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Garavi Gujarat: a tale of prophets,blackbucks, wild asses, white desert and India's forgotten mother


Chakra

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Atravelynn

page 1 - What an intriguing intro. I had me hooked. Not many pilgrimages on this site. You covered it beautifully, all 3788 steps! You've elevated beer in a glass to art. The Langur Family narration was a hoot. Glad you saw wild asses and flamingos, even if one flamingo stomping grounds had been dried up and abandoned. Your pronking blacbuck is impressive.

 

Looking forward to the rest.

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Hello friends,   After spending nearly fifty years of her life in sinful existence, my wife decided to go on a pilgrimage to wash away her sins. The intended place was Palitana hills in Gujarat, Ind

Now logistics. We haven't driven in India for more than twenty years and every time we return, we get more shocks at the number of cars and government's futile attempts to enforce road safety. So

Blackbuck lodge was quite flexible about meal times. The breakfast was delayed till our return from morning safari and I drowned my sorrow of not seeing a wolf by tucking into a delicious breakfast wi

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janzin

 

 

@@janzin. In pre digital era (when we were allowed-compelled indeed-to select f stop and shutter speed to work with our humble inflexible roll film) I was always under the impression that the higher the f. stop the better. Something to do with the closer to the centre of the lens the more accurate the focus. I have always brought this concept with me to the digital age even though many cameras don't even go that high any more! Am I wrong to do this?

 

@galana in short...yes. Its too complicated to explain here and I'm no engineer, but generally speaking when you go past F16 on most lenses you start to lose sharpness due to diffraction. (You do, however, gain depth of field...so that object may appear sharper front-to-back but at the sharpest point, less sharp than if they were shot at a lower aperture.) For the technically minded you can read about it here https://fstoppers.com/studio/fstoppers-original-what-lens-diffraction-and-when-does-diffraction-happen-6022

 

 

But I don't want to go far afield with this, just found it curious that Chakra was shooting with such high f-stops and getting such super-sharp images.

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Galana

Hmmm! Let us leave Chakra to answer but for me, having read that article, I am thinking that this only comes into play with somewhat specialised macro distances and not in 'normal' landscape and wildlife work. Of the two images at the end the second, with the smallest aperture, is by far the sharper over a wider area of the image. <_< Or am I missing the point and should have paid more attention in school?

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Chakra

@@Galana & @@janzin The rule of physics bends for me ;);)

Yes, Janzin is indeed correct in her comment that we are all told the diffraction gets worse with smaller aperture but I always try to keep the aperture as small as possible to keep everything in focus when taking landscape shots ( especially when you have a large foreground, e.g Grand Teton mountains rising straight up from the wide flat lands) or a large body of architecture. I think the post-processing softwares, especial the unsharp mask tool is really powerful nowadays.

I personally feel although the comment, that at the sharpest point a photo taken with large aperture is sharper than a photo taken with small aperture is true, but if you do not have a specific point of focus, e.g.the eye of an animal/bird and the viewer's point of interest(s) span across the whole frame, then you can get away with small apertures.

And the midday sun in India is truly a wash out !!

 

Anyway, enough of technicalities. I'll shortly return with some pics of truly sweeping vista.

 

@@Atravelynn : what a pleasure to interact with you once again : The queen of safaris :P:P

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Chakra

My penchant for ruins and ghost towns, steeped in history, is well known to my family. So they knew protestations about travelling 170 km to see some crumbling walls would fall into deaf ears.

Our driver Gambhir Singh-ji was also on my side. He had quickly realised that "sahab" was more interested in ruins and desolate places rather than visiting beaches, Bollywood shooting spots and camel rides. And as he would be driving the long distance, so his words were the most important ones.



Off we went on a very long drive from Mandvi to the ruined fort of Lakhpat, to the farthest end of India, a truly off the beaten place.

The name Lakhpat comes from the word Lakhpati ( Millionaire), as this was one of the most prosperous ports in whole of western India in the middle age, comparable with the great "good port" of Bom-Bay, doing extensive trading with Arabia and Europe.



It used to sit by the shallow natural harbour of the mighty Indus river and goods offloaded here would then leave by camel trains to reach all over India. Apparently all the merchants living in this town were millionaires ( Lakh-pati) so the it became known as "town of millionaires" or Lakhpat.

