Episode 2 : Western India
Ep. 2 Part 1. Kutch nahi dekha toh Kuch bhi nahi dekha..
Woke up a bit late in the morning than planned as were tired from previous day's drive and shoot.. Well, I kinda feared that that's what gonna be the routine for next two months or so and was mentally preparing myself. We discussed that we will try to spend atleast couple of days in a place instead of moving out next day. But again, all depends on the place, mood and ofcourse the financial position.
As per plan, it's the state of Gujarat that's in our sight and we wanted to see what's the hype about Rann of Kutch. Why Amitabh ji wants us to spend few days in Gujarat? We really wanted to find that out by ourselves. Unanimous decision was taken to visit the Little Rann of Kutch first and then to decide where next. Because, Kutch nahi dekha toh kuch nahi dekha..
We started from Daman around 11.15am instead of the target of 8am :p Yeah, we are two lazy buggers who refuse to get out of bed early. After lazing around having a not so good breakfast, we've packed our bags. The roads were pretty good and soon started covering the miles. Soon we were at Bharuch and crossed the Golden Bridge at Narmada. Man, that bridge is really small for having two way traffic. Even after folding in the sideview mirrors, the Scorpio kissed another car at one point. Luckily it came out just with a very minute scratch. After crossing the Bridge our plan was to find a decent restaurant to have lunch and we were surprised to see so many "decent" hotels on the Gujarat Highway, literally. Most of the roadside hotels/dhabas were named as "Decent Hotels" and just couldn't stopped ourselves from joking about the Ratlam station scene from the movie "Jab We Met" :p. Luckily we didn't get into any such situation and just a had a simple, decent dhaba meal at a place called "Sarvottam Hotel"..
Just before the journey, at Pune to be specific, Sid has given me strict instructions to drive within sane limits of speed. He even threatened to abandon the trip if I don't. That sounds fine to me and I drove peacefully enjoying the surroundings for most of the time. Now after the decent food at not Decent Hotel, I was a bit sleepy and let Sid take the wheel. I was pretty sure that after the long lecture about high speed driving by his majesty himself, he would be driving in a sane speed. So I dozed off without any worry.. After sometime I woke up with a feeling that the car is reaching it's escape velocity and about to leave the earth's gravitational pull. Once I was able to gather my wits I realized that we are still on earth only. Well, we were at Baroda-Ahmedabad expressway and Sid decided to test the limits of the car. And I decided to click a proof of that so that I can blackmail him later. So whenever next time he opens his mouth about high-speeding I just saw him the pic of the speedo. For the record, I didn't take the car to more than 120kmph during the entire trip and he actually have crossed 150kmph on the first chance he got :p Yeah, Boys will be boys only, but he is going to hear about this during the whole trip..
Sunset after Ahmedabad
The good condition of the roads remain till we cross Ahmedabad and crossed Sanand pretty soon. We did contemplate about staying at Ahmedabad for a day but we were not very sure about the plan and so decided to move towards LRK. We have done a little research on staying options at LRK and two names came to forefront, Rann Riders and Dessert Coursers. But we couldn't get thru the contact number of Rann Raiders and we luckily get the connection of Dessert Coursers. I also remembered reading HarshVardhan's travelogue about Dessert Coursers and felt that it would be a nice place to stay.
We reached Dessert Coursers (Camp Zainabad) by 8.30pm around. One need to take a left at Dasada for Zainabad and on hindsight, I felt it was good that we chose Dessert Coursers as it was much closer to the little Rann than Rann Riders at Dasada. Although there might be a different route from Rann Riders to the Rann, which I am not aware of. May be if I visit next time then I'll try Rann Riders too. We've been welcomed by the owner (Mr. Dhanraj, a pretty interesting person). And his boys have shown us the Hut type accommodation. It had a very rustic charm and we instantly fallen in love with the surroundings. Soon the dinner was served in the common dining area and it was a decent affair. Mr. Dhanraj took some interest in us, probably because we've driven from a long distance. He soon found that Sid is an avid dog lover. Mr. Dhanraj had around 7-8 dogs in the compound and he seemed to be very fond of them. He joined us for dinner and told us many stories about the place, Rann etc. In fact after the dinner he offered Sid to take a puppy as one of the female dog was due for birth. Of course we had to decline as we had a long journey ahead and getting a puppy from Gujarat to Bangalore would never be possible. After dinner I have taken a few random pics of the place at night and hit the sack soon. Plan was to wake up early and go for a Safari at the Little Rann to catch a glimpse of the Wild Asses or Khurs and the migrating Flamingos.
