Saturday, 10 February 2018

Indian Epic - Travels in Kutch, Gujarat - Devpur Homestay



Namaste! We're back! Be afraid - be very afraid, we took so many pictures during our stay in Gujarat you might be sick of the sight of India by the end of the week. Normally after being home for 24 hours I'd be halfway through the washing mountain by now but shortly after touching down at Birmingham airport yesterday morning we discovered that all of our luggage had gone missing. After filing reports and making numerous phone calls the airline now seems to think both bags are somewhere in Paris, Charles de Gaulle (apparently the airport is notorious for it) so I'm keeping everything crossed. I'm not too bothered about my skanky travelling wardrobe but I'd be devastated if our fiercely haggled for souvenirs from Gujarat and Mumbai are gone.


I can't quite believe that five weeks ago today we were on the way to India. Our journey took us from Birmingham to Paris, then from Paris to Mumbai and finally from Mumbai to Bhuj where our driver, Ramji (that's him posing with us in the top photo), was waiting at the airport to take us to the Devpur Homestay, our base in the Kutch region of Gujarat for the next seven days.


The first thing we noticed on our journey to Devpur were camels, although we'd seen (and ridden) them in North Africa we'd never encountered them in India. Pulling rickety wooden carts, roaming alone or in caravans, they added an exotic touch to the barren landscape. Our driver took us through dusty, makeshift towns bustling with men and women in astonishingly colourful tribal costumes and past fields of unidentifiable crops framed by sun-bleached hills crowned by crumbling fortresses bisected by ancient stone walls. Biblical-looking, bony, hump-backed Brahmani cattle competed for road space with lumbering jet black water buffalo and skittish dust-coloured pariah dogs.


An hour later, taking a sharp turn along yet another ramshackle dirt track, we spotted a familiar sight, the outer wall of Devpur Darbargadh, home to the Jadeja family for over a century. The house we'd fallen in love with months ago after reading an on-line Guardian article (HERE). 

My cheapo dress doesn't look too bad after an epic 27 hour journey, does it?

  After emailing each other for several months our host and owner of Devpur, Krutarthsinh (or K, as he signs off his emails), already felt like a friend and it was a joy to finally meet him. In India they say Atithi devo bhava meaning guest is like a god and we certainly were made to feel special, greeted with tilaka, marigold garlands and deliciously hot & sweet chai. The effects of twenty seven hours of continuous travel were obviously starting to show as after exchanging pleasantries K suggested we retire to our room to catch up on some sleep before lunch.





 And what a room! Although we'd booked a budget option Devpur wasn't fully booked so K generously upgraded us to the Room Of 17 Pillars for our first few nights.



Originally a hangout for the men of the family, the Room of 17 Pillars was the grandest space in which we've stayed in India. With Belgian etched glass chandeliers, lilac walls lined with paintings, antique weapons and family photographs and fine wood furniture from the Raj era, despite the jet lag we were squealing with excitement. From the wonderful selection of Indian-themed books and National Geographic magazines to the Ayurvedic soap & black hair shampoo in the bathroom, the pristine white cotton sheets and traditional charpoy beds to the jar of biscuits, mineral water in glass bottles and alarm clock Devpur certainly lived up to its top rating on Trip Advisor.












 After a wonderful pure veg lunch and a lazy afternoon we met up with K just before sunset to visit the family's organic mango farm, a couple of minutes walk from the house. The Jadejas export their mangoes as far afield as the UK.


The Jadeja family also have rooms to rent on the farm itself and they're stunning, something straight off the pages of a trendy interiors magazines, architect-designed and cleverly built using recycled materials and salvage. There's a communal area where drinks and breakfast can be taken and, in the evening, guests are invited to the main house to join the other residents for a sociable dinner taken on shared tables in the cosy mess hall.


J&K












The numerous star tortoises wandering around made us feel right at home.


For travellers on a budget there's also a glamping option with a couple of traditional canvas tents and a trendy open air bathroom.



