Chakra

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

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Lovely trip report @@Chakra. LRK is a beautiful place and birding there is very rewarding.

 

Spreading the wings of Shikra look good for a Short Toed Snake Eagle.

King of the skies looks good for imperial eagle (juv)

 

Cheers

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Lovely trip report @@Chakra. LRK is a beautiful place and birding there is very rewarding.

 

Spreading the wings of Shikra look good for a Short Toed Snake Eagle.

King of the skies looks good for imperial eagle (juv)

 

Cheers

Thanks very much for your input. Please do educate me as we go along. As I had mentioned in the beginning, all eagles, hawks and kites look same to me :(:( For many years I concentrated on landscape photography and then for some unknown reason started having an interest in birds and animals. But my knowledge is increasing exponentially, all thanks to the contributors to ST.

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Did I lose a post somewhere? I recall commenting on the doubtful Shikra and am happy to go along with the Short toed Eagle. However I did and do thing the solo Eagle on the ground is Greater Spotted (Very dark with spots and spiky nape) although the final one in flight would fit Eastern Imperial (juv).

Keep the reports coming.

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@Galana: With your on greater spotted. Very high on my own list. So far I only had distant views via scopes.

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Did I lose a post somewhere? I recall commenting on the doubtful Shikra and am happy to go along with the Short toed Eagle. However I did and do thing the solo Eagle on the ground is Greater Spotted (Very dark with spots and spiky nape) although the final one in flight would fit Eastern Imperial (juv).

Keep the reports coming.

 

@Galana: With your on greater spotted. Very high on my own list. So far I only had distant views via scopes.

 

 

:(:(:( Oh No !! Then I haven't managed to see a Steppe eagle.

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<Oh No !! Then I haven't managed to see a Steppe eagle>

 

Sadly no but Greater Spotted is not to be sneezed at, especially one that gave such great photographs.

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Sun was setting, moon was rising and the whole of Rann started to look deep orange as we drove deeper and deeper into the Rann. I did not know where we were going, but all of a sudden we came across a scene which reminded me of the movie Alien. There were quite a few cone shaped structures in the middle of the desert, like the baby Aliens hatchery.

It was an abandoned flamingo colony. Flamingos I have seen many but never had the good fortune of standing in the middle of a flamingo colony. Kutch held the world record of 30,000 flamingos nesting in 1998 and I wonder how the researchers had felt in that particular year. Amazing how the birds had built their nests with care and precision.

Watched a spectacular sunset over the flamingo colony and had to physically push my dear wife away as she kept on coming in the frame of my Nat Geo level shots, brandishing her stupid i-phone.

In the night I realised how efficient the Kuba ( mud hut) was. There was no heating inside and temperature dropped to 2 degrees but the air inside remained warm and comfortable.

Next morning a quick stroll looking for more birds, a cup of Kadak Chai made by Vikram with love and care, more chatting with Lalita Ben and after a simple breakfast we hit the road around 8-30 and hit the rush hour traffic jam head on. Had to wait for nearly twenty minutes while hundreds of cows, sheep and even a camel leisurely wandered around looking for their breakfast.


Lesser Rann of Kutch : it was a memory to cherish forever.

 

 

 

Into the sunset..

 

 

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The "Aliens" hatchery

 

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The National Geographic Videographer of the century refused to move away from my frame

 

 

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​Photo taken by Devji Bhai in 1998 , the record breaking year from LRK

 

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Time to say goodbye to LRK but not before a few more pics

 

 

Another glorious sunrise

 

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Lunch time

 

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Simple, vegetarian and absolutely delicious

 

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There was a wetland area within two minutes of walking and it was quite productive.

 

 

My alarm call in the mornings. Not only crested but has an excellent voice as well

 

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? yellow wagtail . A wild guess

 

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Kingfishers aplenty

 

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I guess it's a shrike. I can't go beyond that

 

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? Coucal

 

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Another memeber of the shrikes ?

 

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Nilgai looking for a morning drink

 

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Traffic jam

 

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The food looks good and the whole trip is making me somewhat jealous.

We will make a birder of you yet with this latest offering. Isabelline Shrike I am sure and Greater Coucal but I will leave the "other member of the shrikes" to others more qualified than I and anyway it is someone's else's turn. Other than it is not a Shrike I cannot say more.

 

Really enjoying riding along with your family and you.

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"Other member of the shrikes" is actually Desert Wheatear, I'm pretty sure.

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"Other member of the shrikes" is actually Desert Wheatear, I'm pretty sure.

