After our trip to Kalo Dungar, we headed west towards the White Desert or the Rann of Kutch. It took us over an hour to get to the gateway/entrance of the desert. The desert, a huge empty area between India and Pakistan, was once part of the Arabian Sea (very long time ago). Due to geological changes, it later became a lake and ultimately a desert. The most unique thing about this desert is its white colour. With its past history of water bodies, there is a lot of salt content in the desert, giving it a distinct off-white colour. Today, the white desert is also home to the famous Rann Utsav (3 month long festival of Rann).
(heading from Kala Dungar to the white desert)
(getting closer to the Rann of Kutch)
(a familiar sight across rural Gujarat)
(driving towards the Rann)
After driving on a road which was built especially for the Rann Utsav (and perhaps the army too!), we reached the entrance of the white desert. We knew we had reached because there were all sorts of hoardings advertising the Rann Utsav, along with huge gates manned by guards. They were letting in only those with prior reservations. For people like ourselves who weren’t planning to stay at the Utsav for 3 nights (apparently one has to stay a minimum of 3 nights if making a reservation at the Utsav), there were some shopping stalls near the Utsav area, and the white desert of course. The shopping stalls were selling local textiles, apparel and handicrafts, while the food stalls served local snacks like Dabeli.
(hoardings of the Rann Utsav)
(shopping and food stalls open to public)
(the barren desert landscape)
Apparently, the Rann Utsav is responsible for large number of visitors to this otherwise remote area. Hence, some entrepreneurs had figured out that building a resort in the middle of the desert might make good business sense. In fact, we came across two such private resorts which were built on the fringes of the desert. They looked quite empty from the outside though.
(a resort near the Rann)
(an interesting stall courtesy of border armed forces)
After driving past the shopping stalls, we had to show our visitor permit, which we had obtained earlier during the day, to a border checkpoint. It was a pretty straightforward task. After completing the formality, we proceeded to the parking lot from where the desert began.
(army checkpoint and a temple)
(army checkpoint before the white desert)
(sign pointing us to the white desert)
(parking lot at the edge of the white desert)
(empty barren land, as far as the eye can see)
Looking out from the parking lot, the desert was quite a surreal place. We could not see anything but flat barren land for miles and miles. There was no variation in the landscape, no elevation, just white coloured desert. It is amazing to imagine that on the other side of the horizon, there was a different country. The desert had a few visitors when we visited, some riding camels and horses, while others driving along the narrow road further into the desert. There were also some interesting options such as para-gliding. We just wanted to walk on the white sand/salt and take in the atmosphere.
(all sorts of “entertainment” was on offer)
(the white sand mixed with white salt)
(visitors enjoying themselves)
(the texture was very much like salt)
The desert was a very calm and quiet place, and it almost felt as if you were the only person alive. At the same time, it also felt like there was no privacy and nowhere to hide. You were always in the view of everybody else and you could also see everyone else. As it was late evening when we were there, the sun was setting. The golden sunlight of the setting sun gave an illusion of the desert being gold in colour. The best part about the desert was the fact that the white sand would take the colour of whatever the natural light source was at any particular time. The landscape would be bright white at noon, golden during a sunset, and light blue during a full-moon night. The best time to visit the Rann of Kutch is on a full moon night, as the blue colour shining off the white sand is a sight to behold. Unfortunately for us, it was a no moon night when we visited, and so we headed back to the car park after sunset.
(lots of people, yet a quiet and calm place)
(a setting sun meant the white desert turned golden)
(water leftover from past rain)
(sunset on a desert)
(heading back to the car)
(a couple riding the camel)
(when the ride is over, the camel has to carefully sit down)
Overall, visiting the White desert or Rann is a highly recommended activity if you are visiting Bhuj, Gujarat. While not a Dubai or Atacama, the Rann of Kutch is unique in its own way. If you want an even better experience, then sign up for a stay at the Rann Utsav. That way, you get the cultural entertainment, delicious local food, and retail, along with the natural beauty of the Rann.