April 12, 2013

Magic that is Kutch

I wrote this piece more than 3 years ago,at the time when photography was something alien to me. Today , I can re-post it accompanied by my recent photographs. After 2009, I have visited Kutch many times and its magic still holds for me. I recently visited, very briefly, Sham-e-Sarhad resort,again after break of three years. It is still a special place to stay.

December 2009

Had enjoyable though short business trip to Kutch recently. I had visited Kutch some 15 years ago.I loved it than. I was wary about effect of earthquake on Kutch's topography and culture. But I was pleasantly surprised. It was the same Kutch I knew before. I fell in love with it once again.

We started from Ahmedabad around 7 in the morning. As we left Ahmedabad's clogged suburbs behind us, landscaped changed. I could see fields all around me,though not so Green as harvesting of crop was already over. As we neared Saurashtra region it started getting arid. Slowly landscape became flatter and flatter with hardly any greenery around. We stopped on the way at Limbdi for breakfast at new roadside restaurant "Riviera". There were more restaurant options like good old "Avantika" (now quite run down)and newly opened "Honest".Food was good and reasonable. We passed through Chotila,Wankaner and Morbi on the way to Kutch. Road from Wankaner to Morbi is a nightmare for any motorist. Road condition is good and it is four lane road. Problem lies with commuters who uses all lanes for two way traffic creating dangerous conditions for anyone driving on this road. I sat on edge of my seat through out this patch.Wankaner's imposing palace was visible from far away. From miles away from Morbi one could see tiles factories on both sides of the road. Morbi is major tiles producer of the world.



Soon we entered Kutch district. Entry point Surajbari is an amazing place.View at Surajbari is captivating to say the least.Road passes through salt marshes which gives illusion of snow fall. Beyond salt marshes one could see hundreds of windmills creating unusual,picture postcard scenery.I find this place fascinating.Crumbling old Surajbari bridge damaged as a result of earthquake is now being repaired.






Soon we crossed Samkhiali and Bhachau. From Bhachau, you can choose to go to Bhuj either via Anjar or can go straight to Bhuj via Dhamdaka. Anajar road is express highway which goes right up to Kandla while the other one is single lane (though wide enough) road. We preferred the later one as it was shorter and much less crowded.Road was not as good as the one we took from Ahmedabad to Bhachau but good enough to travel on.We reached Bhuj around 2. After quick Gujarati lunch at famous Prince Hotel,we went to Police Commissionaire's office.One needs permission to visit certain border areas in Kutch.Till last year only foreigners needed this permit but after 26/11 it is needed even for Indian citizens.One has to fill up the form and give identity proof like copy of driving licence or passport etc.Once you fill up the form it is scrutinized by police personnel and you are given permission to visit restricted area. One has to specifically mention names of the villages or area one wants to visit. Restricted areas have army presence and your permit will be checked by army on your way back. If you do not have permit there are chances that you and your vehicle may be detained. It took us around half hour to get the permit. It is essential to keep photocopy of your identity proof handy.

We had made booking for our stay at "Shaam-e-Sarhad" eco-resort near Hodka,good 60 kms away from Bhuj. We left Bhuj for Hodka around 3.30. Hodka is situated in Banni,famous grassland of Kutchh. Once we left Bhuj, we could see vast expanse of land covered with grass,Gando Baval etc.One can see as far as eye could reach,as land is quite flat. Road to Hodka was good with hardly any traffic. Only occasional vehicle passed by. There are hardly any villages on the way. So if you car has a breakdown it will be sometime before you will get any help. 


                This is a recent photo,I took of some installation,reflected in the mirage.What a sight it was!!


We reached our resort around 5. In time to see perfect sunset. This resort is maintained and run by people of Hodka village. It has 4 mud Bhungas (huts) and around 7-8 tents.


                        Photo: Bhungas at Sham-e-Sarhad



We stayed in Bhungas. They are decorated with mirror-work and clay work. Interior of Bhunga is basic and has rustic feel and yet comfortable.Even in cold winter it provided enough warmth. Bathroom is just outside in another Bhunga which is attached to main Bhunga. Bathrooms has all modern amenities.Only vegeterian food is served at the restaurant. Bed tea is served in the morning at your Bhunga. Breakfast,Lunch and dinner are buffet style. Gujarati and Kutchi food is served at Lunch and dinner. I found food bland. May be they keep foreigner's taste in mind. We were not charged for many additional cups of tea we had. Service was good. Unavailability of running hot water was a problem in cold weather.Though on demand they immediately provided with bucket of hot water. At night taps ran dry in the bathroom which was another major irritant.Apart from these few minor irritants , this place had a magical quality to it. I would recommend it to all travelers to Kutch. One night stay at this place would make you aware about what Kutch is all about. 






At night,It was a wonderful experience to relax under millions of stars away from hustle and bustle of the city life. We reclined on bed put around bone fire and listened to folk music by very talented singers from Hodka village. All perfect recipe for a good night's sleep.


Electricity went off at night for around 2 hours.And there was complete peace.

Next Day I got up very early to enjoy beautiful sunrise. Ideal time and place to meditate. One can hear ringing of cow bells somewhere in background from far away village. Sometimes even a cry of a child can be heard. Bed tea was served at pre-indicated time. Each bhunga had nice seat out from where one can enjoy and immerse oneself with nature in the peaceful atmosphere of early mornings.



Breakfast was served in the dining area. Bread Butter,tea,coffee,fruits and Bataka Poha. Breakfast was nothing to write home about.


They also have nice little shop selling produce of artisans of Hodka Village.

All in all commendable efforts by people of Hodka.






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