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Run Towards RANN

It was meant to be a pleasure trip; but boy it turned out to drain out our energies. We didn’t trek but we are hell tired. We loved the experience of the trip; but we missed Bangalore altogether [:P]. We were part of the group most of the time but our souls were departed all that time; driving us towards the satirical story of body-mind connection where body is no longer tangible whereas the soul gets tangibility. Rann of Kutch trip was a sort of trip that was close to getting our souls out. The list of places that were covered and the crucible effect that it had on most of us is only to be experienced.

I started from Coimbatore to meet the group in Bangalore; Shweta flew to Ahmedabad before she met us two days after the entire group of 17 members started via train; first towards Mumbai and then to Ahmedabad. Wait, did the count match to 20. No, and it was coz’, Shruthi missed the train. She was so much an ardent fan of SRK that her attempt to get into the train failed as the SRK himself was missing [:D]. Waiting until the last finite movement the train had, she finally happened to meet us at the Mumbai railway station after catching bus to Pune. Now that this story till Ahmedabad is covered; Part I of the trip was done after 32 hours of our meet.
In the train, we had lots of introductions (atleast I did); and, to my confusion were the names Supreeth and Sukruth. Also, a guy by name, Sourav flew all the way from Pune to Bangalore to meet us and get into the train that reached Mumbai via Pune (Lol at him, people are really crazy; seriously [:D]). Who knows what went into his mind; may be he could just use his company flight tickets to full extent; may be see some bollywood actor fly along with him; but nothing happened. He just flew from Pune to travel by train to Pune. No more comments. And then there was Satheesh, another confusing name because all the four names I mentioned can be randomly mapped and the name does match the person. Out of this confusion went half of my day and the rest with the introductions like what is your name, where are you from, what you did, do you have crushes/bf/gf [:D] (yes, that was part of the intro’s and I was the questioner). This was the time where we came across our “something unusual Subratoooo”; why, because he never sleeps; why, because he never drinks; why, because he never sleeps and still see “Sapanee” [:D]. We were all going gaga until this wonderful game called UNO started and with our own version of rules(noted only after Shruthi pointed it out [:P]); we played one game for mind boggling 2 hours. Where on earth will a person have that patience. But we did. We are inhuman by nature, that’s why.
Now we knew that Shruthi missed the train; everything starts well ends well; but well, even though it did start unexpected, as I unveil the trip details, you would agree the trip did end up well. And so, it was very dark skies at Ahmedabad, a Sunday morning; we ran to have our tooth brushed after the train halted; because, its DHOKLA time. That dhokle over the railway canteen counter; and a great tea/coffee/milk was really what was required to kick start our trip.

We soon started towards Bhuj after getting into our AC bus (bus numbered #6197, 6917, aah, I forgot, whatever) parked at the end of the exit road. We soon reached Junagadh within 5 hrs; with the breakfast stop where we had snacks; sorry, it is Gujarathi breakfast; we had ghatiya and jelaebi [:D] as breakfast (has to say it twice, I suppose). We got into a lodge which was brand new but had to pass through lots of wooden bamboo structures that worried us at first. But it turned out to be cool. We soon went into Patel Dining Hall for our lunch session, where we had the yummiest of the Gujarathi thali in the entire trip. Buttery roti’s, oily yet yummy curries and Shrikhand, aam ka ras, gulab jamun, ice cream, lassi, chaas, etc. to end our sweet lunch. We were awe stuck with the varieties Gujarat has already offered.
JUNAGADH it is .. Sunday – the 20th of December of year 2015
We soon headed to watch the Junagadh Fort and the Maqbara. It was walkable distance and there we realized two groups; the fast trekker group lead by Subrata and the moderate trekking group lead by Chaitanya from front and Sushma from behind. We took ample pics enough to fill memory of Manju’s camera(I was operating it and my probability was 1 out of 40 pics were awesome). It was soon very dark in the evening where we headed to the 10000 stepped girnar mountain at night but gave up as it gets us behind our schedule by hours. We soon visited the open hotel where Sukruth suffered his first blow. We slept by 12 AM that night and we were supposed to leave by 6 AM to Gir forest.

