On an average, one liter of diesel costs about 50 rupees in India. Now, pair that with a car that manages to go more than 25 kilometers on a single liter of the sticky stuff. You have running costs that are very economical, and that’s just what the doctor ordered for discovering India. Say hello, to the Honda Amaze Diesel.
Every year, Japanese automaker Honda takes a bunch of motoring writers on a drive across a section of India, to explore the rich culture and geographical landscape this country offers in big measure. This time around, Honda’s Drive to Discover program involved the Rann of Kutch, bang at the right time, for the Rann Utsav was on in full swing.
The Rann Utsav, an annual affair that’s currently in its 10th year, is held to coincide with the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, an event that encourages deep pocketed NRIs to open up their pockets into investing in India. To sum it up, a state government sponsored cultural extravaganza combined with the vast, white expanses of the country’s white desert is what the Rann Utsav is all about.
13th January 2015
Day 1 of the journey was spent in driving from Ahmedabad to Bhuj, and thereafter to the Rann of Kutch itself. Arrow straight roads with almost no bad stretches to speak of ensured swift progress. This day also saw Honda introducing AVN (Audio, Video and Navigation) packages for the Brio and Amaze. The automaker also noted that the NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) levels on the Amaze Diesel had been improved.
After an early start in the morning from the Gateway Taj, the first stop was midway from Bhuj, at one of the many Hotel Honests that dot the Gujarati roadscape. The story goes that a small vendor started Hotel Honest as a push cart serving Pav Bhaji. The Honest Hotel franchise, so to speak, has now come to become a culinary empire in itself. So, if you do come across a Hotel Honest in Gujarat, do try the variety of Pav Bhajis it serves. After lunch, it was a straight run to Bhuj, which we reached in the sundown hours.
If you like your tipple, Bhuj is the last place, quite literally, from where you can procure a liquor permit before heading into India’s frontier zone, the Rann itself. Gujarat residents cannot procure one as the official state policy prohibits alcohol consumption. As “tourists” though, we got a free run of sorts, and liquor permits materialized in quick time, albeit with the typical Indian bureaucracy that tries its best to make easy things difficult in this great country of ours. With choicest liquor safely stashed, driving to the the Dhordo tent city at the Rann was a straightforward affair. If you’re driving dual carriageway stretches at night though, investing in a good pair of anti-glare glasses would be ideal.
Arriving at Dhordo Tent City, whose entire existence revolves around accommodating the hordes of tourists arriving for the Rann Utsav, we quickly checked into our basic but comfortable tents. Gathering in one of the many banquet halls set up for ground dinners, notes about the drive and the Rann were exchanged as liquor and food flowed and freely so. Meat eaters need to note that Dhordo Tent City, run as it is by the Gujarat tourism department, does not serve meat of any kind. So, brace yourself for vegetarian Gujarati fare for the duration of your stay at the tent city. Accommodation options outside the tent city serve meat though.
The full moon was supposed to light up the white Rann in the wee hours of 14th January, dishing out a spectacle most of us had seen only on TV. Honda had its logistics in place to transport a bunch of sleepy eyed and drunk motoring writer contingent to the white rann, all in the hope of the spectacle unfolding. For reasons best known to cosmic forces, the moon chose to rise later than scheduled, although the night sky was home to a million twinkling stars. The moon didn’t materialize until 1 in the morning, leaving us to beat retreat into our tents even as the wind was picking up its banshee wail.
14th January 2015
A chilly morning and a flappy tent was in store even as the sun lazily crept up the horizon at about 0700 Hrs, a time when yours truly took a quick peek outside the tent, only to snuggle back into bed. It is times like these which make one wonder about the sheer expanse of this country, whose north eastern citizens are at a distinct disadvantage due to the singular time zone that encapsulates the east and the west. This is patently unfair and we need different time zones, and now. The morning’s breakfast included an expansive Gujarati thali, followed by another visit to the Rann, which yielded a bunch of pictures with the Amaze in tow.
Afternoon that day, we headed to the highest point of the Kutch district, in this case the hillock of Kala Dungar. For the religious minded, the hillock hosts a 400 year old Dattatreya temple. For the rest though, the views of the flat vistas below more than makes up. Evenings see the surroundings get smoggy.
Therefore, the 462 meter tall hillock will be best enjoyed when the views are clear. After an hour or so at the top, it was time to head back to Dhordo Tent City, for our last night at the Rann. A quick dinner followed while those who wanted to pick up a knick knack or two did so with myriad shops and eateries dotting the shopping avenue at the tent city.
15 January 2015
The day for us to wind up and leave the Rann had arrived. Leaving the Dhordo tent city early, enroute to the Bhuj airport meant that we could indulge in the sights and sounds of Bhuj. After a quick search on the compact sedan’s spanking new AVN interface, we pointed the Amaze Diesel’s nose straight at Prag Mahal, a 19th century Italian Gothic palace commissioned by the then ruler of Bhuj, Rao Pragmalji II, in 1865. Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins designed the structure, which took 3.1 million rupees to build. The palace hosts a clock tower, which visitors can clamber up for a panoramic view of Bhuj.
One attraction in Bhuj, for folks interested in bird of the feathered kind, is the Hamirsar man-made lake, which abuts the Prag Mahal. This lake, which is the largest man-made structure of its kind, hosts migratory birds including ducks, pelicans, flamingos, herons and other water birds. Birders will have a field day hanging out at this lake, whose banks are sadly ill maintained with garbage and assorted debris lining it. Better infrastructure can easily make the precincts of the lake a must visit spot for tourists interested in bird life. After spending a good hour around the lake, it was time for us to head to the Bhuj airport, and say goodbye to the Rann of Kutch, and to what was a memorable trip indeed.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Honda’s impeccable corporate communications team and the PR agency, whose efforts were instrumental in smoothing out the whole trip.