Let me begin by saying – My travel is JINXED.
In the past, most of my trips were cancelled due to various reasons including heavy rains. But 2017 has been kind. A family trip to Pune was the 1st successful trip except for the fact that the bus was delayed by almost 3 hours on our way back.
BD – my friend & me were planning a short trip for a while & decided to visit the Rann Of Kutch during full moon. The dates were decided & I tried booking us a tent via the official site. But when I saw the final cost, the taxes added were more than the actual cost of the accommodation, we decided against it. JINXED – 1st thought that popped in my mind. Ditched the idea immediately & got on with life. A while later, thanks to Facebook I came across the event – Full Moon Rann Of Kutch. A all women trip organised by “Womaniya On Road Trip”. Went through the event details, reached the organiser & we – BD & Me – were booked for this trip. Happily excited, I started reading, making plans. Almost 2 weeks prior to the trip, BD informed she has to travel for work on those dates & wont be able to make it.
Dishearten but with the tickets booked, payment done – I started looking for a new travel partner. Within 30 mins of posting it on FB, Dhanoo – my ex-colleague whom I had hardly interacted with when we used to work in the same organisation & with whom I had not spoken for atleast few years – pinged that’s she wishes to join me on the trip. And in less than 24 hours, she confirmed & I had a new travel buddy.
So Dhanoo became BD & boarded the Bhuj Express from Bandra with me. Since we had not even spoken to each other for few years, we had a lot to catch upon & the session went on till 2:30 am. We would have continued but thanks to the love we received from the co-passengers, we decided to call it a day.
“Chayeen Chayeen Chayeen……” was our wake-up call. After an amazing balancing act in the Indian Railway loo, we were fresh & ready for some breakfast.
While we were munching on our Vada Pav & salty samosa, we were offered some awesome khakhra by the gujju aunty travelling with us. Gujju’s & food go hand-in- hand. They are loaded with food, snacks when they are travelling.
It was almost 1:00 pm when we reached Bhuj. Walked out of the station & met the fellow womeniyaas. 43 women – across age groups, most of them meeting the other for the 1 st time – travelling together. I was a little skeptical & expected some sparks to fly.
Priti – a calm, soft spoken young lady – the organiser of the trip welcomed us & requested us to head to the hotel in Toofan – a 10 seat elongated jeep.
Hotel Shiv Lake was our abode for the next 3 nights. Absolutely basic yet clean room with 2 single beds, TV, a cupboard & bathroom. On the agenda was exploring Bhuj & a visit to Bhujodi – The Craft’s Village. A quick change & freshening up session later, we were on our way to Viram Garden restaurant for lunch. A buffet including – dal, subzi, rice, roti, chaas, etc was arranged in the garden of the restaurant. Meal was a great opportunity to meet the ladies. A non-frill, tasty meal was ended with few glasses of chaas.
Our 1st pit-stop was the Museum in Bhuj. A small, 2-storey museum which hosts exhibits showcasing the history of Kutch, scripts, weapons, various tribes, etc. If you are a history fan, a visit is recommended. A 5 min ride & we reached Prag Mahal Palace. The structures opposite the main mahal caught my attention. Broken & almost in ruins, these have some really intricate designs.
With the sunlight playing hide-n- seek, they appear beautiful & spooky at the same time. The clock tower welcomes you to the palace which has a very church kinda architecture. Inside the mahal is the main hall, the durbar hall & the clock-tower which has viewing gallery.
The main hall is a massive room with few furniture but nothing noticeable. The Durbar Hall on the other side left me surprised. A huge room with big chandeliers & statues close to the ceiling. The whole set-up left me a little confused – it has elements which are very Indian but the statue looks gothic/British (if I can say that) architecture. Either way, it’s beautiful. This is also the place where few scenes of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam & Lagaan have been shot.
A flight of stairs & you reach the base of the narrow spiral stairs that take you to the top of the Watch Tower which allows you to view the whole of Bhuj. Thanks to the kids who were on their picnic, I couldn’t manage to reach the top. Took a few stairs & let me tell you – it’s really narrow & kinda claustrophobic. But the view apparently is worth it. Aaina Mahal is located right next to Pragmahal but we couldn’t visit as it’s closed on Thursday.
Shree Swaminarayan Temple with its grand architecture, serene beauty & calmness leaves you spellbound. 15 min walking distance from Prag Mahal, this magnificent structure will catch your attention for sure. The whole temple is made of white marble with various sculptures, carved pillars & ceilings. While in the temple, few sections are out-of- bounds for women, so please be careful. Clean & well-maintained, sit here for a while to enjoy the peace. A must-visit for sure.
A long ride later, we reached The Craft’s Village.
With the Sun setting, hues of blue, orange spread across the sky. Well planned & maintained, this is spread over 10 acres of land. Many local artists showcase their wares; it’s a shopper’s paradise. From clothes to artefacts, home décor, hand-made saree, jewellery & much much more. We didn’t shop here much except for some brass bells. But on our way to the village, we passed many shops selling clothes, shoes. We stopped at one such shop to pick shawls. With ladies still shopping, few of us decided to head back to the hotel.
Dinner on the 1st night was street food. We walked around the hotel, near the Bhuj Bus Stand to taste panipuri, the famous Kutchi Dabeli & Dahi Wada. I am a BIG pani puri fan, so we decided to try the plain pani puri, which meant it has only 1 pani (spicy water). The Kutchi Dabeli was priced for Rs 6/- with an amazing filling. The Pav/Bun was a little sweet. Dahi Wada was chilled & absolute Value For Money for Rs 30/- Loved it.