So am I!! :)

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The day of a long drive to Mandvi, a small coastal town. Gujarat coast line is long with very little development. It's a blessing as the last thing I'd like to see is the development of resort after resort like Goa or South-west coast. But if you are willing to drive a few hundred kilometers, then you do come across pristine beaches of soft sand with very gentle waves of Arabian sea gently lapping. Mandvi is one of the very towns which has some decent hotels and a new resort, claiming to be a premier five star property, had very recently opened there.

As the ladies accompanying me prefer a bit of relaxation from time to time, and as more importantly my wife was happy to foot the bill, so I opted for Serena Beach resort at Mandvi. Quite expensive by Indian standard.

The drive was long but not boring at all. Crossed the sea over the newly built bridge. The old bridge was destroyed in the devastating earth quake of 2001 which decimated Kutch.

I was proud to see the development of India here. When I was young Gujarat always reminded me of a barren infertile dusty land. But now miles and miles of canals have been built all over Gujarat and the water from the great river Narmada channeled through the whole state, making it possible to do farming even in remote lands. And huge number of windmills have sprung all over the state.

This was a double edged sword. The power generated is clean but the un-insulated power lines and huge blades of windmills have created major problem for the birds.

On the way we were lucky to see the Nomadic Rabari people of Gujarat who are one of the very few truly nomadic people in current day world, with no fixed abode, living their lives on the back of camels and taking their herd from one place to another.

Some pics from the road.

 

Various transport options from the age old camel cart to modern Tata Trucks

 

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You know you are in India when one of the most revered passages of Hinduism from Bhagavad Gita adorns the back of truck with the polite request to blow your horn thrown in. By the way, Lord Krishna did not give that advice to Arjun. He was saying, " You must apply your maximum effort to any task , but the result is never under your control. " I strongly believe in that: get your best focus and steady hands but the result can be anything.

 

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Nomadic Rabari folks with their belongings. Unreal sight on a modern highway

 

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Salt production is HUGE in Kutch with pans and windmills everywhere.

 

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The face of Modern India : the huge pipes carrying the water from Narmada river and the thousands of windmills feeding the power hungry industries

 

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On the way we had a lunch break in Bhuj, the ancient capital of Kutch, when Kutch was not restricted to India only. one of the attractions in Bhuj is this round about with cleverly designed hidden pipes giving the impression of an illusion

 

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The meal was fabulous. I opted for some Chana Bathura : Big Puris with spicy Gram curry. And the Puri was one of the biggest I've ever seen.

 

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Clearly the Pelicans also liked the food in Bhuj with a large flock resting in the middle of the city

 

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Give my wife just twenty minutes of shopping and she will turn that into two hours. But even I could not but help admire the amazing skills of the artisans. There are small villages on the way. I'm not a great fan of artisans catering to tourist as often it appears artificial but thanks to the local knowledge of Gambhir Singh and our ability to converse in local dialects did help us to experience something authentic.

 

First is the Block painting which is done totally without any help from machine with blocks pressed hard against fabric by hand.

 

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Next are the garments made exclusively by Hand loom

 

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This Shawls are pretty expensive and labour intensive.

 

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The Colours of India is always a visual treat for me

 

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One of the reasons of visiting Mandvi was to see the age old tradition of building wooden ships. This is a dying industry and the restrictions placed on these wooden ships because of piracy off the coast of Somalia has also played a part. But it is still going on slowly. The dockyard is the Rukmabati river and I had reached in the low tide where we could actually walk in the practically dry river bed.

Some of the ships were of fairly decent sizes. Some were brand new, some for sale, some docked for repairs.

I felt like waiting in front of Noah's Ark waiting for my turn to come while animals went two by two ! I was glad that I had decided to make a brief visit as this was not to be found easily anywhere else and would probably be gone in a few years.

Checked into the Serena resort. Excellent sprawling complex, wonderfully and slightly eccentrically decorated, overlooking a pristine bay. Sadly the peace and solitude was disturbed by groups of tourists who were discussing their business dealings loudly. But even those idiots could not stop me enjoying the sunset. I'm a keen photographer of sunrise and sunset and this sunset over the placid Arabian sea with the dying rays reflecting on the sandbars exposed in low tide was one of the best I had ever seen.

 

Some pictures now. Sorry no wildlife but something not seen every day.

 

A small one to start with : Mr Kahild is its name

 

 

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For how much ?

 

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Has anyone seen a bearded robed man ?

 

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I want the top right corner cabin with unobstructed view of Mount Ararat, away from the Cattle Class. And no doves please as they make a mess everywhere.

