Saturday, October 17, 2015

Episode 2 : Western India
Ep. 2 Part
4: A modified plan and visit to an ancient City in ruins.

Woke up late today by 8.30 around and packed our bags and got ready. I kinda have mentally decided to visit Dholavira and told this to Sid. Even Sid had the same thoughts as it seems. So once the decision is made, now it's time to celebrate that by having breakfast clear.png.. Had a nice heavy breakfast and we started our journey again. Oh , before that we need to feed our chariot too. Went to the HP fuel station next to Hotel KBN for Diesel. And again, few guys came to us at the station, "Kaunsi movie ki shoot ho rahi hai?" (which movie is getting shot?). I was like why they are asking us and how would we know clear.png. Then they pointed to the camera/lighting equipment on our boot. Wanted to give them an imaginary movie name but refrained. clear.png
Just at the outskirts of Bhuj is the "Bhujodi", a place created for the artisans/craftsman of Kutch region to make and sell their handicrafts. It's an interesting place to visit. Although when we reached there, many of the shops/workshops were not open yet, as it was just start of the day. Did a bit of shopping there, clicked a few pics and moved on after an hour.
This Lady in her local attire was very fascinating person to shoot. She actually have told us that many people have take her photograph and she is used to getting clicked..

A loom at one of the workshops in the place. Would've loved to see the weavers working on it but we had a hard luck that day. Waited for sometime but without any luck,

Another view of the loom. These were different then the ones I've seen in my place.

Metal works at Bhujodi. I loved those bells/windchimes. Bought couple of them for my home,

Another one of the interesting metal bellworks.. (didn't notice the shake in the photograph till I opened it later in my comp)

We initially thought that it won't take much time to reach Dholavira. But we underestimated the distance and also took a different route which appeared shorter on map but ended up taking a lot more time than expected. The route suggested was via Bhachau-Samkhiyali-Chitrod-
Rapar. But we saw a different route just before reaching Bhachau and that connects at Rav-moti (Meghpar-Kharoi-Ramvav-Suvai-Ravmoti). The road was narrow for most of the journey and just not possible to maintain any kind of decent speed.
Yes, we atleast spotted a camel sawari during this day long journey,

By the time we actually reached the bridge over the Great Rann it was already past 4PM. But the view of the Rann made it worthwhile for sure. This is what I was having in my mind when I wanted to see the Rann. An endless carpet of white spread over miles and miles. It almost feels like a snow covered sea. This probably was the best view of the whole Gujarat section that we have visited.
The beasty enjoying the White Desert,

Road/bridge to Khadir bet thru the white dessert. It was white till the eyes can see. I was expecting to witness the white desert and this is the place which fulfilled the wish,

Next in line was Dholavira itself. We reached Khadir bet after crossing the bridge on the white desert. But Dholavira was turning out to be elusive. The light was fading fast and we were worried that we might not even be able to see anything. Tried my best to reach there before the Sun goes to sleep and we were there after an hour. It seems we were the last visitors for the day. Talked to a guide who agreed to take us around. It was already 5.45pm and we didn't had much time to explore around. But what we've seen from the ancient civilization was enough for us keep our mouths wide open. The way they've planned the city, the underground waterways, the huge door hinges which looked almost like machine-finished were astonishing. I wondered how advanced actually those ancient civilizations were and have actually not progressed as much as we believe to be. It surely was an eye-opener for us.

Entering the ruins of a great City of the years unknown. The planning of this ancient city really surprised us,

One of the water reservoirs near the entrance of the city. It seems there was a canal/river flowing next to the city. They've engineered an way to catch the water and make it fill the reservoirs.

Entering the main compound area of the walled city,

One of the main door hinges. That piece was so smooth that it felt like it was machined.

