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Friday 28 December 2018

Kutch Diaries #RannKiKahaaniya

I have a penchant for planning holidays on the mountains or beaches and my family keeps complaining that all the holiday pictures look the same with similar locales and scenery!
A short sojourn with my better-half to Kutch, changed our holiday routine and scene! 
We started the trip on a spiritual note with a visit to the amazing Somnath Temple, then visited the Rann Utsav at Dhordo, followed by a trip to Dholavira and a bit of retail therapy at Bhuj
The ongoing Rann Utsav was something I'd wanted to attend for a while now. There was hardly enough time to plan, pack or do any kind of research about the trip, so yeah, I totally went on this trip with a clean slate - no expectations and a mild curiosity about the White Desert. You know at a certain point in life, you are happy with any holiday that doesn't involve domesticated chores like cooking, cleaning and serving!


Our 4N/5D itinerary was something like this: 
Besides the flights from Mumbai to Rajkot and from Bhuj to Mumbai, all other journeys were made by road in a dear friend's chauffeured car (friends totally rock, don't they?!). 
A special word of thanks to some really dear friends of the better half who made this entire trip so memorable and enjoyable for us!
Follow the three part Kutch Diaries series:
Kutch Diaries #RannKiKahaaniya >> Kutch Diaries #Dholavira >> Kutch Diaries #Shopping

Reaching Bhuj
After a 6 hour drive from Rajkot, we arrived under a blindingly bright sun at Dhordo. Highway roads in Gujarat are really good, so the long drives aren't too tiring.(Rajkot-Dhordo: 308 km). You can directly arrive at Bhuj by road, rail or air as Bhuj is well connected via all routes. We stayed for a night at The Tent City, Dhordo. You get a Tent City pick-up coach (fixed timings) from Bhuj to take you there. (Bhuj-Dhordo: 81 km)

Tent City, Dhordo 

The Tent City is something you may detest if you are the kind of traveler who loves serene environments and craves solitude. Sorry folks, this is just not the place for you!
This is a place that is totally festive, mela-like, bursting with people, energy, wares and colors! Well, consumerist that I am, I obviously loved it all!
Interestingly, the entire set-up is a temporary one that is erected and set up for just the four months of the Rann Utsav (Nov-Feb) and then dismantled lock, stock and barrel.
The grand Reception lounge
The Tent city has 400 tents spread across 9 clusters, two large dining halls with a capacity of 350/200 respectively, an art gallery, a club house with indoor games, a rejuvenation spa, conference area, a handicrafts bazaar, open air entertainment. The larger tents are grouped in clusters of 32 tents while smaller tents in groups of 68 are arranged in a semi-circle overlooking the entertainment area which also has the interesting Skyzilla. They have a medical center and round the clock CCTV surveillance. The network connectivity is extremely good in this area.
I was overall impressed with the magnitude and efficiency of the personnel (about 350) that milled about this mini-city to manage the day-today smooth running of the facility. Personnel are always at hand to assist you at every nook and corner.

Besides the evening entertainment on the grounds, through the day one can avail a host of sport activities ranging from Paramotoring, ATV rides, Segway and Trikke rides, Paintball etc. besides sightseeing tours to nearby places such as Kalo Dungar, Mandvi beach, Mata nu Madh etc. These are not included in the package and one needs to individually book and pay for them.
The shopping here is pretty well-stocked with the famous Kutchi handicrafts, embroidered fabrics and more, probably a tad costlier than at Bhujodi but not too much. These are alright for souvenir shopping but the products are most probably machine-made and mass-produced instead of the claims of being handmade. The entire setup is a visual delight with a play of colors showcasing the art, culture and spirit of the Gujarat through the Rann Utsav.

Tent Package
The Tent City has differently sized and priced tents. All tent package stays include fixed timing coach pick up from Bhuj and drop off along with local sightseeing tour of Bhuj. The package also includes pick up and drops along with camel buggy rides to the White Rann twice, once in the evening to view the sunset and once at night for the moonrise. All meals beginning from bed-tea, breakfast, lunch, evening tea to dinner are included in the deal. 

Weather during our stay (Dec 3rd week) was extremely pleasant at a maximum of 27 and minimum of 9 degrees celsius.

Food is pretty good at the Tent City dining hall. Dishes from Punjabi, Continental, Gujarati and Kathiawadi cuisines are on the Menu. The delicious meals at the large dining halls are efficiently managed and catered by the Sayaji group of hotels. 
Dining Hall

Our Stay
While we checked in at the large reception area, our bags were whisked off in a jiffy. We were explained the itinerary for our stay and escorted in one of the several golf carts to our tent. We had opted for the Premium tent (Rs 10,000/person/night) and it was really a pretty neat set up with AC/Heater, comfy bed, TV, sitting area, bath-toilet area etc. 
We took the evening coach starting from the gates to the White Rann at around 5 pm to enjoy the sunset. A short 15 minute ride takes you to the white desert through a BSF check point. Another 2 minute camel buggy ride drops you off to a point from which you are free to marvel and wander the White Rann.
I was under the misapprehension that the White Rann would have white sand. 
The Rann of Kutch is a vast, low lying salt flat that extends along the western edge of India. During the rainy season, water level of the adjacent sea increases enough to cause the flooding of the Rann. As the waters recede, the area dries leaving behind mud encrusted with salt. By winter all the water evaporates, leaving behind a white, salt covered terrain.
Honestly speaking, the Rann at Dhordo isn't all that white, thanks to the heavy footfall, camel buggies, dung et al!
We enjoyed a beautiful sunset unfettered by man-made structures listening to lilting folk music by local singers, marveling the surreal white terrain around us!
Back at the Tent city we headed to the bazaar and indulged in some souvenir shopping. That done, it was a scrumptious dinner at the assigned dining hall. The city is beautifully lit at night, with aesthetic lighting that pleases the eye yet is bright enough to serve it's purpose.
Next we headed to the entertainment area which had a host of brilliant live performances ranging from catchy Bollywood and interactive Garba beats, dance by the Siddi community, folk singers and performing artistes.
Around 10 pm, we took the coach again to catch the beauty of the White Rann in the beautiful full moon (yes, we couldn't believe that we had timed our trip so well!). 
The night air was nippy and we were glad we'd packed our warm things!
It took us a little time to get adjusted to the night light. Once we did, we were left awestruck at how well we could see in just the moonlight because of the white terrain reflecting the light back. Indeed a marvel! Sadly, people were going crazy with mobile flash modes marring the beauty of the moment. 
After a comfortable night's sleep in the cozy tent, rendered cozier by the heater and warm blankets, we had breakfast at the dining hall. It was time to check out of Tent City for the next leg of our tour to Dholavira, the archaeological site of the ancient ruins of Harappa carrying happy memories of lovely experiences at THE TENT CITY!

The Tent City Itinerary Booklet
You can get more information on the Rann Utsav and Tent City, Dhordo HERE

Stay tuned for the next leg of my Kutch Diaries at Dholavira.

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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and it does not intentionally promote any place or property. All the information and opinions shared here have been gathered and compiled by me based on my personal experience. 

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