 

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The raw material

 

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Dry Rukmabati river and the dock in low tide

 

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Waiting for repair

 

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Old Mandvi town and gate to the once thriving ship building yard. Just like many other arts in our world it will also disappear soon with only the memories remaining.

 

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Our humble abode at Serena resort

 

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Extremely inviting infinity pool overlooking the Arabian sea

 

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The beginning of one of the Thousand and One Arabian nights. Sheherzade waits for me !!

 

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Roosting birds

 

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Even the teenagers were impressed and looked up from their phones to watch the sunset

 

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Jumping in joy

 

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Painting with photoshop

 

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Moon caught between the ghostly arms

 

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A new dawn begins

 

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Some eccentric decoration but fabulous representation of my colourful mother !!

 

My dad had an Ambassador car. It lasted for 35 years !!! Our car was not so colourful and my mum would never have allowed it to be used for planting. I don't know what happened to our car. Who knows may be this is the one.

 

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The omnipresent scooters

 

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Another interesting excursion and I see you could not resist putting some birds in too.

Those teenagers watching the sunset and jumping surely qualify as wildlife too! :rolleyes:

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@@Chakra LRK looks mighty interesting for a visit with its remoteness and beautiful landscapes. those flamingo nests created a surreal landscape.

 

I love your photos of the artisans at work with the garments and of the boats - it looks like cottage industries are still flourishing there, and Mandvi looks like a lovely town.

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Those teenagers watching the sunset and jumping surely qualify as wildlife too! :rolleyes:

 

Oh yes they most certainly do. !!

 

 

@@Chakra LRK looks mighty interesting for a visit with its remoteness and beautiful landscapes. those flamingo nests created a surreal landscape.

 

I love your photos of the artisans at work with the garments and of the boats - it looks like cottage industries are still flourishing there, and Mandvi looks like a lovely town.

Thanks @@Kitsafari. Yes LRK is indeed a rewarding place. I'm sure @@janzin will have great time there. The earlier in the season you go the better are the chances of seeing the migratory birds but the healthy population of local raptors will stay the whole year. I'll show you some more amazing works of artisans later. Yes the cottage industries seem to have a second lease of life now. It is partly due to the current PM of India who gifted Barack Obama a handwoven piece of wall hanging made by one of the villagers in Gujarat and that made people take notice of the artisans.

Thanks for your continuing interest.

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Indeed, I do hope that in between the wildlife sightings we will have a chance to see some of the wonderful artisans.

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Indeed, I do hope that in between the wildlife sightings we will have a chance to see some of the wonderful artisans.

The craft villages are mostly in the north-west Kutch around the Bhuj area. The famous villages are Nirona and Bhujodi. From the itinerary you have shared in the other forum, I don't think you'll be going towards Bhuj as you'll be moving towards LRK from Gir and then move to Rajasthan.

On the way you'll come across a small town called Gondal after a bigger town called Rajkot, where you will get the chance of seeing some local craftsmen, especially the embroidery.

Have a look here

 

http://craftclustersofindia.in/site/index.aspx?Clid=373

 

 

You can also travel to a a place called Jetpur, about 50 km from Rajkot where you'll come across more weavers. I'm sure you'll find some local artisans near Rann Rider. Do check with your agent about these cultural pit stops.

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Posted (edited)

" Modhwa ? Sorry Sir, never heard of that place."

I got fed up of hearing this from the resort staff. Someone even asked me if I meant Modhera, the famous Sun temple, about 300 km from Mandvi !!!

But such responses can't put off an intrepid traveller like me and when you have Uncle Google in your side who cares about directions from mere mortals ?

I've indeed read about this place in a blog from an atypical Bengali tourist whose main interest was nature, not fish curry and mutton biriyani when travelling.

So armed with Google map and under expert guidance of Gambhir Singh ji, off we went in search of Modhwa, a tiny fishing community near Mandvi.

A few wrong turns, quickly corrected by Google, no major drama and soon we entered a small village of fishermen where the gravel road ended. Not risking the car on sandy stretch I walked through the fishing village while children came running towards us with beaming smile.

After a hike of about 500 m I found the beach and what a perfect timing : low tide and fishing boats returning with catches and birds following for scraps. This was the main reason to come here.


Two little boys were playing cricket and they watched me watching them and without any hesitation one of them approached me, " Khelna ? ( want to play?)"

What struck me was his lack of inhibition, no pretension and genuine warmth towards me. For a while I played with Asgar Ali and Hamid. And just like other kids they were also very impressed with Gujarati speaking tourists.

I shall not try to explain the rule of Cricket to my friends who are not familiar with this uniquely bizarre but absolutely enthralling game. Once I had taken some of my German colleagues to Edgbaston Birmingham for a cricket match. They were doing quite well but then came the Leg Before Wicket rule and they gave up!

