The allure of a full moon night at the great Rann of Kutch has attracted many a tourists, photographers and even locals month after month year on year. The experience is definitely unmatched. The silver sky above and a silver land beneath! But the experience we got at Dholavira was like none other. One, we were all by ourselves with no one, absolutely no one around to break the continuity of the snow globe we were floating inside. The occupants of just one car and the moon and the white desert! Two, it was a full moon night obviously and was pretty late in the night with the moon almost being overhead.
Dholavira now ranks on top of our favourite destinations and we are sure to visit this magnetic wilderness again and again. The long drive to the resort where we were booked to stay seemed like a never-ending trail. The sun had already set and there weren’t many vehicles to give us company on the 100 odd km long stretch to Dholavira from the closest city of Rapar. An odd blue bull somewhere, a stray camel, eagles ominously hovering above us as if signalling to their teams about the arrival of life from somewhere far away, a single road lined with thorny bushes with absolutely no sign of inhabitation around it and us in our white tourist vehicle with an enthusiastic driver to keep us amused. To be a little honest here, there was a little apprehension somewhere deep inside with all this atmosphere around us. But wait till you read about our experience at the resort.
We moved on with google maps of course ; though it wasn’t needed as there was only one road to take us to our destination. Nonetheless, we city dwellers like to know where we are heading so we kept our map on. The map showed a large expanse of “blue” on our way with our road cutting across it. Google map “blue” is normally a water body and we wondered as to what were we about to cross to reach our destination. To add to that anxiety, our destination is called Khadir Bet where Bet means an island!
Anxiety levels rising with the moon we reach the “blue” which looked “black” and just as we entered the zone it magically turned grey to silver. This sight compelled us to stop and soak in this so so amazingly dream like scene. The “blue” turned out to be the white Rann of Kutch. The pristine white, not trampled upon by human feet. Cool November breeze and this magical sight, we wanted to camp there itself! But the anxiety soon returned and we felt it best to reach our resort on time. We felt like Dora the explorer and moved on towards our resort. After the “blue” stretch got over, we entered a village which too was eerily silent with no one around to even ask for directions. People in rural India and especially in such remote villages wind up early and truly follow “early to bed and early to rise” principle. Some BSF signages and a couple of boards mentioning our resort’s name gave a sigh of relief. We were headed in the right direction!
Tea on my mind, some turns later we entered the coloured flags lined massive entry gates of the Dholavira Tourism Resort. We parked outside a round hut which looked more like a villager’s humble abode than a reception of a resort. Two lady travellers in the white tourist vehicle exchanged glances and wondered if they should actually step out and stay in this place which was in the middle of nowhere with just a few men hanging around and just a couple of light bulbs winking away at them. On top of that, our name did not even feature in the resort’s arrival list for the day! But going back meant hundred km on the same route with no one around and we weren’t sure if Rapar had any decent places to stay too. Shaky confidence on our tired faces, we stepped out to a very warm welcome from a gentleman who we later found out was the owner of the resort. Tea was immediately served, without even asking for it. And our names were quickly written in blue ball point ink in an “arrival register”. Since our names weren’t there, we knew the advance against our stay was also held up somewhere in the technical glitches. No cash on us, no internet connectivity here, no ATMs, no Banks around. What a situation to be in! But Mahendra Singh Ji did not even bat an eyelid before checking us in. A simple trusting man who believed that his guests who have taken pains to reach his resort did not have a motive to cheat on him!
We were shown to our Bhunga, and what a lovely walk that was under the moonlit sky. We changed and with our hands and faces washed the anxieties away too. Dinner was served in the same Bhunga as the reception, a home style Gujarati thali. A couple of canine friends to escort us back to our Bhunga and believe us we slept so peacefully and absolutely stress free that night in our mud and mirror decorated round hut.
Enrapturing sunrise the next morning, cool breeze laden with unpolluted oxygen and I walked up to the reception to ask for some morning tea. The best tea that I had in all of Gujarat was served that morning. A home cooked breakfast later we left for our sightseeing tour. The resort package comes with sightseeing included in it. Sightseeing here includes visiting the excavated Harappan site of Dholavira, the museum, Wood Fossil Park, The signs of presence of sea long long ago, the white desert and the Dutt Temple. First stop obviously was the Harappan site.
The Indus Valley civilisation was way more developed than what we imagine it to be is evident from the excavations here. A detailed account of this historical wonder will soon appear on our blog page.
I was a bit under the weather due to so much of exhaustion of travelling (We was trying to cover 4000 kms of Gujarat in just ten days) so decided to take a very quick look at the site and head back but the guide who went with me was such a knowledgable story teller that I spent close to an hour and a half understanding each and every feature of the place. Museum is a treasure house of the items of daily use and artefacts unearthed from the site.
A little drive later one reaches the Wood Fossil Park where fossilised tree trunks can be seen clasped between rocks. The rock formations clearly show signs of presence of the ocean here many centuries ago. The pitted rocks also have some sea fossils and variegated layers of different coloured minerals. Our guide showed us a few sea fossils back in the resort.
Walk down the rocks and you can step onto the white of the white desert. The white is all a crust of salt, the salt that we know as NaCl, our common salt and locals added it to their meals before the urbanised world told them about refined, iodine salt. We walked a few meters into the desert with the white crust crunching under our feet. This was that kind of an experience where one must connect with the elements around and feel one with the universe. The crust so white and reflecting the sun’s brilliance that we city dwellers would hide our delicate eyes behind the sun glasses. My pictures look as if I have clicked a white sheet of paper. Being a true blue tourist I cheekily picked a few salt crystals from here to carry away as souvenirs.
Next stop was the Dutt Temple. The international border is barely 45 kms from here. People of Dholavira have relatives living on the other side of the International Borders. There is a BSF post also here where one needs to seek permission from for venturing out into the white desert towards the small yet prominent hill locally referred to as “Dungar”. It was on this hill that the saint Duttatreya prayed and hence in his reverence a temple is made on the mainland closest to the hill. The hill stands surrounded by the white desert. A few peaceful moments here and we head back to our resort.
A cup of the “best tea” was an absolute essential before setting off on our long journey to Bhuj. Thankfully, our technical issues got resolved and the money too was transferred to the resort’s account but Mahendra Singh Ji assured us that he wouldn’t have stopped us from checking out even if the money did not come. What a gesture! He also informed us that the population in this part of the country was scarce and villagers knew each other well. All his guests who are on the “arrival list” are informed well in advance about the route, the wilderness and also that in case they get stuck somewhere help would reach them immediately. With those reassurances there isn’t any room for any anxiety I guess. But then, all unforgettable experiences have been made with being on the edge of the seats, right?