Kutchh – of Great Rann White Desert, Kalo Dungar Black Hills and Pingleshwar White Surf Beach

The road from Bhuj to Khavda is a smooth blacktop that goes straight like an arrow. You could put your car on cruise control and read a newspaper. But the Kutchh landscape is mesmerizing and you do not want to miss a thing. On an early morning you have set out from Bhuj to see the Great Rann of Kutch. Kalo Dungar or the Black Hills which is Kutch’s highest point provides the awesomest aerial view of the Rann.

Kutch - The Slogan

Kutch – The Slogan

Few days prior, you have to come to Ahmedabad. All you hope to see are a couple of local baolis and maybe the UNESCO heritage site of Champaner. Next morning you are in a Volvo bus gliding over Gujarat’s unbelievable roads to Bhuj. You cannot believe your luck. There is no way you are missing seeing the marshy sands of Rann of Kutch. You have seen Amitabh Bachchan walking the white sands with clothes fluttering and intoning “Kutchh nahin dekha? to kuch nahin dekha” – If you have not seen Kutch then you have not seen anything.

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Kutchh is the Rann.

In visuals you have seen it as white, featureless and stark landscape where not a blade of grass grows. Quick research of net has shown that you can enjoy two views of the Rann. First the aerial view from top of Kalo Dungar and the second is to actually walk on the white terrain at the same site where the annual Rann Mahotsav is held during full moon nights in winters.

It is May and it is hot. You have few hours only and have started early and are now racing north. The driver wants to take the car aerial but you have to keep reminding him that you want to see Rann only from a few hundred metres up and not all the way from the top!

Kutch - Tropic of Cancer

Kutch – Tropic of Cancer

Few months ago you wanted to cross Tropic of Cancer in MP and the wish remained unfulfilled. Your wish is granted but about 950 kms to the east. Just coming out of Bhuj you will see the board announcing the imaginary Tropic of Cancer passing through the road. You stop to take photos. A month later you will encounter the Tropic again in MP on your way to Sanchi from Bhopal.

Kutch - On the Way to Kalo Dungar

Kutch – On the Way to Kalo Dungar

Kalo Dungar - Lets  see who makes it first to the top

Kalo Dungar – Lets see who makes it first to the top

Kalo Dungar is about 90 kms from Bhuj.

Khavda is about 70 kms from Bhuj and serves as the check post for White Desert to which you will come back later. The land is increasingly becoming bleak. It is as if you are heading into nothing. For company you have the whistling wind.

Occasionally, there are patches of arid vegetation and settlements. Once in a while you are surprised by the colourful attire of the people. Kutch women resplendent in their multicoloured mirrorwork ethical wear and men predominantly wearing deep aquamarine pathan suits.

What surprises you the most is the number of robust domestic buffaloes you see here. They are everywhere. It is apparent that Amul’s white revolution is huge success in this part of country.

Kalo Dungar - Observation Deck

Kalo Dungar – Observation Deck

Kala Dungar - Highest Point in Kutch

Kala Dungar – Highest Point in Kutch

Going past Khavda the straight road takes you to India Bridge – the frontier point which leads into Pakistan. But you turn right. The breeze has suddenly picked up. You snake your way up the Kalo Dungar. The rocks are turning dark.

A canopy of dark clouds is forming on the top. Soon you reach the highest point of Kutch at 462 metres. An army post is built here. From the car park you hurry up the tourist friendly steps that take you to the top where few observation decks are built.

Great Rann of Kutch from Kala Dungar

Great Rann of Kutch from Kala Dungar

And then you see the first panoramic view of the Great Rann of Kutch. Spreading from west to East is a huge swathe of white. From the top it seems like a flowing river of milk. Maybe the milk from all the buffaloes you saw on the way is emptied here. This is the world’s largest salt desert.

The view is incredibly liberating. On the top of Kutch, with the wind blowing you peer down at vast nothingness of nature. Then you realize that there is no horizon. It has disappeared. The whiteness of Rann merges with the grey of sky. You have seen the horizon indistinguishable at the sea. But here on the land, it is amazing.

Kalo Dungar - Great Rann of Kutch

Kalo Dungar – Great Rann of Kutch

You want a closer look at the whiteness. You come down the deck and hang on the edge of the hill. There is something unrelenting about the Kutch breeze. Especially here on the top it has turned into a gale. You are billowing up like a balloon, with the wind threatening to lift you up and deposit below on the Rann.