Like many Indian families the Jadejas keep a cow for milk. She'd given birth to this calf four days before we arrived.


After a stroll around the farm we went off in search of Thums Up, India's own brand of cola, to have with our rum. Gujarat is a dry state but following advice we'd found on-line we bought Bacardi from the duty-free at Birmingham airport requesting that it was well-packed. After landing in Mumbai we collected our luggage, stashed our booze in our bag and, on arrival to Bhuj, bought a week-long liquor licence from the airport for 100 rupees (just over £1). Alcohol (and licences) can be bought from permit rooms in a couple of hotels in Bhuj but there aren't bars or liquor shops like you'll find throughout the rest of India.


 The Kutch region suffered a devastating earthquake in 2001, killing over 20,000 people and destroying over 1.2 million homes. As a consequence there's hardly anywhere untouched by the damage, cracks in the buildings, mountains of rubble and lots of rebuilding and mending. Devpur village reminded us of the village in the film Lion, dusty, sun-baked and makeshift but the seemingly bleak surroundings certainly didn't impact on the demeanour of the residents. Westerners are a rarity in Kutch and the locals reacted to us like we were film stars, coming out of their houses to greet us with a bow and a namaste! Gangs of children followed us in packs keen to practice their already superb English, How are you? Welcome to India! From which country are you from? What is your name? The proprietor of the tiny hole in the wall shop where we bought our Thums Up was beyond excited, insisting on checking the date and the coldness of the bottle to ensure it was top notch. 

Bin day, Kutch style.





First time visitors to India are often surprised that Muslims and Hindus live companionably side by side. Hijab clad women stroll arm in arm with ladies in saris while the Iman sits in the village square chatting to men with temple marks on their foreheads, down winding side lanes children in salwar kameez, turbans and Man United shirts play hockey and cricket while the call to prayer from the mosque is superseded by the drumming from the Hindu temple.












Detail from a Hindu temple




Devpur Homestay is also home to the co-educational White Eagles School founded by K's father, T. S. Mahipatsinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja. Its the only public, non-government aided school in Kutch. White Eagles has 350 pupils of whom 35 are boarders. The school day starts at 7.40 am and kids attend from Monday to Saturday. 




After a stroll around the village - which took ages as we kept stopping to chat with the locals - we returned to sip rum on the balcony. An informal & delicious vegetarian dinner (although meat dishes can be arranged on request) is served at 8pm, shared on a communal tables with the other guests. Film makers and lawyers rub shoulders with architects and market traders (us!) and hail from all over the world, although the vast majority are domestic tourists from metropolitan India. Every Indian we spoke to despised Donald Trump and asked if we voted Brexit as they've yet to meet a Brit who had. We nodded in agreement over Trump and suggested that a Brexiteer probably wasn't the type of person who'd travel independently around India.


K is the perfect host, friendly and welcoming & not at all intrusive. He made an effort to sit with all his guests and share his extensive knowledge of Kutch (he's the Gujarat expert on Trip Advisor). On our first night we got together with a map and discussed what we wanted to see and between us we drew up a week long itinerary to make the most of our trip.


After another rum on the balcony (we had to take it slowly, our litre had to last the week) we set the alarm and turned in for the night. Our first day of our Kutch adventure started at 8am tomorrow.


 More Gujarat coming very soon.

Brace yourselves! The full set of Devpur Homestay & village photos can be found HERE.

91 comments:

  1. Welcome back! I'm sure it was quite a letdown coming home, and not just because of the lost luggage! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it, and especially your previous souvenirs, turn up shortly. Devpur Homestay looks like paradise, and the room you were upgraded to looks truly spectacular. Thank you for the tour and the heartwarming and colourful photos. xxx

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    1. Thank you!! On the bright side at least not having any luggage made getting the two trains back home to Walsall a lot easier (ever the optimist!)
      Devpur was a proper home away from home, I never wanted to leave! xxx

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  3. Wriggling with excitement when this post appeared! Wonderful. I hope that your luggage catches up with you soon.

