Day 3 started off with another long journey. With all the craft work done, it was time to check out other sights. We traveled through huge stretches of barren landscape and crossed the Tropic of Cancer (yes, you can stop by and click a picture of yourself!) to reach Lakhpat. Once a prosperous port town, it is now a shadow of its former self. The seismically unstable Kutch region was home to rivers Hkra and Sindhu. During an earthquake, the rivers changed course, leaving the land barren. Add to it the high salinity of the soil, and all that is left of vegetation are just the hardy shrubs. According to Wikipedia, ‘the area was a vast shallow of the Arabian Sea until continuing geological uplift closed off the connection with the sea, creating a vast lake that was still navigable during the time of Alexander the Great. The Ghaggar River, which presently empties into the desert of northern Rajasthan, formerly emptied into the Rann of Kutch, but the lower reaches of the river dried up as its upstream tributaries were captured by the Indus and Ganges thousands of years ago.’
Gurudwara at Lakhpat in Rann of Kutch
Nestled inside the village is a tiny Gurudwara. Guru Govind Singh had stayed here during one of the visits and the house eventually was converted into a gurudwara. We were greeted by the local caretaker and offered tea and refreshments. He told us some wonderful stories (including the one above) about the history of the place. From the Gurudwara, we walked up the Lakhpat. Owing to it’s proximity to Pakistan, the fort is guarded by military personnel. Living away from their families for long durations, these men serve in difficult conditions. From their vantage point, we could see an endless stretch of water almost merging with the sky. Some fishermen were going about their daily business.
Ship building at Mandvi, Great rann of Kutch
The trip to Mandvi from Lakhpat is a long one. But one that no-one should miss. Mandvi is a beach town and is home to the local ship building industry. A highly complex structure (architecturally speaking) is made without a single design on paper. The master-craftsman is an expert with decades of experience and his measurement using very crude tools is precise. These little ships traverse the sea all the way to Singapore, Dubai and even Africa. Over tea, the builders and the sailors were reminiscing about days spent at sea, Somalian pirates and sea-storms. I could have very well imagined to be on the sets of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. In Mandvi, do check out the palace if you find time.
Every trip has a trip photograph and we had ours! With all this done, we headed back to the hotel to pack up and leave. Another trip with loads of crafts, sights and memories!
P.S: Best time to travel to Kutch is October to February. There are only a couple of stay options near the desert, so make your bookings in advance. Also these options are open only during season. We traveled off-season and hence used Bhuj as the base and traveled back every night. Though very exhausting, this is possible.
Also it is best to hire a cab from Bhuj as local transport is not well connected. Keep food and water handy as you will travel long stretches without scope for both. Also if driving on your own, make sure to have back-up fuel. As the Rann is close to the border, you need a permit to enter it. So make sure you stop before turning to Hodka to get your permit.