As I look back to those years, I recall all the annual family vacations we have had. And this year was no exception .Every year we put in a lot of thought into deciding our destination, however this year seemed more of an impromptu deal. Gir forests –The Home to Asiatic Lions in Gujarat, were not something I heard of too often, but when I did read about it, I was sure it would translate into an exciting trip. As nature and animal lovers, this seemed like the best option.
As I read a little more about places worthy of checking out, I came across this place called ‘The little Rann of Kutch’. It is supposed to be a smaller replicate version of the actual ‘Rann of Kutch’ in Bhuj, which is artificially created. As we had time constraints, we decided to spend a day here. We took the Duronto Express, which reached Ahmedabad at 6 a.m in the morning. This place as mentioned is located in a village known as ‘Dasada’, 110 kms from the station. On our way, we took a halt to munch on the fresh ‘Fafda’ prepared in the local shop there. Obviously we were looking forward to catching authentic Gujrati food.
The place that we stayed was called the ‘Rann Riders’. It’s a beautiful resort of sorts that transcends you to a very ethnic surrounding .It was indeed a well planned space, with beautiful cottages, loads of greenery, peacocks –ostriches-ducks trotting all over and the occasional camels .The cottage was well equipped inside with a mix of modern and traditional. We were lucky to have a swimming pool right outside our cottage. The food however here was a disappointment as we did not get the authentic Gujarati food that we expected. We got the typical continental stuff as loads of ‘white skin’ frequented this place.
(Outside the cottage: Rann Riders).
(Loads of these waddling around :pleasure)
‘Nomadic’ and ‘Restless’ that my family is, we chose to explore and scout for things to see outside the resort. The nearest thing we could catch hold of was the ‘Sun Temple’, popularly known as the ‘Vav’ in Gujarati i.e. a ‘Well’. This was 45 kms from our resort. At first sight, I knew why it was called the ‘Vav’ or the ‘Wow’ as I call it. It was truly breath-taking and very unique. It was a 30 feet deep well, with hundreds of steps leading down to it. The walk down was full of captivating ‘sculptures’ perhaps made 100’s of years ago. It was a mini adventure walking down and clicking pictures all through was fun. This place was also surrounded with a couple of temples which were adorned with intricate stone work. It reminded me a little of the ‘Dilwara’ temples in Mount Abu. But these were equally magnificent. And all those who thread this path, should certainly make a visit here.
Early next morning, we drove down to the mini ‘Rann of Kutch’. To be very honest our expectations seemed to have been washed down a little. It was a barren land with white sand, filled with ‘Wild Asses’. Yes the name seems atrocious. But that’s exactly what they are called and happens to be rare breed of a ‘horse. They were indeed wild, as they kept fleeing away as we kept approaching them. The only other thing that we saw here was the pretty ‘flamingos’ alongside a lake in there. This place is also filled with salt pans. But that somehow did not add taste to our visit.
|The 'Wild Asses'|
Our day in Dasada seemed fruitful though, as the resort ‘Rann Riders’ truly seemed like another heaven. From here we drove down to Sasan Gir situated in the district of Junnagad, good 350 kms away. It was a long 5-6 hour drive which was indeed very tiring. We stationed ourselves at ‘The Club Mahindra’ Gir Resorts. This place was pleasant too, but certainly not as well planned as the ‘Rann Riders’.
The next morning we left for what we came for, the Jungle to spot lions. Early morning, apparently is the best time to spot lions as the weather is pleasant, and the probability to spot lions in the morning was always higher. As we entered there were multiple routes where many jeeps dispersed including ours. All of us got restless after driving into the jungle for a couple of kms as we did not spot any. However the guide informed us that the jungle was home to 46,000 deer and 410 lions which raised our hopes of seeing them. Along the way we spotted a lot of deer and peacocks which were in herds, as the guide narrated his zillion experiences with the lions.
As we ventured deeper into the jungle, the guide said he had spotted ‘fresh’ pugmarks. Sheer experience I say. A further drive down translated his words into reality. A lion had just managed to quench his thirst at the lake and walk past us. We clutched our hands and gave a small squeal of excitement. Obviously, as we had never seen it beyond the cage. Being the King of the jungle, it strolled at its own pace, as we trudged in the jeep behind it. But let me tell you this king was in the mood to entertain us. Atleast that’s what we assume. It kept turning behind in the pretext of fiddling with the plants, and posed as we clicked away. This went on for an extensive ‘half an hour’. Finally it chose to budge and walk into the sidelines and into the jungle. But the show wasn’t over .It came close to us with a drift of just 5-6 feet and gave us that ‘loving’ look. Again that’s what we presume. Perhaps it had other intentions. But that gave us the opportunity to get closer pictures and videos. It then walked away with that grand finishing touch. By now we had a fictional ‘crown’ placed on our heads and that momentary ‘high’. Yes but this was a ‘male lion’ and generally found single unlike their female counterparts which are found in prides.
|'The pretence stint'|
After this ethereal experience, there was another one in the offing. That evening we decided to drive down to the Somnath temple. This was 52 kms of drive from GIR. We reached the place about 7p.m in the evening, in time for the Aarti. I must admit though that I got to this place with absolute reluctance as I considered it to be like any other commercial temple. I felt ‘angrier’ when I figured; cameras weren’t permitted in the premises. As the adage goes ‘When you expect the least, the surprise elements are enormous ‘. This temple showcased a movie that happened to be one of a kind. As we seated ourselves in the open space alongside the ‘Indian Ocean’, the movie played. It was special because it was pure lighting effect and sound of ‘magnificent’ voice over. The light effect was strategically placed on different areas of the temple, as the voice over explained the history of the temple. It was a beautiful 45 minute projection, wherein they highlighted the temples inception and how it was destroyed by Mogul emperors multiple times in different eras, purely out of envy and despite that it stands upright today in all its fortitude. As I feel close to the lord Nataraja and his Tandav, the story of this temple touched me even more. In my head I felt the need to perform here sometime in the future.
With that, it was end of another memorable day. The next day we chose to relax and stick indoors with activities like air hockey, carom (In which I surprisingly won), scrabble and some amount of cycling. The things that we perhaps long to do in our daily lives.
The following day happened to be the last day of our trip and I ached to stay back. I gave it a finishing touch by going for a ‘nature walk’ early in the morning. The guide showed us novel birds which we mostly managed to capture with our binoculars. How I wish we saw this in our very own Mumbai.
So this trip turned out to be more exciting than anticipated. If you do plan to make a visit to Gujarat, the places I mentioned are certainly worth it. I have yet to explore more of the state, perhaps in one of the many years to come.
Moolah Spent (For Information).
Rann Riders- Rs 9000 (Stay, 3 meals and the Desert Safari for 4 people for a day).
Desert Safari @ Gir – (Rs 3,000 for a jeep which takes about 3 hours) (Also kindly take your permits well in advance I.e about a month prior. Winter and summer better suited times to spot lions.)
Food @ Club Mahindra – (1k per day per person for breakfast, lunch and dinner).
Travel – Approximately Rs 8.5 /km in a AC Indigo.