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    1. Yay! There's loads more to come! xxx

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  4. Nice to see y0u back vix , Must be so cold for you back here its been so miserable , What a lovely cheerful post to brighten up the day , Love the hotel its amazing xxx

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    1. Thanks, E! Devpur was so beautiful, we were just happy to sit in the room at night and gaze at our surroundings! xxx

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  5. so happy to see you back. Can't wait to read about the rest of your trip.

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  6. Wow! What gorgeous photos of such a beautiful place!
    Hope your luggage shows up.
    Welcome home!

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    1. Such beauty in so barren an area. Loved it! x

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  7. hoorayyy!! vix is back! started to miss you!
    spectacular homestay! and very interesting host too. i can smell the dust of the village streets and the spices of india already - can´t wait to see more!
    hope you luggage shows up soon!
    xxxxxx

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    1. There's something about that smell, isn't there? I wish somebody would bottle it and sell it - I'd wear it every day! xxx

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  8. So happy to see you post on Instagram...then I knew to look here :) That place is truly like a palace, so beautiful! I hope your luggage shows....we are flying home on Air France this Spring but it will be a direct nonstop from Paris to Vancouver so hopefully nothing goes astray :(

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    1. Devpur is unbelievably beautiufl, I'd recommend it to anyone, I don't think anyone could find better in the entire state!
      One bag turned up at the door on Saturday night and the other last night - no phone call or email to check we were in or to let us know it was on the way. Oh well, at least it's all home now. Paris CDG is apparently renowned for losing luggage - make sure yours has a massive tag attached! xxx

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  9. Welcome back, I hope your luggage turns up safe and sound 😊

    The cows and calf are gorgeous and I love the tortoise, that's a lovely photo xxx

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    1. Thanks, Melanie. I was beyond excited when we saw those tortoises. There's more wildlife to come later in the week and you're going to love it! xxx

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  11. Great to have you back Vix. It seems soo long since your last post. Great photos and very evocative descriptions of your first day. I am looking forward to your next posts. Hope your luggage turns up soon.

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    1. Thank you so much, Shelagh! The internet seems a bit daunting after a five week break! There's another post on the way - so many photos, it takes a age to whittel them down and write something coherant! xxx

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  12. I hope your luggage turns up safe and intact.
    It's been so nice to read your blog, the photos are wonderful and it looks utterly gorgeous. Can't wait to see more. I agree with Shelagh above, you seem to have been away ages, bet you're delighted to be home (ironic) :-) xxx

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    1. Hello Sally and thank you! the luggage is all back now and the washing machine has been going since just after 6am (bloody jet lag!!) xxx

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  13. Have been so waiting for your posts! it's just beautiful there, and you look beautiful too, your clothing was just right for the heat/dust and travel. Hope your luggage souvenirs turn up. (maybe I'm an exception as a brexiteer!) I have hopes and plans to travel independently and off the beaten track to India in 2019!) Can't wait for more of your posts, it's like reading Rough Guide!

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    1. Thanks, Betty! I think you need to get yourself to Devpur next year so K and the rest of his guests can chat to you about why you voted Brexit! Indians are passionate about politics! xxx

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  14. Great photos. Really enjoyed looking at them.

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    1. Thanks you, I'm so glad you liked them! x

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  15. Welcome back Vix. I'm beyond excited to see your India adventures.

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  16. I love the idea of the home stay accommodation and what a beautiful place. As always you have such beautiful photos and very interesting accompanying stories. I LOVE your posts on your Indian adventures and now I am looking forward to the next installment. Welcome back and thanks for sharing your travels.