Common Dining Hall @ Dessert Coursers,
Sid enjoying the Jhula
Our plan was to wake up early in the morning and start by 6/6.30 in the morning. But as usual 6am become 7am by the time we could start. The assigned guide was ready and was waiting for us. We just gathered our gears and started the small drive to the Little Rann.
Not so early morning @ LRK
After crossing couple of small villages the guide showed the route to enter the Rann. Soon we could see a herd of Khurs grazing around. They looked very similar to their cousins from Ladakh region. They seemed to be used to the human presence and as long as we kept some distance they didn't bother about us. We spent around an hour and half among them and tried to capture them thru our cameras. The 2X TC definitely come in handy.Wished we could see few more inhabitants like Nilgais or the foxes. But they turned out to be bit elusive that day.
Few of the Wild Asses pics from the load that I've gone crazy clicking :p
Mother & Son,
Next plan was to catch a sight of the beautiful foreign visitors. No, don't get any other ideas as I am talking about the stunning Flamingos who visit India during the winter time. We soon reached a big Lake/waterbed and we could spot a huge colony of Flamingos. But alas, this time the 2x TC and 70-200mm combination was not enough. They were very far away. So instead of concentrating on photographs we decided to spend some time just watching them. The way they would suddenly fly off in a formation and land nearby is a sight to behold. We again spent more than an hour there. The Flamingos did came a little forward but not enough to satisfy my photography needs :p. Naah, I am not complaining, I am not birder. But still made a mental note of visiting our foreign visitors again sometime later.
Dance of the Flamingos,
We, the Flying Flamingos,
So are we ..
I ain't no Flamingo, so I ain't gonna dance, fly or walk for you..
Neither would I :p
We've decided to move on as it was getting late and we were pretty hungry by that time. Dessert Coursers had given us a packet of small bites but it was not enough and we needed some heavy food. So we hurriedly returned by 10.30am around so that we can have something to fill up our stomach. Yes, we love our food and just can't wait for it.
The rain forsaken Land of Rann..
There is a mirage ahead,
But alas, we mere mortals plan and God, sorry I meant the Govt. plans something else. As soon as we came out of the Little Rann and hit the road, we hit a major roadblock. The roads are getting newly laid and they've stopped all vehicular movements on the road. Now after a wait for more than an hour, which felt like eternity, we were able to move once they moved their heavy machinery. But again, it was not an easy task as only a small part on the side road was open and Scorpio turned out to be too big for it to cross. There were big stones laid on the side of the road and no way I can take the car over them. Had to wait for some more time, luckily there were only few vehicles behind. Thankfully the guys working on the road came with their tools and removed the stones and at last we could move on. But this delay also meant that we won't be able to catch the breakfast and have to now wait for the lunch. Anyway, we decided to wait at the dining hall itself, yes we were hungry. We started discussing our next plan on what to do next. I was voting in favor of staying for another day but Sid Vetoed it as the cost per head was beyond our per-determined budget. We didn't want to spend too much during the initial period itself as having cash is very important for a long trip as such. In the meantime Mr. Dhanraj joined us again and as usual the discussion veered towards different topics, spreading from dogs, horses, Khurs, Rann, Gujarat, India and World. We met his young son too and boy, that kid sounds almost 10 years older than his age. Interesting young kid who loves riding his horse and he spends lots of time with his father at the camp during his vacations.
Anyway, during lunch we again discussed about staying there for another day as I wanted to go back to Rann and capture the flamingos during Sunset. We even thought about driving to Bhuj after Sunset. But again had to curb my intentions in front of Sid's reasoning. But as a consolation prize got some time to have a nice afternoon siesta. Decision was made to move towards Bhuj for our next Kutch ki Khoj.
and till cows come home, ok fine, buffaloes come home for the next chapter :p :p
Place stayed : Dessert Coursers, Zainabad
Cost : 1750Rs including Breakfast,dinner and lunch and Rann Safari.
Stay quality/comfort : Huts made like old rustic homes. Attached shower and bath.
Food : I had veg food and it was on the normal side.
Driving conditions : Very good roads almost for 95% of the trip. Only pain point was the Narmada bridge crossing at Bharuch.