Take off, Joy & Crash
Delhi to Kutch in 2 days
Having seen a lot of episodes of Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah, Kutch was on my wish list for a long time. But the fear of encountering an enormous crowd during peak season always kept on pushing it further away. It was finally during my trip to Pushkar in January when I saw a ray of hope. If you have read my blog on the adventurous night trek in Mumbai, then you might remember Onnu, Rajjo, Laata. It was Laata’s marriage in Jan and we used that occasion as an excuse to have a little reunion via a trip to Rajasthan.
While we were on the trip, Onnu came up with the plan of going to Kutch in February and that too just over a weekend. Doing a back and forth trip from Delhi to Kutch in 2 days might sound crazy, but we did it.
February is the last month of the famous Rann-Utsav and once it ends, Kutch literally becomes a desert. So, the last weekend of February was the best time to visit. Onnu along with his friend KT were coming from Mumbai and the plan was to meet at Bhuj.
While traveling from Delhi, many people end up booking direct flights to Bhuj, which are too costly. And believe me when I say it- The cost of a one-way flight is more than the total cost of the trip. Instead of booking a direct flight to Bhuj, I booked a flight to Ahmedabad followed by a train from Ahmedabad to Bhuj.
The schedule was gonna be tight but who cares when you get a chance to visit the long awaited destination in your wish list without taking any extra leaves 😄
I had booked a Friday night flight from Delhi and kept a margin of 2 hours between train and flight. The corona spread was still in its initial stages, so I managed to convince my parents for the trip 😅. There were risks but that’s what I have been taking throughout my journeys. Remember my Kerala trip during the floods?
After a long tiring day at the office, I left for the airport and reached before the scheduled time. As I was expecting, the flight got delayed. What could have been a better start of the trip than that 😛? I had to wait for another 40–45 minutes, after which we finally flew. By the time I reached Ahmedabad, it was almost midnight. My connecting train was at 2a.m and I still had a lot of time to kill. I reached the station and tried my best to avoid sleeping. Thankfully, the train arrived in time and the journey continued. But things don’t happen that easily on my trips. After a few minutes, I got a message from Onnu that their train’s route had got changed and it was going to terminate at Ahmedabad. That one thing was going to jeopardise our entire plan.
While my train was scheduled to reach Bhuj at 9a.m, theirs was going to reach to Ahmedabad by 6a.m. Taking a bus/train during that time of the day meant another 7–8 hours journey to finally make it to Bhuj.
My train ran as per the schedule and here I was on the Indian west coast, standing in the town of Bhuj.
Bhuj was the capital of the former princely state of Kutch and got its name from the Bhujiyo Dungar hillock that overlooks the city. The town connects you to a range of civilizations and important events in South Asian history through prehistoric archaeological finds, remnants of the Indus Valley Civilization (Harappans), places associated with the Mahabharata and Alexander the Great. With a history of inhabitation of over 4000 years, it has fostered a unique mix of people and traditions. In short, a great place for fans of history, civilizations, and traditions 😉
Onnu and KT had also started their ride from Ahmedabad and were expected to reach by 1p.m. We already had made the bookings for our homestay but it was in Kutch. The original plan was to go straight to Kutch after landing in Bhuj. But with things not entirely going as per our terms, I had another 3–4 hours to spend wandering around the town of Bhuj.
I started moving towards the city, scrolling through the list of things to do in Bhuj. Other than exploring the city, I also had to look for bike rental shops. But the first thing was to find a good place for breakfast. Google came to rescue and I found a place which was around 2.5kms from the station. Instead of taking an auto, I thought of rather walking. This way I was able to navigate through the city streets, continue my search for bikes and kill some time 😅. And in case some of you are thinking why I didn’t simply search for the info of bike shops on Google, I did that but it was of no use. So after doing a scavenger hunt of 1.5 hours, I ended up finding 2 shops that had bikes of our choice.
I didn’t know how to drive geared bikes neither do I have much understanding of them. My job was to only find the shops.
Major stuff of the day was done and it was now time to go around the city. Bhuj isn’t very big and you can easily explore all the places within a day. And for me even 2 hours were enough because places like museums, temples were already off my list 😅. Without wasting much time, I picked up my backpack and hopped back on to the streets.
Sightseeing in Bhuj
Time passed, and finally, the guys reached Bhuj. It was almost 2p.m and half of the day was gone. By this time, we were supposed to be chilling in our stay at Kutch but you know nothing works against God’s plan 😉. Without wasting much time, we picked up the bikes, had some food and started riding towards Kutch.
The infamous white desert of Kutch is around 80kms from Bhuj. Our homestay was in the middle of the Bhuj-Kutch route. We wanted to reach before evening and like every other distance/time problem, speed was the solution here. Normally, I drive within the speed limits but this time I wasn’t in the driver seat and the other guys had more experience in terms of driving bikes. So, I trusted them and we drove at whatever top speed we could achieve. I remember we crossed 115Km/hr multiple times. And you know, you can feel the wind hitting your body when you don’t have much body weight 😛. The roads were quite good and we reached the homestay in time. Had some snacks, and started moving towards Kutch.
