Ride to Rann of Kutch: Moonfang’s Odyssey
Do you have a bucket list of things you want to do in life? well, this was one on my list, riding to Rann of Kutch. For over 3 years I have been planning to ride here but it kept on canceling, sometimes friends canceled, sometimes I got worried if I would be able to cover such distances.
I have realized many times that things in the bucket list happen when you don't plan for them, plenty of experience with that, a similar thing happened this time. On a Thursday I was talking to a dear friend of mine, she said she was going to The Rann and asked me if I wanted to join, I quickly managed my leaves at the office and told her I’m coming, I just couldn't keep postponing or canceling it, I had to do this. When I said yes she said let me book your train tickets, naturally my answer was going to be “Fuck no! Imma ride there!” I’m not gonna lie, it was scary, I had never covered such distance, and doing that alone was even scarier.
First things first, for a long-distance ride what are the things that you need?
- Helmet (Most important).
- Check engine oil, coolant level, brake pads, tire health, chain lube.
- You need a lot of water when you ride, dehydration is the biggest enemy, increases fatigue, loss of strength, and stamina, have at least 2 liters of water with you, a small hydration bag would be a good idea.
- Riding gloves.
- Full riding gear would be good but if not get a Jacket and knee guards.
- Protein bars so that you can have something when you are very hungry and can’t find a place to eat
- Some medicines for vomiting, loose motions, and some pain killers.
- Taking care of your chain is very important on a ride, so carry a small can of chain lube and use it after every 500–600 km.
- You need a tank/tail bag or some bungee ropes to tie your bags to your bike, never carry bags on your back on long distances, it will cause back and neck injuries.
- You will need a power bank with you because you need navigation most of the time and phone batteries will drain faster.
- Keep about 2–5k cash with you, you never know when you’ll need it.
- Other good things but not necessary things to have are a puncture kit and a tire inflator.
Keep your fuel tank full before starting the ride.
Now that we are all caught up with what are the things that are needed for the ride, let's start with the journey. My friends were going to meet me in Mandvi on Monday, I started my journey on Saturday morning, it's good to have a buffer day for rest since I was going to have a 1000 km stretch in the first 2 days.
Day 1: Pune to Ahmedabad
Woke up at 4.30 am, did some exercise(very important when you are going to go on a long ride), had some food and I started my journey at 6 am, as it was the start of the ride and I was feeling fresh I covered as much distance as I could non stop. First stop was in Lonavla, a small water break and was off again, I couldn't stop myself from stopping at Khandala, the sunrise was so beautiful, it was cold there but the sun rays falling on my face was soothing.
After that I stopped directly in Thane, where I needed to fuel up my bike, now the fuel range is going to vary according to the bike but most of you will need to fuel up in Thane. Make sure you cross Thane before 8.30 am otherwise you will get stuck in traffic and get delayed. The next stop is Vapi, Gujarat. The moment you cross the Maharashtra border you will see a significant change in roads, Gujarat roads are one of the smoothest I’ve ridden for long distances. I had my lunch here in Vapi, simple idli sambar, and a coffee later for some energy. Rode continuously till Surat for a fuel stop. One need not enter the city and can bypass it. When on rides it is difficult to find places to use the restroom, a prefer using the ones at the fuel station. I passed by Vadodara after that, took a small break before Vadodara to stretch my legs, Do remember to take breaks and stretch after a couple of hours while riding to avoid any pain or discomfort. After reaching Ahmedabad the first thing I did was fuel up my bike again, after a long journey we all feel that we should just hit the bed, but it's better to stretch a bit more and fuel up so that there are fewer things to take care of the next day. I stayed at Holiday Inn Express in Prahlad Nagar, Ahmedabad, a very nice place, thanks to MakeMyTrip offers I got it at a very decent price.
All checked in I started exploring the area nearby and I found a place where I got a Gujarati Thali, it was amazing, must try it if you are in that area — P.Bhagat Tarachand Restaurant. After dinner, I cleaned my bike chain and then lubed it and checked the tire pressure. The total distance covered that day was almost 700 Kms. And that's it for day 1, I slept like a log after a long day.
Day 2: Ahmedabad to Bhuj
This was a considerably short ride (a little over 300 km) so I decided to leave a little late, and give myself enough rest before the ride. A nice breakfast buffet at the hotel, some hot coffee and I was ready for day 2. I loaded my bags on the bike, and I was off, it was very cold there, so I had to wear my fleece inside my riding jacket.
The first stop was at Maliya, where there are a food court and fuel station next to it, for pizza lovers, there is a domino’s, I prefer a burger, which I got there, and some orange juice to replenish my energy. I fueled up my bike here and then left for Bhuj, the road after Maliya was a bit rough, but I am sure they will be as good as everywhere in Gujarat in a matter of few months as there was contraction work going on then.
