In late February, we made a short 3 day visit to Bhuj, the biggest city in the Kutch district of Gujarat (India). There was a list of places that we wanted to visit during our short visit, and we started off day 1 with a visit to the famous white desert (Rann of Kutch) and Kalo Dungar or Black Hill. The first stop was Kalo Dungar, which was about 90 km from Bhuj. We hired a taxi for the duration of our visit, as it is the best mode of transport to make day trips around Bhuj.
We left Bhuj right after lunch, and it took us about 2 hours to get to Kalo Dungar. On the way, we saw some interesting sights.
(road sign just outside of Bhuj)
(road quality was good)
(the typical desert landscape of Bhuj and Kutch)
After a good one hour, we made our first stop at a roadside tea/snack shop. It was basically a shack with a tin roof serving all kinds of beverages (hot and cold), snacks and sweets. We saw something interesting there. The shop had used plastic bottles to make a “tree” which had LED lights wrapped all around it. It must look pretty flashy at night. What was interesting about this “tree” was that people had figured out a useful purpose for what would normally be classified as waste. These kinds of “street innovations” are something that can be seen throughout India.
(a plastic bottle “tree”)
(the “bark” of the bottle tree)
(the rest stop area)
Other cars came into and went out of the rest stop area, and we even saw a group of donkeys walking past us. After a few minutes, we decided to carry on with our drive – we still had some way to go. Our next stop was a police checkpoint. One has to take an official police permission at this checkpoint to visit the areas of Rann (white dessert) and Kalo Dungar. I suppose this step is required because both those destinations are close to the Indian borber with Pakistan, and hence it is a secure area under the watch of the army. But getting the permission is quite simple. It took us barely 5 minutes and a photo id. The official charge for the permit was Rs.100 per person and Rs.50 per vehicle. After collecting our permit, we drove through the barren landscape towards Kalo Dungar.
(approaching the police checkpoint)
(the checkpoint “building” – dessert style)
(fruit vendor across the checkpoint)
(driving further into the barren landscape)
(Gujarati sign board as we were getting close)
(a village woman carrying water)
(road taking us up to the Black Hill or Kalo Dungar)
Upon reaching the foot of the Black Hill or Kalo Dungar, we saw a very intriguing sign board of a lion and a car. It was basically a “Silence Please” sign which said that you should not honk your horn and create noise like a lion would with its roar. Gujarat has some of the most unique ways of relaying information.
(interesting sign on the right)
We finally reached our destination after about 2 hours after leaving Bhuj. Upon reaching, we first offered our prayers at a temple. Outside the temple, there was a rock covered in orange powder. On this rock, there were various coins stuck by worshipers. Apparently, one has to stick a coin on the rock to get good blessings. We did our bit too, and stuck a coin in there.
(a temple on top of the hill)
(an interesting ritual)
As we were walking towards the lookout point, we came across beautifully decorated camels. There camels were used to offer visitors short rides from the parking lot to the lookout point. Interestingly some camels had names of Bollywood stars given to them.
(colourful decorated camel)
(camels have been given names too!)
(the path to Kalo Dungar)
Just before the lookout point, there were lots of artificial animals on both sides of the steps. They actually depict a story. The legend is that jackals, once looking for food (meat) came to the temple. They could not find food in the barren dessert and a saint at the temple fed them rice and dal. From that day onwards, animals come regularly and feed on prasad (food from the temple) which is completely vegetarian. The artificial animals are kept to depict this story.
(artificial animals depicting a story)
(nice one liners written on all steps leading to Kalo Dungar)
Finally when at the lookout point, we got a spectacular view of the white dessert. One could see nothing but dessert till the horizon. We took a few pictures before heading back to the parking lot.
(looking out from Kalo Dungar)
(the famous white Rann or dessert)
(heading back from the Dungar)
Overall, it was a decent experience visiting Kalo Dungar. While it was not anything spectacular, it is worth the trip, especially if you are heading to the white dessert. Kalo Dungar is in the same vicinity as the Rann (white dessert) and the lookout point gives you a different perspective/view of the barren landscape that surrounds Bhuj. We left after spending about 1 hour at Kalo Dungar. Our next destination was the famous Rann of Kutch with its white sands.