Here is a picture of Devji bhai , his wife Lalita Ben and the helping hand Vikram, a smart chap. Vikram would definitely prosper in life. The village school has no teaching facilities beyond grade 8. Vikram looks after guests in the winter months and from his earnings and tips, he has saved enough money to buy a bike so that he can travel to the bigger town about 20 km away everyday, which has a secondary school, to complete his education. He was forever ready with a cup of hot tea for me. He also directed me to the best spot for taking pics of sunrise and sunset. I had never felt better after tipping.
Lalita ben was over the moon to find that she could converse with us in Gujarati and literally poured her heart out to my wife, talking about her own life, showing us the old faded pictures of weddings, her educated daughter who was working for an NGO in Mumbai and lamented about her two sons who were happy to stay in the village, but not as industrious as her husband.
She did not seem to be too fond of tourists from Calcutta, even though she had quite a few ( Bengalis are the most travelled in India). Apparently Calcuttans can't live with the simple food available in her place and demand "Aloo paratha and Sabji" and what not ( Stuffed flat-bread with potato and Potato curry) etc for breakfast. She tells them to get lost ! But we had royal treatment. My wife casually asked if there were some popoddam. Unfortunately there was none but the following day it was there. Somebody from the village was travelling to Halvad, 25 km away and Lalita ben had ordered him to get Popoddam for us.
Devji bhai talked to me in great details about his experience of working in the Flamingo Census and in 1998 LRK broke the world record for flamingo nesting. I believe it was 30,000 nests they counted. That must have been a sight to behold. Unfortunately because of his age he can't drive and guide anymore in this harsh dusty environment.
He has two sons : Ajay and Vijay. We never met Ajay, although he was there and had taken a German tourist out the same day. That was unusual as usually in this small places all the family members work together.
We had Vijay as our driver/guide. I won't say he was rubbish but he lacked the enthusiasm and warmth of his father. Language was not a barrier at all. Our driver Gambhir Singh ji accompanied us and he also commented on that. Honestly I probably spotted more birds than he did.
On the way back in the night I was hoping to see some nocturnal creatures like foxes , nightjars etc but he just drove straight back without even looking for that.
From this aspect I wondered if the guides at Rann Rider would have been better. But I forgive him entirely just for one thing he showed us : sunset and moon rise over the vast desolate landscape with not a single soul around, only the abandoned flamingo colony sticking out like a scene from the movie "Aliens".
Time for some pics now.
Sun rises over LRK
First views of LRK. It's very easy to lose the sense of direction here.
Deep tracks of vehicles ferrying salt in and out of LRK
Our First Flamingos. Interestingly this was entirely of juvenile flamingos who were about 8 month old and have not acquired the pink colour.
Salt pans in the middle of LRK. Sadly the monsoon was not great last year , so flamingos were nowhere near the numbers of 1998.
I was a bit disappointed but then we came across another pan and there the numbers were pretty impressive.
It was a mix of adults and juveniles
My path to the flamingos
Incredible India !!!! Sometimes I forget that the place where I'm standing as a tourist enjoying the splendour of nature is actually a place for back breaking work for locals.
Where else can you find a motor bike being dragged across the muddy salt flats to the makeshift plastic and wood shelter for who live and work in the salt extraction industry, with thousands of flamingos wading in the background ?
They even stopped and smiled at me
Success at last !!
Another pan, but by this time I had enough of flamingos !!!
Time to go looking for some Wild Ass !!