Our car was heading towards Kalo Dungar, the highest point in Kutch in the state of Gujarat in India. Parched lands with little to no vegetation spread out on both sides of the highway. Inside the air conditioned car, we sat overwhelmed by all the experiences we have had in one and a half days in Gujarat.
(Trying to plan a trip to Kutch? Click to read this guide on White Rann, Nirona and Bhuj)
The way from Nirona village to Kalo Dungar conforms to the usual topography of Kutch region — barren lands. But, there are two interesting features in this route which excite travellers. The Tropic of Cancer crosses this route and according to pictures on the internet, there should be a well labelled signboard to make the travellers aware of this fact. Our alertness quotient was down on this particular day and we unfortunately missed noticing it.
Next, there is a ‘magnetic hill’ on the way to Kalo Dungar. The place is well marked and we fortunately didn’t turn a blind eye to it. Magnetic Hills are generally gravity defying stretches of the mountain. Cars are observed to move uphill without their ignition on. We got out of the car in the middle of the road and stopped our car engine to observe the phenomena. The vehicle moved uphill on its own. Thankfully there was no traffic on the road and we peacefully ran the experiment with the car a number of times.
The popular opinion in the scientific community is that these typical magnetic hills are nothing more than a mere illusion. The downhill slopes wrongly appear uphill to the human eye due to the terrain and imparts a false notion of vehicles moving uphill. There is nothing ‘magnetic’ and any non-ferrous substance would move that way too.We should have tried pouring water on the road to observe in which direction it flows, but we gave it a miss and reserved the experiment for our next meet-up with yet another ‘magnetic hill’ somewhere in the world.
30 minutes later we reached Kalo Dungar. The place revolved around the Dattatreya temple. According to legend,Dattatreya offered his body to starving jackals at Kalo Dungar. But as the jackals were feasting over his mortal remains his body kept regenerating itself. Even to this day food is offered to the jackals by the priest of this temple daily.
The sting of the scorching Sun was soothed by the howling wind at Kalo Dungar. The humble temple was spotlessly clean with glass windows allowing oodles of natural light. A camel huffed and puffed as its owner pursued us to offer a ride. Bright red and blue tinged bandhni sarees fluttered in the air from a rope. The myriad hats, sandals, bags and fabrics sold in the stalls nearby put up a colour riot.
Five minutes of walking on the fenced trail from the temple brought us to the Kalo Dungar view point. An apocalyptic scene presented itself. The arid hills which run down to meet the shore of the Rann of Kutch Lake looked like ocean waves whose motion had been suddenly paused and coloured tawny. Wide sheets of white outlined the lifeless lake whose other end was not visible. On the other side of the hill the salt flats of the Rann lay bare, but it was hard to distinguish the land from the sky.
The melodious voice of a singer complemented the notes emerging from his Ravanhatha,a hand held musical instrument. It imparted a lively charm in stark contrast to the bizarre geography. Some tourists were busy bedecking themselves with a red turban, common in Rajasthan and Gujarat,for photo-ops by paying a price to a local hawker.
Gandhi-nu-Gam or Ludiya
Next up on our itinerary was Gandhi-nu-Gam or Ludiya, some 20 kilometres away from Kalo Dungar. Ludiya is a handicraft village with gorgeous mud huts known as bhungas. An aged lady wearing blue embroidered ghagra choli with heavy mirror works greeted us. Her earlobes were elongated from bearing the weight of huge earrings. Her nosering matched her earrings. Her hands were covered with bangles. Inside the bhunga she kept us engaged with the story of her ancestors’ migration from Rajasthan to Gujarat, all while trying to sell us an expensive piece of fabric.
We settled for two tiny dolls and set off for our final destination — the Great Rann of Kutch. The inhospitable, dry Kutch flatlands extended on both sides of the asphalt road over which our car was running. A swirling sand funnel accelerated parallel to us and finally met the road ahead of us. Our vision was blurred and our car moved into the nothingness of the dustcloud. We darted forward to the White Rann leaving behind the mini storm.
White Rann near Dhordo
It was the Rann Utsav’s second last day at White Rann. The tents were almost dismantled, the performers had left the stages and the festival was in a wrap-up mode. On the tall tower in the parking lot a crowd of people gathered to witness the sunset though sunset was still a good three hours away. The strong winds didn’t let our body lose a drop of sweat under the glaring Sun.
The astounding expanse of white merged with the horizon on all sides. It was early March and there was no trace of water on the salt flats. The salt crystals had hardened. Branding the White Rann ‘surreal’ would be an understatement. A celestial magnetism kept us enthralled. Our tripod was put to use to capture the quirky signature shots possible only on salt flats.
Facing the western sky, I spread my dupatta on the salt and parked ourselves over it. A drama started unfolding in the sky. Tufts of clouds veiled the Sun and its golden beams in the blue backdrop of the sky. Slowly the colours transformed. Now, the palette of sky was awash with a vermillion hue. Like a showstopper, the red Sun came out with all its glory.
Around 7’o clock, the Sun dipped below the horizon. In the last light of the day, the tourist camel carts returned, the ATV pliers headed towards parking, but we hardly moved. For a brief time the pitch black darkness got on my creative nerves. I dwelled on fantasy stories of salt monsters with fangs. Gradually, the stars and constellations revealed themselves. The twinkling light rays travelling through time reached us alright for the first time in months without the interference of blinding city lights.
We planned our visit to the Great Rann of Kutch to coincide the date with a full moon night. Unfortunately for us, the predicted time of the moonrise coincided with the departure time of our train from Bhuj. We left the salt flats with a promise to return next time for the magnificence of watching the full moon illuminating the salt.
Did you enjoy reading this piece? Tell me more about your experience in Kutch! Ask me anything related to travelling in Kutch! I will answer every query.