Did you know that the Rann of Kutch is made up of the Little Rann and the Greater Rann? Well, I did not…not till my friend and I decided to make it our first travel destination of the year for our photo-op. In fact, this is what I love about my new-found hobby – the knowledge and learning that accompanies it.
Rann which derived its name from ‘Virann’ or deserted land is located in Kutch and is generally referred to as Rann of Kutch. While the Little Rann is closer to Ahmedabad (approx. 100 kms.), the Greater Rann is more approachable from Bhuj, which is about 80 kms. away. Since our vacation consisted of just four days, we took Greater Rann off from the itinerary and decided to restrict our travel to the Little Rann while adding Gir to the agenda.
With all the planning in place, we departed from Mumbai (Bandra Terminus) at 7:40 PM for Ahmedabad on the Lok Shakti Express. It is only after we boarded the train that we realised that specifically seeking “Lower Berth” while booking tickets online was a futile exercise especially, if one would end up having senior citizens as co-passengers. Yes, we had several senior citizens giving us company and by 9 PM, we had already “lost” one of our lower berths.
The train was on time and we reached Ahmedabad at 4:30 AM. It suited us since we were scheduled to pick up our self-driven car from Navrangpura at 6:00 AM.
The two-hour drive to Zainabad (in Little Rann) was a pleasant one with intermittent stops – once for breakfast and a couple of times to capture some interesting shots of Kingfishers along the highway.
We checked-in at Desert Courses, an ethnic resort in Zainabad managed by Dhanraj Malik, the great-grandson of Malik Zain Khan, ruler of Zainabad.
After some basic vegetarian lunch, we set out to explore the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary. Located in Little Rann, the sanctuary boasts of one of the six sub species of the Asiatic Wild Ass – the Indian Wild Ass or Khur, as it is called. Out from Zainabad, we drove through another village before exiting on an endless stretch of cracked land interspersed with thorny shrubs. It only took us a few minutes to spot small droves of Asses grazing across vast expanses of the desert. As they became aware of our presence, they began moving away and I managed to get some pictures only after getting off from our vehicle.
Next on were the Nilgais or Blue Bulls. Known to be very shy, the Nilgai is the largest Asian Antelope and it is only the male that has horns and a grey or bluish grey coat. Females and their young ones are brown in colour. We noticed several herds as we drove along the scrub forest and at one location we even found some Nilgais sparring.
Finally, we drove through some salt pans and were also able to meet a family of Agariyas or the salt workers of Rann. We stayed back at the Rann till sunset in our quest to get some great shots during the golden hour.
On our way back to the resort we were amazed to note that our guide and driver – Yunis navigated his Jeep effortlessly across the desert back to the State Highway, with no roads, lights or compass to give him directions. Apparently he has been at this job for the last 15 years!
There are several trains that depart for Ahmedabad from Mumbai after 8 PM. Not all however, have a Pantry Car. So carry some snacks or your dinner along, otherwise you will have to go to bed hungry, as we did.
Gujarat is a dry State. So no alcohol is served unless you have a “Permit” that permits alcohol consumption for health reasons!