February 4, 2015
Gujarat Tourism holds a cultural festival called the Rann Ustav at the salt desert, from December to the end of February each year. As part of the festival offering, luxury tents are set up near the Rann at Dhordo. We wanted to check out the festival, but found the packages offered way over budget. Instead we opted to spend the night in a **bunga at the Gateway to Rann Resort. The resort is right next to the festival area, a short drive from the white desert, and a great stay option. Permits are required to visit the salt flats. These can be easily obtained at the Bhirandiyara village checkpoint. When in this village, do sample their famous *mawa. These permits are single entry only.
I very badly wanted to see the white rann sparkling on a full moon night. As luck would have it, our visit to Kutch coincided with the full moon. I planned and plotted, but it was just not going to be feasible for us to be there on the night of the full moon. We were going to be there the night after. I realized this would not be so bad because, the illumination would be just as bright, and we could escape the tourist hordes. During the day,the merciless bright light reflected from the stark white plains can be blinding, and the best time into the rann is either early morning or evening.
As we waited for the sun to set, we walked out into the desert as far as we could. The Rann Utsav has its own entrance to the desert, even so there were several others where we were. In recent years, the festival has become increasingly commercialized. Its popularity has, unfortunately, resulted in dirtying and polluting the area.ATV tracks crisscross the rann like salt routes once crisscrossed the globe. Camel dung and paan stains mar the beauty of the glittering crystals. I wonder if there could not be a good way to control this. People could be asked to wear shoe covers before stepping on to the salt. The shoe covers could be made mandatory and supplied at a reasonable cost. I quickly see the flaw in this plan. The area is too vast to control entry and ensure compliance. All is not lost though. There is a concrete ramp extending far out. It didn’t strike us until much later, when we were sitting at the end of the ramp waiting for the sun to set that we could have simply walked down the ramp, instead of trampling all over the place with our dirty shoes. Thankfully, we were more sensitive and sensible on our way back. If you plan to visit, I strongly suggest that you use the ramp. Also, people seemed to be allowed only on one side of the ramp. There was no one on the other side, either for ecological reasons or out of safety concerns. The Rann of Kutch extends into the Sindh province of Pakistan.
As the day drew to a close, the fair earth blushed and turned rose pink as the sleepy sun kissed her goodnight. The last rays of light lingered on, like a lover unwilling to part. When the moon finally made an appearance it was small and yellow, like a round of pockmarked Emmental, but as it rose it got bigger and brighter. Looking at it, the capricious earth started to preen and smile again.
* mawa – a sweet made by reducing and thickening milk
**bunga – rooms built to look like traditional huts