Kutchi being my first language, I always knew that my ancestors moved from Kutch, but never had the opportunity to visit the place or know a lot about how they lived. And having recently found a passion in traveling I had to put this destination higher on my wish list.
Planning the Itinerary
In January 2017, with the realization that official holiday calendar for my work place included 25 & 26 December 2017 along with 1st of January 2018 as a holiday so the temptation to get away from work had to creep in. Not having much experience in extreme winter riding I opted to travel to relatively warmer places. The final two options included Jaisalmer and Kutch. But it wasn't too difficult to choose one over the other. Two months before the ride I started checking blogs to figure out interesting places to visit along the way and map my itinerary for the journey. I make it a habit to travel on a low budget so I can travel more frequently, hence I had to decide suitable places to pitch a tent and spend the night in order to save up on hotel costs.
Day 1 Delhi to Sirohi (Saturday 23 December 2017)
Luckily I had packed my bags a few days in advance so I could get a good night’s rest before the ride. Also riding in winter last year had helped me realize that the ventilation holes in my gloves allow a lot of air in, causing winter rides to be a bit brutal on my fingers. A little bit of improvisation had to be done and I decided to block the ventilation holes by covering them with electrical tape so I could use them in summers again without too much effort. The Bluetooth intercom was an absolute boon as I knew the road from Delhi to Gujarat is a boring straight highway with very little interesting scenery along the way. Fortunately there was a detour that forced all the motorists into the back villages and a little bit of off-roading came my way. I got a little over excited and manage to snap one of the straps of my saddle bags. Fortunately, having learnt from past mistakes, I was carrying spares so it was as good as new in 2 minutes.
I stopped for breakfast somewhere south of Jaipur and couldn't help but appreciate how warm my gloves were and the mini adventure I had riding through loose sand during the detour. On winter mornings like this sunlight in your face is always an absolute bliss. Going solo on a dull straight highway can be extremely mundane and music can be a big blessing as a result investment in a Bluetooth intercom headset goes a long way. At sunset I realized that I had to find a place to pitch a tent. The original plan was to camp somewhere near Mt Abu but the detour through the villages and the traffic jams had cost me a few hours of day light. So I decided to search for dhabas that truck drivers use as stops to spend the night. These places always have the most basic facilities needed to freshen up in the morning and the owners are friendly as well. Somewhere near Sirohi I found an ideal place to pitch a tent. I had a word with the owner about my intent to have dinner and breakfast at his dhaba and asked if it was okay to pitch a tent. In my experience if you're polite and extremely respectful with the locals they always go a step further to try to help out a traveler. The owner offered to give me a room free of cost but I didn't intend to impose so I pitched my tent none the less.
Day 2 Sirohi to Jamnagar via Jodia (Sunday 24 December 2017)
I wanted to get a head start on the day so I got up before sunrise. The owner who seemed close to his retirement age had also gotten up and was working with his staff for the morning clean-up for his dhaba. He decided to give me company during breakfast and he told me how he used to work as a cook in a hotel earlier and then decided to be his own boss. Not having as much life experience as the gentlemen in front of me the only interesting stories I had were about my previous travels and he was kind enough to tell me his own adventures during his youth. So at about 7 am I had finished packing and had my breakfast and was ready for another day of riding.
Mid-morning I found myself in the only hilly region across the entire route and enjoyed the change in scenery.
Later that afternoon I had reached Jodia. I stopped by for lunch at my Uncle’s place in Jodia.
My parents had informed my Uncle about my visit so my little cousin took it upon himself to greet me at the village entrance. I had a little pillion who told me all about recent events in his school along the last 15 minute journey from the village entrance to his place. Lunch in a Kathiawadi village would mostly include a bajre ki roti and some vegetables along with chach (irrespective of season, you can't have a Kathiawadi meal without chach). Post lunch my cousin decided to go through all my riding gear. He tried on my helmet, explored all features of the Bluetooth headset, and tried the gloves, the riding jacket as well and got his pictures taken. The rest of the afternoon included sharing stories with the family on a khaat under a neem tree. I then left for Jamnagar after a couple of hours.