In 1801 the mayor, Jamadar Fateh Muhammad built an impressive 7 km long fort wall along the river border to discourage pirates and hired soldiers from Arabia to guard the wall.

But nothing stays the same forever and although Lakhpat was safe from external enemies and doing booming commerce, but in 1819 , the Great Serpent Vasuki moved his hood under the earth, the tectonic plates of this earthquake prone region shifted and a massive earthquake changed the topography of the entire region.



We know about the devastating earthquake which hit Bhuj in 2001 killing at least 25,000 people. The earthquake of 1819 must have been a lot stronger as it changed the course of the whole Indus river by creating natural dams and literally lifted Indus river and moved it several kilometres away from its original course, more towards current day Pakistan.



So where the mighty Indus once flowed, now there remained a small stream named Kori creek and gradually the great salt desert of Rann of Kutch took over.

With no port, there was no commerce and the town was abandoned and no one felt any need to re-colonise a town, situated in the middle of harsh desert, far far away from any river.

I saw a total of five local tourists during my visit there and there was nothing to see other than the walls which surprisingly had stood the earthquake and remained largely intact. I imagined the camel caravans snaking out of the fort wall, laden with goods which had come through Silk Road, the hustle bustle of Indian, Arabian and Portuguese traders and the sentries parading on the ramparts.

The crumbling watchtowers still had one or two canons lying : too heavy to move for scrap metal.

I looked west towards Pakistan where Indus once flowed and it was just endless plane of dazzling white salt sediment. But lo and behold, there was a small house in the middle of nowhere. Apparently this was built for a Bollywood movie called "Refugee" : the debut movie of Abhishek Bacchan, son of the great actor Amitabh Bachhan. But sadly he was not the chip off the old block. Just like Abhishek's films, this house is also forgotten but nobody took the trouble to dismantle it. Who knows they may make Refugee 2 with another testosterone pumped Bollywood hero !

And then came the Border Security force soldiers, patrolling the ramparts , looking for enemies from Pakistan. Most of these BSF jawans ( soldiers) , posted in these remote godforsaken places, are desperate to talk to anyone. I started chatting and soon realised I was talking to two of my brave brothers from Bengal : ACN ( originally from Assam) and BRT from my own district. I've given just the initials to protect their identities as these people and their families are potential targets for terrorists. And they were very strict and did not allow me to take any photo of their faces.

After about an hour looking at the endless horizon it was time for me to make some more religious visits.

 

The remnants of once imposing walls

 

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The exit gate for the caravans

 

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Gambhir Singh leads

 

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The dried Kori creek

 

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Two newly appointed sentries on the rampart. Clearly not doing their job properly

 

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The view from the watch tower. Mother Indus once flowed here. Can you spot a house ?

 

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"The Little House in the rann"

 

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Looking towards Pakistan

 

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Tyre tracks of Border Security Force patrol

 

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All quiet on the Western Front. India's westernmost frontier post.

 

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Patrolling goes on. Gambhir Singh also joins the watch

 

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The hole in the wall for the canon

 

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A fort without a canon ? Unthinkable !!

 

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The almost abandoned mosque of Sufi saints

 

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In the footsteps of history

 

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Surprisingly stable wall

 

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Thank you, too !!

 

 

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Galana

It just gets better. What fascinating stories and what a great insight into parts of Indian Culture and folklore that the average tourist does not get to hear about. My previous knowledge of the Rann of Kutch was limited to the sad events of 1965 so it was very interesting to read of other more sensible things.

More very good photographs completed the picture of this area and 'yes' it was surely worth the drive. I would have joined you instantly.

You are doing wonders for the Indian tourism industry. All most folks know is the Golden triangle and the Tiger. There is so much more. Keep it up!

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Atravelynn

P2 You need to write a bird book and name the species. Very funny!

 

I love the Blackbucks as marriage barometer. I was searching for more analogies when you found the male with the neck out and droopy ears.

 

Love the turtle and insects and wild boar sans toothpicks!

 

How exciting to have wild asses in front of your lodging. At least one of those wild asses seemed to be very pleased you were there.

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Chakra

At least one of those wild asses seemed to be very pleased you were there. Hmm, should I like that comment or not ?

 

The journey continues but a little bit of rumination again.