You have to make efforts to keep the camera steady. Zoom shots are almost impossible. It is just you, the wind, the rapidly moving clouds and the white marsh below. India with its claustrophobic cities also offers nothingness. Here you feel standing on the ledge of the world with nothing beyond.

Great Rann of Kutch - India Bridge

Great Rann of Kutch – India Bridge

In the distance you can see the India Bridge connecting land masses over the channel that brings Rann of Kutch Lake water from the east to west.

Millions of years ago these hills were under the sea. The rocks still carry fossils of marine life. The flowing sea has receded into the distance leaving the salty marsh behind. You wish you had a couple of hours more to spend some time among the rocks to find those fossils. You spend some time just soaking it in and marvelling at it all.

Kalo Dungar - Dattatreya Temple

Kalo Dungar – Dattatreya Temple

Dattatreya Temple - Food Waiting for the Jackals

Dattatreya Temple – Food Waiting for the Jackals

Just across the parking lot is the 400 years old Dattatreya Temple. The legend goes that Dattatreya, the deity encompassing the Trinity of Brahm, Vishnu and Shiv was walking the earth when he came to Kalo Dungar. Here he found a band of starving jackals. He offered them parts of his body to eat and while the jackals ate his body continued to regenerate. Even today, the golden jackals come in the evening to the platform a little distance away to feed on the prasad and rice prepared by the priests.

Khavda - Kutch Police Post

Khavda – Kutch Police Post

Back at Khavda there is a Kutch Police Post. Here you fill a form, produce photo ID, pay for yourselves, the driver and the car and you are driving west on the way to White Desert. For fifteen kilometres you drive on an empty road interspersed with some vegetation and barren brown land. And then you hit the BSF post.

Your papers are checked and you are waved off to the parking lot. All around you is brown and black packed earth. But where is the White Desert? In the horizon you see a shimmer – there it is. The sun has come up and the coolness of Kalo Dungar is gone. A SUV full of people has arrived. They are not too keen for the trek to the White Desert under the hot sun. You cannot go back without walking on the white marsh. It is time to walk.

White Desert - Looking back towards the Car Parking

White Desert – Looking back towards the Car Parking

The wind intensity as compared to Kalo Dungar has lessened but it is continuous with no slack. The dry brown earth seems to be turning marshy. The sun has dried the top but just below you feel the wetness. Army truck tyres have made tracks where you can see the moisture. You are walking into nothingness. The BSF communication towers have disappeared in the horizon on east.

Great Rann of Kutch

Great Rann of Kutch

White Desert

White Desert

White Desert - Salt Marsh

White Desert – Salt Marsh

Just beyond it seems snow has fallen. The land is gradually turning white. The ground is scrunching under your soles. You bend to pick the white crystals. It seems like the packed ice of Wisconsin winters. But this is Rann and these are salt crystals. The entire landscape is unbroken white.

Again the sky seems to have melted into the whiteness. The horizon is gone. You have a fair idea how people feel when they stand on top of Arctic Circle – just whiteness and desolation all around. This time there is no escape for you. The second time this morning you have hit the edge of the world.

Great Rann of Kutch - Resort Cottages

Great Rann of Kutch – Resort Cottages

Clock ticks and reluctantly you begin your walk back to the car. On the way out, go through the resort with cottages. In December, the entire area is packed with tourists during the Kutch Utsav. Under a full moon lit sky, the glinting white desert will be a sight to behold. You know this wish will also come true.

Kutch - Road to Kothara

Kutch – Road to Kothara

Since you need to see different topographies of Kutch, this time you head out west. Down south there is a long sea coast but mostly it has industrial ports. You are looking for something quite and reclusive. Kothara is about 80 kms from Bhuj. The road again is a breeze. Just beyond Kothara is the Naliya Air Base.

On the way to Kothara you can see the Raho Fort perched on a hill on the left. It is reported that Lagaan was shot here. You are short on time. Waves beckon you and you give the fort a miss – cardinal rule number one broken.

Wind Mill

Wind Mill

Wind Farm

Wind Farm

Amazing View below the Wind Mill

Amazing View below the Wind Mill

From Kothara drive for another 18 kms west bound towards the sea. This is a season of wishes coming true. So far you had seen these huge wind mills churning on the hills way beyond your reach. You always wanted to stand below them to hear the blades slicing the air. Here on the flatland there are scores of windmills all the way to the beach. You cannot believe your luck.

