Thursday, 2 February 2012

Shaam-E-Sarhad - Ek shaam sarhad par!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sham-E-Sarhad (Evening at the border) – the aptly named resort – a rural resort again! We spent our New Year eve (2008) here – thousands of kms away from Delhi – in a resort that perhaps none of the people around us would know about (now they do :-)) – this is the far west of India in the salt deserts of Rann of Kuchchh, Gujarat!

Not sure of where to go on the New Year chutti, we planned for this place in a jiffy and decided the best and shortest way of reaching this place by 30 Dec (2007) – so there were multiple modes to take on this journey – an afternoon flight from Delhi to Ahmedabad, an overnight (6 hrs) bus - the ones which has sleepers on top of seats like the bunker beds; first time for me :-) - from Ahmedabad to Bhuj (yeah the place got its fame for the worst ever earthquake of the country) and an early morning (5.30 am) taxi to reach the destination – village ‘Hodka’! All the delhi people, remember the ladies selling mirror-word items on the pavements of C.P. – this is the region where these are done!

The village was chosen by UNDP under the rural development through tourism. The core is self-sustenance by running a place for livelihood and promoting the local culture and craft. Ok, so the identified village was ‘groomed’ to run a resort (in their own style) so the owners of the resort are the villagers. The resort suddenly appears after taking one of the narrow, dusty by-lanes off the main road – situated in the middle of barren, dry and no-man land. The rural resort has the amenities of any of the other resorts that you might come across in the other destinations but in a rural surrounding and architecture. There are swiss tents and the mud-rooms called ‘Bhungas’ – the round shaped huts that the kuchchi people live in. They are shaped like this for the climatic conditions here that’s very dry, hot and mind you dusty – when I say dusty – it means very-very dusty! The ambience was just perfect and upto our expectation though we stayed in the swiss tents – they said ‘bhungas’ were occupied! 

The people of this place are like the ones as seen in the movie ‘Sarfarosh’ – yeah the long beard, kohl eyed men in pathani salwars! Feels like a different region altogether but they are very warm and hospitable. We reached there early morning at 6-6.30 am and the tent was not done so we had to wait till people check out! It was cold morning – very cold – as the sun rose the warmness in the air could be felt – we had our cuppa tea and then Surender as usual started clicking around! By the time the tent was done, we were dead tired with the travel but we had captured much information from the staff about the places around!

The tent was spacious – actually there were two tents – the second one was the bathroom! The food – ‘kuchchhi food’ – was pure vegetarian and cooked by the locals – had the local flavours – we often over-ate!

This is a nomadic land with the scattered villages, long runs of salty deserts, wet lands and of course, the place where the tropic of cancer passes by! And not the least the famous Kala Dungar where the wild jackals come for food when they hear the bells of the temple ringing – yeah saw it live and not on TV! So after taking some rest and meal, we were ready for day 1 trip and that was a trip around the resort to see some man-made wells and the nearby marsh area and the hodka village. The vehicle - :-) an open ‘chakhra’ – it’s a motor operated rickshaw that is heavily used in the area – much like the ‘jugads’ here! The guide an old man (my favorite) – ‘Paanki kaka’ and the local lad who would run the vehicle! They told us not to take the same but we didn’t pay attention to the warnings and were ready to dare the ‘dust’! After 10 mins of drive we realized why they were saying so – the drive through the dusty barren lands had tons of dust that landed up on us and inside our lungs – even the nostrils had turned white and we felt breathing in fine dust! But then as we are – we really enjoyed it and were ready to take on more!

Ok, so there we were standing on the dried salty lands where the only vegetation were small shrubs that could survive the salty land! But the view was amazing! From there were again driven back to the village to meet the locals – here in such a remote area where you’d hardly find educated people, I found the most enterprising and daring women! And above all, the most beautiful ravishing beauties! They have learnt English and Hindi in their own style, almost all of them have displayed photos with foreigners (they call them friends or sisters – I too made on ‘Birma Ben’) and then showcase their work – you can buy them! When a girl is born here, she prepares her own dowry which consists heavily of the embroidered dresses, bed sheets and other things – she would stitch those for years and store these in trunks till they reach 17-18 yrs of age (officially they say so) and then take them along – very beautiful and vibrant pieces I must say! Though mind you the prices are not cheap if you wish to buy – they are used to the dollar spending clients! They were really amused to see me stiching and asked me from where did I learn the same – oh how they think we are just good for nothings :-)! Another popular art here are pottery, lacquer work and leather work!

We were back at our resort by the evening for the wonderful dinner! The local artisans had come to play the local songs along side the bon fire. The night was so quiet that it was scary to go to the loo which was another tent as you could hear the hyenas and foxes howling throughout the night (though the staff said they were far away but their noise didn’t seem so distant)!

