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The Great Rann of Kutch

Camel on the salt desert in Kutch

A day’s break from a recent textile mission in the historic town of Bhuj in the Gujarat region of northwest India, took me closer to the Pakistani border into the Great Rann of Kutch desert.

This vast, white salt desert, at a size of 10,000 square kilometres, is the largest in the world. Although it was winter, it was scorchingly hot – bright eye-blinding white salt, not a cloud in the sky, and not a skerrick of plant life. I was told that the best time to visit is at night when the moon is full and I imagine that this would be a most spiritual and mystical experience.

The drive from Bhuj was three hours of flat, straight road, and as we got closer to the desert, the terrain became more and more hostile – hot, flat, dusty and dry. Nomadic herders, gypsies and their buffalos and camels wandered into the landscape from time to time, bringing relief from the desert monochrome with their decorative clothing and ornaments. From time to time, there was some relief with the appearance of salt marshes, important wetlands for waterfowl such as waders and cranes.

The desert – remarkably – is underwater during India’s monsoon season but for the remaining eight months of the year it’s pure hard packed salt. Visiting times are limited to winter when the heat is almost at a bearable level.