GIR NATIONAL Park it is .. Monday – the 21st of December of year 2015
Everyone were right on time and this made us reach Gir forest by 7 30 AM. We very soon headed to booking section and confirmed our trip. There will only be very few trips and people willing to travel have to confirm the booking online. We were informed to meet at the entrance to get into our safari jeeps by 8 45 PM; and so, we had our aloo parathe in the hotel right in front of the entrance. Very little into the intro sessions, we were divided into 4 groups of 6 members each; where I and Satheesh formed the 2 member group.
The Gir national park has 70 percent teak reserves and rest, unknown. The forest dept. guy traveling with us didn’t inform anything about left over 30 percent. We went along route #4 that lead us to beautiful lakeview where crocs were spotted; also lots and lots of deers, blue cows or neel gaaay (read as gai [:D]), sambars (guess they were named by someone after he ate sambar in Tamil Nadu), very wildish boars,  ants, monkeys and its longoor cousins. And only Shubha’s group was able to see the actual reason why everyone reaches GIR, the babbar sher, mighty mighty lion. After seeing the video they had captured, we were in an impression that even diseased/itching dogs [:P] (kajji naayi [:D]) are also in the GIR forest. So, other three groups were not so much sad about the only group that witnessed babber diseased dog-like sher [:D]. The entire journey lasted for 2 and half hours covering about 40 kms.
SOMNATH TEMPLE it is .. Monday – the 21st of December of year 2015 post lunch
We had halted for our lunch at around 2 PM at Shiv sagar. Everyone just eats to live but I can clearly see that we lived to eat. We headed to our first tirtha yatra, the Somnath temple on the shores of the Arabian Sea. After the Muhammad Ghazini demolished, old Parvathi temple inside its premises, Goddess Parvathi was switched into a new temple next to the previous one. There were marvelous work of art that was being reconstructed, such was its history. Every carving on the marbel wall inside depicted how intricate form of art it was and what our modern world had lost its touch with. We finally witnessed our first Jyothirlinga of our trip. Out of all the drama, finally Manju had to be with Subrata as they were modern and we were old fashioned. There were all places with their descriptions of Lord Shiva inscribed on the stones inside the temple. We all, then got engulped with the serene shores of the sea, with the breaktaking view of the water hitting hard to the stones along the shores. We had small shopping session – I on our way back to the bus.
DWARKA TEMPLE it is .. Monday – Tuesday – 22nd of December of year 2015
We soon headed to Dwarka and had a night stay at a lodge. The following day, there were series of temples visited – starting from the so-called Dwarka island where Krishna spent his after-childhood. The launchee travel was fun with the sea-gulls entertaining us with their stunts catching the biscuits thrown at them in their beaks. Lots of sea-gulls, lots of action and hungama; it has to come to an end after the temple visit. Then there was another Jyohirlinga visit- the Nageswar temple (My mom would be happy when I shared this information). Then there was Rukmini devi temple, which the priest explained as the temple that had equal importance as that of that Dwarka temple. Visiting goddess Rukmini makes 50% of the trip fruitful as to the 50%, that Dwarka island temple offers us. Then there was the main temple of Dwarka. It has this splendid glory behind it, the carvings on the walls of the mountain describes the rich history it has to offer. From an archealogical perspective, you would sit there for years and learn lots.
We then had this most important sunset that we were depriving the honour since day one. It was on to-do list of all of us and so, we were able to get our camera shots at shores of the main dwarka temple. The sun was in its best photogenic form and our cameramen didn’t let it, just go. Bursts of pics and very soon did the sun had set, serenity took its place within everyone of us. We were just viewing the shore, the lone boat pretty far that the eyes could hardly see, the birds, the rocky structures; these are the memories one would take back from the trip. Neither the tiresome journey nor the loss of energy could ever let us stop from saying and saying it loud – “Viva la vida”.