In 1979 a child I was forced to travel in the only unreserved compartment of an express from Delhi to Calcutta. It was boiling hot and we were packed like goats in the back of a truck going to slaughterhouse. All the poor passengers in our section, about 20 of us in the allocated places for ten, became friends. We shared food, drinks and stories.

 

By the next morning our water was running out but none of the passengers would dare to climb over so many people, get off the train, find a tap, jump the queue, fill the bottles and get back to the train in time. The person who eventually volunteered to do that was a Sikh and he did that within the five minute stop at a station.

 

Since then I had immense respect for Sikhs and their custom of free food offering to anyone, irrespective of caste or religion. These once proud warriors who traversed the whole of North India with ope swords rebelling against the mighty Mogul empire are nowadays less adventurous but they still remain one of the hardiest sects in world. During my extensive travels in India I have found the Sikhs to be most helpful.

 

Lakhpat also houses one of the holiest shrines of Siikhs as Guru Nanak Dev, the First Guru and founder of Sikhism, stopped here on his way to Mecca and according to the legend the mud hut still had some of his belongings. Extremely rare nowadays.

 

Out of respect I did not take any photos of the inside and the simple slippers and sticks which apparently belonged to Guru Nanak. It was a simple affair, a far cry from the world famous Golden Temple of Amritsar, and clearly it was difficult to maintain in such remote places. But the Sikhs had continued to do that and not only that, they had continued with their tradition of offering free food to any visitor. We all had Langar ( free food) there, which was simple, filling and delicious. All they asked in return was to cover our heads.

 

I gave a small donation which was gratefully accepted, a proper receipt was given and the cashier was thrilled to hear I lived near Birmingham, UK, which has a big Sikh community.

 

 

On the way back we stopped at a Hindu temple of Mata ni Math : the guarding deity of Kutch. The path to the temple was packed with the usual hawkers trying to get your attention, the guards were totally unfriendly and temple doors were closed as it was sleeping time for the goddess. What a stark difference from the Sikh Gurdwara !

 

One had its door open 24/7 , the other closed for siesta. I know which one I'd return to. I felt ashamed as a Hindu.

 

On the way to Lakhpat I also had a small detour to visit the Westernmost point of India which housed the very holy Koteshwar Shiva temple and Narayan Sarovar, one of the five holiest lakes in Hinduism. Lord Shiva was always my favourite god because of his happy-go-lucky character and it was reassuring to see him guarding the Western Front of India with His flag fluttering proudly over the BSF border post

 

.

 

The day ended with the obligatory selfie at Tropic of Cancer !

 

The great tradition of offering free food to any visitor continues even in the remote parts

 

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This old Sardar-ji giving up his time to make Chapatis, is closer to God than any other richly decorated priest delivering sermons

 

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This is called a "char-pai" : four legs. A frame made of wood, bamboo, nowadays mostly steel and woven bed , usually from Coconut ropes. This is omnipresent in rural India.

 

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The Western most tip of India

 

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The Koteshwara temple of Lord Shiva

 

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The usual traffic

 

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By the roadside : ? Buzzard

 

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Cancer ticked , Capricorn ticked,

 

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Chakra

" We have to get up by 4-30 am tomorrow morning."

"Why ? "

"We need to get ready and leave Mandvi by 5 am."

"Why ?"

"We have at least an hour's journey ahead of us and I need to reach there before sunrise which is at 7 am. "

"What are we going to see at sunrise there ? "

" Some rocks. "

"What ??? Rocks !!! You will not drag us out of the bed to go and see some rocks.!!"

This was the conversation between my daughters and I. So was it worth going to see these rocks ? In my opinion : absolutely Yes.

The problem of reading travel tales from "birders" is that sometimes they focus too much on seeing the birds, almost like an obsession, a tick box and ignore the natural beauty around. Just like Arjun from Mahavarata , our mythical hero, who could not see anything other than the Bird's eye when preparing to release his arrow.



Banni Grasslands in the middle of Rann of Kutch is a well known birding hot spot and I have read quite a few reports. In one report a birder had casually mentioned that there were some interesting rock formations and had put up one picture, which looked very interesting.

