Kutch was never on my agenda, and little did I even hear about it. All I knew was that some regular tourists often fly here in winter to spot the rare migratory birds, but for a backpacker, Kutch had very little to offer.
My fears moreover started haunting as soon as I moved towards Kutch, from Ahmedabad. Local transport here suddenly become inefficient, and the distances from one village to another, felt totally unbelievable.
There was no way I could get a place to stay anywhere, had I not done an advance bookings. I was spending more time on the roads, with my thumb erect, trying to hitchhike, than seeing places. Yet, it was a wonderful trip altogether. And the deeper I explored, the better it turned out. Sharing some of my first impressions of backpacking in Kutch.
Great Roads But Disappointing Transport
If there is one thing that impressed me about the road transport in Kutch it is the roads. Even the narrowest roads leading to the most interiors and unsung villages were in perfect condition. But then the disappointing transport system and the crazy distances was something that made things tough. Every time I had to travel from one town to the other – even if they were only 60 kms away, I had to spare at least a good 6 hours of daylight. Moreover public transport – right from the state government buses to a rickety Chakda (the local motorcycle rikshaws of Kutch) – are next to impossible to find, particularly once the clocks ticks 3 in the afternoon.
Be Prepared To Hitchhike
I think it is because the public transport in Kutch sucks, people are very accustomed to hitchhiking. Even though I looked no less alien to local people – with a 50 ltr rucksack and an action camera flashing in one hand, no one felt shy of stopping for me. From trucks, to private cars, to motorbikes – I rode on everything. And everything equally worked.
At times I moreover found that hitchhiking was perhaps a better and faster option to travel here than waiting for long hours for buses. I remember it took me more than 7 hours to reach Dholavira from Chobari Village in Kutch (a distance of nearly 120kms) as I relied on public transport. On my way back, however, and as I hitchhiked, I covered the same distance in less than 4 hours. So hitchhiking is apparently going to be your rescue option, if you’re travelling here by foot. So be prepared for it.
Local People Make Backpacking Easy
Kutchi people turned out to be one of the most hospitable communities I’ve ever come across while travelling in India. Almost every villager I met opened their doors for me and offered tea. Some even proposed a stay in their house, should I wish to do so. During my entire two weeks of travelling inside Kutch and the little Rann (a part of which is in Kutch and a part in Saurasthra), I met unaccountable number of people who were willing to go out of way to make me feel welcomed – whether it was about waiting with me for hours, until I found a transport, or driving me 30 kms in a completely different direction only to drop me at my place.
If so far I always thought that people in Himachal Pradesh were nicer and kinder, I think from now on, I’d like to list Kutchi people with them.
The Heart Of Kutch Lies In Its Villages
One of the best charms of travelling in Kutch is exploring its small and hidden villages. Though of course it’s pretty impossible to sightsee them on foot, you can always rent a motorbike in Bhuj, or from one of the locals, by befriending them and building an assurance. I took someone’s 100cc Honda for a day, and used it for village hopping. It turned out that almost every village in the area had its own local art and crafts form. I explored Copper Bell art, Lacquered Wood art, and even Rogan Painting – a craft that is almost exclusive to a village called Nirona and has even made its way to the White House as a gift to President Obama from Prime Minister Modi.
Don’t Travel All The Way To Dhordo Tent City Only To See White Desert
One of the prime interests of people visiting Kutch is to see the White Desert. I mean walking on those crystal salt beds and watching the sun rise and set is indeed a magical and a lifetime experience. But be aware of the fact that you can access the White Desert from pretty much the entire Kutch, for it stretches endlessly to a 10,000 sq metres distance. So don’t bother going all the way to Dhordo, and rather explore it from any other location, as convenient to you – because no matter where you see it from, it’s going to look the same. [Also Read: Why Rann Utsav Is NOT Worth The Effort, Distance And Money]
The two favorite places I stayed in Kutch were Devpur Homestay (30 kms west of Bhuj, towards Nakhatrana) and Vibe Camps (near Chobari village, 100 kms east of Bhuj) and they helped me pretty much with the entire itinerary. I’d recommend them both! Similarly, I would be happy to help anyone plan an itinerary if they wish to explore Kutch. So feel free to ask any questions you’ve in the comment section below.
Also read about Nirona Village which is home to Kutch’s popular art forms
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