On day 2 of the trip, after seeing the sights in and around Bhuj, we set out for Dhordo at the border of the Great Rann. En route even with some stops at local villages to see various crafts, we managed to do the 150 odd kilometers (red route) in good time and reach the destination by 4 o’clock. Even in these remote regions, with very little traffic, the roads were excellent ( a theme I will keep coming back to!). We checked into the Tourism facility – just adjacent to the Rann Festival. The festival only takes package bookings, which did not suit us – we were staying only for one night. The accomadation in these places in in the traditional Bhunga huts.
Soon after, we drove the couple of kilometers to the edge of the Rann. Rann means desert and this is the largest salt desert in the world – a never ending white flat land. During the monsoons the desert of salty clay, which is about 15 meters above sea level, fills with standing water. It gets converted into a large shallow marsh, extending well into Pakistan. However, because of the poor monsoons for the last couple of years, it is completely dry at this time. And words or my camera cannot capture the flatness….. and the size. It has to be seen and experienced.
While we were waiting for the sunset, a group of young, lively girls on a school trip from Bhuj got talking to us. They were Class XI students, daughters of farmers of remote villages who were staying in a hostel in Bhuj town to study. They were in the hostel from Class VIII as there were no high school close to their villages. Totally free, uninhibited they had lots of questions for us and shared their supply of ‘farsans’ (local munchies, popular in Gujarat) with us. Their bright faces and confidence provided a wonderful interlude.
Day 3 – After rising early to see the sunrise and taking a basic breakfast of chai and puri/sabzi, we set off for Dholavira (a good 300 Km, the green line in the map). With a shopping break in Bhuj, which we had to go through, we made it to the Forest Guest House by 4 PM. They had just finished the Run the Rann Ultra Marathon, which has been organized here for the second year. After a quick wash, we set off to the excavation site. Again my pictures cannot do justice to the site – it is the largest of the Indus Valley sites in India. And I cannot find the words to convey the feeling, just standing there amidst those 3000 year old structures. There is also a fairly decent museum, displaying the excavated material – although the National Museum In Delhi has a better collection of the finds.
But the highlight of the evening was the visit to the Petrified forest – a Jurassic age fossil park. Maybe it was just their age (187-167 million years) or the fact that I had not heard of these and hence they came as a surprise, but it was awesome.
Finally, another glorious sunset on the Rann and we were ready for dinner and a good nights sleep.
I must also offer a line of appreciation and gratitude to the Border Security Forces (BSF) – their presence was very evident. The harsh conditions they serve under can be really appreciated when you see them at these places. I had similar feelings about the ITBP on my Mansarovar trek. Sitting in the comforts of our drawing rooms, most of us take our safety and security for granted!!