I started my research and information was very hard to come by. Extensive consultation with Uncle Google, and slowly I realised that there was a seasonal river in Kutch called Layari which got completely dried up in winter exposing an amazing geological formation , where sandstone and lime stone rocks were sculpted into unusual formations by the effect of water, wind and sand.

I knew everything about the rocks of Utah and Antelope Canyon but nothing about these. It was really difficult to find a suitable guide who could take me there. Gujarat tourism website did not even mention this.

The most respected guide for Gujarat is Mr Jugal tiwari and his company CEDO Birding but he was booked with his birding tours and could not spare time to take me to the rock formations. Eventually I tracked a local youth called Liyakat Ali through social media . He was very enthusiastic and came very handy as he had been to this place for birding. The best time to see the rocks was around sunrise, that's why we had to leave Mandvi before sunrise. We had to travel to a remote village called Moti Virani and then approach the dry river bed by foot.

No tourists, no picnic party, no cars. Just the millions of years old pink yellow rocks, the white salt coated earth and I, under the watchful eyes of a red fox.

Time has stood still here.

Not much else to say, so I'll stop here let my photos do the talking. My heartfelt thanks to Liyakat Bhai.

Mother India : please wake up to your treasures.

 

I didn't have the right lens with me to capture this stunning fox in his winter coat

 

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Sun rises over the Dhinodhar hill of Kutch over the Layari river bed

 

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A Big personality like me needs a Big shoe, preferably ten million years old.

 

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More to follow...

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Galana

You really do keep on pulling out surprises. Who would have thought that some river eroded rocks could look so interesting. Like the drive to Lakhpat the suggested early rise would have raised no argument from me.

Keep the stories and excellent photos coming.

The ?? Buzzard is a Long Legged Buzzard. I don't think that was a Red Fox at all. I think you had an excellent sighting of either Akela or Raksha. Lucky you!

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Chakra

I don't think that was a Red Fox at all. I think you had an excellent sighting of either Akela or Raksha. Lucky you! Really ? That's just the news I wanted after a very tiring and frustrating which included the experience of working in National Health service with pen and paper again instead of using computers and voice recognition software and all other gizmos, all thanks to some hacker sitting somewhere in his attic and having a good laugh.

 

 

 

 

Well, there is not much to say about these amazing rock formations. Million years of history in front of you. I tried to name some of them. Feel free to add your suggestions

 

My Shoe again

 

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Walrus ?

 

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Humpback whale ?

 

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A fossilized sabre-tooth tiger ?

 

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Close up of the jaw

 

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Turtle ?

 

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The colour is so soft that I felt my fingers would just go through the rocks

 

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A humpback whale and some toes ?

 

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The salt crusted dry river bed

 

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The Village edge

 

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Cascading waterfall over a dam

 

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Reluctant explorers, dragged out of bed !!

 

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Millions of years of History in layers

 

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Who was the artist ? Lovely job but took him/her at least ten thousand years to complete

 

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Mango or a footprint ?

 

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No photoshopped. This was the color.

 

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Sandstones

 

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Crispy Won-Tons on a Chinese take away ?

 

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Eye of a Dragon ?

 

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Air vents or honeycomb?

 

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The Aliens !!!

 

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A Giant's foot print ? I think the toes were added alter.

 

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Abstract art ?

 

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A mighty ship cutting through foamy ocean ?
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Green eyed serpent
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Horse shoe ?
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God's easel and palette
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The eye
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Galana

Pleased to have been able to help with the Wolf. A well deserved sighting and I hope it relieved the stress of the virus.

 

You certainly have a terrific imagination on those rock formations.

Here is my take on a few:-

The Walrus is brilliant. I have never seen one but expect it to look just like that.

The ancient artist is an Ammonite fossil.

Eye of the Dragon or Stare of the Basilisk. Beware!

Air vents. Or Clay forts as I noted in Namibia last visit.

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The Footprint (with toes) could be a Cameo of a young Queen Victoria looking left (toes now become a coronet!)

 

Your ship is undoubtedly a QUINQUIREME of Nineveh from distant Ophir! Even in the correct location.

 

The horeshoe could well be Chess piece Knight.

and finally not quite the right location but the Green eye could well be that of the Little Yellow God to the north of Katmandhu.

 

Is this all?

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Chakra

@Galana: you continue to surprise,impress and educate me all the time. Your imagination is no less vivid.

