The Black Hills (Kalo Dungar)

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Hub(s) : Kutch

General

25 kms north of Khavda, the top of the Black Hills is the highest point in Kutch, at 462 m. From here, the entire northern horizon vanishes into the Great Rann, the desert and sky often becoming indistinguishable. It is one of the few non-coastal locations where you feel like you are at the edge of the earth, on the brink of incomprehensible vastness that fades off towards infinity. Looking out from the Black Hills, you can understand the tremendous effort that those who undertake the crossing of the Great Rann have to make. Since this is one of the places where a civilian can get closest to the Pakistan border, there is an Army post at the top; beyond here, only military personnel are allowed. The hill is also the site of a 400-year-old temple to Dattatreya, the three-headed incarnation of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva in the same body. Legend says that when Dattatreya walked on the earth, he stopped at the Black Hills and found a band of starving jackals. Being a god, he offered them his body to eat and as they ate, his body continually regenerated itself. Because of this, for the last four centuries, the priest at the temple has prepared a batch of prasad that is fed to the jackals after the evening aarti.

Reaching the hilltop by public transport is difficult; the only bus travels there from Khavda on weekend evenings and returns in the early morning. Hiring a jeep from Khavda is your other option. Visiting in the early morning or late afternoon is recommended, though with a few more hours there are nice hikes to do around the hill. Be sure to take your own food and water and if you want to stay the night, there is a dharamshala next to the temple.

How to get there

By road: For those traveling from Ahmedabad, the bus may be more convenient than the train, though slightly more expensive. Several private companies run sleeper buses (with a full horizontal bunk), leaving the city for Bhuj between 8pm and 11pm, arriving in Bhuj between 6am and 8am the next morning. These bus companies all have their offices around Paldi in Ahmedabad; Sahjanand Travels and Patel Travels are two recommended ones. There are also private sitting (non-sleeper) buses, and ST (State Transport) buses that make the trip for less money but considerably less comfortable seats. Once in Bhuj, ST buses go to larger destinations around the district, private jeeps can also be rented (a good option for larger parties), and some smaller places can only be reached by chhakdas.

By rail: Two daily express trains, the Bhuj Express and the Kutch Express, go from Bhuj to Ahmedabad (8hrs) and on to Mumbai (16hrs.) However, both trains pass through Ahmedabad in the middle of the night, as the schedules are designed to depart and arrive and reasonable hours from Bhuj and Mumbai, not Ahmedabad.

By air: One or more flights daily connect Bhuj to Mumbai.