One of the water channels of the city. .The whole city is networked with lots of such channels,

Some of the living quarters of the city. All it remains are the ruins,

I'm unable to recollect what this structure was. Probably was a granary,

Our guide,

Sid capturing the setting sun over the Great Rann from the Ruins of DholaVira,

We would've loved to spent a bit more time there. But it was already getting darker and time to move out. We had a long way to go to our next destination. But by this time all hopes of going till Jaisalmer was abandoned and we decided to drive as long as possible to till 9.30/10PM and then call it a day. So that also meant that we could spend a bit more time on the bridge over GRK and capture the white desert at moonlight. And so we did, we took some moonlit photographs of the white desert on our way back and left the place by around 8.30pm. I wish I could've take some light streaks of cars traveling on that road but within those 2 hours just two cars passed by on that road clear.png Great Rann is surely a desolate place.

The Scorpio stood guard while we tried to capture the white desert on a moonlit day.. Oh yeah, another dream come true. The view of the white desert on a moonlight is surely a stuff made of wonders.

The almost failed attempt to capture a light trail. One of the buses that crossed the road while we wait for hours,

Now after the shoot of white desert it was time to have our dessert, err I mean dinner and dessert. Again a dhaba which I don't even remember where came to our rescue. Next task was to find a place to stay overnight. It was already very late and we were in no mood to travel all night. We could've but we wanted to travel by daytime so that we can see the places around. By 10.30-11pm around we reached Radhanpur and this basically was the place where we should take the turn to go to Jaisalmer. We had no idea where to stay as this was not a very known place. But luckily Google Baba helped us again and Sid was able to find a place to stay. It was a nondescript hotel called Hotel Sagar but we were not complaining. We needed a place to sleep for the night and we hit the sack as soon as we get into the room. The Land of the Kings awaits us tomorrow..


Thursday, September 03, 2015

Ep 2 Part 3 : To touch the Westernmost Tip of India

Episode 2 : Western India
Ep. 2 Part 3
: To touch the Westernmost Tip of India

After last night's late arrival I was in no mood to wake up early. So decided to sleep till I got a kick from Sid to wake up. We were late and decided to skip the brunch and instead head out first and have food enroute.
Today's main attraction is Koteswar which is supposed to be the western most point of India. I've kinda touched Northern and Southern tips before and now wanted to touch Western and Eastern tips of India. So the plan is to start with the easy one ie the West. I was blabbering all about these when Sid was like, 'salle khane ka soch pehle" (trans: Think about breakfast first dude). He was right, we were hungry.
By the time we reached Nakhatrana, all the rats and cats and whatever in our stomachs were running around. "Fun n Foods" at Nakhatrana did throw a surprise on us with it's menu, it had everything from Punabi, Chinese, South Indian :)O) and even Italian :O. Although we decided to play it safe with Chole Batura. Not sure if it was the empty stomach but it was lip-smacking. We kinda instantly decided to have the dinner there while returning.
Again the same desolate and sunny roads. Sometimes we wondered how hot would these places be during summer time. I surely don't wanna be here during summer. As always the roads were good, even the small state roads. I really wondered if there is any bad stretch of road here in Gujarat. We we will find out soon.

Long Desolate roads of Gujarat,

Reached Lakhpat around 3.30pm, it was still very sunny, luckily not too hot. We entered the fort and went to one of the watch towers. It was manned by few BSF guys. One could see the vast expanses of the Rann from there. It seems the border is just a couple of kms ahead. In fact we could see a road that leads to the border from the watch tower.

Our black chariot err the Scorpio invading the Lakhpat Fort,

There used to be a Canon there long time ago,

A temple in the middle of nowhere,

Would've been nice to see the fort in fading light of the Sun but we had another destination to cover for the day. Was wondering how it would be to shoot (photographs of course) this fort when the Sun is fading on the horizon. Not sure if it's allowed to go down to the other side ie near the Rann. But may be that's for some other time and now Koteswar awaits us for the Sunset today. So we left the Fort and headed towards the Western-most point of India.

