RANN OF KUTCH
It was 5th Jan, 60kph’s anniversary and I was in Ahmedabad
without my bullet for the past one month, but was hell bent
on going for a ride so picked up the only two-wheeler I could
access in the city, my cousin sister’s 100 c.c Kinetic
A friend suggested a wildlife resort 120 kms. from Ahmedabad
which was perfect, as riding the kinetic on the highway would
be a different ball game altogether and my idea was to spend
a couple of days in leisure doing nothing and not riding.
The ride was not comfortable to start with, handling the kinetic
is no way near to comfort when riding on high speeds and passing
trucks do ruffle up the scooter’s balance. But overlooking
that it gave me the freedom to be on the road when I desperately
Gujarat’s dry and arid landscape is monotonous, not offering
any change barring the occasional yellow mustard fields and
the characteristic thorny bushes looking like green walls on
both sides of the road.
The wildlife resort was more on the likes of a luxury adventure
camp and way to expensive for my idea of unwinding. I asked
the resort manager if there were any other interesting places
I could see in the nearby area. He of course gave me a discouraging
answer “ Where will you go? After this, starts the Rann
of Kutch, there is nothing interesting about the desert”.
The statement of the resort manager with tented accommodation
costing 1400 bucks was like a blessing in disguise. I pulled
out the map and started to ride towards the Great Rann of Kutch.
All of a sudden the ride had a mission, the curiosity to see
the Desert. The idea of unwinding gave way and the anxiety of
not knowing where my destination was going to for the night
made the ride interesting.
After riding for another 80 odd Kms. I reached the last town
after which the Great Rann of Kutch starts. On interacting with
locals, who provide the most reliable information about the
vicinity, I learned that the desert was frequented only by trucks,
which ply to and fro to the salt pans which thrive in the Rann.
The locals were amused at my curiosity to see the desert, probably
they are so used to it that the desert doesn’t interest
them or they thought I was being foolishly brave or naïve
to ride in the Rann alone.
As I was riding away from the town, the trees became less frequent
and so did the traffic, but at one small lakes before the desert,
I had company of around 5,000 migrating cranes. After riding
for 70 kms. the road gave way to dirt tracks, small salt pans
formed by dry water bodies were frequent and eventually everything
gave way to a flat, barren landscape stretching as far one could
see. The stillness and the emptiness of the desert was unnerving,
but at the same time breathtakingly beautiful.
I kept wandering on the dirt track, which was getting tougher
to ride on, thanks to the sand, when I saw a small board for
a temple. I followed the track and reached the temple. It was
surprising to a temple in middle of nowhere, but soon I realized
that I had ventured too far in the desert and the temple was
close to the Indo-Pakistan border and is frequented by BSF (Border
Security Force) and not locals. Immediately I was questioned
on what I was doing there, my honest answer of just wandering
to see the desert wasn’t satisfying to the already suspicious
They checked my belongings, matter became worst when they found
maps of Indo-China Border which looked like satellite maps given
to me by Martin (60kph member from Chezh Republic) before the
Ladakh trip for the lake circuit and simple things like camera,
cell phone, lonely planet atlas further raised their suspicion.
They politely told me not leave the temple until they do a background
check on me, few left taking my camera, cell phone and maps
and few stayed back to guard me. Next, several questioning sessions
or interrogation started by the Watson’s trying to solve
an espionage case. Sherlock Holmes finally arrived at midnight
with armed BSF personnel and after two hours of questioning
everyone realized that I was not a Pakistani or Afghani either
entering or leaving India through the porous border!
Next day at 8 a.m Sherlock Holmes came to see me off, and to
compensate for the confusion, he showed me a route right in
middle of Rann leading towards the next town which the Army
trucks used, so I was riding right in middle of the desert which
I saw the previous evening.
On reaching the town I checked if my camera roll was exposed
by the BSF? Thankfully not but they did erase some entries in
the address book of the cell phone and had made some calls to
friends and family in the address book. Panicking on the thought
that these calls would have worried the poor souls who unfortunately
know me, I rushed to the nearest STD Booth, which was 45 kms.
away. Was relived again after making several calls that no one
had received phone calls from BSF in middle of night. (Shreekant
and Alok were the two 60kph members I called) I think the BSF
guys were just fidgeting with the phone and were trying to make
calls where there was no network signal.