BHUJ it iss .. Wednesday – 23rd of December of year 2015
And as we were late, we had no other option so as to travel towards Bhuj on a low note after we came to know that we shall be put to sleep in the bus. But before that, we have our dinner session where we stopped at some dhaba center. This dhaba center has the best of the aloo parantha’s and sweet kheer that Gujarat has to offer. Subrata was craving for more and more paratha’s and sweet kheer; and seeing him eat is like seeing a God eat all the prasad his bhakt has put in front of him. After all, we were meant to live to EAT. We, very soon, reached dwarka’s V.I.P. guest house. The bus was halted and the AC was ON; we were asleep for the rest of the early hours of 22nd morning until I woke up the entire bus, after Manju required avomine. She required avomine for bus being stopped. She requires avomine for NON-MOTION SICKNESS travel [:P]. Dwarka was the place, were god Krishna abodes. So, is Subrata. From this day onwards, he moved back into the seating section of the bus from that of the seat next to driver and his damad. Subrata, all of a sudden, started his commentary about duniya. “Duniya gol kyu hain bachi”. At one point of time, there was only HIM speaking and no one else. His dominant form continued till the rest of the trip. Our God, Subrata, got his HD-kickstart to his commentary and he never let us down from then on.
We have to get ready and that too, really really fast; which made us, the guys, showed all their true colors. We never spoil the plans. We took every opportunity to get into common bathrooms as an armour and  ended up winning the battle of clashes with other people within the lodge in flying colours. We were ready pretty soon. Subrata, as always, headed to explore the breakfast arena with people who got ready by 8 30 AM.  Chaitanya and Sushma, let us have our breakfast and by 10 AM, we headed towards Bhuj’s sightseeing.
List of places include:
-          Prag Mahal – This mahal was where the foreigner, the queen was staying in the movie, Lagaan.
-          Aina Mahal – this gave us glimpse into Bajirao-Mastani pics. Shubha was excited to point out to the pic where Mastani was posing. There were lot of aina’s but they were rusted with age. Also, we got to see not just the weapons the kings and the warriors used, not just the coins used during King Prag rule, but also the nail cutters, mugs, cupboards and internal happenings of king’s life.
-          Hamirsar Lake – quite serene place to take some snacks and sit and enjoy sunset
-          Chattardi
-          Swaminarayan temple – one of the beautiful artworks on marble can be seen here
We visited the Swaminarayan temple in the morning and decided that this place has to be visited again at night to be seen under the lights. So, we headed to visit the mahals, to have a glimpse of the Kutch district during the ancient India. There was a letter from Govt. of India describing the Kutch district as Kutch State within India and a lot more fun stuff out of which, the best part was seeing Mastani – the rani (as observed in Bajirao-Mastani movie title). We very soon, headed back to our V.I.P. guest house; had our lunch and rested for an hour. Then we walked all our way to hamirsar lake just to kill some time; then towards the chattardi, which means the royal umbrellas; and now, all that’s left are the ruins after the devastating Bhuj-2001 earthquake.  But, it didn’t stop us from capturing the beauty this place has to offer. The tombs erected here are the cenotaphs of the famous kings who ruled Kutch district. After a beautiful sunset photography here, we finally headed towards Swaminarayan temple and as thought of, it was a dreamy ambience.  The structure was blooming under the moon light. The pillars of the temple depict life events of Ram and Krishna.
We were tired; we were literally exhausted; we require the “sleep”. But, the next point in our trip is the ultimate destination we were after – The Great Rann of Kutch.

