Day 02 Began with one of the hotel staff recommending us places to visit during breakfast. We decided to go to a placed called Kala Raksha first and then to the Rann of Kutch.
Kala Raksha was near our hotel. It took us 30 minutes to get there. Similar to Hira Laxmi, this place had shops inside a hut. But the unique thing was that Kala Raksha itself was a big initiative to promote the talents and the culture of the Kutchi people. It is supported by many big companies including Tata and even UNSECO. We saw a pretty animated film called Taankon Bole Che. And it’s sad that they haven’t posted the entire picture in the net. The film wonderfully depicts in a cute way how these people came to be experts in narrative art as they journey from Pakistan to India and build their homes in Kutch.
The place had lots and lots of handicraft items similar to Hiralaxmi in many ways. There were puppets, stuffed animals, kurtas, kurtis, bags, purses, and many many more, even traditional Indian games that we haven’t even heard of. Sadly, they were very costly so I ended up buying a book of the film we saw and a camel!
Nirona was one talented village. A detour from the Rann, we entered the village at 12 and spent three hours there. We had planned to see the Rogan art there, but ended up circling the whole village. These people not only showed us things they make, but they even showed us how they make their masterpieces. We saw how these people make intricate designs in Rogan art, an old man (titled the Bell Maker of Kutch) showed us how he creates a bell just by merging three metal plates into one without the use of screws and welding. Another man showed us his lacquer work and how he creates it to make colourful items. And the leather shop owner wasn’t available at that time, so we couldn’t see his way of working. My favourite shop was the copper bell shop. The old man, in his 60s was very enthusiastic and his son as well as they showed us their processes and their collection.
All across the village, we received smiles from the people and the kids yelled byes everywhere. Every single kid yelled ‘bye bye.’ Maybe they were even trained to do so to persuade customers into buying things. But manipulation or not, this village was one of the best places I visited in Kutch.
Or next stop was the Rann of Kutch – The White Desert. Before that, we took a short break and ate Kutchi mava and fed the ever hungry dogs over there. Boy, these dogs were smart.
Everyone has to fill a form before entering the desert road. The entire area is military controlled. Indo-Pak border is less than 100kms from the Rann. We first drove through Banni Grasslands and spotted many goats and sheep with their shepherds. A herd of cows and buffalos and camels. Mongoose and wild cats lurked here and there. We entered the area of the Rann Utsav after a while and having lunch, we went to the desert.
The desert is actually a salt marsh and it dries up during dry seasons. If one comes in monsoon, they will find the desert to be a marshy shallow water land. The desert was unbelievable. It felt like the moon – like another planet. It felt like I could see the tip of the Earth from here. The Rann stretches more than 7,500+ sq kms. We spent a few hours here and saw the sunset. We didn’t see the Little Rann of Kutch and Dholavira. Dholavira, to my disappointment, was 250kms away (a whole day trip.) I couldn’t see the ancient city of the Indus Valley Civilization but it was compensated by the beauty and the vastness of the Great Rann of Kutch. We had planned to see the Indo-Pak border and the Indo-Pak bridge. But the bridge was again, really far off and the border was only accessible to the army.
As we returned home, I tried to spot the ghost lights at night. They are called Chir Batti and are like the Will of the Wisps from the movie Brave. A strange light phenomena. I might have seen them, I don’t know, for I spotted many flashing lights here and there. But I guess it was just my imagination.
Day 2 was an unforgettable day. The Rann of Kutch isn’t a place to be missed. Ending words, if you’re going to Kutch, do not go to the Rann Utsav. Don’t go with a travel agent and don’t go to the festival. Rann Utsav has a very small package. You’ll be left to see only the desert and the ‘mainstream’ handicraft shops over there. And the package costs Rs.15,000 per person. So if you’re a family of four, the package would be Rs.60,00. Add you shopping and it will come to Rs. 70-75,000. We spent four days here and our hotel expenses added to only Rs.15,800. Add the shopping expenses, we spent a total of Rs. 20,000 in Kutch. And we visited many exciting places as well which people in Rann Utsav would miss. Ha! But I have to say, Gujarat Tourism did a fantastic job in promoting tourism in Kutch.
Day 3 – off to the sea.