You run to the nearest one just yards away from the road. You stand next to the tall pillar and look up to see the huge blades lazily revolving. Standing right below, the sound of the blades is kind of ominous. You just hope the blades do not choose this particular moment to drop on you. When you look up, the slicing blades and the moving clouds above are an unmatched sight – it is both exhilarating and eerie.

Pingleshwar Beach

Pingleshwar Beach

Pingleshwar Beach - White Surf

Pingleshwar Beach – White Surf

Going past the wind mills, you can smell the salt in air. Just like the bat droppings smell in the dark tombs, the smell of sea releases some feel good hormones in your blood supply. You think you can hear the lap of waves. There is a sand ridge in the distance.

You walk up the ridge to see one of prettiest beaches below. The waves churn up the whitest surf. Cool breeze blowing in from the sea powers the wind mills just beyond. Except for a couple of friendly dogs you have the beach to yourself. Looking at the pristine beach it is apparent that thankfully it does not get many visitors. The beach gets its name from the Pingleshwar Temple in the neighbouring village. You wish you could become a beach bum for a day.

Kutch is indeed special. Kutch gives you the space – whether it is on top of Kalo Dungar, or walking on the White Desert or the waves lapping at your feet on the Pingleshwar Beach. If you want to lose yourself in empty vastness of nothingness, come to Kutch. The Gujarat Tourism website describes Kutch with its surreal charm as a symphony of salt and stones cuddled by desert and the sea. The symphony leaves you in raptures.

40 Comments

  • Naturebuff says:

    Hi Nirdesh,

    A beautiful account of Kutch! The last two years in a row we have visited Gujarat (saurashtra) but haven’t managed to do the Kutch part. I want to do it leisurely and in the winters so we get to see the migrant birds too… Your post and pictures have brought the place alive and my desire to visit that area increased tenfold!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Nirdesh – It seems that you are now picking on all of us through these visually rich and textually liberating logs. In May, if you could walk on the white salt then I think you deserve to do this to us. Salute.

    It is very comforting to see good roads and other infrastructure (Kalo Dungar, Parking lots, even BSF). Insha Allah, one day a long road trip would happen to Rann.

    I guess there might a minor typo in “..multicoloured mirrorwork ethical wear..”.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Nandan,

      What can I say – I have just been incredibly lucky in the past year to visit places I never thought I would. And then when the chance comes, I grab it with both hands. Of course that means running and clicking.

      Gujarat has the best roads – whether the expressways or interior roads. Lot of work has especially gone into Kutch to attract tourists during the winter months. When you go there go to the NW part of Kutch too – flamingoes and few forts.

      I am scratching my head if this phrase is okay or not – cant figure out. One error I found was in Tropic of Cancer para – it should be 950 kms to the west!

      Thanks for reading. Salute to you too!

  • Good one !

    Have been to Ahmedabad only, Gujrat is in my wish list. Next long trip will be Gujrat only …..

    Updown from bhuj is possible with kids or you could suggest some hotel near by Kutch.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Mahesh,

      Kutch is the largest district of India and covers the entire NW of Gujarat.

      Kutch deserves at least 3-4 days to experience. Bhuj is the largest city in Kutch and should be made the base to go around North, West and NW Kutch. For other places like Mandvi, Anjar and Gandhidham you can move around city to city.

      Bhuj has a choice of hotels which can be easily researched on tripadvisor.

      Of course ideal time to visit Kutch would be in winters with the added charm of migratory birds.

      Thanks for the appreciation!

  • Avtar Singh says:

    Hi Nirdesh Ji

    Wow! what a nice description, with equally mesmerizing pics!!!
    Great to see a very ethnic Gujrat otherwise which is always in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. great text supported by amazing pics. Thanx

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Avtarji,

      Thanks for visiting!

      There are lots of nice things happening in Gujarat. Just one trip on the expressways will change our perspective.

      And there are tons of places to visit in Gujarat – Champaner, Junagarh, Porbander and of course Somnath Temple, Sun Temple of Modhera and Dwarkadheesh.

  • h.l. singh says:

    captivating description…thanx..