Soon enough we were there, it was around 5.30pm and Sun was slowly into it's decent to take rest for the day. I am not exactly the temple goer kind of guy, so decided to hold my base around the viewpoint area of the promenade. Setup the tripod and oh boy, it was a mistake to do that. Some people were too inquisitive once they saw the tripod and were bugging me like anything. Sid decided to scoot off in another direction and left me fend the barrage of questions. I can't understand why people are so interested to know the price of the gear:p

The view of the Koteswar Temple,

The Temple, the lighthouse and the moon in the same frame :)

A closeup of the temple,

The lighthouse on the beach a bit far,

We've spent couple of hours there, clicking few pics of the place. As it always happen, the fading lights caste a lovely golden hue to the surroundings and I tried to capture another glorious sunset.

A ship farway in the fading sunset colors,

A boat marooned because of the tide perhaps,

Boats at low light,

Koteswar temple at night,

Decided to leave the place by 8PM around. The return journey was uneventful, apart from the fact that we couldn't take the route thru Nakhatrana and instead decided to stick to the Highway via Naliya. Food was on a dhaba somewhere near a place called Sanosara. Reached Bhuj a bit late and decided to hit the bed asap. Tomorrow we have long journey and plan is to reach Jaisalmer if we can start early. But we also thought about going to Dholavira as it was part of the original plan. Decided to decide in the morning where to go tomorrow..

Ep. 2 Part 2: Unity in Diversity, that's our India..

Episode 2 : Western India
Ep. 2 Part 2: Unity in Diversity, that's our India..

So, we have already seen the Little Rann, how would be the big brother ie Great Rann. But before that we have to traverse thru the roads of Gujarat and reach our next destination. Again, thanks to BCMT, HV Kumar and TBHP, the best option seems to be to camp at Bhuj. The distance was around 270km from Zainabad to Bhuj. We were pretty confident to reach Bhuj by 9.30pm with a start time of 4.30pm. But as it always happen, we underestimated the circumstances. Twice we took wrong turns and only to stop and take U-turns to get back on the correct route. Once we actually were pointing the exactly the opposite direction from Bhuj. Thanks to MapMyIndia and Google Maps combo who tried to have some fun clear.png. Oh, BTW, this was not the only time that this duo has played with us. This awesome twosome had made us miss dinner while scrambling around to find the exact route. If something that we've learnt then it's not to trust technology blindly.
By the time we reached Hotel KBN (thanks for the recommendation by HVKumar) it was already 11.00pm and the kitchen was closed. We were already tired and decided to just have biscuits/snacks that we normally carry around in the car. The hotel was pretty decent and was easy on pocket. The next day's plan was to have a heavy breakfast and visit the Great Rann at Dhordo and the other nearby places.

Bhuj-Khavdaa-Kala Dungar-GRK-Bhuj
So we thought we would have a normal breakfast at a normal hotel. But it seems the owner of Hotel KBN have some kind of love for aircrafts. And we were surprised to see an Airliner themed restaurant at our disposal. Don't believe me? See it for yourself. We just couldn't help our giggles while we were there. BTW, breakfast was pretty decent too. Aah, another thing, it was actually a heavy brunch as we again decided to wake up late clear.png:p

No, we didn't take a flight to Bhuj, :p

After the mock Airlines food we decided to move on to see the Great Rann. The roads were empty and so were the lands. When one comes from a City like Bangalore, so much of open space really feels surreal. Miles after miles passed by without seeing a soul and we started wondering what would Bangalore Land Mafias would do if they see so much of land up for grabbing :p clear.png

