Hello! I’m Chandana Rao, an entrepreneur at Heartists from Narayanapura in Karanataka. My husband, Sunil is into Media Sales and is from Kolar. Our common hobby is travelling, and that brought us together. Travelling means exploring life, meeting new souls. It’s learning and unlearning about life. Travelling helps us to understand how beautiful humanity is, as the popular Michael Jackson song says we are the one. We are a shoestring backpacking couple from Bangalore. And I went on a 12-day shoestring backpacking trip to Gujarat in ₹2453 ( per person) with my husband.
I have travelled to around 10 states in India and 3 countries. I have travelled with my friends, my husband and even gone on solo travel trips. Sunil has travelled to around 23 states in India and 12 countries including solo travelling and trips with friends. We are proud shoestring budget backpackers.
So if you’re wondering how we decided to go to Gujarat, here’s how. Sunil and I were sitting in a restaurant on a random day. There was a photo frame of Rann of Kutch. The moment we saw the picture we knew that we wanted to visit this place. We didn’t think much, and we just booked our train tickets to Surat for ₹550 per person. We planned and unplanned for our trip by ourselves. We didn’t plan for this trip in too much detail, as we wanted to go with the flow. But we did carry a tent as a backup.
I have always been curious about Gujarat. Its shape, for one, looks very interesting on the Indian map! On the day of our rather impromptu journey, we were at the railway station, well an hour before the departure time. Call it bad luck or fate, our train arrived at no less than 4 hours later! However, if not for the delay, we would not have met two other crazy souls – Jerry and Pierre. They were intensely interesting characters that made the delay totally worth it. They are full-time artists and travellers, one from Germany and the other from Namma Bengaluru!
Finally, after four long hours made interesting by the experiences and stories shared between us, our train made its way onto our platform. It was now time for our crazy Gujarat adventure to begin. The journey itself was spellbinding. The train was crossing cities and villages, mountains and rivers, fields and forests and we were simply lost in the beauty of nature. We made friends with our co-passengers, and one of them was even sweet enough to share his meal with us. This loving gesture struck a deep note in us and we felt a strong connection with nature and humanity.
Time just flew by, and soon, we reached Surat. Our friend Mukul was already there, waiting to welcome us to the Diamond City of India, where he hosted us. The complex and delightful flavours of the local cuisine such as Dhoklas and Theplas. Mukul took us around Surat, which was nothing short of being something of a mini Singapore. The city was exceptionally clean and there was a whiff of newness everywhere!
Spacious roads, peaceful crowds, silent evenings, beautiful views – we were in the hang of Surat. But sadly, the magic had to end, and it was already time to pack up for our next destination. But Surat didn’t let us leave empty-handed – we carried a lot of memories, love and ofcourse, Dhoklas, as Mukul dropped us off at the railway station. We planned our train journey at 10 pm so that we could skip booking a place to stay at.
We reached Bhuj early in the morning, soaking in the smell of antique beauty that lines in each street are the place. But the best part of our time here was seeing all people wearing only traditional attire.
This was one place where the real Gujarati tradition flourished untouched by westernization. We tasted more of the local culinary culture at the temple where we got our refreshments as well as some mouthwatering Roti Prasad as lunch.
This done, we walked around the ancient city, stopping first at the Aina Mahal – an 18th-century palace located next to the Prag Mahal. That night, we found lodging with a local family. The next morning, it was time to head towards the Rann of Kutch!! Our local transport and breakfast cost us ₹100 each.
By now, we were really excited to visit heaven on earth – The Rann of Kutch. Being backpackers, we prefer to use local transport to travel, and so, we hurried to the bus stand in Bhuj. Unfortunately, we realized that our bus was to arrive only 5 hours later! Instead of wasting our time on the bus stand, we planned to walk towards the Rann of Kutch and check our luck with any random bus that may pass by us. And so, we started walking with our huge backpacks.
We walked and walked on a sunny day, under the bright blue sky, breathing in the fresh oxygen-rich breeze, listening to the twitter of birds, on clean, empty roads. At one point, we were really exhausted, and Kutch was calling out to us from no less than 100kms away! And that’s when we decided to hitchhike!