About 40 km after Maliya you will start getting a feel of the desert, the sand on the side of the road, and vast salt pans come in view, it was very scenic, at one point I found a road going towards the salt pan and I immediately went offroad and rode my bike in that direction for about a km and got a closer look at the salt pans. So vast and beautiful.
After playing around in the dirt for a while I was back en route to Bhuj, where I stayed at the Click hotel, which was right next to the railway station. As soon as I checked in I got a list made from the reception of the places where I’ll get good food and all the places I can visit in Bhuj.
The first stop was Hotel KBN, famous for their Gujarati Thali, so good, I don’t think I had eaten so much in days.
Bhuj is a small city, everything was within 20–30 minutes distance, after lunch I went to Prag Mahal, it’s a museum now, the interesting thing about this is parts of the movie Lagaan were shot here.
Later I went to Harmirsar Lake where I spent the evening looking at the beautiful sunset. Kutch Museum was also on my list but due to the pandemic, it was shut down. I had dinner that day at Viram Hotel, a place where you can get Kathiawadi food. That’s it for day 2.
Day 3: Bhuj- Mandvi- Bhuj
Breakfast at Bhuj and then non stop to Mandvi, it was just about 60 km from Bhuj so didn't take long, after reaching Mandvi you will get the feel humid since Mandvi is a beach, and while crossing the main bridge you will see a shipyard where there will be giant ships in the construction process.
The first thing I did here was found food since it was a beach I wanted to taste the seafood here. I went to Aman restaurant and got delicious food there.
My friends wanted to see Shyamji Krishna Verma Memorial but after reaching there we got to know that was closed due to the pandemic, so from there we went to Vijay Vilas Palace, another palace turned into a museum, its a very photogenic place, the only catch is once you enter inside you get to explore the place only for 30 minutes, if you want more time then you will have to take the ticket again and also the camera charges, which in my opinion is not worth it, so just spent 30 minutes there.
A nice lunch and then I went to the beach to see the sunset, sunsets on beaches are really amazing and should never miss if you are near any beach, there are windmills and a lighthouse here which gives it a different vibe.
Be careful on the ride back home, the highways are empty and there are no lights out there, different animals cross, I myself came across a palm civet and a nilgai. Dinner at Bhuj and lights off for the day.
Day 4: Explore Bhuj.
The day started with a nice Jalebi Fafda khaman breakfast at one of the stalls near Harmrisar lake and I went to see the step-well, It was an old unclean step well with trash all around, would not recommend this place.
Then I went to Chhatedi, which is an old archeological place, big stone carvings. Spent a lot of time taking pictures here.
Aaina Mahal is closed from 1 pm till 3 pm, so I went to have lunch at Nilam Hotel, very good food, and then headed to Aaina Mahal. Again another palace converted into a Museum, phone use is not allowed inside, and camera charges are a lot, and honestly, I did not find it worth it. From here I went to Tapkeshwari Mandir, it was about 45 minutes from the main city, it is a temple and there are some beautiful caves with stones of multiple colors, very photogenic, but you have to climb for about 15 minutes to reach the cave, from the top you get to see the whole Bhuj city.
From There I went to Bhujodi, it is a small village near Bhuj city and very famous for its textile and handicrafts, a good place for shopping, I got a fancy knife for myself from here. Bhojodi also has the Vande Matram Memorial, it looks amazing at sunset, so must have a look.
After that, I came back to Bhuj and finally had the Kutchi Dabeli, and it was the best I’ve ever had, We did some shopping at the local market, I loved the Dabeli so much that I got Dabeli masala for myself so that I can make it at my home.
More chaat and lights out for the day.
Day 5: Bhuj to Dhordo
This was a very short distance, about 80 km, but the road was pretty scenic so you might want to take a lot of stops on the way. The first place you will come across is Rudramata Dam, it is a small reservoir but the trail was very nice and fun to ride a bike there, then you will come across these massive sarso ke khet, very photogenic.
Keep your eyes peeled on the left side of the road where you will see a board saying the tropic of cancer passes through here, it kinda feels good that your bike has passed through it.
After about 50 km there comes a place where there are huge water bodies on both sides of the road, it looks amazing with so many birds around.
5 km more and all the fields and waterbodies suddenly disappear and there was nothing but the desert, camels were crossing the road, it was so scenic, I had to stop every few minutes to take pictures.
Breakfast was at Khavda. It was not a regular breakfast for me, there is a special sweet that is made in Khavda, a different style of mawa, I had 2 plates of it. The next stop was Bhirindiyari, you need to stop here to get passes to visit the white desert, you can take them online as well but you will have to stop here anyway to get them verified and stamped.
