Day 2: Palanpur - Zainabad - Little Rann of Kachchh - Zainabad (175km) We reached Zainabad around 3:30 pm, just as the owner of Desert Coursers, Mr. Dhanraj, was getting ready to take the people staying there for a desert safari. He said that the jeeps were leaving in 12 minutes, and that if we wanted to join them, we’d better hurry up. We gobbled our lunch, and wondered whether we could take our own car along with their jeeps. However, he insisted that a permit was needed to take our car in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK), and that there was no way that we could get it then. He added that even if we did manage to somehow enter the LRK, the babul (shrubs) there would ruin the paint on our car. We’d seen shots of people taking their car into the LRK, and weren’t totally convinced. Also, none of the logs I had gone through mentioned anything about permits to enter the LRK. We decided not to join the safari, but instead to take our car and try our luck. Of course, we kept this to ourselves. Once the jeeps left, we checked into our cute ‘bhunga’ shaped hut, freshened up a bit, and then took off, armed with the directions marked on our GPS. Bhungas, for the uninitiated, are mud huts with a peculiar architecture found in the region. The huts at the resort are quite nice and comfy. There are also big, clean bathrooms attached to each hut. We headed towards Jhijhuwada, a village 15 kms away, and then after that proceeded toward the LRK after crossing a salt farm. We spotted a track going west, and consulted our GPS markings from Google Earth. It seemed to be the correct direction, and my gut feeling said that this track would definitely lead us to the LRK. We took the cut, and followed the tyre marks. We were hardly 10 minutes into our off-roading when we spotted a beautiful, brown animal family, and were lucky enough to capture them on camera. We first thought that they were Neelgais, but then ditched the idea since they were not blue at all. However, thanks to friends back home, we now know that they were in fact Neelgais, and that a female Neelgai is not blue and has white marks on her ankles. After clicking the Neelgais, we tried to go into the actual Rann by going pure west, but could not do so thanks to the shrubs blocking our path. As several shrubs scraped Kiyang, I was sure glad that I’d taken the extra effort to get the second round of Teflon coating done just before leaving. A word of advise to people entering the Little Rann - stay on tyre marks while entering the Rann as there are few tracks which allow cars to enter. There are just too many shrubs to deal with otherwise. The same goes while exiting the Rann too. However, while one is in the wide open, make your own road. As we went further towards the Rann, we met some Khurs, and were thoroughly delighted at having spotted them, more so because they look almost identical to Kiangs found of Ladakh! We chased them a bit, but could not get good shots. We thought not to disturb the Khurs any more and headed further west deeper into the LRK. Finally, after another 10 minutes of driving, we found ourselves in the wide open. It definitely was a sight to behold! Dry, parched land stretching in all directions, with not a soul around, and the sun waiting to set. I had a shot in mind – Kiyang with the setting sun in the background – and made sure that Kiyang was in position when the moment came. Our plan for the next day was set – we intended to drive through the Rann, making a east to west run, and probably come out north, crossing about 100 km of the LRK in the process. That meant that we would probably be in the middle of the LRK during lunch, and hence asked the resort guys to pack some lunch for us the next morning. Also, I noticed a bird-enthusiast with a 400mm lens hanging in front of him at the resort, and he unbelievably had a ziplock bag and silicon pouches to spare and the heart to give it to me. We had dinner, which was average, and then called it an early night since the day had been long. The bed was not too comfortable, but the room was overall nice and clean, and the whole place had a good vibe about it.