We used our skills to stop random vehicles. We waved at cars, trucks, bikes, tractor and even cycles. Needless to say, it’s not easy to gain someone’s trust. Finally, a guy driving an empty truck stopped by us and revealed that he saw us on the bus stand. We were overjoyed and jumped into his truck. He was happy to drop us at his village, which covered about 40kms of our way. He was very generous and friendly. As he stopped in between for chai, he spoke about his beautiful village and his beautiful family. And then, suddenly he simply started his truck and asked us, “please come to my small little world for lunch. I would love to introduce my family.” How could we deny his invitation? The next thing we know, we were at his house!
Our friend (person who gave us a drop) stays in a beautiful village. Our jaws dropped as we gazed at the beauty of the village! The beautiful people, cute little huts, colourful attires, all created magic that we cannot describe in words. Once we entered the village, a gang of kids were running behind the truck saying “majāmā chō?” His wife and daughter cooked up some delicious Rotis with buttermilk for us. Tears were rolling down our cheeks, unknown to us, on seeing love as pure as this! We even took the time to visit the cultural museum in the village called “Kala Raksha”.
Again, as always, time just flew past and before we knew it, it was time to reach our destination which was still another 60kms away. And so, we started walking away, hearts heavy, yet deeply touched by pure love. Those narrow Roads looked endless. It was time to hitchhike again and we started waving at every vehicle passing by. Once again, a small truck guy stopped by us.
With him, we covered a little of the distance. He stopped near an interesting spot where the Tropic of Cancer passes through and we spent little time there. After that, we covered some more distance on a lorry.
Even though 3 people had given us a drop, we still had almost another 40kms to cover. At one point in the journey, we stopped at a place where we found a few shops, where we just relaxed. We were thinking about how to cover the remaining distance.
We gave another try at hitchhiking and asked the owner of a car which was parked nearby. The person in the car, Sujal from Ahmedabad, was kind enough to accommodate us and told us to get in. Wasting no time, we happily jumped in. There was another guy in the car, Vijay from Bangalore. The very energetic duo took us all the way till the Rann of Kutch. The four of us became really close in that short time and started exploring Kutch together. It was almost as if we were friends for many years.
The Rann of Kutch is an extremely beautiful – a pure white salt desert that seems to have no end, covered by a bright sky coloured with various hues. The place was full of camels decked up in different colours, carrying people around. It was almost looked like a painting by God. Rann of Kutch is also one of the 15 Places To Travel In India This New Year 2020
We saw beautiful brown-eyed people around, as well as a few people from Pakistan who had come there for trade. It’s one of the national borders so obviously, we could see a lot of Army Staff.
We sat silently watching the beauty created by God, listening to the silent musical breeze around, capturing the moments in our eyes. Slowly the place started getting chilly, and it was time to find a place to sleep.
Vijay and Sujal told us about a place called Kaladongar where they were going next. We thought of joining them to the place and also find someplace to stay. Towards evening, we started driving towards Kaladongar with them.
Kaladongar is a hill station. It was late evening when we left for Kaladongar and by the time we reached the top of the hill, it was already dark. We couldn’t view the place much because it was night, save for some white patches here and there. There was also a temple on the top of the hill.
We asked the locals there if we could pitch our tents somewhere near. They suggested us to pitch a little away from the temple. It turned out to be quite windy, cold night and we were almost freezing! Needless to say, it was a sleepless night! That day we only spent ₹30 each for breakfast.
We came out of the tent early morning at 6 am. The sky was slowly changing from grey to orange. We could see the whole Rann desert from the high point we were at. The Sun slowly started sprinkling its golden rays on the white desert. The whole magic of nature unfolding before us was breathtaking and left us speechless.
View this post on Instagram
The Great Rann of Kutch is a salt marsh in the Thar Desert in the Kutch District of Gujarat, India. It is about 7500 sq km in area and is reputed to be one of the largest salt deserts in the world. Winters (November-Feb) is the best time to visit Kutch, especially on the full moon nights as the reflection of the moonlight on the white sand looks amazing. The Rann Festival is also organized during the same time. #travel #travelphotography #travelblogger #travelblogger #travelholic #travelgram #traveling #travelling #travels #traveller #traveler #traveltheworld #backpack #backpacking #backpackers #girlwhotravels #girlpower #rannofkutch #gujarat #nammakarnatakaphotographers
We came back to Bhuj taking a local bus from Kaladongar. We had our food from Swaminathan temple. We lazed around the places of Bhuj. After our stay on the hill, we started on our way to Somanath. On the way, we crossed a spot that has high magnetic power. We actually felt the pushing sensation of a vehicle when we crossed that spot! However, there is nothing magical or magnetic beneath the slopes of Kutch’s Kaladongar that pushes vehicles hurtling down at unusual speeds. We explored the villages around as we went and met new people too. We stopped at a spot on our way, lunched on some local cuisine, and resumed our journey to Somanath.