  • Saurabh Gupta says:

    Wow…………. What a great post Nirdesh Ji.

    This time it is most comfortable for me to read & enjoy the beauty of Kutch. Description was too good though the pictures are saying everything itself.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Saurabh,

      Thanks a lot!

      Writing the post was a breeze with no extensive research on Wiki!

      Do go visit and cover places I missed. Kutch has so much unseen to offer.

  • Sharmistha Dan says:

    Such a beautiful place!!! I can’t put it into words. I think I have started planning my next tour. Thanks Nirdesh. It would be helpful if you could throw some light on the lodging in Kutch.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Sharmistha,

      Yes, Kutch is indeed beautiful.

      During the Rann Utsav there are resorts right on the edge of Rann (one photo is included in the post) that can be booked for stay. Of course it will have to be done well in advance since it does get crowded.

      I have not done much research on the staying part. I stayed in Bhuj which has lot of choice in terms of stay.

      http://www.gujarattourism.com/showpage.aspx?contentid=511

      The dates are:
      Rann Utsav 2013-14
      15th December, 2013 to 31st January, 2014

      You will definitely make it there this winter so that we can see the rann on full moon nights.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Amitava Chatterjee says:

    Excellent, Poetic post Nirdesh.
    Loved the way you pen down your thoughts step by step.
    Just few days back, I wrote to Prof. to write about Kutch…and you fulfilled the demand on his behalf…

    Enjoyed thoroughly.

    I do wish you to fulfill all your dreams to be there in Winter…in MP as well…again and again.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Amitava,

      Thanks a lot!

      Kutch does bring out the poet in you!

      Will wait for Rakeshji’s post on Kutch too.

      This winter entire Ghumakkar team is going to see the Rann!

  • ashok sharma says:

    superb!kalo dungar is so beautiful, but the beauty of the beach is unbelievable. photographs are very – very nice.worth visiting.

  • Vipin says:

    “Cardinal rule number one broken”…haha…:)…this is what i noticed…i guess the first post from you Nirdesh bhai which i didn’t need to re-read…very fluid narration, wrote what you felt…the visuals are just stunning…the kind of diversity this region presents is amazing!…the stories of jackals of Kalo Dungar have long been fascinating me & have long been itching to go in this region…so am packing my bag too this winter with you…:)…fabulous work, keep them coming!

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Vipin,

      I have seen photos of the jackals feeding on the prasad. So you can meet them on an evening.

      Yes for a change it was an effortless writing.

      Thanks for the appreciation!

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Nirdesh ji,

    A superb post…………. Interesting narration and captivating pictures. Visited Kutch 4-5 times, seen Mandvi, Bhuj, Anjar, Gandhidham but couldn’t got an opportunity to see the Great Rann of Kutch. Khavda is also renowned for its Sweets. Almost all Sweet shops in Gandhidham are named ” Khavda Sweets”.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Mukesh,

      Yes I have read your posts on Kutch. That is quite a number of visits to Kutch.

      It is amazing how all these places have bounced back after the earthquake.

      There are other attractions in Kutch like the Narayan Sarovar, sanctuaries with bustard, wild ass and flamingoes. There is Lakhpat Fort on the northern tip.

      Since milk is plentiful in the Khavda area so the sweets probably would be milk based.

      Thanks fo reading!

  • Samk says:

    Nirdesh ji

    Well written article. Did you capture anything about the nomads in Great Rann of Kutch. I am interested in exploring them and know more about their culture and traditions.

    Thanks

    Sam

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Sam,

      Largely Kutch is inhabitated by a number of communities – nomadic, semi nomadic and artisans. I have read accounts where people have spent time with the local populace to better understand them. The people are considered friendly.

      So my advice will be to go there possibly not as a tourist but someone who is deeply interested in knowing the local culture, people and way of life. of course that will involve living and eating with them. Coming to think of it, I think that will be quite an adventure and we would all love to read about it.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Sp Singh says:

    Nirdesh

    Very well written post

  • Giriraj Shekhawat says:

    Maza aa gaya ….. Kalo dungar is such a great vantage point ..standing there must have been a priced moment because the contrast of landscape is so overwhelming and so is the eagerness to jump off the cliff and land up in the marsh lands of the white kingdom…A million years of sumbersion have made the rocks so coarse and porous while the sand has crystallized in the due course with the passage of time ..
    Sahi kaha aapne — Kutch nahi dekha to kuch nahi dekha

    thank u for sharing

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Giriraj,

      Where have you been? Hopefully you were finishing your posts on your MP visit.