Next day, we decided to explore the wetlands of Chhari Dhand – a small wet land which sees migratory bird and some of the rare bird sightings can be done here! I was excited because this is where you could see the flamingoes – oh how long had I been wanting to see those beautiful birds – though I still would want to see them dancing as they say!

But as they, Rann of Kuchchh (like other deserts) is a place where you shouldn’t explore on your own unless you know the routes – why ? – we knew when we went there with Paandi kaka! The interesting person – 58 yrs, wrinkled old man who has seen the Rann for last 58 yrs and knows the place very well – couldn’t speak hindi properly but had such charming kohl eyes that looked mysterious! He was 6+ ft tall and thin and was always ready to pose for the photos! It was under his guidance that we had taken the trip to wet lands. There were no roads but mud tracks that were pointing to multiple directions and the driver would look at kaka and wait for him to point his fingers to the direction that we need to go! Though it was December but the car had AC and even inside the closed car we could breath in the fine dust that the wheels were throwing! On the way, we saw ‘families of wolves’ – so easy to spot for the scanty vegetation and guess what, we saw nomads – the ones we read about in school text books. There were men with herds of camel – hundreds in number moving across the desert – perhaps to the destinations not-known or known but certainly less travelled!

Alright, finally the banni wetlands – though we couldn’t see many birds but we could see some egrets, herons and ducks but no flamingoes L! We spent some time there in the quietness of the place and on the watchtower – nature can do amazing things – a wetland in the desert! The other places of interest that we saw were some of the villages like Dhordo that were adopted under PM schemes of rural development and ladies would welcome you in their houses, showcase their products and quietly put these back if you do not buy – mind you the prices are just the same as quoted for tourists! Of all the things, the best were to see the Bhungas with mirror work on the walls done by the ladies of the house.

The trip to Kala Dungar and India bridge are never to be forgotten. The sepoys on the India bridge - The last Civilian point of India-Pakistan Border - were so happy to see us as this is the last post allowed from where the border of Pakistan starts so nobody is allowed and all you could see are the vast lands of desert – the salt desert – where if you get lost it would be days that somebody would find you. And the sepoys, specially in summers, spent 2-3 months without seeing a single human soul other than their fellows guarding the bridge! After saying hi-hello to them, we went to Kala Dungar (Black Hill in local language). This is a small hillock overlooking the Rann and you can see lights from Pakistani homes on the border. You could go there in the evening to see the sun set in the Rann and visit the Dattatreya temple and above all a miracle of nature’s law being defied. Here in the temple, for years the pujari feeds the wild jackals – it was amazing to see the jackals appear at a designated place when the Arti began with the bells ringing – they come, eat and go back into the wild. Well, people are allowed to see this from a distant place – they don’t want to take any risk but it was amazing. They were looking at the temples as if listening to the sound of the bells. A truly amazing and ‘wild’ experience.

Well, finally on our way to Bhuj and Than Monastery – I got my first glimpse to the Flamingoes – so many of them with their peachish-pink bodies and red beaks they looked elegant – least to say! I simply awed the birds – there were so many in those small poodles of water. Than Monastery can be skipped as it was a temple though located at a quiet place amongnst the hills.

Moving on to Bhuj – unlike our perception – this place rocks – has some of the wealthy marwaris living and making money here. This has one of the best palaces that we saw – remember the ball dance from the film ‘Lagaan’ – this was shot here in the Bhuj Palalce hall – the magnificent palace got shattered during the earthquake and the Raja moved out to some other place and opened this for public visit – best way to recur the maintenance cost :-))
Some of the best chandeliers and artifacts can be seen here and in the museum. Rajasthani rajas knew how to live in splendor! Then to the Marwari food – though the kuchchhi thaali at the resort was the best – but nonetheless the Marwari food was no less – wonderful and cheap!

Star gazing!
The resort stay was ultimate and quiet and before I forget I must mention what did we do on the new year eve – it was a perfect quiet new year eve with the resort people organizing a star watching show with an amateur club of astronomy. They had come with telescopes and tried to explain and show us the wonderful stars and satellites. You won’t get such clear sky in Delhi even on the best of the days! We saw, we discussed, we had food (and no drink :-) Gujarat remember!) and off to sleep just like a normal day. Perfecto!

What a place and what an experience. The return was just the same – a taxi to Bhuj, a bus to Ahmedabad, overnight stay in Ahmedabad and then early morning flight off to Delhi and back to the grind the same day in office! Go guys – a place must visit but only for those who can dare the dust – as I say!

By Sunita Chakraborty


Khoobsurat sapne aur Masoon khayal said...

Thanks Sunita-- for sharing the wonderful experience ! It is realy very tempting , how many days do u need for this trip and how to book ?

Tai Tai said...

Khoobsurat, to find out more why dont you send us an email at or call us at +91 9900 193 873?