Camping on the India Pakistan Border

Moonlight on the Salt Flats at Great Rann of Kutch
Moonlight on the Salt Flats at Great Rann of Kutch

Kutch Rann Utsav

My final itinerary for India was only confirmed a month before embarking on a 90 day backpacking journey through the entirety of India to film a documentary ‘Backpack’.

Going over my travel plans with a fine-tooth comb I researched Kutch Rann Utsav. Intrigued, I immediately turned to Google maps and images and I learned that Rann of Kutch is situated right on the Pakistan border- I checked with western government travel safety sites, which list Rann of Kutch in the High risk category, and it is not advised to travel there.

However, reserachin

The images I saw when researching were breath-taking, a huge baron salt flat in the moonlight and people camping right out in the elements under a bright shining moon. I was intrigued, I didn’t care what the travel warnings were, I wanted to see this salt flat for myself!

Great Rann of Kutch

Every year for three months there is a seasonal salt flat- one of the largest in the world at Rann of Kutch.

The impression from my research was very different to what I actually experienced while visiting Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. Here’s my experience of Rann of Kutch and why you should not hesitate in booking a journey there next season:

After an arduous car trip to Rann of Kutch, a 400k drive from Gir, also in Gujarat, which should only take 4-5 hours takes approx 10 hours in India, the roads are very bumpy and dark and often unfinished.

I love road trips in India, its exciting and Im always up for an adventure. The fact that it takes a long time to get places does not bother me, there are always delicious treats to sample in villages along the way!

Utterly exhausted from travel and the weeks of work- 15 hour shooting days, we arrive at the Rann Utsav ‘tent city’. Rann Utsav a temporary ‘tent city’ that takes two months to construct and then is only up for three months a year. Let me describe this ‘tent city’… as it’s hardly that, its much, better than you could ever expect!

During this natural occurrence so that people can admire the seasonal wonder a town is constructed for the ‘Rann Utsav festival’. The village has 350 Swiss Royal Tents, and even a spa set up, this is set-up so people from all over the world can enjoy the natural lights, the desert moon, and local and traditional culture of the Kutch people.

After checking in at Rann Utsav, a golf cart pick you up and takes you to the Swiss Royal Tents. The tents are luxurious, I would say they are more ‘glamping’  then ‘camping’, with hot showers (yes, your tent has running water!!) nice bed, heating and even a little tea and coffee station.

Rann Utsav Swiss Royal Tents

Sommer Shiels visiting Rann Utsav, Great Rann of Kutch on the Pakistan Border

Swiss Royal Tent Rann Utsav Great Rann of Kutch

Inside my luxury Swiss Royal Tent Rann Utsav Great Rann of Kutch

The food is unbelievably tasty, every meal is an event and every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner a buffet of local delicacies is served. This is remarkable, you have not lived until you have eaten Gujarati cuisine and Rann Utsav showcases the very best of Gujurati cuisine!

When we dine I notice that there are two separate stations set-up, one for Jain and one for regular veg. If you don’t know what Jain is here’s a brief description:

The strictest forms of Jain diet is practiced by the monastic ascetics; in addition to potatoes it may exclude other root vegetables. This food is called sattvic, which means that it is based on the qualities of goodness, lightness and happiness. On the other hand, onions, eggplant and garlic are considered “tamasic” as they are believed to have a quality of darkness, lethargy and a putrid smell. So in short Jain eat veg without garlic and onion… fascinating!

Gujarati food

Gujarati food reflects the history of  Gujarati people, who were traders and travelers for the last 200 years, their vegetarian delicacies of Fafara Khakhra and Thepla are made to be long lasting and nutritious. Even today Gujarati people are well-traveled, nowadays they travel for leasure. Even the very wealthy Gujarati’s still eat these traditional foods to sustain while traveling.

I am not personally a fan of ‘sizzler’ or ‘buffet-style’ restaurants, however the buffet on offer at Rann Utsav is remarkable and a gourmet travelers delight. I would go back for the food alone!

Rann of Kutch Salt Flats:

My guide for the salt flats and Rann Utsav relations Manish Adhiya-ji introduces me to the Salt Flats and the activities you can partake on the salt flats. We visit the salt flats during sunset, which is unbelievably beautiful.

During the day the endless white seems to be blinding and almost too hard and bright on the eyes to stay all day, but at sunset the colors and the moon and sun together are spell-binding.

There are plenty of activities, apart from relaxing, that one can enjoy in the salt dessert, I rode an ATV, I had done this before, this time as the most fun I have ever had. The salt flat makes for a fun surface for ATV’ing and I almost flipped the ATV (not recommended, I’m a dare-devil).

The salt flats at Great Rann of Kutch

The salt flats at Great Rann of Kutch

Rann Utsav: Night time activies

In the evening local village people perform cultural shows with traditional music and dancing, while guests are encouraged to join in. It’s amazing how varied the different cultures in India are, everywhere has its own signature beautiful music and dance.

There is an in-house astronomer at Rann Utsav. I got to look through the telescope and see Mars- the red planet with the in-house astronomer.

During the local dance and festivities there is shopping to be done. Kutchi handicrafts and hand embroided fabrics with tiny mirrors sewed to them. Kutch is world renowned for its mirrored embroideries. Most of these were traditionally stitched by village women, for themselves and their family and now you can purchase these traditional and unique pieces.

Moonlight on the Salt Flats at Great Rann of Kutch

Moonlight on the Salt Flats at Great Rann of Kutch

Great Rann of Kutch salt flat

With my new friend and guide Manish Adhiya-ji Great Rann of Kutch salt flat

Sommer Shiels sunset Rann of Kutch

 


 

On my last day leaving Rann of Kutch (I spent four days and felt it wasn’t enough), I was filming in the middle of the salt flat when the Indian Army gathered round. I had caused some confusion days earlier as I had forgot my passport while going to film on the salt flats.

Sommer Shiels with Indian Army at Great Rann of Kutch

Sommer Shiels with Indian Army at Great Rann of Kutch

**IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE- When traveling near the Pakistan Border and Rann of Kutch it is important to carry your passport at all times! I forgot my passport and one day was almost not let in the area of the salt flat we were filming. I was lucky though, after filling out some paperwork the kind Sir allowed me special privilege, however you may not be so lucky. Do not forget your passport. You are not leaving India, however this is still required.

The army were very kind and very friendly and made us feel very safe! Check out the pics below.

Camel Trek Rann of Kutch Salt Flats

Kissing a Camel on a Trek Rann of Kutch Salt Flats

Great Rann of Kutch and Rann Utsav is really something you have to see for yourself. Just another example of why India is so incredible!

 

Would you visit Rann of Kutch? If you have any questions about visiting Rann of Kutch and Rann Utsav please comment below.

See our Destinations section FOR YOUR TRAVEL GUIDE TO INDIA:

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Indian Army at Great Rann of Kutch

The brave and kind: Indian Army at Great Rann of Kutch

Riding an ATV @ Rann of Kutch, India

Riding an ATV @ Rann of Kutch, India

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1 Comment

  • Divyanshu Mishra says:

    Its one of the most festive places in Western Zone.. Had visited the Ran Utsav last to last year..

    Camel Safari & Para Motoring were awesome experience. Did you taste delicious Sev Tamata Nu Saak & Basundhi?? Its ultimate!!

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