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    1. Home stays really are wonderful, you're living like a local whilst being treated like a treasured guest. I love exchanging ideas and sharing what we've seen with like-minded people, so much better than some stuffy hotel! xx

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  17. It's great to read about your holiday & see the beautiful photos.It really is another world.I was surprised to see the dog on the last photo as it looks just like one of mine x

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    1. Thanks, Flis. I'm so glad you enjoyed the first installment.
      I adore the Indian dogs, I always carry dog biscuits in my bag (they're cheap to buy in India). I love how locals leave their food scraps in bowls outside their houses for the strays to enjoy. xxx

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  19. Such amazing adventures. And the photos are beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us. 😗

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    1. My pleasure, my dear friend! xxx

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  20. Namaste! Wow, I can almost feel I'm there too, great description and photos. Looking forward to the next installment!

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    1. Hello VM! I'm so glad you enjoyed the first installment of our trip, thanks for reading! xxx

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  21. Thank goodness youre back. l have been checking in to see if you were.Yay! l love to read about your travels and how you go about them. When l get to go overseas and to India l am going to reread all your posts.Plus everything you say falls on the right side of the line.What line is that? The decent human line. Welcome back.

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    1. What a lovely thing to say, thanks Jennifer! xxx

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  22. Lovely photos, keep them coming, we enjoy them all, holiday envy I guess.

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    1. Thanks, Red! I'll keep them coming! xxx

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  23. Love it! Missed your posts. It was worth the wait.

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  24. This has to be the best start to an Indian adventure you've taken me on, Vix! Fabulous photos! Absolutely full of atmosphere. I am there. And your accommodation...what a fabulous place (I do recall you two packing your bags and getting away from one lot of digs on another trip as fast as you could! :) Your story telling is full of all the senses. My own life has been way too full, getting a house ready for sale (it's done - now, to sell), being immersed in writing a new book and many comings and goings with family members. I was finding trying to keep up with so many blogs - reading - and posting my own, too much, so I'll admit here, publicly, that I'll read my favourites from now on - and not beat myself up if life gets in the way one week! You're still so fabulously refreshing, full of colour, and straight down the line! All the best for a brilliant year to you and Jon for everything. Elizabeth. xx

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    1. Goodness me, no wonder you've been absent from blogland. What a busy time you've had, Elizabeth! Please don't feel obliged to comment on all my posts, there's rather a lot! xxx

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  25. Welcome home Vix! What a pain in the arse about your luggage, but thank goodness your camera wasn't in it otherwise we wouldn't have seen your fabulous photos. (The tortoise is magnificent!)
    The homestay looks so atmospheric and overflowing with stories about previous occupants no doubt... how wonderful to receive such a welcome after a long and tiring journey.
    Your description of the kids trailing after you in packs reminds me so much of my travels in India and Africa when I was a hostie.
    Can't wait for Part Two. xxx

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    1. Hello, Fiona! There were seven of those tortoises including a couple of babies. They were so cute.
      The homestay really was amazing, I can't recommend it enough.
      It is funny being followed by hoards of kids - the backwaters of Kerala were very similar - our ghostly pale skin is a real novelty and their immaculate English puts mine to shame! xxx

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  26. Welcome back Vix. Always a joy to read about your travels

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  27. Wow - I have been looking forward to this - fantastic photos.x

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    1. Isn't it just? It's a bit of a shock to the system seeing snow again! xxx

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  29. Welcome back!

    Seems like you had a wonderful time. Can't wait to read about the rest of the trip.

    Suzanne

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  30. Yay! Welcome back. More please! Cant wait to see your lovely pics and hear about all your adventures. New York Nancy

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    1. Hello, New York Nancy! Thanks for the warm welcome back - there's more (much more) on the way. watch this space! xxx

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  31. Welcome back!!! Bring on the photos, seriously - we need them to brighten up this dull start to the year!!
    What an amazing place to stay, honestly so incredible with all those pillars?!
    Hope your luggage appears.
    xxx

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    1. Thank you so much, S!! My jaw dropped when K showed us that room. Honestly, I've never seen anything like it! xxx