Yes the Horse shoe was christened a Knight.

I'm afraid that is all. I believe there are couple more similar dried up rock beds in this region spanning across India and Pakistan, but sadly those places are off-limit because of the military situation.

I shall return with some wildlife pics pronto.

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Chakra

​Banni Grasslands is reported to be the largest tropical natural grassland in Asia. The broad geography of grassland spans across Kutch of India, Sindh and Baluchistan provinces of Pakistan, even all the way to Afghanistan. For more than 500 years this has been a place for truly nomadic and pastoral people known as Maaldhari. Maal = valuable belongings = cattle. Dhari = owner. So maaldhari beasically means "Owner of cattle". They would pay a "Grazing tax" to local rulers in exchange of grazing rights.

Sadly on 15th August 1947 a signature from Viceroy Lord Mountbatten put an end to their free movement and nomadic communities had to choose between India and Pakistan to settle down. Slowly the nomadic life style started to die. Then the rivers were dammed and the river water which used to flood the area, naturally flushing away the salinity of the land from Arabian sea, stopped flowing. Desert started to take over. And the biggest mistake was a well intended move from India Government.

 

In the early 1960s, the Gujarat Forest Department planted a plant called Prosopsis Juliflora in about 315 km2 of the Banni to minimize the perceived threats of salinity ingress and desertification. Seeds were dropped from planes. Over the past 50 years Prosopsis has spread from 315 km2 to close to 1500 km2 of the Banni. This has hugely impacted on cattle grazing as perennial grass had been replaced. This bush is just unbelievably hardy. It grows even in the middle of absolute nowhere and spreads like mad. Locals call it Ganda Babool (The Mad Babool bush). And the only use is to burn it down to make charcoal and add more carbon dioxide to atmosphere.

The salinity has increased dramatically. Government is trying to reduce the spread but the damage has been done.

Despite all these problems Banni still is a place of great biodiversity. I believe 275 bird species can be found in this area along with 37 grass species.

Today around 40, 000 Maldhari people and 80,000 animals, mostly Banni buffalo and Kankrej cattle, graze in the Banni and close to 100,000 litres of milk are produced in the Banni every day. The region also serves as a breeding ground for the famous Banni buffalo and the Kankrej cow, for sale in many others parts of the country.

 

And I had about Four hours to explore the is region !!!

 

So I targeted the sweetest spot known as Charri Dandh. Dandh means lake and Charri Dandh is the biggest rain water lake here which never dries up , so wild life centres around that. But if you have time I'd suggest two to three days to explore Banni, if you can tolerate the dust. The dust gets into your every orifice. More importantly it gets into your camera sensor and lens !!

There are no roads here and you'd lose sense of direction within ten minutes.

 

As mentioned before Mr Jugal Tiwari and his company CEDO are possibly your best bet, but I could not get hold of him. Liyakat was a very enthusiastic young man but clearly he was not fully prepared. He had to borrow a binoc from one of his friends. But the driver of the car Irfan was a fantastic driver. He knew exactly where to position the car. He did not know the English names but neither did I !!

After some discussion with Liyakat i decided to drop the Naliya (Lala) Great Indian Bustard sanctuary. There are only a handful of them left and apparently no one has seen one for nearly six months. Sadly their days seem to be numbered although Rajastahn has managed to increase their population a little bit last year. This bird was supposed to be the National Bird of India but the name Bustard was very similar to someone with dubious parentage so the politicians dropped it in favour of Peacock, although in my opinion even that name contains a vulgar reference. I've got to travel to Rajasthan to see last of those Mohicans.

So after couple of hours of shooting the rocks from Various angles it was time to move towards proper Banni Grasslands .

 

 

A lovely little woodpecker with a Red cap on the way

 

 

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The beginning of the Grasslands : all dried up in winter.

 

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Rain water lakes and waders. Storks are rare in Gujarat, specially the Black Necked ones, so this was a nice catch. I believe this is a female with yellow eyes. Sorry just showing off my limited knowledge !!

 

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Effortless take off

 

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I go to Cape town looking for Table Mountain and did not know we had one in India !!

 

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An extremely well camouflaged sand grouse family

 

 

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Sorry no idea !! Not a great photo, some better photos will follow.

 

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Looks like this one got a Crest ??

