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Backpacking in Gujarat – Part 2

Madhumay Mallik

Now that you are continuing on our story of backpacking in Gujarat…

The last train from Sasan Gir to Junagarh leaves at 4pm and it takes a good 3 hours for the journey. On reaching Junagarh, we immediately booked our tickets to Jamnagar. It would be an overnight journey and give us the opportunity to stretch ourselves a bit. However, waking up at 4 am ensured that none of us had a sound sleep, periodically waking up to check on the alarm.

The third day started at the Jamnagar Railway Station. For the first time, we were hoping that the train would be late from its schedule but Indian Railways disappointed us! The first thing we began looking for was a decent washroom, but the facilities available in the station were even worse than the Sulabhs across the country. The sight was enough for our bowels to automatically vanish! It was still quite dark outside and we thought it to be safe to leave for Narara once the sky brightened up a bit.

Photo Credits: TheLuxeCafe
Photo Credits: Cleartrip.com

Meanwhile, we found an autowala who was aware of Narara (please note that not many drivers would be aware of the place). The deal was set at another Rs. 1,000 for the whole day. We waited for around 2 hours and when the clock stroke 6 o’ clock, we were ready to leave. We took out first break to have some tea to build up the necessary pressure and lighten ourselves up before another day-long journey began. The next break was an hour later at a highway restaurant that had a hygienic bathroom.

The next break was an hour later at a highway restaurant that had a hygienic bathroom.

Note for travelers: No restaurant, howsoever posh or expensive, cannot deny you using their washrooms/bathrooms by law! We did have some dosas and upma though!

Photo Credits: Txigo; Inside
Photo Credits: Saurabh Sawant

It took around 2 hours to get to the Narara Marine National Park gates. People would usually say that you would need permits and all but you can talk the authorities out for a free permit into the sanctuary. It did save us Rs. 750 (in camera charges).

Now here’s another thing about the marine sanctuary. There are particular times of the day when the sea recedes, exposing the marine life. The time fluctuates every day and this day, it would be at 2 pm in the afternoon. We were aware of the phenomenon, but somehow doing the appropriate research skipped our heads. Anyway, there were enough Flamingoes nearby to keep us busy. We also did run after some hermit crabs on the shoreline.

Photo Credits: Trip Advisor
Photo Credits: Nature in Focus

A guide was arranged for us. Now, guides here aren’t under government license but are locals who have the opportunity to make some money by showing tourists the wonders of the marine life. A 3-hour long walk in the (now shallow) sea revealed some of the most amazing creatures we had ever seen! In the checklist were pufferfishes, Neptune crabs, ghost crabs, wolf crabs, brittle stars, sea anemones, a variety of corals, sea urchins, tube planktons, octopuses, sea cucumbers, sponges that reveal a full range of color spectrum and more!

Along our way back, we couldn’t help think if we could have got more time here. A week too would have been insufficient. We did collect a lot of shells though. Swati was to do her craft thing with these! Another 4 hours of the journey back to Jamnagar bus stand (an extra hour for the traffic that coincides with the end-of-day at Reliance Factories).

Jamnagar was also the opportunity where I would have something non-vegetarian after 3 days of being a veggie at Gujarat! I had a Biriyani, but it turned out to be the worst I had ever had. Our auto driver was kind enough to have his contacts already book bus tickets for us to Bhuj that night.

Photo Credits: Rann Ursav: SelfRoadiez
Photo Credits: Gujarat Tourism

Next stop – Greater Rann of Kutch, Rann Utsav

We reached Bhuj early in the morning around 5.00 am and the cramps from traveling in the bus were driving us to look for a room as a priority. Well, we also got bitten by bedbugs, but the sores would show up later! At a bargain of Rs. 1,100 we found a room that was close enough to the bus stop…and decent too.

After we had freshened up and charged our camera/phone batteries to reliable levels, it was time to get a quick breakfast and look for the cheapest possible means to reach the White Desert. From our experience, we knew that the only way to understand the route and get a decent mode of transport was to go to a local Dhaba. Between dhoklas and samosas, Mohit managed to get an auto that would charge us 1,000 bucks till the evening and off we went.

Photo Credits: Bhuj: Sony India
Photo Credits: Bhuj: My World

About 2 kilometers from Bhuj and the barrenness started showing up. Never ending dry fields, occasional huts and sometimes a herd of buffaloes was really giving the feeling that we certainly were nearing the border of civilization. It took us around 3.5 hours to reach Rann Utsav but much to our disappointment, the scene wasn’t what we expected. We had no idea that to be in Rann Utsav, one would have to get the booking in advance. Well, if that wasn’t disappointment enough, our auto driver didn’t tell us that the last place we would have got our permit to enter the White desert was left more than an hour ago. It would mean that he wouldn’t have to stay long and yet be paid what was promised!

Well, this team wasn’t in the mood to give up. Asking around, we finally managed to request the BSF at the gate let us through.

Be persistent and a way will always show up!

Then started the long stretch of White Sand, well, salt. The sun was overhead and not much was happening in the place, except some camel riders looking to fool you into a trip in the desert. We tried to take some shots of the barrenness and given the conditions, did manage to frame a few.

We were back in Bhuj by 4.00 in the evening and arranged tickets for our ride back to Ahmadabad.

End of Day 4 and the trip – now we will be more prepared the next time!

Ending Note: The backpacking in Gujarat trip cost us just about Rs. 6,000 per head! For 4 days of extensive travel and photography, this was more than acceptable! That’s the charm of backpacking.

Photo credits: Banner Left – Bhuj: Sony India; Banner Center – Rann Utsav: Insider; Banner Right – Rann Utsav: Akshar Travels

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