At the edge of a desert

Migratory birds like Siberian cranes and flamingoes sighted at the Navsagar lake.
Migratory birds like Siberian cranes and flamingoes sighted at the Navsagar lake.
A lucky snap! The near-extinct Ghudkhar near Zainabad, Gujarat.
A lucky snap! The near-extinct Ghudkhar near Zainabad, Gujarat.
Sunset over the Little Rann of Kutch.
Sunset over the Little Rann of Kutch.

Last week, a friend Hardik and me made a trip to the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, India. Part 1 of the journey. PHOTOS CREDIT – Hardik.

150 kms west of Ahmedabad begins the desert. The Little Rann of Kutch, a salt marsh located at the edge of the Great Rann of Kutch, is home to the near extinct Ghudkhar (Indian wild ass).

Hardik and me headed out by car to Dhrangadhra, mentioned on the internet as one of the entry points to the sanctuary. Just under 2 hours is all it took, thanks to the excellent L&T constructed roads. The scenery got all the more arid as we moved west.

Asked around in this small town for either hotels or a safari tour. The people looked puzzled, as if we were asking for the Himalayas! Seemed as if just the 2 of us were aware that there is a sanctuary around! Later found that most of the resorts are located off the main roads, in villages nearby. Also, a majority of them were booked, this being the peak season.

Disappointed, we decided to try another smaller entry point – Zainabad, 40 kms north. Stumbled upon a board Desert Coursers. Luckily, found accommodation at this camp-style resort. Very simple stuff – village-type huts, no TV, no internet, no power for at least 6 hours, simple food. Simplicity is now the new luxury. 🙂

The 4.30 pm resort-organized safari took us to 4 places. First was the Navsagar lake where huge flocks of migratory birds like Siberian cranes and pink flamingos can be seen.

We then sighted the Ghudkhar, roaming in herds and munching on desert vegetation. The guide told us a funny thing – villagers find the Ghudkhar a nuisance, these animals come and eat from their farms during evening and night times. But being on the endangered list, the villagers can’t do anything except burst crackers to keep them away!

Next was the salt pan. Brackish water is brought up from the land (this is after all, a salt marsh) and salt separated. Crystals thus obtained are sent for further refinement.

Finally, the sunset point. The most amazing sunset I had ever seen. The safari bus took us to a point inside the desert which was absolutely flat on 3 sides. Nothing in sight till the horizon. And completely silent. As the sun set on this barren vastness, we stared reverently. Moments like these make me aware of the insignificance of my existence in this infinite universe.

Back to the camp, a simple dinner and fell asleep immediately.

Read part 2 here.

At the salt pan.
At the salt pan.
A desert sunset. Nothing in sight till the end.
A desert sunset. Nothing in sight till the end.
During evening times, the Ghudkhar head towards farmland, hunting for food.
During evening times, the Ghudkhar head towards farmland, hunting for food.