 

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A real "Prat" with an attitude

 

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I can't see the toes so this must be a Short toed one !!

 

 

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Lemony wagtail

 

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Plovers ? That's all I can say !! Kent or Sussex ?

 

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Lovely Red wattle

 

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Please say it's a Steppe eagle !! Looks very Imperial to me.

 

 

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Would have been a fantastic shot !!! Missed the wings

 

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I have never before seen a Nictitating membrane in real life

 

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This is the look my wife gives when I say , " I need to upgrade my camera." She also has red eyes and black shoulders !!

 

 

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Galana

Come on Chack, You can do this you know you can. Anyone who can spot a female Black-necked Stork is well on the way to a Gold star and some of your humorous captions do indicate a certain level of ability.

To start you off we can rely on my renowned simplistic naming approach. Your first photo shows a woodpecker with a yellow crown. That should not be too hard should it?

So what name would you give to a Sandgrouse with a chestnut belly? It does look black in the first shot but not in the final ones.

Ok the simplistic approach does not work for next two so skip them as you have the same 'wingless' bird further on with the nictitating membrane. I can tell you it is another female, the sexes of this genus being sexually dimorphic.

Your immature Eagle with the 'crest' is the same species as the Adult later seen flying without visible toes. (I am sure you have shown this bird before.)

You obviously know the 'Prat' with the collar and I will do the Wagtail for you. It's Yellow of course and is of the Thunbergii race.

You got the Plover correct. It is named after the area north of the Medway in England.

Sorry. It is not a Steppe but most likely a Tawney with an outside shot at Spotted.

Now you are back with the wingless wonder. Its ability to VTOL gave the same name to a small Jet of the RAF and US Marine Corp.

Full circle. A Kite with Black-shoulders?

So now you can fill in the blank spaces.

Was it really all down to Lord Louis? I thought most of the blame for partition fell on the shoulders of Jinnah. It's all such a long time ago and I was so young at the time..

Finally I love the 'tail' of the Great Indian Peacock. I can just hear what a clipped Indian accent makes of Great Indian Bustard. :o

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Chakra

 

To start you off we can rely on my renowned simplistic naming approach. Your first photo shows a woodpecker with a yellow crown. That should not be too hard should it? Well, there is a hint of red as well.

So what name would you give to a Sandgrouse with a chestnut belly? It does look black in the first shot but not in the final ones. I think I did see a Painted as well but no good photo.

Ok the simplistic approach does not work for next two so skip them as you have the same 'wingless' bird further on with the nictitating membrane. I can tell you it is another female, the sexes of this genus being sexually dimorphic.

Your immature Eagle with the 'crest' is the same species as the Adult later seen flying without visible toes. (I am sure you have shown this bird before.) Yes I've indeed .

You obviously know the 'Prat' with the collar and I will do the Wagtail for you. It's Yellow of course and is of the Thunbergii race. Would Citrine be a better description ?

You got the Plover correct. It is named after the area north of the Medway in England.

Sorry. It is not a Steppe but most likely a Tawney with an outside shot at Spotted. I was hoping against hope.

Now you are back with the wingless wonder. Its ability to VTOL gave the same name to a small Jet of the RAF and US Marine Corp. Hmm, let's call her Harriett then !

Full circle. A Kite with Black-shoulders?

So now you can fill in the blank spaces.

Was it really all down to Lord Louis? I thought most of the blame for partition fell on the shoulders of Jinnah. It's all such a long time ago and I was so young at the time.. Of course not. But let's not dig up the bitter past any more.

Finally I love the 'tail' of the Great Indian Peacock. I can just hear what a clipped Indian accent makes of Great Indian Bustard. :oYes, despite spending quite few years as the most loyal subject of Regina my clipped Indian accent pops out time and again, especially when I'm too excited. I remember my first sight of a Kori Bustard in Africa led me to scream Bustard , Bustard , pleading my wife to stop the car and my daughters were mortified that I was shouting the "B" word in their presence.

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Galana

 

 

To start you off we can rely on my renowned simplistic naming approach. Your first photo shows a woodpecker with a yellow crown. That should not be too hard should it? Well, there is a hint of red as well. True, but most woodpeckers have that.