We reached Somanath very early the next morning, and we slept in the bus stand itself as it was still too dark to roam outside. Once the daylight started brightening up outside, we used the public bathrooms to freshen up and visited the temple. The temple has a remedies amount of positive energy that we soaked in. A local auto driver offered to also act as our local tour guide for just 150 bucks and took us around Somnath and other must-visit places. Sometimes, there is a lot we can learn from locals about the history and the importance of the places we visit.
We reached Dwaraka late in the evening. As soon as we reached, we went to the Temple to check for food. The streets were filled with divine faith fragrances. Cows were walking around casually. Wooden boats were being built. Beautiful old houses were smelling inviting, as they were preparing for dinner. We went to temple canteen and had delicious prasad for our dinner. Did you know Gujarat Zoo Near Statue Of Unity To Become Home To Animals From 17 Countries?
Soon, it was time to find a place to sleep and we checked with the temple Dharmashala, which was full because of the season. As usual, we didn’t want to stay at hotels. So, we checked with people if we could put up our tents somewhere around. The temple security permitted us to put our tents in the parking area, which was really spacious with a huge mantap over there. We camped there and tried to sleep. We were about to sleep when a few dogs started barking at our tents, surprised to see two little domes. We were scared to death thinking the dogs might destroy our tents. Fortunately, they went back in a while, and we slept off.
Early the next morning, it was really noisy because we camped near the parking place. Many tourist vehicles started pulling up into space. When we got up and opened the door, the view was magical and surprising! We could see a beautiful river right next to us, and it was about to be sunrise. We would’ve missed the scenery if we stayed at the hotel!
We freshened up at the river and went into the temple for Darshan, taking blessings from Lord Krishna. The temple was vibrating with positive energy and it was obvious that the crowds of devotees thronged the temple to meet their Lord. Eventually, it was time for our next place!
There’s a legendary saying that half of Dwaraka had drowned into the sea in Bet Dwarka or Shankhodhar. So with a lot of curiosity, we went towards bet Dwaraka. We were really excited to hitchhike again, and by now, we were experienced in hitchhiking! A small truck guy dropped us up to the Okha port. We were standing at the back of the truck, enjoying the warm breeze around.
We saw a lot of salt factories on the way. The salt-ponds reminded us of Kutch. Some heaps were so huge that they were looking like salt mountains. We even saw the TATA salt company at Okha. Okha is a port. We took a ferry to reach Bet Dwaraka, which is an island. We were mesmerized to see pure blue clear water in the sea. A lot of seagulls attacked our ferry, hunting for snacks that passengers offered them. We met an amazing photographer, Vinod, on the Ferry. We really admired his photography skills. Vinod joined us to explore Beyt Dwaraka. Unfortunately, After all the circus, the temple was closed! However, we were lucky enough to get Prasadam for Lunch. Food is never a problem in Gujarat as all temples offer Prasadam.
View this post on Instagram
“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.” #travelcouple #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #travelblogger #wanderlust #couplegoals #instatravel #traveltheworld #nature #love #adventure #photography #explore #beautifuldestinations #travelcouples #travelling #couple #picoftheday #traveltogether #travelgirl #photooftheday #roadtrip #traveladdict #traveler #coupleswhotravel #traveling
We checked around about the submerged Dwaraka but no one knew about it. Then we started walking towards Nageshwar, which is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas! Early the next morning, it was really noisy because we camped near the parking place. Many tourist vehicles started pulling up into space. When we got up and opened the door, the view was magical and surprising! We could see a beautiful river right next to us, and it was about to be sunrise. We would’ve missed the scenery if we stayed at the hotel!
We freshened up at the river and went into the temple for Darshan, taking blessings from Lord Krishna. The temple was vibrating with positive energy and it was obvious that the crowds of devotees thronged the temple to meet their Lord Nageshwar, which was huge and stunning. After that, we wanted to go back to Dwaraka to catch our train. It was late evening. We missed the last vehicle back and there was no other way to go to Dwaraka. We were not much worried because we thought we could hitchhike and go. But the situation turned different. We waited for a really long, but no vehicles were there in that way. It was getting dark and we were worried about how we were going to reach Dwaraka.