There is a check post just before the White rann who check if you have the pass. The permits are pretty cheap, Rs.100 for an adult and Rs. 50 for a car and Rs.25 for a bike. This permit is only valid for a one-time entry, if you plan to go to the white rann the next morning and evening then you will have to get a total of 3 permits. From here just about 20 minutes more was the homestay I was going to stay at.
I did not stay at the tent city because it was way too overpriced about Rs.8000 per person, I covered more than half of my trip at the cost of 1 night at the tent city, which did not seem worth it, whereas at the homestay it was just about Rs.1200 with all food included, good deal no? As soon as I reached there was a buffet for lunch, all Gujarathi food followed by Chass, of course, we need a nap after that, 1 hour of sleep and ready to go to the white rann, it was just about 10 minutes from my homestay, submitted my permit at the check post and then a straight road with salt on both sides, parked my vehicle at the end of the road and there it was, white never-ending landscape, there wasn't a single object on the horizon, it was so humbling, a realization that you are nothing but a tiny dot on earth.
The golden light at sunset was reflecting from the desert and had the whole place filled with fresh colors, which made me feel at peace. An epiphany of what being mindful, what being present in the moment actually means. A truly exhilarating experience.
If you want you can even do paragliding here. After sunset there were few cultural events at the desert folk music, then I visited the market here, so many food stalls and handicraft shops here by the villagers, I didn't realize how hours had passed by exploring this place. At the homestay as well the artists were playing folk songs for us and we had a small Garba session. I tried playing the instrument Ektar, such fun. That's how a long wonderful eventful day ended.
Day 6: Dhordo - Kalo Dungar - Bhuj
This morning I woke up really early to catch the sun for the last time in the white desert, the colors were mindblowing, it was as if the sky was on fire, and the water below reflecting the sky, it is one of the rare sights where you just want time to pause.
After a small shoot in the morning, we had our breakfast and then left for Kalo Dungar which was just about 50 km, the road was very scenic, desert everywhere, on the way to Kalo Dungar you will come across a Magnetic Hill, where if your vehicle is on neutral it will be pulled back automatically, That was fun. Kalo Dungar is the highest point in Kutch, it is called the black hill, you get to see a dried-out lake and a whole view of Kutch from there. If you have big binoculars then you can also see the India-Pakistan border.
Next, I went to India Bridge which was just about 18 Km, India bridge is the last point where civilians can go close to the border without a permit, you will see a lot of armed forces here, photography is strictly prohibited, although you can wait here and enjoy the view standing near the bridge. From here I started my ride back to Bhuj, waited again at the water bodies near the highway which I came across a couple of days earlier, and was shooting the sunset on the desert one last time. After bidding an emotional goodbye to the desert I left for Bhuj.
Fueled up my tank, had dinner at KBN restaurant at Bhuj, and lights out for the day.
Day 7: Bhuj to Vadodara
On this day my return journey starts, One last Jalebi Fafda Khaman breakfast and I left for a long journey to Vadodara, by now the riding stamina had built up quite a lot, I could cover longer distances without taking a break, so just 1 fuel stop 50 km before Ahmedabad, a lunch in Ahmedabad and a small restroom stop near Nadiad, and I reached Vadodara where I bunked for the night, and yes, of course, fueled up my tank.
Day 8: Vadodara - Daman - Pune
A Thepla breakfast in Vadodara and I did a nonstop Journey to Daman, a Beautiful place, it a very small union territory, amazing roads, clean place, the beach was super clean, I had a nice lunch here and rested for some time enjoying the view.
Fueled up my tank again, and then nonstop to Panvel, the moment I crossed the Maharashtra border I saw a huge difference in traffic, my average speed went down significantly and it took me a while to cross Mumbai because of that. Then I did a nonstop journey back home, where as soon as I reached, had a nice hot shower, and hit the bed, this was the most tiring day of my whole trip.
I covered 2511 Km over a period of 8 days, it was like 2395 minutes of meditation, It has been a life-changing, eye-opening ride for me, I got to learn so much about myself. More confidence and trust in myself, you know, going with my gut, and letting things fall in place as they may, living in the moment, getting out of my comfort zone. Met some wonderful people there, and I am so grateful all of this happened. A motorcycle ride can teach you a lot, unlike in cars, on a motorcycle you are connected with your immediate surroundings, you can feel the wind, the road, everything around, it teaches you awareness of your surroundings, how to improvise if things go wrong, how to live life, how to appreciate small things, most of all, a motorcycle is so much fun, it brings out the child in you.
I encourage all of you to try a motorcycle ride at least once in life, trust me it will be worthwhile.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this and can make your own itinerary out of this, do check out my Instagram page for more pictures.
Stay tuned for upcoming adventures.