So what name would you give to a Sandgrouse with a chestnut belly? It does look black in the first shot but not in the final ones. I think I did see a Painted as well but no good photo. You may well have done but that ain't one!

Ok the simplistic approach does not work for next two so skip them as you have the same 'wingless' bird further on with the nictitating membrane. I can tell you it is another female, the sexes of this genus being sexually dimorphic.

Your immature Eagle with the 'crest' is the same species as the Adult later seen flying without visible toes. (I am sure you have shown this bird before.) Yes I've indeed .

You obviously know the 'Prat' with the collar and I will do the Wagtail for you. It's Yellow of course and is of the Thunbergii race. Would Citrine be a better description ? No, because it is a Yellow Wagtail not a Lemon coloured Wagtail. (Which has an all 'yellow ' head.)

You got the Plover correct. It is named after the area north of the Medway in England.

Sorry. It is not a Steppe but most likely a Tawney with an outside shot at Spotted. I was hoping against hope. I know how you feel.

Now you are back with the wingless wonder. Its ability to VTOL gave the same name to a small Jet of the RAF and US Marine Corp. Hmm, let's call her Harriett then! Well you could call her that but what if all her namesakes turned up too? Hen, Pied, Pallid and Lord Montagu?

The girl hails from Europe and swampy areas but don't call her "Swampy" as he is an eco warrior. :o

Full circle. A Kite with Black-shoulders?

So now you can fill in the blank spaces.

Was it really all down to Lord Louis? I thought most of the blame for partition fell on the shoulders of Jinnah. It's all such a long time ago and I was so young at the time.. Of course not. But let's not dig up the bitter past any more. Agree. Jaw Jaw not war war!

Finally I love the 'tail' of the Great Indian Peacock. I can just hear what a clipped Indian accent makes of Great Indian Bustard. :oYes, despite spending quite few years as the most loyal subject of Regina my clipped Indian accent pops out time and again, especially when I'm too excited. I remember my first sight of a Kori Bustard in Africa led me to scream Bustard , Bustard , pleading my wife to stop the car and my daughters were mortified that I was shouting the "B" word in their presence.

What well behaved young ladies you have raised. Congratulations to Memsahib too..

 

It has been a most interesting trip. Thank you for sharing.

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xelas

I can't decide was it more interesting to read Chak's report, to watch his photos or to follow the comments by Galana?! Either way this is one of those reports that fuels my travel desire!! Luckily I will meet Chakra in person so maybe 2019 is the Year of the India?! Galana you looks interested enough to join the party; early rising and long drives to abandoned forts are what we all love to do. BTW I have just met a guy that actually lives in Gujarat ... and have received an open invitation to visit him. Better then wild card for Wimbledon!!

 

@@Chakra , I am out of my daily quote of likes so will come back tomorrow. However, the landscape photos in post #57 revealed your true passion in photography! I took my hat off for those ones.

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Galana

<2019 is the Year of the India?! Galana you looks interested enough to join the party;>

Steady on old chap. Don't we have a date for then already?

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Chakra

I can't decide was it more interesting to read Chak's report, to watch his photos or to follow the comments by Galana?! Either way this is one of those reports that fuels my travel desire!! Luckily I will meet Chakra in person so maybe 2019 is the Year of the India?! Galana you looks interested enough to join the party; early rising and long drives to abandoned forts are what we all love to do. BTW I have just met a guy that actually lives in Gujarat ... and have received an open invitation to visit him. Better then wild card for Wimbledon!!

 

@@Chakra , I am out of my daily quote of likes so will come back tomorrow. However, the landscape photos in post #57 revealed your true passion in photography! I took my hat off for those ones.

Thanks xelas. Put your hat back on. That's the Green one, right ? Some more stunning vistas are coming.

You have hit the right note. I fell in love with Africa not because of the amazing wildlife ( not that I'm complaining) but primarily because of the sense of my insignificance in the middle of the vast vast land, sometimes still untouched by human hand. I remember first time hearing the roar of lions in the middle of the night and my primal instinct handed down by "Lucy" from thousands of years back kicked in. I instinctively held breath and crouched, even when I knew I was safe.

 

2019 : sorry mates, not India for me. Alaska waits. I have to walk on the glaciers of Wrangell St Elias NP and drive the Alaska Highway. And throw in a few Grizzlies at Katmai NP ,may be some walrus, caribous at Denali , some eagles at Homer and I'll be very happy.

