Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kutch – Where you can see the wild asses

To the North West of Gujarat, Kutch, the largest district in India (45652 Sq km). Bhuj is the district Head Quarter and the main centre of Kutch. The arid Kutch is the exquisite confluence of the desert and the sea coast. It is a part of the Thar desert. The Kutch gulf separates Bhuj from the Kathiawad peninsula. Earlier, the Sindh river used to flow through it. A quake caused the river to change course causing the whole area to be submerged by the salty sea. In time that too dried up leaving the desert behind, arid and ruthless. The bets or islands dot this barren land.

Run is sandy wasteland, a desolate wilderness. To the south is the Little Run of Kutch; and on the north beyond the village Khabra, 70 km from here, over 20700 sq km unfolds the Great Run of Kutch, which is nothing but saline swamps. Beyond Run or the saline sea lies the desert of Thar and further ahead is Pakistan.
Enthusiasts may take a trip to Kala Dungar or the Black Hill, 19 km from Khabra. One can take a bus till halfway and walk the rest or, choose to take a ride all the way, by car. On the hill you will see the Dattatreya Temple and a military camp.

The enchanting limitless expanse of Run is visible from the top of the hill. You should also make a trip to Flemingo Colony at Tengri Bay, 38 km from Khabra. On the same route buses ply to Tuga, 20 km from Bhuj, from Tuga a 2 day’s safari on camel can be arranged.

Climate of Kutch
The climate is harsh, with high temperature, but evenings are soothing and pleasant. When monsoon starts from May, Kutch gets flooded by rain, with the inflow of the sea, it assumes the shape of a turtle. In summer Kutch is usually muddy, without a trace of human habitation. In winter (Dec-Feb) white and pink flamingoes and pelicans flock to lay eggs in the gulf of little Run. In summer temperature goes up to 47° C and winter varies around 4° C. Average rainfall 25 mm.

The air is salty, the soil thick with salt.
Kutch is not suited for cultivation. Now Run is the bedrock of incessant activity-chemicals are being extracted from natural salt Agricultural research is going on at the heart of the desert. But scarcity of drinking water is acute.

Wild ass sanctuary:
To the north of Kutch in the desert oasis spread over 4953 sq km from Bet to Bet. More than 2100 endangered Gorkher or wild asses (Scientific name: Equus Hemionus Khur) inhabit the Wild Ass Sanctuary, the only of its kind in the world. By the Act of 1973 they are protected from gaming and hunting. Each ass is 20 cm high, 210 cm long, weighing about 230 kg on an average. The animals are herbivore and almond-white in color.

When is the best time to visit wild ass sanctuary?
The best visiting time is from November to February but you can see them in October to May as well. They run very fast at a speed of km per hour . Besides the asses , there are black buck, nilgai, wild boar, chinkara, leopard, desert cat in the sanctum Pelican, flamingo, cranes and other species of bill. Birds are specially seen in the winter.

The process of Koli tribals of preparing salt from saline water is also interesting to observe.

How to reach the sanctuary and how to visit?

Dhrangadhra Junction is 130 km from Ahmedabad on the Viramgam-Bhuj broadgauge rail. 9601 Bandra-Bhri Sayajinagari Express, 9031 Mumbai-Bhuj Kutch Express 4311 Berili-Delhi-Jaipur-Bhuj Ala Hajral Express, 6506 Bangalore-Gandhidham weekly Express, 6335 Nagercoil-Gandhidham weekly Express, 1902 Pune-Bhuj weekly Express ply to Kutch via Ahmedabad/ Viramgam/ Dhrangadhra. 111 Viramgam-Bhuj Passeger train also plies to Kutch via Dhrangadhra / Gandhidham.

Reach by bus or train to Dharangadhra and from there the Sanctuary's is only 20 km.

From Ahmedabad (100 km) both bus and train are available. You may avail sleeping facility in the night bus services en route Ahmedabad-Bhoj. Buses also come from Dwarka in 9 hrs. The Forest Dept runs short of vehicle. You may privately arrange tour to the sanctuary by taxi or jeep for 5 hrs. Take a guide, you can save lot of your time and see more.

It requires permission to visit the sanctuary. For visiting, viewing and staying, contact: Deputy Conservator of Forest, Wild Ass Sanctuary, Morbi Rd, Dhrangadhra-363310, Gujarat. Ph: (02754) 223016.

Places to stay at sanctuary:
At Dhrangadhra there are 2 Rest Houses. At Dasada there is Camp Haubaro, For Booking contact: Sarfraz Malik, FatimaManzil, Dasada, Dist-Surendranagar, Ph: (02757) 240283. Ahmedabad Ph: (079) 26920105. Delhi Ph: (011) 28525014; Camp Jainabad, Advance booking : Mr Shabbir Malik, Desert Corns, Camp Jainabad, via Dasada, Pin: 382751. They have arrangement for food, lodging-touring and guide.

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

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