Days 3 - 5 Home Sweet Home
The next three days were spent relaxing at home. My brother has the exact same motorcycle as I do, so I had to click a picture of the two of them together.
Day 6 Jamnagar to Lakhpat via Mandvi Beach (Thursday, 28 December 2017)
The shortest route from Jamnagar to Mandvi goes through a lot of village roads which are mostly under construction so while the speed was low the scenery kept changing every 30 minutes from oceans, to rivers, to bridges to farms and countless windmills along the way so that keeps things interesting. After entering Kutch district things get a little boring with big roads, fly overs and open spaces. I entered Mandvi in the afternoon and took some pictures of the area where they build the ships that the local fishermen use.
Next stop was wind farm beach in Mandvi. As the name suggests, there are a lot of windmills on this beach.
I then headed towards Naryan Sarovar hoping to spend the night in Lakhpat as it is categorized as a last Indian village.
I was running extremely low on fuel and the nearest petrol pump visible on Google maps also seemed out of my fuel range. I stopped one of the locals to ask him and he confirmed the same. Luckily he knew a tea stall near Lakhpat that sells petrol in black that would give me enough fuel to make it to the Petrol pump.
While enquiring with the locals about a suitable place to pitch a tent, they told me about a Gurudwara within Lakhpat fort that I could spend the night in.
Day 7 Lakhpat Fort to The white Rann via Kalo Dungar (Friday, 29 December 2017)
The quiet morning in the Lakhpat Gurudwara was an amazing experience. With very little population and traffic on the nearest highway you could clearly hear the birds singing. I decided to explore the village. One of the locals told me about how centuries ago it was an important village for trade and now it’s mostly abandoned.
Along the route to the Kalo Dungar, I came across a few very desolate trails.
At Kalo Dungar, I met Vijendra who had traveled from Goa on his KTM Duke 200. And we decided to pack together for a couple of days. We visited the white desert together. In a few minutes we came across two more motorcyclists who had traveled from Mumbai and our group grew a little.
A French group of tourists asked if they could get their picture taken with us and then we relaxed at the white desert for the rest of the evening.
The sunset at the white desert is a thing of beauty the below picture does very little justice to the spectacle.
The Sun had set and it was it was time for me to say good bye to most of my new friends except Vijendra. We all decided to have dinner together before we went our separate ways.
Day 8 Khavda to Dholavira via Ekal Rann (Saturday 30 December 2017)
I had camped in at a dhaba somewhere south of Khavda last night. I woke up at sunrise again to pack up and leave. A group of locals had a camp fire to stay warm during the morning. We talked about our names what we do and our families and we later realized that I share a common ancestry with one of them. He told me about how my ancestors left Kutch in search of better lives when Jamnagar was founded and most of the Sama family history lies there in that little patch of the desert. He told me about the graves of my great grandparents and then asked me if I had a camera on my phone and sang the Raas of Amand Sama for me to record.
I thanked the gentlemen for their company and moved to the next town where I regrouped with Vijendra. We reached Ekal Rann at noon. And clicked a few pictures before moving to Dholavira.
Upon reaching Dholavira we were greeted by a local guide named Hardik who offered a home cooked meal at his house for a nominal fee. So we stopped by at his house for lunch before visiting the Ruins.
Vijendra and I said our goodbyes later that evening and while he started his journey back home to Goa, I started looking for a place to sleep so as to return to Delhi the next day.
Day 9 Conclusion (Sunday 31 December 2017)
The last day of the journey was back on the boring route from Adesar to Delhi via Abu Road, Ajmer & Jaipur. While part of me was upset that such an amazing journey was about to come to an end, another part was rejoicing the experience through it all. Yes I had an adventure, but I also learnt a little about my family’s history and made some really good friends along the way. I was rejuvenated and recharged enough to return to my desk job knowing that I had brought the year 2017 to an epic conclusion.