So I have decided to pull in all my misc trip reports that had been scattered around on older blog, various internet forums etc. Also, this gives me an excuse to write some trip reports for the trips that I had ignored to write about here.
This happened in 2010. We were at the fag end of the year. It had been almost 3 months since I had been out to a forest. Between my October trip to Nagarhole NP (a trip report of the same is pending) and December I was too depressed to do anything right. Some may call it withdrawal symptoms, I just call it another excuse to visit wilderness. When a chance presented itself for me to visit Gujrat, I jumped on it before figuring out some minor details i.e. do I even have any leaves left? Thank god for giving me an awesome boss (who would kill me if I pull that stunt again btw).
Everything was settled, I was to meet the group in Ahamdabad and from there we were to embark on our trip. I had my train tickets things like that. On the day of departure from my village, where I was for the last one month for my annual vacation, the first thing went wrong. Due to the fog, my train had delayed for more than 4 hours. It meant that I would have to stay the night in Ahemdabad and miss the morning drive in Little Rann of Kutch. Now that is unacceptable at any point of time. I got into a private car and the driver pulled an amazing feat by making sure I reached there in record time. No pitstop alomng the way for tea or refreshments. Rest of the group was right there at the airport and we departed for Dasada.
Getting out of the Ahemdabad was an adventure that needs a story on itself. Lets just say there are too many cars and too little traffic police around there. By the time we hit highway all of us were exhausted and hungry. As we took an exit from the highway all we could see was the headlights of the car. No streetlight was the main suspect of us dropping into darkness. However this darkness was what that gave us the feeling of what to expect in coming ten days. Yeah baby, 10 days of wild wild Gujrat
Reaching Rann Riders in Dasada, we were greeted by the ever-helpful staff as well as “to be our companions” Babu bhai, our guide and captain of the Gypsy. Owners of the resort were right there and gave us the most welcome news. “Dinner is ready”. One must appreciate what happens when you take a journey that involves traveling for more than 8-10 hours on road, in India, without eating something. In our eagerness to reach our destination , we had not taken any Dhaba break (not as if there were many lined up on the way) and I was eyening the poor chickens running around the resort very hungrily. Off to the room and back in the restaurant. We all had our fill and the staff kept the food coming without a complain. Doc. (one of the most cheerful anesthesiologist I ever saw outside of an OT) even got his chillies.
Next morning saw us heading towards Bajana. It was a cold cold morning. Though we were covered under layers of clothing, open gypsy speeding through the country road was not helping. Last night Prakash had made a joke about attending the call of nature while being layered up. “By the time you discover yourself through the layers, its already too late” was the gist of what he said. Well, I was hoping that it will not be the case. We reached Bajana early and after acquiring the necessary permits we entered the “Wild Ass Sanctuary”. I know the name of the sanctuary will earn a few sniggers here and there, but that’s the name and we were hell bent on being there. (Man.. there are way too many jokes there).
Babu told us that a small population of sociable lapwings were around and we set off in their direction. Direction, if you can call it that because to me it was more of we were moving in a straight line and there were no markers for directions. No human settlement in view, not a landmark to know your relative position. But we moved on and stopped at a non-discript place. There, the socible lapwings were sitting and being not very socible. 5 of these critically endangered birds were right there. They were quite amused initially to see some very silly tourists pointing their lenses at them and rolling on the ground to get the angle correct. We had a great time with these birdies. Interesting part was, this was a plain bird. Not blessed with bright colors or gorgeous feathers, this was a beauty in simplicity.
As Bajana was quite a distance away from the resort, we had planned to spend the noon in the sanctuary only. One of our gypsies had sped off to the resort to pick up our lunch. By the time lunch arrived we were absolutely famished. No one uttered a word and the whole big box of lunch was destroyed in minutes.
When we moved on to the second phase of our journey, we were greeted with the welcome sights of raptors. We found a Merlin within minutes, though it did not let us get close to it. Same goes with a short eared owl. Luckily an Indian Corouser was more co-operative and made for a great afternoon. We also came across a huge herd of “Wild Asses”. No, not the kind most guys dream of, but the kind that makes the day of wildlife photographers. As Rann has seen good rains this year, a lot of habitat was still holding water. This meant that quite a few of these areas were unreachable for us.
Our third and last day at Dasada was there and we ended up shooting till the last moment. Don’t let the raptors and owls fool you, we found plenty of water birds as well as well as glimpses of Indian Wolves. We also visited one of the small settlements at salt pans in LRK and were humbled by those simple folks. They instantly offered us tea even though there were 10 of us and refused payment from us. I had to literally forcibly slip in some cash to the lady. And that tea was great by the way, to be had in true Indian style (pour in soccer and then sip away making loud noises).
For me highlight of LRK was sociable lapwings, Short eared owl and McQueens Bustard.