This has been (and something tells me, will always be) B’s mantra. Faced with a sudden week off over the holidays, he whisked out his month-long dream road-trip map and extracted a third of it in a jiffy. I looked on – shocked at first, then signed up for half of it, and then fell for the full ten days; all in a span of a few hours.
I never thought I’d sign up for a ten-day road-trip in India. I mean, highway loos, anyone? But what’s a year end without one last challenge, something to push the next year’s goal even further?!
Tucked away in the north-west corner of India’s western-most state Gujarat, 50km from the Pakistan border, is the haunting Rann of Kutch – the unbelievable white desert. It looks like a snow covered plain, a beach, a desert, all at the same time. Entirely made of salt left behind after the scorching sun evaporates gallons of collected monsoon rain, it stretches far into the horizon, inviting you to walk the length to Pakistan and beyond. A Rann Utsav sets camp in the winter months just before the desert opens up – a riot of color with tents, handicrafts and a zillion people. But if you walk away from the crowds, far into the whiteness braving the fact that at some place it turns into a marsh, the silence is deafening. You can hear yourself breathe, smell the salt, feel the crunch beneath your feet, feast your eyes on miles of emptiness; the only thing you don’t want to do is taste the raw salt :) We fortuitously found an AC library tent outside the tent city, and camped there till it was time to take in one of the best sunsets we have ever seen in our lives at the desert – not a cloud in the sky, not a soul between us and the horizon. Zen.
The Rann’s neighbour to the east is one of India’s ancient Harappan sites – the ruins at Dholavira. Their legendary city-planning circa 3000 B.C. is evident in just a third of the site that has been excavated, the other two-thirds languishing under piles of soil for want of funds. It was uplifting to see the order in an entire buried city, yet heart-breaking to see 5000 year old terracotta and stones lying around without a penny to preserve them. And a place that evokes such extreme emotions is a place that will stay with us for a while.
This trip was more educative in politics, governance, culture and food than we had ever imagined. We have a pretty cool state for a neighbour, if only the rest of the country can follow suit (if you get the political drift ;)).