Cricket pervades every aspect of Indian life. In India there are only two important jobs : The Prime minister of India and the captain of the Indian Cricket team.

Beach cricket was not easy, man !! Boundary marked by anchors and ball got lost inside boats after my sixer ! I Thoroughly enjoyed ten minutes.

Absolutely pristine beach, no tourists = no trash.

Then it was time to explore and there was plenty to do so. People rave about hunts by big cats but I find all hunts equally fascinating, even when a scorpion tracks an insect.

Here it was absolutely fascinating to see the wading birds, especially the western reef Herons in their stealth mode, stooping down, stalking the minnows intently and then pouncing in a flash. The successful hunts led to a sudden flick of the beak, tossing the fish, catching it mid-air and gulping down.

Many varieties of gulls and terns, no clues as I'm no birder. I think I could spot a Pallas and some black headed gulls. Just happy to see. Even some plovers and red-naped Ibis !

When the boats returned there was a big commotion with lots of wings flapping! Gradually all boats emptied and the catch and nets were hauled to the village across the wet sand by the super four wheel drive : a donkey cart.

Sadly no fish fry for me as our resort was totally vegetarian !

I'd have happily spent the whole day at Modhwa but sadly my wife dragged me to see the Vijay Vilas palace, whose claim to fame was a connection with that one idiot Bollywood star called Salman Khan, who evaded justice for shooting blackbucks .

Total waste of time, 5 minutes would have been enough for a nice view from the Bollywood famed Terrace. Inside crumbling, dusty with royal family photos and staffed killed tiger proudly displayed. I found only one photo of young Sunny Gavaskar, in my eyes the Best Indian Cricketer ever, from 1971 interesting.

What really annoyed me that a couple were having their pre-wedding photo shoot and they hogged the balcony all the time and I couldn't take any photos. Apparently it is very popular to come here and pose like Bollywood stars enacting famous scenes. Their lovey-dovey poses made me nauseous.

Back to the beach and thankfully the day was saved by a cracking sunset over the Arabian sea. This had to be one of the best sunsets of my life. Blood red sun with flock of gulls in the foreground. Followed by a full moon night and some delicious food. No biriyani still , but I'll any day happily swap biriyani for beach cricket.

 

For drying fishing nets

 

 

 

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Incredible India : this is genuinely his hair colour

 

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Waiting for the tide to return

 

 

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Lunch time

 

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Stalking mode

 

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Gottchha ...

 

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Terns

 

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Jonathan Livingstone Seagull

 

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Ebony and Ivory

 

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Plover

 

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Red nape Ibis in the village

 

 

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The ubiquitous donkey

 

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The Best 4WD in India : easily negotiating the sand and stream and taking the catch back to the village

 

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My cricketing friends

 

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A makeshift bat made from discarded wood, a rubber ball and some friends : that is all you need to be happy in life. My friend Asgar Ali trying to hit me out of the ground.

 

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Right arm fats bowler, classic side on action like Mike Holding. Just look at the effort he was putting into each ball with his veins bulging

 

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The sentinels

 

 

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Tide returns

 

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Take off

 

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Edited by Chakra
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A Cricketer as well? Is there no end to your talents? Why is it that I can never see a mention of Mike Holding without smiling and thinking of his adversary Peter Willey?

Some great photos there. Keep them coming. Nice birds too. Thank you (or Memsahib) for the close up flight ones as one confirmed my original 'guess' that the earlier bunch of gulls "Lunchtime" were Heuglins and a couple of Slender-billed and a Black-headed (in flight) is on the next photo, centre top.. . Your Jonathan L. Seagull was conclusive for Mr Heuglin! and below him is your Pallas's .. "Take Off" is Mr H Jr.

Terns are Gull-billed Terns and the Plover is Kentish. A nice portrait of that little bird too.

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A Cricketer as well? Is there no end to your talents? Why is it that I can never see a mention of Mike Holding without smiling and thinking of his adversary Peter Willey?

Some great photos there. Keep them coming. Nice birds too. Thank you (or Memsahib) for the close up flight ones as one confirmed my original 'guess' that the earlier bunch of gulls "Lunchtime" were Heuglins and a couple of Slender-billed and a Black-headed (in flight) is on the next photo, centre top.. . Your Jonathan L. Seagull was conclusive for Mr Heuglin! and below him is your Pallas's .. "Take Off" is Mr H Jr.

Terns are Gull-billed Terns and the Plover is Kentish. A nice portrait of that little bird too.