One part of me was upset with all the happenings and wanted
to ride back to Ahmedabad, the other told me to put it all behind
and continue with the ride. I glanced again at the map and decided
to ride through the Little Rann of Kutch, the phone booth owner
thought It was crazy idea when I asked him for directions, but
in the past 12 hours I have had a crazier experience so to let
go of my anger and to make a ride out of it I headed for the
Little Rann of kutch.
All my stops to buy bottled water were futile; none of the shops
had them for sale. At 4 p.m I was at the last village before
the Little Rann of Kutch, I bought two matchboxes from the village
to light up a fire in case I loose my way in the desert or if
the Kinetic breaks down. I didn’t have any tools or spares
with me and even if I had them I hardly knew the mechanics of
The locals were amused when I asked them how was the road condition
ahead, they told me “What road? The desert and the sand
have eaten up the road long time back, there are only dirt tracks
now, make sure you cross the desert before sunset!!”
I don’t know what state of mind I was in, overlooking
all the sincere advice, I started riding on the dirt tracks
of the Little Rann of Kutch. Riding through sand was difficult
but not tough by any means, tough was avoiding the thorny branches
on the track. Slowly, the loose soil and semi-forested landscape
transformed into a flat endless plain of hard soil.
I kept on riding on the main dirt track, constantly hoping that
it was the right way out of the desert, but every now and then
the main track would break up into several tracks which left
me guessing and forget about asking somebody for directions,
there were no sign boards either. To check if I was on the right
track, I rode in direction of the salt field in a distance.
The desert plays tricks on the mind when it comes to distances,
what looks like a couple of kilometers away is much further.
Luckily there was one family staying near the salt pans to guard
it, I asked them the directions and they told me I was on a
wrong track, they told me to turn back and turn left on a certain
track. There was no way I could identify the dirt track I rode
to reach here, forget about the track from where I had to turn
left, so I told him to tell me the way from the salt pan. He
pointed at a small mountain 30 Kms. away and told me “
Just keep on riding in direction of that mountain, at the base
of the mountain you will get the dirt track which will take
you out of the desert”
Now I was making my own road, there were no dirt tracks going
from the saltpan to the mountain. I kept on riding in direction
of the mountain. The surface of the earth was cracked, very
hard and riding on it was as smooth as riding on a tar road.
Occasional sand patches and mud patches did appear, which the
locals later told me were formed after the 26th January 02’
killer earthquake. As the mountain came closer, desert started
playing tricks again, everything looked fine from a distance
but when I got closer it was again guess work. Trial and error
and I reached the base of the mountain where I touched the main
dirt track, which would lead me to the other end of the desert.
The dirt track took me up the mountain and the view while descending
the mountain was breathtaking, flat barren landscape as far
as one can see, something like ocean of sand. The dirt track
gave the feeling as if it was right in middle of the desert
splitting it into half. The straight 20 Kms. dirt track was
a dream to ride on, but as I was nearing the other end of the
desert it again started breaking up into several dirt tracks.
But by then I had realised that the smaller tracks were probably
leading to the salt pan fields, so a few kilometer ride on the
track and if I would see a salt pan field in distance, I would
turn back and check other tracks. I lost a lot of time in this
exercise, and it was almost sunset time but with trial and error
and moments of panic against the clicking clock and fading light,
I was out of the Little Rann of Kutch by 6.15. Couldn’t
help but shout a “hurray” to the kinetic which was
hardly maintained. The irony was the tar roads on the other
end of the desert were in such a bad state that riding on no
roads in the desert was better!
Next day after doing some cross-country riding I reached Nalsarovar,
which is a very famous wildlife sanctuary, home to thousands
of migratory birds. But the boats in the Nalsarovar weren’t
that inviting for me to go for a water trek, which I had initially
planned, as I was still overwhelmed by the stillness and the
emptiness of the desert and the eyes of my interrogator.
On reaching back home I called up my cousin sister and told
her that I had crossed the Rann of Kutch on her kinetic, she
said “ Yeah right! No time for jokes, Bye” and she
kept the phone :o)
* More Photos from the ride in the west