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xelas

Yes, @@Galana , I know for our plans, but then, only one trip per year is really not what I am planning to do in the next few years. One destination will always be in Africa but the second one I prefer to visit some other continent (or subcontinent). However, as @@Chakra is fully booked in 2019, maybe we should all wait for 2020?!

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Galana

<maybe we should all wait for 2020?!>

Ah, the impetuosity and immortality of youth!

 

I leave tomorrow to blaze a trail for you both later this year. One step at a time.

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Chakra

<maybe we should all wait for 2020?!>

Ah, the impetuosity and immortality of youth! ​ Oh the freedom and wisdom that come with retirement.

 

I leave tomorrow to blaze a trail for you both later this year. One step at a time. Enjoy the hills of Hebrides.

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Chakra

 

Lawrence of Arabia goes to Gujarat

In the beginning I saw the dust cloud, then I heard the mix of high pitched bells and low pitched grunting noises and then I started seeing them appearing in the horizon, like Omar Sharif.

 

I felt like Lawrence of Arabia : friend or a foe ? No gun with me !! But there was no need for me to worry. These were all friends.

 

In the middle of the vast desolate Greater Rann of Kutch lies this grassland known as Banni Grassland. I've already told you guys about teh Maaldhari truly nomadic tribes who graze these lands. Most of them are illiterate and don't even know how to count money.

I needed someone who was familiar with the area and their nomadic lifestyle and after much searching I thankfully found just the right person : Liyakat Ali bhai. Son of the soil, from the depth of Kutch. A multitalented person with a passion for nature and conservation. And he was accompanied by a fantastic driver Irfaan bhai, who knew just how to position the Jeep for right photography.

 

 

In the middle of the grassland lie a few rainwater lakes. Most of them dry up totally in winter but the largest one Chari Dandh ( dandh=lake) never dries up and it becomes a magnet for the local wildlife and the cattle herders.

 

Liyakat had told us that we should be near the Chari dandh by about 2 PM if we wanted to witness a spectacle. I already knew what was the spectacle, but still waited eagerly and got impatient when there were no signs of any camels.

But at last Liyakat's eagle eye spotted the dust cloud in the horizon and it was just like a scene out of Lawrence of Arabia.

 

About 70 camels appeared and the more they came closer to the water their speed increased, just like elephants. This big herd was managed by only three people who were continuously whistling to keep the camels in line. A few did break the formation but later joined again. Their joy of reaching the water was palpable and they drank and drank.

 

I believe each camel sells for about 1 lakh rupees ( about 1200 pounds) so the man with dusty torn shirt was carrying 75 lakh rupees of worth through the grassland.

These were female camels and of course I could not let this opportunity go. So after a brief exchange of words with Liyakat , the chief Maaldhari herdsman selected a camel , milked her for a few minutes and produced a large tumbler full of foaming milk.

I had an option of either having tea or drinking it fresh. They had already started building a fire.

I opted to have it straight : undiluted, unadulterated, unpasteurized and warm. Marvelous and surprisingly salty. Totally new taste.

I believe camel milk cannot be kept in room temperature for long, unlike cow's milk, as it starts fermenting soon.

I'm not a great fan of touristy camel rides and it was fun just to sit among them, totally surrounded, while they grazed around. A few of them gave very nice photogenic photos.

 

Then the herdsmen whistled and obediently they all grouped together and disappeared in the horizon leaving the dust trail behind.

 

This was my closest encounter with a true nomad. Totally worth having a bath in dust.

The Herd approaches
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The Nilgais run away
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A naughty one , not following the rules
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Water, water, water
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This one wanted me to check her tonsils
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Hello Gorgeous !! :wub: :wub: :wub:
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Showing off her pearly white teeth
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I always promote breast feeding
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You need a stool to milk a camel
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Surrounded by my admirers
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Ready for me
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Liyakat building fire to boil water for tea
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Tastes salty
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Liyakat and Irfan : two pleasant young men trying to promote eco tourism. And the Maaldhari tribesman.
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Dust dust dust everywhere with a dust devil as well
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The surreal beauty of seeing a huge lake in the middle of this barren land
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Galana

Another great tale from the Kutch. So realistic I could hear the Film score.

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