It was the winter of 2014. The month was January and I was looking forward to an International FAM. It was a wellness FAM with lots of Spa thrown in. That was the time when I used to work full time in addition to blogging. My leaves were worth in gold, maybe diamonds!
And then it happened. Due to reasons beyond the control of anyone, the trip got cancelled. It got cancelled on a Thursday when I was supposed to travel on the Sunday. And I had one week of approved leaves and no trip in sight. I was desperately in need of a last minute holiday.
That evening I sat down on my laptop and started searching high and low for the lowest airfare within the country. For the next three hours I ignored anyone and everyone in my family. And that included my small daughter too. My husband would come in between to give his expert comments, “Why don’t you go to Madagascar?” On a whim I searched for it and the country has visa on arrival for Indians! However, I could not dare to spend the kind of money it would take to travel last minute to Madagascar. Also there is always a question of yellow fever vaccine when traveling to that corner of the world.
I went on searching and the lowest I could find was a 12K INR return to Ahmedabad. I then decided to visit Rann of Kutch. The trouble was Bhuj is still 8 hours away from Ahmedabad. Luckily I got a train ticket in AC 2 tier that would take me Bhuj.
Tickets sorted, the hunt for a hotel was on. As it was a last minute holiday, I was seeing exorbitant prices. I was not even sure how good the hotels were! Then in a fit of anger I started looking for homestays. Luckily I found Devpur Homestay online. I wrote a mail to them and they responded. They were hesitant as they had guests coming in later. I cajoled and tricked them into giving me a room for two nights, the one that had the lowest rent!
Once I reached Devpur, my life became easy. The lady and the gentleman, the Jadejas, who run it were excellent hosts. They have a fabulous home! And they planned my entire Rann of Kutch itinerary. They arranged a taxi for me too.
When I was off to my first destination, Mandvi, the taxi driver Mr. Siddique asked, “Did you know that the Jadejas belong to the royal family of Kutch?”
In the end my last minute vacation turned out to be a lot of fun. But I am in no hurry to plan another one last minute again!
When I saw a breach in the fort wall I did what comes naturally to me as a trekker, I tried to walk through it! Out of nowhere an uniformed head popped out and asked me, “ma’am what do you think you are doing?” I apologized and retreated in haste. I then asked if I could click pictures? He told me I could walk all along the fort wall and click as many pictures as I wanted, only crossing over was not allowed! The view was so beautiful, no wonder I wanted to walk across!
Lakhpat is about 100 kilometers from Devpur. I did the trip by a taxi. I did Narayan Sarovar and Koteshwar on the same day and my total taxi bill was 2400 Indian rupees for the day. Lakhpat is said to be the last town on the western end of India along with India Pakistan border. It was an important port town till the middle of 19th century. After that the river Indus changed course and the town declined in popularity.
There is a Gurudwara (religious place for Sikhs) at Lakhpat. When I asked Mr. Jadeja about food options at Lakhpat he suggested the langar at the Gurudwara. It is said that Guru Nanak the founder of Sikh religion stayed at this village. Later a Gurudwara was built. After coming out of the Gurudwara I kept my handbag and camera bag on the raised platform near the flag. I got scolded for it by the gyani (priest). However, he could sense my hesitation and invited me to have lunch. The langar had daal, roti, rice and halwa. The food tasted good. You need to cover your head if you wish to enter the prayer room at a gurudwara. I was also told that the original gurudwara was badly damaged in the 2001 earthquake near Bhuj, this is a new one.
You are required to wash our plates and glasses after having food. It was on a full stomach I headed to the walls of the fort and inadvertently tried to cross into Pakistan. While I was signing the Gurudwara register there was a question which asked if I did a night stay. So that makes me think that a night is probably available with them. A pity that I didn’t inquire about it while I was there.
I went for a long walk along the fort wall. The taxi driver was patient. On the way there was a car breakdown even though the taxi was a new Swift. However they called up someone from the same village where we had a breakdown and we went ahead in a borrowed Alto. Such is the power of Gujarati Bhai network! There was a stiff wind howling around Lakhpat.
After an hour of walking and looking at the white expanse all around me I decided to head out. However, there was still one place that I had to visit. There were only a few tourists around and that is a plus in my dictionary.
The driver asked if I would like to visit the tomb of Gosh Mohammad? I could already see it in the distance and as it was an old looking structure I was quite willing to visit it. Gosh Mohammad is said to be living in the region in the 19th century. He was a scholar of many religions, he was known for his bhajans of Krishna.
I was alone for a while around the tomb. A few local men visited the shrine and closed the door after them. I asked them if I could go inside and they said no. I was not sure if it was because I was a woman or what. But they went away and then came a group of Sikhs which had women and children. They all trooped in and I went in right behind them!
After visiting the tomb we were headed towards Narayan Sarovar and Koteshwar. I liked Lakhpat, it had less number of tourists and no eating joints. It also gave me the first glimpse of the Rann.
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quite my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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