Monday, October 18

Road trip to Gujarat-Marine Park at Narara, Gulf of Kutch

We have driven to Gujarat three times now, and each time there is more waiting to be discovered. Little nuggets from history, tiny details that add up to a larger understanding of the land. On an earlier trip, I remember telling all friends and relatives, that we are off to see the wild asses of Gujarat. Most of them responded incredulously..." GADHE DEKHNE GUJARAT JA RAHE HO ? "

Well, it turned out, that trip introduced us to the Rann of Kutch. Vast , arid land, salt edged water bodies, a constant comment heard all along , 'That side lies Pakistan.' For us, it was a great adventure; for our chuldren, an eye opener. I had not expected to fall in love with this unexpected side of Gujarat. Till then, Gujarat was a place in the map of India, a geographical feature like a sharp nose edging out into the Arabian Sea. Or it meant Dhokla, or those beautiful mirror embellished dresses typical of this area.

During this , our latest trip to Gujarat, we saw a different side to Gujarat. We went primarily to take a walk , literally, in the Gulf of Kutch. There are several Marine Parks dotting the coast of Gujarat. We were planning to go to the Narara Marine Park, a few kilometres out of Jaamnagar.

Battery going.. will be beack tomorrow with more....

Okay, so let's drive on.
By the way, we have driven our own vehicle practically all across this country by now, leaving out the North-East part, and Gujarat has THE BEST roads in the country. Its a beautiful, green land, dotted with natural water bodies where migratory birds flock in the autumn months. Water lillies dot the edges of the highways. One feels like stopping every now and then to take in the scenery unfolding all around you .

We did Delhi to Bhilwara the first day, rested, took off the next morning to reach Ahmedabad. After the beautiful, smooth highways leading to Ahmedabad, the roads within the city were a little disappointing.
Since we had no sightseeing plans in Ahmedabad, we had a good night's sleep, and next morning were off again, to reach Jaamnagar, where we put up for two nights. I had heard of Jaamnagar only as the city where Nita Ambani flies to , on a regular basis, to look after the Reliance Refinery there. Images of a huge city lit up with lights, surrounded by the sea swam in fron tof my eyes as we approached the city. It turned out to be a regular Gujju place.
We went to the Marine Park at the Narara island ( will explain this in a moment ) to check out the marine life.
The Narara island becomes an island at high tide. Otherwise it looks like a constructed wall, bricks and stones clearly visible all around. That's Narara island in the photo belowThe dark blocks of stone on the left side..... At high tide, you cannot see more than a few feet of the wall but at low tide you can walk right up to the  base of this 'island' and all around the area.

                                                                            We were at the sea front by 11 AM, as we had been told that low tide would start at 12 noon. We had our packed lunch there, and waited some more as the water began receding back intot he Gulf of Kutch with surprising speed. There was still a lot of water at the beach for us to feel comfortable about wading in for a two KM walk ! Anyway, we were all ready with sun hats, sun protection lotion and cameras. Our kids were excited to see the Marine Park..park not as in a barricaded, marked boundry area, but a vast area of sand, stone and sea creatures bared to the sight as the water rushes away, back intot he Gulf. With a guide from the forest department showing us the camouflagued creatures, it was an interesting two hours under the bright , hot sun. I turned red under the afternoon glare..! The sun protection lotion did nothing , neither did my sun cap.

Numerous migratory birds like Ibis and local birds like herons and kingfisher flit around on the stones and rocks, looking for easy prey. Crabs, water snakes, Puffer fish, and Octopus, if you are lucky. We did not see any octopus, but we did see the bright flower like Sea Anemones. They look like a large, loose rubber band, the kind girls use to hang on their wrists, more than to tie up their hair. The guide said there are as many as 14 colours to the sea anemone. We saw only a spring green one, and a light creamy coloured one. These creatures are so sensitive to touch, that the moment they register any movement, any touch, they clam up, close their cleverly hidden pitcher-like mouths to grab whatever fish or other stuff has floated into their 'mouth.' I touched one, and it felt like a sticky, rough surface.. It vanished into the sand, right before our eyes as the guide tried to show us how the anemone reacts to touch. Clever little pretty things !!

And then there was this little bright crab...we thought its time to run for cover as it got crawling all around in a hurry. The guide sir jee just calmly took hold of the little crabby thing, kept a firm grip on the claws and then proceeded to show us how strong the crab's teeth ? can be. The poor crab then did as it had to do in the circumstances. The guide held out a ball pen, and immediately the crab snapped its dangerous moth shut over the pen, and wouldn't let go ! The guide even demonstrated how it--the crab-- could hold on to a stick !

We were walking in the ankle deep water for over two hours. I was worried about aching muscles at the end of this adventure but surprisingly there was no such discomfort. The water of the Gulf is warm at this time of the year--October. Wherever the water ran a little deep, you could feel the temperature change from warm to slightly cooler. Another interesting thing we saw was the sea cucumber, a roundish, dark, oblong thing, which feeds and sustains itself on the dirt of the sea floor ! Several corals were lying around but sadly , due to the effects of the rising pollution in the area, they were not as bright and breath taking as I had imagined they would be.

  There is plenty to see and enjoy at Marine Park,, as long as you are patient and willing to walk for over two hours in knee deep to ankle deep water. The timings of the low tide keep varying, so please keep that in your in mind as you schedule your visit. Keep one day only for the Marine Park. Its only two hours in the water but the planning and the time required to reach here from the nearest hotel in town must be added to your plan for the day.

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