My two small feet stepped on a land unlike any other on the face of this planet. It could have been snow. It was cold enough for it to snow. Temperatures in winter did drop below zero degrees. I surveyed the landscape around me. All white! I picked up a pinch of it. Small crytals of white with brown mud. And then I did the unthinkable - I tasted it. Salt! I spat out.
The white Rann of the Greater Rann of Kachchh near Dhordo (yes, that's the official spelling and not the very common Kutch) is as close to moonscape you can get on earth. Dry, barren, isolated, it's over a three-and-a-half hour tiring drive through open scrub that offer little to stimulate the senses from Gandhidham (two hours from Bhuj, the largest city in Kachchh). The BSF guards flag down all vehicles. "No plastics allowed beyond this point." We handed our plastic bottles over to him. He simply tossed them behind.
We made our way through the brown mudflats following the treads of tyres that have been taking the same course. At the far horizon, we thought we saw waves lapping up the sand, not unlike the view at Chowpatty Beach in Mumbai. Or was it a mirage? We had barely been into the desert for about five minutes. Sure we couldn't be seeing mirages. But we were. The car came to a stop near the parking area. From there we could see sands of two colours - brown, where we had parked and white, where we were headed to on foot.
|The wild asses are native to the Little Rann of Kachchh|
There were no birds, no wild asses (khur) and just one camel cart. It was two in the afternoon. I tugged my jacket close to my chest to beat the chill in the air. I have never felt as exposed to the elements as I was on that day. Nothing could camouflage my existence. It was eerie and breathtaking at the same time.
Also read Love Across the Salt Desert by K N Daruwalla