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  32. Glad to see you back, Vix. I am entranced by your photos. What a wonderful place. Every picture is just so evocative, full of life and colour. It is a pity that there is no smell on the Internet. I think where you were staying looks absolutely amazing. What a let down coming back to the freezing cold UK. Hope that they find your luggage soon and that you don't lose your holiday buys. Xx

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    1. Thanks, Kelly! Honestly you'd love it, the tribal costumes, the antique textiles and the traditional craft villages are like something from a dream. xxx

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  33. Welcome home! As always your photos are such a joy to look at.
    Zxx

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  34. Such an amazing adventure, I hope your luggage has no returned from its own adventure.

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  35. Hope your luggage find it's way back home.Lovely photos!

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    1. Thank, Maria! Both bags are home now - Jon reckoned that they had a row at the airport as they both turned up separately! xxx

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  36. Oh my goodness, what an amazing place! The house looks gorgeous, and everyone sounds so lovely and friendly. I can't wait for your next post!

    (Also, fingers crossed the luggage arrives soon. Our flights are direct but we're changing at Mumbai, so I'm packing a clean knickers and socks in my hand luggage just in case - learned that the hard way when we transferred in Spain once...)

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    1. Isn't it incredible? Well worth the 27 hour journey, that's for sure!
      Mumbai airport is amazing these days, you'll have no problem there but yes, I always put the bare essentials in my hand luggage just in case! xxx

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  37. FABULOUS! What a place. Delicious architecture and beautiful faces...love it.
    That's a bastard about your luggage. Hope it turns up soon.
    Can't wait for the next post.
    Loves ya.xxxx

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    1. Thank you, Em!! It was amazing, I've never taken so many pictures, everywhere we looked had something worthy of a photo.
      The baggage is safe and sound, hoorah! let the washing commence! xx

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  38. Welcome back! What a glorious place you found to stay in, and your photos are as evocative as ever - looking forward to seeing more!

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  39. Wow what amazing photos & writing. You've encouraged me to shed some sentimental tears for my days in Gujurat. Knew you'd both love it. And the textiles eh? Bet you've bought some lovely bits. Keep it fresh in your memory banks, want Guj chat at Cornbury!! x x

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    1. Olá!!! I cannot wait for Cornbury, I hope they'll have us back!
      Guj rocks, we'll definitely go back. I promise to bore you to death about it when I see you! xxx

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  40. So marvelous! I'm thoroughly enjoying your pictures, Vix. I'll likely never make it to India, so thank you for all these glorious photos!

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    1. Thanks so much, Sheila! i'm glad you enjoyed them! xxx

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  41. Welcome back!! I am happy to see on IG that you did get your luggage back. You really hit the jackpot on accommodations this time - what an amazing place, and your host sounds just lovely. I just love being able to visit India vicariously through your vacation - keep those photos coming!

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    1. Thanks, Shelley! I couldn't believe that room. Devpur was really special. There's far too many photos, be warned! xxx

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  42. Namaste! So wonderful to have you back! Bloglandia is not the same without you!

    I will give it a more thorough read when I feel a bit sharper, but pictures are spectacular! I love all the animal shots - those camels are amazing, and the turtle, such a fine portrait!

    I hope your treasures will return without any damage. The dress looks beautiful - as if you haven't even traveled so far!

    Lots of love!

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    1. Hello, Natalia! I'm so sorry that you've been poorly. Thank you so much for the warm welcome home. xxx

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  43. How lovely that you're back!

    Your photos are simply stupendous. The post looks and reads like an article from a National Geographic!Except, I 'know' you and Jon... What a fabulous place to stay and K sounds like the host from heaven.

    I look forward to reading more and seeing more wildlife...
    xxx

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  44. What an incredible place to stay! Love the tortoise and calf. You deserve to get the film star treatment! x

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    1. I loved getting the film start treatment, I'll expect it at home now! xxx

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  45. Glad to have you back Vix! x

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Love from Vix
xxx