Rann of Kutch it iss .. Thursday – 24th of December of year 2015
 It is another fine morning and we have to head to Rann of Kutch. So, brush, get ready and run to catch the buses that leave to Rann of Kutch’s tent city. We were all excited and we very soon, boarded the bus. We have this guide in the bus, who explained us everything that we, as a visitor needs to know about the Rann of Kutch and the tent city. We were also told that we were to visit the greater rann of kutch, the Salt desert, twice that day; one at 4 – 7: 30 PM and next at 10: 30 – 11: 30 PM; as it was the fullest of the moon day and a brief description of how they have organized the entire events. We just realized how lucky we were and in all this whispering, came another bombardment about Gujarat CM’s visit. Though the last news wasn’t making us happy, it still showed us how eventful this day could be.
So, we headed on a beautiful straight road towards the tent city, intersecting the Tropic of Cancer. We had 45 minutes time before we left to tents 40 -49 of cluster I. Everyone loved the tent. The ambience was rich and colourful. There were battery cars operating for the visitor’s movements and cycles etc., for our convenience, charged on half-an-hour basis. We very soon rocked with our attires and headed for our lunch session which offered us NOT SO AUTHENTIC gujarati dishes, but good enough khasun, theple, etc. and after we finished our lunch, we got onto our bicycles.
We were soon split as there was that kiddish excitement that made us explore few on our own and few rode faster; and our group headed outside the tent city. There was a sand-storm that I felt beautiful (one of its kind experience dude; so its beautiful). Harish and myself, we ran towards the watch tower on the other side of the tent city just to extend our views of horizon. We had to get back soon as the sand-storm rose in power; and awe, I saw Chaitanya rushing towards tent city. On catching up with him, came to know that Sriba had met with an accident. She immediately got the medical attention she required but had to rest for the remnant trip on account of it.
Amidst this incident, we didn’t let ourselves down and hoping that Sriba would surely recover soon, we went to watch our Greater Rann of Kutch, the one of its kind - Salt Desert rallying on the camel carts. With all the dawn that was very welcoming as the sunset was so very beautiful over the desert, everyone there went as far as one could, just to get that perfect picture with none in the background. People were opening up their creative self and one could easily see it in their poses. There were events planned for the CM in this place and so, we witnessed lot of dancers, army troops, NCC cadets-kids. And the dancers, hmmmmm, one would take a pic of them, with them. The pink and white colored half sarees on their skin made our men go crazy.
[On a lighter note] Subrata found his dream-girl [:D], Mahesh, Satheesh and rest of the married men, were just unable to stop their eyes oozing out of their sockets. They wanted to capture it, they wanted to live with the memories [:D][:P]. It was fun. It was memorable. They did made our day.
We returned back to our camel carts and its shopping time girls. Infact, everyone, shopped for their loved ones. We had Shruthi, the shopper; Sapana and the Priyanka – the twin sisters twin souled interest in few items that they wanted to shop – accompanied by men to help them buy stuff for their ladies at home. It took one hour for the tea to be made and similar time for the girls to finish shopping. We headed back to our dining hall where we met our Sriba, Chaitanya and Sushma and with her, was this H-24 girl who was the cute. At first, every young guy in the troop felt she would just have a word with Sriba and go away. But then, she mentioned her cluster number to avail any free medical treatment she has to offer. Such a wonderful soul in a wonderful human being, I thought. Sourav, Mahesh and Manju thought of visiting her tent and thanking her for her bold words lifting Sriba’s spirit – but we had to see the cultural events. So, we ran and ran until we saw wild dance performance. We very soon danced to their tunes as we invited to take part in it. It was 10 PM and we had to run to our second visit to the salt desert.
This time, the full moon took over the desert and we were as if inherented with the qualities to sing and run; because that’s what people do in such an atmosphere. The experience was exhilarating; just felt on top of the world. We jumped onto the gelly surface which was ooomping up and down as we apply weight. A bus slipped into the sand – so run to get into the bus before it gets the same fate. Very soon, the bus began and we all left for our cluster.
There was this story that I have to say - the king, Subrata – the king’s PA & the backend worker, Chaitanya – the rabbit, Sapana – the rabbit owner, Supreet and another king’s PA – Sushma. Everyone loved the story. Even Suman jee finally had an open smile on his face. The story ends around the camping fire and we very soon head to our tents to sleep.