Things finally started happening as per our plan. Sun was yet to set and we were standing on white-sand of Kutch. It wasn’t something truly out of the world, but it was a nice and picturesque landscape. Thankfully, the crowd was also limited and there was peace around us.
The sun set, the moon rose and the darkness tookover. It was time to return back. Though the roads were good they didn’t have any lights. However, that didn’t stop Onnu from driving at top speed 😅. We safely reached back at the stay. But our days don’t end that without a surprise element.
Since we drove bikes at speeds higher than average, our fuel tanks got drained faster than usual. Had it been a normal city this wouldn’t have been but we were in Kutch. There are not many petrol pumps in that region and to be exact, there was only one. It was around 20kms from our homestay. We had to cover 2 more places and return back to Bhuj, so getting fuel was the top priority.
The plan was to get up early, ride to the sunrise point at Kalo Dungar followed by the Sindh-Kutch border. Kalo Dungar is the only place in Kutch from where you can get a great panoramic view of the white desert. It is also famous for a 400-year-old Dattatreya temple and a short stretch on the hill road of optical illusion where the vehicle seems to defy the gravity and roll from downslope to up the slope. The petrol pump was on the way to these places so if we reached there, the journey ahead was going to be easy.
We couldn’t get ready in time and it was already past 6. Sunrise was important so we decided to reuse the speed strategy 😛. The sky was partially dark but better than the last night. We were hoping the roads to be as good as they were yesterday. I got on the bike with Onnu and KT on the other one. Onnu picked up the speed and we left KT behind us. Since the route was quite simple, we continued moving ahead and then something happened.
Our bike was at a speed of more than 115km/hr and out of nowhere, a roadblock came in the way. There wasn’t enough light and we couldn’t foresee it until it was a few metres away from us. A patch on the road was under construction and the route had been diverted slightly towards left. Piles of dust, charcoal, gravel, etc were dumped along the sides. We were getting close and it was time for quick decision making.
There were two options-
1. Apply both the brakes and hope that bike stops. Using both the brakes, meant that both us could fly straight into the sky 😅
2. Apply the brakes, try taking the diversion, skid along the gravel and end up getting landed in the fields on the edges.
In both situations, something terrible was going to happen. And wait did I tell you I had forgotten to bring my helmet ⛑. Caught up in the morning rush, I had only picked up my camera. Onnu wasn’t that stupid and he had his helmet.
Coming back to the road, Onnu made the best use of his experience and started applying the brakes slowly. The speed started to decrease but not safe enough to take the diversion. We were almost there and with no other option left, he bent the bike towards the left and left it to slide along the road for a few metres. The bike and Onnu went on one side and I on the other.
Luckily, we survived, otherwise who would have written this travelogue 😛. And believe me or not, I got just a couple of minor scratches. Don’t know how but my clothes took care of me. They got ripped on the sides where I fell on the road. Onnu was also fine, he had got some minor bruises which we covered using some bandages.
That was one hell of an experience. I was still trying to understand how could we survive. Anything could have happened and with no village within kilometres of us, God knows where we would have landed if things had gone sideways. We took some time to recollect ourselves, waited for KT so that we all could drive together. But he was far behind us and after waiting for a few minutes, we re-started the journey. This time we were more cautious because you don’t get lucky to survive twice 😬. KT caught us after a few minutes and we continued towards the petrol pump( remember fuel was the top priority?)
We missed the sunrise but reached the petrol pump before our fuel tanks dried out. It was probably one of the lucky days. It took us half an hour more and we reached the mysterious site of optical illusion. And for all those who are wondering what happened there, this video will help 👇
After a long thrilling bike ride, we decided to chill at the hill top for some time before moving ahead to the Sindh Border.
Things happened smoothly after that. We visited the border, drove back to the homestay and were back in Bhuj by 1p.m. Our return train to Ahmedabad was at 8 in the night so we had plenty of time. After chatting with the bike shop owner, we decided to go to Mandvi. It’s a small port city located on the western coastline and is 70kms away from Bhuj. We had almost 6 hours so we could easily go there and return back in time.
One way journey took about 80 minutes and after a pleasant bus ride, we reached Mandvi. Without wasting much time, we booked an auto-rickshaw to take us to a couple of places.
Sightseeing in Mandvi
I felt that the accident was the only bad thing of the day. Everything went as per the plan and no major BS happened post that. After chilling in Mandvi, we managed to catch the last bus to Bhuj and reached 5 minutes before the train’s departure 😅.
This time, we all were on the same train. But unlike Onnu and KT, I had to wake up at midnight, as train’s arrival time at Ahmedabad was 2.30a.m. My return flight to Delhi was at 6. The train ran as per the schedule and the flight was also on time. I landed in Delhi by 8 and headed straight to the office.
And that’s how my 2-day journey to Kutch ended. It had multiple hiccups but gratefully I was back home safely :)
Vivek Sharma writes on travel, life and a bit of product management. You can follow Vivek on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
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