At the end of the those desolate and straight roads lay ahead the India Bridge, the last point that that a civilian is allowed to go unless he have some special permission. We neither had any special permission nor had any intention to go there. The BSF jawan told us the same and I just started a conversation with him. Found out that he is from Assam and from Dhubri district. Well, it surely feels nice to meet someone from my own state. You know, we Indians do that, ie to find out people who are from same place as we are and feel amazed. As if it's some kind of miracle clear.png. After a bit of chit chat, mostly about the new firearm that he was using we decided to move on. CAn't remember exactly but it was of Israeli origin I think. Yes, we guys have some kind of fascination for fire-arms, thanks to the video games clear.png:p
Next destination was Kala Dungar, the highest point of Rann. The Sun was still high up and it was not very convenient to shoot. But I did like the view of the almost endless Rann from Kala Dungar. We couldn't wait till the jackals come out for their food as we wanted to catch up with the setting Sun at Dhordo.

Viewpoint at Kala Dungar,

Returning from Kala Dungar,

On the way we met some bovine friends and oh boy, they were majestic. As per ritual we've named them "Dabangs of Kutch" :p

And some ingenious jugaad public transport system of those areas, a bullet converted to a three wheeler.

A little roadblock by another type of Dabangs of a different family,

Soon we reached the turn for Dhordo at Bhirandiara. I forgot to mention that one need to put an entry here at the Tourism center before heading towards either Kala Dungar or Dhordo. There was a small fees also that need to be paid. On the way we could see the few resorts that have come up. I guess all thanks to the Rann-Utsav. We soon entered the Dhordo after showing our entry pass at the entry check-point which is manned by BSF. Well, basically the whole route was one dust bowl instead of the white dessert that I've initially expected. We soon reached a point from where there were no more roads but only endless empty spaces as far as eyes can see. It does feel a bit a different to see such a vast area. But we were a bit disappointed as the water haven't completely dried up and the area was more of patches of salt instead of a white desert that we've expected. Basically it's the salt which remains there after the water evaporates and creates the white desert. It seems Jan-Feb is the time when the water completely dries up and wraps the place in a white spread.

Wish it was white instead of muddy white, but still a beautiful sunset..

Some unknown factory on the other side,

Scorpio at the end of the world. One of those places which would say, "turn back, you can't proceed even if you are a Scorpio".

Other tourists returning from Dhordo,

But we decided to wait for some more time to capture a bit more. Not everyday we visit the Great Rann,

We wanted to spend some more time. But we were not sure till what time it's allowed to be there and we were the last to leave. We came up till the checkpoint and asked the BSF guys. They were like, you have the permit so you can stay as long as you want clear.png And as usual we started our small talk with the guys there. Even they were pretty amused to see a Karnataka registered vehicle there. Their commander taken a bit more interest in us as we have traveled a long way. Soon he invited us to have some drinks and food with them. We had some Pune Bhakarwadis with us which we delightfully shared with them. One thing led to another and voila, I again found out another state-mate. clear.png Actually this time basically the commander found out that I am from Assam and he become super happy. He started talking to me in Assamese and it was me who got surprised. As it turned out, he is from Meghalaya but he is an Assamese guy. But the more interesting fact was that we've met 3 more Jawans, one from Jammu, one from Andhra and one from West Bengal. It was really amusing to find people from 3 different corners ie North, South, East guarding a post on the Westernmost corner under a commander from NorthEast. Truly an example of unity in diversity and how amazing our country is.
Our initial plan was to leave Dhordo by 8-8.30PM around and have food en-route. But our new friends at Dhordo told us that we can't leave without having dinner with them. After saying no couple of times we had to give in. So there we were, two nondescript IT engineers having their best ever dinner at an armed force tent, under the starlights in a different corner of India. Man, I still remember the taste of the daal makhani, they really have some good cook. [BTW, this was just the beginning of the hospitality that we've received from our Armed forces during the trip.] We left for Bhuj around 11pm that day after loads of adda with the guys there, probably talking about everything on earth. Well, I have heard that travelers connect with people during their journeys. It did feel good to connect with complete strangers when on a trip. And on hindsight, I think this episode helped us in connecting with people in upcoming days.
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