 

Bowler Holding, batsman's Willey !!!

Thanks very much for educating me on all these gulls. I reserarched into them and I had no idea Jonathan Livingstone had travelled all the way from Siberia to give me company. I'll shortly return with some Bollywood glitz.

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@@Chakra thanks so much for this trip report. It is so interesting to learn from you about a very special area from India especially as I'm just planning a longer trip to India for 2018.

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Posted (edited)


 

@@Botswanadreams : Most welcome. I'm genuinely pleased to see that people are showing interest in Gujarat, which is underrated but very rewarding. There are many many places in India which are absolutely stunning and mostly unknown to western tourists. The Kinnaur region of Lahul and Spiti Valley in Northern India and Zanskar region of Ladakh are a hiker's dream. I plan to visit a place called Mangalajodi in the state of Odisha next January where the migratory bird count was 750,000 last year.

 

 

OK, now time for some faded glory of the royalty of Kutch. The Maharajah of Kutch had his summer palace in Mandvi , known as Vijay Vihar palace. This palace is very picturesque, especially the upper terraces, and has been used in many Bollywood movies including a blockbuster called Hum dil de chuke sanam ( Darling, I've lost my heart !!). The power of Bollywood is just unimaginable in India. It is far from reality and full of fantasy and dreams. The story lines are often cliche and the most important part of a movie is not acting but the song and dance sequence. It is well known that producers first test out three or four songs and if they sound appealing then they ask the scriptwriter to find a story to fit the songs. That's where a Rickshaw puller or a street sweeper will go to forget his daily troubles and escape into this dreamland for couple of hours.

Well, I may be exaggerating a bit as India has also produced the great maestro Ray and other directors, but I guess you get my point.

The palace itself was a disappointment. Dusty, no light, stuffed animals from hunting and photos of the royal family with celebrities. At one point it had the only lift in whole of Kutch but that was severely damaged in the earthquake. In fact I'm surprised how the palace withstood the ferocious earthquake.

But the views from the upper terrace was really lovely. I was really annoyed with the photoshoot which was going on with a would be man and wife were posing in lovey-dovey poses in front of hundreds of tourists. And I could not get any clear shot !! I simply do not understand why people have to re-enact the scenes out of movies to declare their love for each other.

 

Do I spot the heroine ?

 

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The terrace overlooking the lovely gardens

 

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The first lift in Kutch

 

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Posers

 

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Pre-nuptial photo shoots

 

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Not in the right place

 

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My childhood hero Sunny Gavaskar in 1971, after he had almost single-handedly led India to win our first ever Test Series abroad.

 

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A frame from one of the blockbusters : as expected a song and dance sequence

 

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Half an hour was enough for me and even my wife felt it was time to purify her soul again. So back to the trail of Pilgrimage again, as Mandvi had a very beautiful complex of 72 Jain temples, beautifully carved in stunning milk-white marble. Of course I did not take photos inside but even from outside the architecture was impressive and the atmosphere serene and calming. The only problem is the bright sun and white marble made the photos washed out. We prayed for a while. Jain and Buddhist temples are often more appealing to me than Hindu temples which turn out to be too noisy.

 

 

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Traditional lamps as offering

 

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Edited by Chakra
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Absolutely gorgeous photos! I really regret that we are not making time for more culture during our India visit. I feel that we will at some point need to return for a culture-focused trip, and forego the wildlife ( :o!) Well, maybe try to combine them a bit more. Some day!

 

Meantime I will appreciate and enjoy vicariously via these trip reports.

 

BTW, I see that you are using a D750 with the 24-120 lens (my lens of choice as well for travel.) But I find it interesting that you choose to go to such small apertures as F18 and F20 for some of these shots. I guess with such bright sunlight you can do so without sacrificing too high an ISO. I have always read that beyond F11 or so you actually lose sharpness due to diffraction, so I rarely go that small except for macro, but these look super sharp. I'm going to have to give it a try with architecture.

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Posted (edited)

 

I had no idea Jonathan Livingstone had travelled all the way from Siberia to give me company. I'll shortly return with some Bollywood glitz.

 

Yes both him and his friend Pallas make that journey every year just for you and other bird minded tourists. The fact that where they breed is rock hard frosts at -30C or so is just coincidental.

 

Thanks for yet more fascinating insights into the less trodden parts of India. You are working hard to have me create yet another visit. (Memsahib Galana is slowly considering coming back to Ladakh next spring so fingers crossed.) Now to look up Mangalajodi.

 

Loving this great journey enormously so keep it coming.

@@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?

Edited by Galana
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