Rich in color, rich in culture, and rich in tradition, a visit to Desert Coursers is for those who care to experience and understand first hand what provincial village life is like in India. Be prepared for a cultural awakening.
Desert Coursers is located in the state of Gujurat, 100km north of Ahmedabad, in the north west of India. This is the place where I met a member of the highest caste in India (known as Brahmin), and saw how instinctively villagers drop to their knees and kiss the feet of the Brahmin, giving him the respect earned by birthright alone. I met members of the Untouchables, the lowest group of the traditional caste system, who have been shunned by other classes going back hundreds of years – and today living in isolation from others in the middle of the desert so as to not suffer the embarrassment of their class. Arranged marriages are the norm and divorce is unheard of.
The village resort of Desert Coursers was started in 1984 by Prince Shri Dhanraj Malik (Raj for short), a direct descendant of a former ruling King. Upon arrival we were greeted by a group of over-eager women and children, with smiles from ear to ear, who greeted us like family members. We were honored with a blessing of good luck and were draped with a necklace made of bright orange marigolds, so fresh the poignant scent awakened the senses.
The accommodations at Desert Coursers are ethnic Kuchi mud huts known as Koobas. There are 17 huts scattered along the premises, each of traditional design and very rustic. A thin mattress on a cot serves as the bed. There are no alarm clocks, no televisions, no wi-fi, no modern conveniences or amenities. If it weren’t for the running water and toilets one could imagine what life was like hundreds of years ago. Yet, nothing is missing and the ambiance is peaceful and serene. At 5:30 am look forward to being awoken by the cock-a-doodle-do of the roosters.
A stay at Desert Coursers includes a jeep safari to the Rann of Kutch (also referred to as the Rann), which is the largest bird sanctuary in India with an area of almost 5000 square kilometers.
The Rann is a desert area with over 70 species of birds that was established to protect the endangered Asiatic Wild Ass (a member of the horse family and a descendant of the donkey). The Rann is rich in biodiversity and is an ecologically important area for wildlife and many local and migratory waterbirds including cranes, ducks, pelicans, flamingos and many species of land birds. The Rann is also home to such unique mammals as the blue bull, wolf jackal, fox and desert cat.
The profits from these accommodations help sustain 3 schools with more than 400 children from 12 different local villages. There is a local orphanage on the property that is home to approximately 50 children, many of whom are disabled and would have nowhere else to go if it weren’t for Raj’s generosity.
The local villages have rich and diverse tribal cultures. The tribal communities ( primarily farming communities) also display unique craft designs including appliqué work, intricate saris and jewelry offered at prices too low to warrant the traditional haggling.
A visit to this region and a stay at Desert Coursers is a unique and most memorable experience.
Donna Salle is a freelance travel writer and can be contacted through her website at www.TravelsWithHeart.com.
Source = Donna Salle, Travels with Heart