For our last week in India at the end of January we decided to venture to the Kutch region of Gujarat. Not highly touristed, most visitors to India don’t make it to this desert area known for its exceptional textiles and handicrafts. (Although they do have an aggressive ad campaign with Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan touting “the silvery sands of Kutch.”)
We were excited about visiting small villages and seeing beautiful handicrafts, but we had no idea that the area had so much natural beauty. We arranged an autorickshaw driver to take us to some of the villages surrounding Bhuj, the largest city in Kutch (which means it was still pretty small). Our driver, Bharat, turned out to be excellent, taking us to villages and areas we surely would not have seen without him. As we drove away from Bhuj and into the desert outback, we soon realized we would be driving through one of the most beautiful areas in India.
Bharat soon taught us about castor oil, whose fields we kept driving by. Castor oil is produced by drying out the flowers (the spiky green things) and then crushing them to release the seeds. The seeds are then crushed to reveal a waxy, oily substance–castor oil–which as you probably know can be used for myriad medical treatments, lotions, and other remedies.
After some more driving we came upon a watering hole, surrounded by camels and water buffalo. It really was beautiful and made me want to go to Africa even more!
We also drove through some gorgeous marshland filled with exotic birds.
On our second day Bharat took us to this gorge he knew about. Honestly, I don’t even know where we were, but suddenly he had us climbing down into a canyon!
I certainly had no idea something like this exists in India! Did you?
We also some interesting birds nest and had an adventure getting our autorickshaw through some water.
But the grand finale was seeing the “White Desert”–those silvery sands that Amitabh touted. Kutch is home to the Great Rann, reputed to be the largest salt desert in the world. It takes up a large portion of the Thar desert and goes straight across the border to Pakistan. Bharat told us the only way to traverse the white desert is via camel and after seeing it–and walking on it–I believe him. Some of the salt is dry and hard but the further in you go the more marshy it becomes and soon you find yourself sinking into the desert.
Check back soon for posts about the villages and handicrafts of Kutch!