View this post on Instagram
This was a very special moment for us. As usual, we hitchhiked in an unknown place. Our tuk tuk was filled with a lot of neighbouring villagers. We were amazed to look at the richness of those ladies.They looked so elegant with those big golden earrings and huge anklets, beautifully-designed nose rings, their backless blouses and the colourful lehanga. They were literally stunning. In the gaadi, we met an exciting soul named 'Sundar behen'. As her name suggests, she was sealy beautiful from the heart as well. Although I can't understand Gujarati, she understood that I'm looking for Gujarati style blouse. She gave me a brand new magenta blouse of hers to try, which fitted me perfectly. Seeing me so happy, Sundar Behen surprised me by saying that the blouse is for me!! I was on cloud 9. Later, we spoke a lot in a language called "love", and even shared our numbers, shared vibes and most importantly, shared an unknown strong bond. Soon, we reached Nageshwar. #travel #traveler #backpacker #backpacking #lifestyle #nomads#life #incredibleindia#indian #gujarat #incredibleindia #stories #storiesofindia #travels #traveling #travelgram #traveladdict#india #worlderlust #girlswhotravel #darlingescapes #lovetotravel #thetravelwomen #dametraveler #ladiesgoneglobal#sheisnotlost #travels #travelings #travelblogger
After a great wait, a car stopped by us. There were 3men staring at us from the car. We were scared to the core. They told us that they could drop us. We were really frightened to go with them because of their terror looks. However, we trusted them and went with them. They gave us peanuts to eat. Slowly they started a conversation with us. Then we realized that they were really sweet. They dropped us till the Dwaraka Railway station.
Day 9 & 10
Next, we reached Ahmedabad, an old city. We visited one of the oldest Mosques in Ahmedabad as well as old shopping streets.
Had our lunch at Lucky restaurant in Old City is one of the unique restaurants where you get the chance to dine with the dead. It’s a small cafe with limited seatings, After some amazing experiences our friend Sujal hosted us in the evening and took us around in Ahmedabad, We met Sujal on the way to our Rann of Kutch Hitchhiking. Lucky Restaurant is also one of the 10 Most Unique Places In India Which Will Amaze You
It was our last day in Gujarat. We were so lost in the travel mode that we missed our train. Besides, our tickets were not confirmed. We then took a general ticket to Bangalore, met some crazy souls around and finally reached Bangalore with a heavy heart. Our Favorite place was Rann of Kutch, Dwarka and Kala Dungar. Hitchhiking was one of the best experiences. Camping in Train stations, bus stands and parking was a crazy experience for us. Gujarat as a state is very hospitable and safe for travellers.
A Heartwarming Incident
Yes! There a few amazing stories of people we met on this trip. This was a very special moment for us. As usual, we hitchhiked in an unknown place. Our tuk-tuk was filled with a lot of neighbouring villagers. We were amazed to look at the richness of those ladies. They looked so elegant with those big golden earrings and huge anklets, beautifully-designed nose rings, their backless blouses and the colourful lehenga. They were literally stunning.
In the gaadi, we met an exciting soul named ‘Sundar behen’. As her name suggests, she was really beautiful from the heart as well. Although I can’t understand Gujarati, she understood that I’m looking for Gujarati style blouse. She gave me a brand new magenta blouse of hers to try, which fit me perfectly. Seeing me so happy, Sundar Behen surprised me by saying that the blouse is for me!! I was on cloud 9. Later, we spoke a lot in a language called “love”, and even shared our numbers, shared vibes and most importantly, shared an unknown strong bond.
Budget Breakup For Gujarat Trip
For this exhilarating Gujarat trip, it cost me around ₹1460 for transport, ₹875 for food and ₹100 for miscellaneous expenses amounting to₹2453 ( per person) for 12 days. We were able to explore Gujarat in a tight budget as we pitched tents for accommodation, were hosted by friends and travellers where they served us meals. We also ate in temples, hitchhiked our way through and even walked long distances. You can Go Backpacking In Himachal And Live In A Camp For Rs 899 Only!
Message For Travellers
Gujarat is a safe and very hospitable state. People are amazing, friendly and welcoming. Try local food, travel in public transport and eat in every temple possible. If we did it within ₹2500 for 11 to 12 days? Why can’t you?
This article was contributed to Curly Tales by Travelories. If you have an article or similar experience to share, do write to us on firstname.lastname@example.org