Wednesday, February 3, 2016

White Rann Kutch

White Rann

This seems to be a natural phenomenon where the salt in winter hardens and turns into salt dessert. From Wikipedia :The Great Rann of Kutch is a seasonal salt marsh located in the Thar Desert in the Kutch District of Gujarat, India and the Sindhprovince of Pakistan. It is about 7,505.22square kilometres (2,897.78 sq mi) in size and is reputed to be the largest salt desert in the world. This area has been inhabited by theKutchi people.

The name "Rann" comes from the Hindi word ran (रण) meaning "desert".

Malsi Rann Homestay
First night was at Malsi Rann homestay. You will observe and they will probably share that all the huts are circular shaped. It seemed during the devastating kutch earthquake in 2001. These huts are called Bhunga ( and the circular structures stayed more intact then all the other structures e.g. sharp edges.

This seems both observations post-earthquake and advice given by visiting Japanese researchers. You can google a decent amount of literature about this among others  does validate this. Traveling is always a good eye opener. The elders thought process might have either been a coincidence or will thought observations and past experience.

Another interesting thing to note is that the huts walls are mostly made from mud, which works as an excellent climate control in both chilling winter and scorching summer. We stayed there in cold winter and yes the huts were not freezing. Outside the huts was really cold, and the bonfire was a nice warm touch.

Also they shared that the roofs were made with dry grass and a layer of plastic below with wood support. Dried grass is a premium here. And guess what the best wood they say is called Malaysia wood. They didn't know specifically which type, we've got a number of famous trees namely Jati, Cengal and even the very eco-friendly Rubber Wood (from rubber trees)
Hihi this seems to have turned into some civil engineering geography write up.

Now to the stay and experience. This was one of the best homestays. They were very hospitable, friendly, sat and chat with us, and prepared some of the best food.

At night they make a bonfire and seat around it with you, chit chat and share their stories. They have very strict cultural practices but seem open to outsiders / visitors.
Meals are included in the package. So inform before hand if you require less spicy, as Kutch food does seem to on the spicier side. Malsi bhai knows basic English to get around.

One thing that took me time to understand is that it seems there is a rule of thumb that if your driver comes along for the night, they provide basic accommodation and maybe meals (same for Rajasthan).

What we did is got a driver for the day, visited a few places and asked to be dropped off at Malsi Rann. But make sure to make prior arrangements with Malsi bhai if he can take you to the white desert for sunrise and then kaloo dungar (Black Hill). Especially true if you took the one night package with Rannutsav which means sunrise and kaloo dungar is not included. Otherwise maybe take a driver for two days. We initially opted for one night at Rannutsav due to it being way to expensive. And things turned out for the better as we experienced Malsi Rann. Even our driver initially thought we were making things complicated but it was all worth it.

One question that comes up is it necessary to do both Sunrise and Sunset. If you have some spare time and cash yes well worth it.

Do note there seems to be two main areas for viewing / experiencing the white dessert and Malsi Rann took us to another one compared to Rannutsav organizers. The one Malsi took us had a better overall open and vast uncivilized view, but you couldn't walk way to far as the salt started getting soft, like quick sand. 

But the pictures and view are better - you judge. But this spot might not be suitable for larger crowds.

Rannutsav took us to a slightly different spot which was beautiful but there were too many structures like tents, fences that spoils the view. I'm not sure if this obstructions are a norm or was there to an event they were hosting at that time (Gujarat chief minister visit).

Getting a vast open view with the sun on one side and the moon on the other is something.

Rannutsav does offer good cultural shows and a fare of locally crafted goods. But staying only one night would limit your time. WIFI coverage was limited only to the main area and intermittent. No wifi at lodging camps.

Though the event was overall well organised, I found it difficult to get email responses. Calling probably would have yielded better results if you are already in India. One of the things they are not clear about is around what time will you be dropped off at either the Railway Station or the Airport. So what I've figured so far is of you skip the complimentary sight seeing during drop off you could reach the train station at 1pm. Not sure how far is airport. If you are returning via bus then you'll have to take the auto rickshaw to the bus stand. If you go for the 3 complimentary sites namely Aina Mahaal, Sri Swami Narayanan temple and the art craft Bhujodi, maybe by 3.30pm.

All in all kudos to the Gujrat Tourism, organisers and all.



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