      Kalo Dungar view, in my view, is one of top 10 views in India – few others could be view from Raisina Hill looking towards India Gate, looking at Qutb Minar from Lal Kot walls behind Adham Khan Tomb, looking down at Hampi from Matunga Hill!

      But then you dont need to jump; if you are not holding on to the rocks, the breeze will carry you all the way down to the crystallized salt.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Piyush Rajput says:

    Truly “Kutch nahin dhekha toh kuch nahin dhekha”… Beautifully captured…

  • Prakash Sharan says:

    Hi,

    Will it be possible for you to share any information about staying options in Pingleshwar or Narayan Sarovar..
    We are doing a trip to Kutch in January and needed help with the same..
    Any assistance is greatly appreciated..

    Warm Regards,

    Prakash

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Prakash,

    Narayan Sarovar will be a great destination. If you are going there then visit Lakhpat Fort also. I could not go that far.

    I had stayed in Bhuj and travelled to Kothara and a little west upto Pingleshwar Beach. Pingleshwar is a little village so I doubt if there will be hotels there. Kothara again is a small town so probably no hotels. Best bet will be Naliya. It has an Air Force base and internet research has thrown some hotel options. One of them is Himalaya Hotel. Maybe Narayan Sarovar might have some accommodation as per Gujarat Tourism website.

    I hope that helps.

    Rann Utsav is going on there right now. Wow.

    Hope to see a writeup of your visit here on Ghumakkar.

  • Savita Bharti says:

    Dear Nirdeshji,

    Lovely writing and visual updates. Amitab Bacchanji is one to inspire people to visit Gujarat once, reading your post cannot wait but visit it right away. Wish I had wings :)

    I am surely going to remember this blog when I visit Kutch ka Rann myself.

    Thanks for writing this post. Very inspiring.

    Savit

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Savita,

      Thanks for reading and the appreciation. Kutch is truly inspiring and unique.

      Gujarat, then has so much to see and if Amitabh ji asks you to spend some days in Gujarat, you got to go!

      Please read Ajay Sharma’s posts here for more places to see in Kutch and Gujarat.

      Hope to read your experiences soon!

  • aishwarya says:

    Hi Nirdesh,
    Can you please enlighten me on how much will I have to walk for a proper trip to Kuchchh. I have my parents with me and my mom cannot walk much.
    Can I cover Kalo Dungar and White Desert without much walking?

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Aishwarya,

    Kutch is beautiful and you should definitely go visit! Kalo Dungar is on a hill and a road takes you all the way to the top. From the parking lot, you will just have to climb a few steps to get to one of the viewing galleries. You will get the idea in one of the photos in the post. But yes it is very windy up there. I am sure your parents will be okay. You can see the amazing Rann below sprawled out.

    Again you can drive all the way into the Great Rann. There is again a parking lot here. From the parking lot you can see the white desert a little distance away. As shown in one of the photos, this could involve a walk of around a kilometre to actually get to the white part. Other wise parents can stay in the parking lot and you can go and show them the photos! I am not sure how the terrain is during the rains, so please check.

    Bhuj has heritage sites like palaces, chattris and lakes that will again involve some walking. But Kutch is not to be missed.

    Thanks for reading!

    Regards,

    Nirdesh

  • Manu says:

    Hi,

    i would like to know the means to travel to local places like kala dungar and border line from my stay.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Manu,

      If you are staying in Bhuj, then I guess you will need private vehicle for moving around. Kala Dungar does not have accommodation, from what I remember.

  • Shankar Bhattacharyya says:

    Wonderful description Nirdesh, Just came back from the same place … Loved Kutch unfortunately did not catch the Flamingos .. too early in the season.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Shankar,

      Thanks! Yes Kutch is indeed beautiful and so unique. Well that is a good excuse to go back when the flamnigoes arrive!

  • Vicky Patel says:

    They offered better than average accommodation at exceptionally reasonable cost and also serve yummy foods too. Amid my last visit I remained there and truly enjoyed clicking nature in the early morning. To keep away from heavy crowd at Dhordo, I remained overnight at this area and went to white rann amid early morning.

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