Next day; the 25th, similar DAILY routine – brush and breakfast. It was 9 30 AM on Christmas day; and we had to leave.

We were dropped at Bhuj by bus by the Rann utsav organizers. There was this last destination – Mandvi, that has to go into our done list. We finished our Gujarati thali in the same restaurant where we went when we had lunch in Bhuj, the first time. We bid adieu to our Sriba, who headed to her hometown for further treatment and speedy recovery. We were to shop at this place – and sab log tut pade hain. We had two hours time to get back to the meeting point before heading out to Mandvi.

MANDVI it is – 25th dawn & 26th of December of the year 2015
It was 6 PM and we were told that no public transport was available. And so, Chaitanya and Subrata thought – aaj kuch toofani karte hain. And to our surprise, we got into TOOFAN vehicle [:D][:P]. We booked two TOOFANs and headed towards Jitendra Guest House. We picked the speeds, TOOFANs accelerated and we reached the destination by 8 PM. We had dormitory rooms. And tring tring, its our dinner time. We let our taste buds do the search this time as we found this very small NON veg + veg hotel. There were only handful of veggies in the trip, hence, there were orders of roti’s and chicken jwalamukhi, chicken kababs etc. Even had their tummies filled up and it was time to visit the beach – the Mandvi beach – yes, that’s right – at 11 PM.

As we walked towards the beach, we had apprehensions catching up seeing the localites turning their heads towards us as we passed. There was silence catching up to go unnoticed in the village; and it was not until we reached the beach, did we hear the noise of the sound waves. All this time, Sukruth had a question in mind which he wanted to test against all the girls in our group – “Mumbai to Ahmedabad flight takes 90 minutes whereas Ahmedabad to Mumbai flight takes one and half hour. Why is the difference observed?” Results were random but yes, few fell trap [:D]. It was by this time that Sukruth also started complaining about the cleanliness of the beach to the organizer [:D][:P]. We soon decided to rush to our homestay as it was very late. It was almost 12 30 PM as we reached our stay area.
Few of us decided to have a cold night bath at 1 PM as it’s a dormitory. Even I was part of this batch. We very soon shivered to sleep [:D]. The next morning i.e., 26th December, we headed towards the Vijay Vilas Mahal, an other palace in the place. It again, as any other palace, gave us a glimpse into Vijay Vilas’s reign as the king, but there were few colored photographs of his surviving heirs. They owned one of the first Mercedes Benz cars available in Mumbai area. It was almost 10 30 AM and we soon rushed back to our guest house and rushed back in a public transport towards Bhuj area. It was 1 30 PM; we very soon had Gujarathi thali in the same place where we ate last time.

It was 3 PM and we had boarded our train towards Mumbai for the last stretch of our journey together.

There were 12 of us who were supposed to catch train to Bangalore at 8 AM the next day i.e., on 27th – the last Sunday of the year 2015. Subrata, Manju, Chaitanya and Shruthi had to catch a flight to Bangalore at night and hence, they decided to roam around the place. Meanwhile, I had my train at midnight and even I decided to compete with Subrata and gang in the number of places visited on that day. But by the end of the day, the result was meaningless; only the experiences mattered.

The entire trip was not at all that fun; but for a trip that lasted for 9 days together, we all were a family. We were able to easily point out what ticks the person in question. We were much closer bunch of guys together and we remember the names of our 20 gang mates better than any other trek mates(atleast true in my case). For all the memories we cherished together; all that is left to say is a sweet tangent to the whole circle of life that we had witnessed. Thanks guys for such a awesome trip. It was definitely legendary (can’t wait for dary to arrive [:D]; sorry Barney Stintson). Until next trek, stay fit; stay healthy. Adios guys.

Written By        : Adithya PV
Organized By    : Subrata, Sushma & Chaitanya
Date of event   : 19 - 27th Dec, 2015
Members Count: 20
Place                : Gujarat
Pictures           : BTC FB Page

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