As 2013 came to an end, I looked forward to a new beginning. To start afresh. For a second chance. And my 3 days/4 nights vacation to Kutch proved to be a great kick starter for my journey ahead.
It was a long nine hour journey to Bhuj, Kutch on train. Normally, I’d crib over the fact but as it was a night train I spent most of my time sleeping. My train playlist included The Rascals, an indie band I hardly listened to because I slept for almost 8 hours straight only waking now and then amidst loud snores and the sudden jerks and brakes.
We arrived at Bhuj 30 minutes early despite the late departure from my city. But oh boy, was this trip going to be amazing. The station was very small and it looked super clean. There were not many people around as well. Bhuj being the capital of Kutch district was still like any other Kutch cities. Only a few trains arrive (around 5-6) a day. It was very chilly as we walked with our bags to the gates outside. There were many autos here and the place was abuzz but still compared to other big cities, this was quiet. We took a chakhada (a big auto) and made our way to the hotel.
The station was just outside the city and we took the only road to the hotel (the road which will further take us to more places ahead.) To my utter surprise, the roads were super clean as well. And there were no potholes! Yes, they were single lane roads with no street lights but there were hardly any traffic and the roads were very smooth. One of the highlights of my trip would be my love for the roads here. We saw many fighter jets on our way. A fighter jet would zoom above us every five minutes. The airforce usually conduct training regularly in these areas. You’ll even find the army and the BSF (Border Security Force) here because the Indo-Pak border is just 150kms from Bhuj. And oh, there are signal jammers near the base. You wont get any network.
Kutch Safari Lodge was a wonderful place. We stayed in tents. Real huge tents that reminded me of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. There were not many facilities inside, but who needs a television, a fridge and a massive wardrobe anyway? There was an attached bathroom with irregular hot water but we didn’t mind. There were insects here and there, but we didn’t mind and killed some shamelessly. I spent some times sprawling outside on a chair like a country-man. The staff was very kind, and very helpful. In fact, people of Kutch especially those in Bhuj and its above areas were all full of smiles and very nice. No one gave a grim stare, nobody was arrogant and aggressive. One great thing about Kutch! The people.
After having breakfast, we took off. Our driver was also a good man, funny and nice. He even acted as our tour guide for three days. The city of Bhuj has a historic feel to it and it still maintains the picture. You wouldn’t find any malls and hardly any franchises here. As we wanted to get a local taste, we had our lunch at Hotel Annapurna (driver’s recommendation.). The food was simply delicious and the hotel had a cool system for the thalis they provided. If you don’t like an item, simple put it it another plate and they will take it away. That way they will prevent wastage. And you’ll save your money. Even the staff were very sweet, especially the owner.
When we left the hotel, we were ambushed by kids who begged us for money. Literally ambushed! The beggars didn’t even have any manners and kept on shouting ‘Money, Money , Money.’ They reminded me of the beggars in Assassin’s Creed games.
We then went to Kutch Museum. On our way, we came across several ruined fort walls and gates. These walls were Bhuj’s old walls and the seven gates were the entrances in the olden days.
Praag Mahal. The palace had taken its toll during the Gujarat Earthquakes in 2001. Only some parts are still totally intact. Films like Lagaan were shot here.
Aina Mahal was closed. Such an odd day for its holiday. On a Thursday. Even this being the neighbour of Praag Mahal heavily suffered due to the earthquakes.
Our last stop for the day was a village called Bhujodi.On our way we saw a long walls on a hill that resembled The Great Wall of China (I had even seen then in Jaipur on my trip two years back.) In the olden days, Bhuj used to be inside those walls on the hill. Later, it extended down and built new walls and now well…cities don’t have walls anymore, do they?
Bhujodi was a little village where you’d find many handicraft shops. We spent an entire hour in one shop and bought many clothes and items. And later, we went to a garden like place called Hira Laxmi Handicrafts. Here, the shops were inside little brick huts.
After our purchases there, we drank chai in the streets near Bhujodi and made our way back to the hotel. I spent the night sitting outside my tent before a few insects started creeping up on me.
At the end of the day, I got the essence of Kutch. It’s history, it’s culture and it’s people.