Wednesday got off to slow start after we got caught up in a traffic jam caused by a herd of water buffalo taking a morning stroll.
Eventually Susan, Jon & I arrived at our first destination, the Kutch Fossil Park, founded by celebrated war veteran, Mohansinh Sodha, who has spent the last forty years tirelessly travelling the length and breadth of the Kutch region collecting fossils, he even discovered a new species of sea cow which is now named after him. The sheer amount of bones, fossils and prehistoric rock formations on display are quite astonishing. Jon was lost for words after I pointed out triceratops and diplodocus bones, after twenty-five years together it was the first time I'd revealed my childhood obsession with dinosaurs.
Next on our journey was the monastery at Than, home to a Tantric order of Hindu sadhus known as Kanphata (split ear) after the heavy agate rings they traditionally wear in their ears.
The whitewashed complex at the foot of the hill encloses a handful of medieval temples, tombs and domed dwellings.
If you're wondering why I'm not expiring from the heat in my long-sleeved polyester maxi it's because it's still winter in Gujarat with the peak daytime temperature averaging at around the high 60s (approx.18°C). If you've been put off visiting India because you can't deal with the heat then Gujarat in January could be the place for you.
For a small donation travellers can spend the night in the temple dharamshala*.
* a Hindu resting house for pilgrims.
Next it was time to visit some of the traditional Kutchi craft villages. Above is Rogan Art which is only produced by a few artisans in the northern village of Nirona. Rogan is a complex process turning hand-pounded castor oil into coloured dyes that are used to decorate cushion covers, bedspreads and curtains with simple geometric patterns (castor oil plants thrive in the Kutch region) . The eagle-eyed amongst you might spot Barack Obama in the picture on the right - he's the proud owner of some Rogan Art - I always knew he was a class act.
Melodic bells made from burnished copper and brass are traditionally used for communication between shepherds. We treated Gilbert to one of the tiniest bells with the embroidered panel.
The village of Dhordo is known for its woodcarving which is then decorated in wonderfully brilliant colours. It was impossible not to buy a couple of those glorious spoons!
Even more fabulous than the crafts themselves were the traditional costumes worn by the women of the village. The Mir tribe can be identified by the artificial ivory bangles with which they adorn their arms. We felt incredibly honoured when we were permitted to photograph these ladies.
Lunch was another delicious 100 rupee veg thali eaten at the roadside in a truckers' canteen, although when I say trucks, I mean carts pulled by donkeys and camels as opposed to diesel. This baby was tethered to the side of the canteen.
Khalo Dungar or Black Hill is Kutch's highest point, rising 462 metres above the vast salt flats. It offers amazing views across the Great Rann, disappearing into a vast horizon.
The reason most tourists visit Kutch is to see the Great Rann of Kutch (also known as The Great White Desert) an almost lunar looking salt marsh located in the Thar Desert. At around three thousand square miles in size it is one of the largest salt deserts in the world. In summer the area is one of the hottest places in India with temperatures averaging at 49.5 °C, in winter the temperatures were low enough for me to have to borrow Susan's wool scarf.
Of course, the excitement of visiting the Great White Desert paled into insignificance for most tourists once they'd spotted three odd looking foreigners and we were obliged to pose for yet more selfies.
After a full thirteen hours of sightseeing we were ravenous on our return to Devpur. More guests had checked in and it was a full house for dinner. We regaled our fellow diners with tales of stoned monks, endless selfies and nearly getting shot at the Indo-Pak border.
In other news we're trading with Judy's Affordable Vintage at Leamington Spa tomorrow (HERE). If you do come along and I promise to try not to mention India too much.
Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.