The trip to Gujarat was a journey with a group of travel agents. There was no other travel blogger in our group. There were five travel agents from West Bengal, one from Delhi, one from the Netherlands, two from the UK, and one freelance photographer from UK. We had two people from Gujarat Tourism traveling with us. Most of my FAM trips have been with either other bloggers or with media people. I have been on trips where we had a mix of travel agents and media people but somehow I did not interact much with them!
Initially I was unsure as to how the trip would go but by the second day I realized that we were going to have a blast. For one, Gujarat Tourism knew how to show us places! And the group made sure that we had even more fun!
Show Us a Lot of Hotels is their Motto!
If you ask bloggers or media people seeing hotels is not very high on our lists! After all I am going to write only about the hotels I stayed in unless there is something really special about one of the experiences. But travel agents get upset if you do not show them enough hotels! Heck people in my group got the itinerary changed to visit two hotels in Little Rann of Kutch. And for the first time in my life I was able to understand why some tourism boards show us a lot of hotels on FAM trips!
From now on when I see a lot hotels, I am going to look at them with more kindness rather than getting stressed about writing every bit!
Show us Around is their Slogan!
On our way back from LRK the visits to Modhera and Rani ki Vav were optional. Once again our super group made sure that the visits happened and that we still reached Ahmedabad at a reasonable time. How did we manage that? We had a packed breakfast at LRK, we did a light brunch at 11.00 am and we skipped lunch! That is how we managed to fit in both the places. We stopped on the outskirts of Ahmedabad for evening snacks and tea! It was their super enthusiasm that convinced our organizers that none of us really cared for lunch! और दिखाओ और दिखाओ was written for them!
Good at Organizing
On this trip the business of giving tips was taken care by our travel agent friends from West Bengal! They were super efficient at collecting a small amount of tip from everyone in the group and giving it at the places we stopped and to the driver and his helper of the bus. There was no fuss, there was no confusion.
I had so many fun conversations with all the members of my group! I remember Debolina saying she worked only with senior citizens as they had willingness to spend but no one to travel with them!
I also got to hear about customers who called at all hours of day and night! They took it in good humor but they were extremely happy to be on a break! For once they were not organizing the trip, it was organized for them.
Ease of Photography
This was one of the most relaxed groups I ever traveled with when it came to photography. I learned a lot from hanging around Bernard. He never made me feel uncomfortable for clicking the same pictures as him. Some of the group members didn’t even bother about a SLR.
I have been on trips where people snap at you, worse still push you (and I am not kidding) for accidentally getting in their frame! No such nonsense with my group in Gujarat, everyone was welcome to copy everyone else’s frame! No was in a hurry to click their shot, no one even said anything about being in the other person’s frame! Pushing and shoving did not even enter the scene, ever.
Next time I end up on a journey with travel agents I am going to look at it as an opportunity to have even more fun!
Wild asses in any other conversation might raise a few eyebrows but not when you are visiting the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK) in Gujarat. It is the sanctuary for the wild ass and as a bonus you get to see a lot of flamingos too!
I am curious why is the Great Rann of Kutch (GRK) great and the Little Rann little? After all the LRK sanctuary is spread in 4954 square kilometers and there is nothing little about it. I tried searching for the same but it still remains a mystery to me.
I did two safaris in LRK both in the evening and morning. We were staying at the Bhavana Farm Stay in LRK. Given that it took me 5 years to spot a tiger in the wild, I went to the safari with an open mind. I was not sure if the star attraction, the wild ass, would give a darshan at all.
The sanctuary is about 8 kilometers from the farm stay. On the way we stopped at a salt making unit. I was amazed at the speed they were working! From there we headed straight to the sanctuary. The landscape is arid and flat. It doesn’t glisten white as GRK but this land has salt as well. And yet it has a dark brown/black hue.
Our first stop was for a group of Nilgais. In our college campus at IIT Kanpur there used to be Nilgais, I have seen them at many other places too. At LRK you are allowed to get off the vehicles.
Within a few minutes of the drive, we saw our first herd of wild asses. It was a large group peacefully chewing something on the ground. It has to be grass, though where it was is again a mystery. Someone complained that we could not get closer to the herd and our driver promised more action on the morning safari.
But we got to see another herd a little later. To me it seemed that they were walking home at the sunset.
We then visited a salt pond. It was managed by a single family living in a small hut. The hut had a Tata Sky connection though. They took us to the salt ponds and explained how the standing water was used to harvest salt.
The family who managed the salt pond offered us tea in the true Kutch style! That is how you drink tea in Kutch!
I was thickly coated with dust after the safari. So a hot water shower was most welcome.
The next day we were up with the sun. It helped that the sun got out at 7.30 am. We were off for our morning safari at LRK.
We were almost immediately rewarded with a sighting of common cranes, they are migratory visitors from Siberia. In the morning, our patch was full of them, they could be sighted in almost every corner we cared to look at!
LRK is known for the sightings of raptors and we met this steppe eagle as well. All the while we were there, he stood motionless on the branch!
My last date of the day was with flamingos at LRK and they flock there in large numbers. It was my first tryst with flamingos in the wild. Before LRK I had only seen them at the bird park in Kuala Lumpur. It was in their august company that we had our packed breakfast. We did not leave behind any scrape of paper or food.
I loved the time I spent at LRK. I hardly saw two other safari jeeps other than ours. I say go there before it becomes completely mainstream.
PS. I was invited by Gujarat Tourism on this trip.
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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