) we had settled on three stops: Ahmedabad, Bhuj (from where we would rent a car to go to the desert) and Ahmedabad again.
Generally spoken, people in the state Gujarat turned out to be extremely friendly and kind, even the rickshaw drivers were charging reasonable prices. Worth mentioning is also the Gujarati Thali, which ensured that we never felt hungry but gained some kilogrammes instead…
The two days we spent in Ahmedabad were filled with a guided city tour, the visit of the Gandhi ashram as well as a couple of temples and a stone well. Unfortunately, it was not allowed to take pictures inside most of the attractions we visited, but from a positive point of view we were also not charged any entrance fee, which compensated this aspect a little. Also, the city appeared nearly European to us in many places, very modern and well structured, especially around the river.
Talking about our main destination Bhuj disappointed on our first day as nearly all the shops were closed. Only later we got to know that this was due to the elections that apparently took place that day. However, we managed to organize a driver for a tour to the desert the next day with the help of the owner of the guesthouse where we stayed and that we found thanks only to Lonely Planet when we arrived at 4.30 am without any clue in Bhuj. 😀 We shared the cab with two other ladies from the Netherlands in order to split the cost, which was another plus! 🙂
After visiting the Kalo Dungar, the “black hill” and highest point of the Kutch, as well as a super touristy (fake?) village in the desert, we finally arrived where we intended to go – in the middle of the salt desert! Everything around us was white, shining brightly like freshly fallen snow. There were some leftovers from a movie shot standing around, which we used for our inevitable photoshoot. The salt felt hard under our feet, and of course we tasted some white crystals to make sure it’s real. 😉
I can only say that it was stunning, hard to describe in words. It is breath-taking what nature is able to create; it makes me feel so small and unimportant. I know that especially India has still a long way to go to finally realise how valuable and precious nature is, but this moment in the desert gave me some hope – after all, it was the first place where I didn’t find plastic bottles lying around. 😉
For everyone who plans on travelling in India – Rann of Kutch is not a popular tourist destination for foreigners yet, so take advantage of that and visit the place. You will not regret taking this detour as you are rewarded by the sight of a truly impressive natural wonder.
PS: The permission to go inside the desert can be obtained in some village on the way, you only need to bring your passport and a copy of it. I don’t remember the rates exactly, but I think it was 250 rupees per person or even less and 50 rupees for the car. Remember that you’ll have to pay for the driver as well.