On our way back from the Bus Station, we came across this young man serving pani puri with 7 types of pani & decided to give it a try. We thoroughly enjoyed this experience. A malai kulfi & conversation later, we called it a day.
It was the full moon night 😀
The breakfast was served on the terrace of the hotel. I was tad disappointed to see Medu-Vada being served. Being in the Gujju land, I expected some dhokla, fafda, khandvi, etc for breakfast. Taking note of our disappointment, we were promised a Fafda-jalebi breakfast the next day. A quick breakfast & we boarded our Bus. Bharat Bhai, an ex-army person was our guide for the day. A round of introduction & a loud “Ganpati Bappa Morya” we started our journey to Nirona – a village near by to meet some local artists & appreciate their art. Our 1st stop was at Husen Saab’s workshop of handmade Copper Bell Art. We had the opportunity of watching a strip of iron being converted into a bell. Across various shapes-sizes, these bells look simple & pretty. But until, I saw the process of making them, I was clearly not aware of the effort that goes into making them. So next time, if anyone tells me its HAND-MADE, I don’t think I will bargain. From here we moved to the Khatri residence to know about National Award Winning Rogan Art. This is the only family that practices this art. A young member of the Khatri family which has been preserving this art over few generations, started by explaining the method of preparing Rogan – the sticky paste made with Castor Oil which goes through heating & cooling process a few times. The paste is then coloured using pigments & then the magic begins.
With the help of a metal stylus, the artist scoops the stick castor oil mix & starts free-hand painting. To replicate the design, he just folds the cloth when the design is still not set. This is used for wall arts, stoles, dupatta’s, etc but “Tree Of Life” the most intricate design steals the show. BTW Mr Modi has presented this piece of beauty –Rogan Art to Mr Obama.
Kalo Dungar which literally translates to “Black Mountain” was our next destination. Almost 2 hours later we reached the highest point in Kutch. I had never had a camel ride & it was here we met “Salman Khan” our camel who was supposed to take us close to the Kalo Dungar’s viewing area (if I may call it that). But just a few steps & cough or sneeze later, Salman decided to just sit almost throwing us off. From there on we decided to climb the slope. In bright sunlight, we could see a panoramic view of the Great Rann of Kutch. We could also see a tiny Indira bridge which connects us to the Pakistan border. Our next stop was at this bridge & thanks to Bharat Bhai, who served at this post during his tenure we had the privilege of meeting few BSF officers & sing our National Anthem there. What an amazing feeling!!!!!
It was time to head for our date with the moon. Once we reached the main entrance of the Rann Utsav, most of the ladies decided to take the Camel-Cart ride to reach the actual dessert. We on the other hand decided to take the long walk. Almost 1.5 km’s later, all we could see was White Land. With the sun shining bright, it was the perfect time to walk around & click pictures. 43 women posing, pouting – making the best of the amazing white backdrop & light. Chunks of Salt get stuck to the shoes, making it heavy & a tad difficult to walk.
Have seen a few sunset’s but this was something else. A big orange coloured ball started disappearing & bang opposite to that the moon started making its presence felt.
It was like watching a tennis match – the sun going down on my left & the moon brightening on my right. Matter of few minutes & the big orange ball disappeared leaving the night sky to the Full Moon. Slowly & steadily, from a thin silver film to its complete glory, the moon shined bright 🙂
We walked & walked & walked…. Beautiful. All I wanted to do was stare at the moon. The moonlight reflects on the salt & glitters. Honestly, it was one of the most serene experience you can have. Soon, it was time to head back to the hotel. But before heading back, we had a stop-over at the Rann Utsav Village’s Craft Bazaar. A small trip, little shopping & a bus ride later, we were at our hotel looking forward to a good night’s sleep.
Fafda-Jalebi was served for breakfast as promised.
An early start, gujju breakfast later we were on our way to Mandavi. Don’t remember quite much as I had dozed off….
1st stop was the Vijay Vilas Palace – The summer palace of King Of Kutch located close to the sea. What seemed like a walk through the jungle is the path you need to take to reach the place. Thick greenery everywhere was a delight to the eyes. “Sameer Hawa Ka Jhonka” were the 1st words that popped in my head when i saw the top floor. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was shot here….. The palace architecture has many elements – marble flooring, beautiful windows, spiral staircases, intricate designs on the walls, an open terrace, a garden, fountains & much more. The palace not being crowded & well maintained than others, we took complete liberty of spending some leisure time. After innumerable sessions of boomerangs, we decided to head to the Mandavi beach. The beach was nice but we didn’t stay there for long.
What happens when 43 hungry women reach a restaurant for lunch already buzzing with people??? CHAOS….. But it was absolutely worth it. The Thaali at Toral – Hotel Prince was one of the best thaali’s I have had. SO MUCH FOOD…..
Stuffed completely, it was time to say goodbye to Bhuj. With all of us travelling in the same train back home, we knew the fellow passengers were in trouble 🙂 From moving in-between compartments, loud conversations & laughter, we headed back home.
Dhanoo – Thanks for being a great travel buddy, room-partner & co-jhalli. Looking forward to travelling with you again.
The 7 Wonders – I wish I am half enthusiastic, positive, full of life as you guys are when I reach your age. You guys were amazing!!!!
To all the mom’s – You guys are an inspiration. Being a wife, mother, professional – you still manage to take time for yourself which is really important.
My fellow womaniya’s – Thank you so much for your lovely company.
Preeti – Last but not the least. How do you manage to stay this calm? Completely impressed by the way you managed everything & ensured we all had a great time. Already planning my next break with you.