Monday, 30 November 2015

Keep Calm & Enjoy Balochistan

A Sunday trip to Kund Malir Beach in Balochistan from Karachi seems to be the new fad. We too, decided to go and booked a tour with The Globetrotters – a tour company started by a group of young men, offering a super affordable package of Rs.2500/Person. This includes the transport, breakfast, lunch and them taking you to some of the most beautiful hidden (now slowly being revealed) treasures of Balochistan. Since Raheel Sharif’s “Pakistan Cleansing campaign” has started, these places don’t ‘seem’ to have security issues anymore – otherwise a few years back, a day-trip to Balochistan from Karachi wouldn’t even be considered an option.

We booked our tickets on the phone at 03331227899 and the tickets were delivered to us by their rider. That was extremely convenient – otherwise going to their office in Gulistan-e-Johar from Clifton would have been a daunting – and possibly never-happening – task, given the traffic and crazy work schedules of today.

We assembled at Johar Morh at about 4:45am on Sunday morning. A bus and the Globetrotters’ guides were waiting for us there.  We parked our car here and got on the bus.

The jazzy bus interior


Bear in mind that in the winters it can be pretty cold (compared to normal Karachi standards) so:

Tip # 1:  do carry a shawl or a jacket with you – more so to be able to deal with the blast chiller in the air-conditioned bus.

The AC of our bus could either be ON or OFF – there was no temperature control. Hence, people in shorts (or women in lawn suits) without a jacket had the potential of dying – Cause of death: Below Freezing Point Temperatures in the bus.

That is how I dealt with the AC
Those without proper layers had to deal with the blast chiller like this:

Socks used to block the AC
The bus took off and for the next 2 hours we had the bumpiest and jumpiest rides of our lives – Hence:

Tip # 2: Try to get seats in the front part of the bus. If you are unlucky enough to get seats at the back end, you might feel your organs slowly getting detached from your rib cage due to the jhatkas and matkas of the bus.

Tip # 3: Carry a neck pillow – since it will still be the ‘middle of the night’ for most, getting some sleep over the next 2 hours will be quite useful.

In 2 hours time we stopped at a dhaba (Cafe Saabireen) for breakfast, on the highway that takes you from Karachi to Quetta.

They serve yummy parathas, eggs and some really nice mix chai.

Here you will also get the opportunity to use the bathroom. I am assuming you will be ready to compromise and use the bathroom despite its beauty.

Tip # 4: Carry ample tissues, wet wipes and hand sanitizer to deal with the gravity of the situation.

The bus took off again and most people slept again. Those who are more excited than others (like me) about being in Balochistan for the first time and like to revise their O levels geography can stay up and gaze out at the terrain. You will get the chance to corroborate that the geography book was right. Balochistan is basically about vast sandy lands with scattered vegetation – mostly shrubs.

In another 2 hours we reached the newly famous Kund Malir Beach where some of The Globetrotters guides got off the bus to arrange the hut and lunch and then the bus took us ahead to see the Princess of Hope in the Hingol National Park. Here, you have the option of getting down and staying at the beach – which, in my opinion, would be a mistake. Those who go ahead come back to enjoy the beach in about 1.5-2 hours time.

Now you will start enjoying the terrific views of the Makran Coastal Highway – that can take you straight to Gawadar if you wish. It takes you along stretches of amazing terrain – with sandy, larger than life mountainous structures on one side and spectacular views of the Arabian Sea on the other. You will get to see steep rocky cliffs, clay mountains and sand dunes in beautiful shades of gold during this 20-30 minutes drive. The bus stopped at the point where you can clearly see the Princess of Hope – the name given to a lady-looking type rock by Angelina Jolie! I can totally see SRK singing 'suraj hooa madham' with Kajol here. We were given 30 minutes to trek up to the princess of hope and see aerial views of the area.

The trek to the Princess of Hope was not really physically challenging but was a bit daunting given the steepness of the rocks.

Tip # 5: This trek is not meant for your Tory Burches or any shoes that you love and paid a lot for. Wear trainers for best grip over the grainy ground.

The soil is super sandy and by the end of your exploration you will feel like the skin of your feet resembles that of an elephant. However, embracing nature was the fun part of it!

Tip # 6: If you are on this trip with toddlers, avoid the trek. The foothills are also amazing for exploration and photo ops. You will feel like you are in Petra, Jordan!If you haven't been, Google to confirm.

You also get to see our very own version of the Sphinx of Giza – natural though, not made by ancient Egyptians, which makes it all the more amazing!

On the way back to Kund Malir, the bus stops for a beautiful photo op. Those who were not really touristy types on this tour were also in awe. The views here were just breath-taking. With only the hot air balloons missing, you feel like you are in Cappadocia, Turkey! If you haven't been, google to confirm.

The tour takes you back to the beach at about 12 PM. Now, you are given 3 hours to rest, stretch, have lunch and debate whether this beach reminds you of golden sand beaches of Thailand, Sri Lanka or Dubai. The water is crystal clear and super refreshing – especially at this time of the year when temperatures are not that high.

Tip # 7: Carry a towel and change of clothes if you intend to go into the water. For toddlers, carry sand toys.

You also get time to use a fairly clean bathroom here. Chicken karahi, roti and chilled drinks are served for lunch at around 2 PM.

Tip # 8: Carry your own snacks like chips, biscuits and bakery savoury items because waiting for lunch can be a challenging task for many after swimming. If you are travelling with toddlers, carry their snacks/food with you.

After lunch and relaxation, and a great deal of happiness that this indeed is Pakistan, the bus leaves the beach at around 3 and makes a short diversion to see the Hinglaj Mata Temple,a mandir in a cave, which is in another part of the Hingol National Park. The landscape here was just breathtaking – especially at 3:30- 4 when the sun is preparing to set and the soft light peeps through the huge rocky structures. The landscape takes on a shade of gold in this dramatic light. The sound of ripples of a little stream and hundreds of birds chirping make this place an ideal place of worship. Whichever religion you belong to, you will surely marvel at the creation of God. If Mogli from Jungle Book or dinosaurs from Jurassic Park jumped in here, I don't think I'd be surprised. It is the perfect setting for a Hollywood film. You get an opportunity to use the bathroom again here.


The saadhu in the temple tells you ancient stories of a king named Hingol who lived more than 200,000 years ago and his interaction with Kaali Mata, according to Hindu belief.

After spending about 30 minutes here, the bus leaves for Karachi. You stop for a short photo op to see the place from where Muhammad Bin Qasim entered Sindh in 712 AD. I found that pretty exciting.

The bus on its way to Karachi stops again at the same dhaba where it stopped for breakfast. If you are close to death from hunger, you can have daal/karahi types dinner with roti or get refreshed with a hot cup of mix chai. The bus driver keeps honking so this break is kinda short.

Tip # 9: Carry some cash for any additional eating you may want to do here.

We reached Karachi at around 9 PM. Timing- wise the tour was spot on.

We had a great experience with The Globetrotters. The staff was polite, friendly, and open to all kinds of suggestions. Plus, in Rs.2500, it was complete paisa-wasool. I’d pay more for this sort of a trip any day!

This was the kind of a day-trip I’d make and pay for anywhere else in the world. The only sad part is that our government doesn’t have a decent budget for developing travel and tourism in our beautiful country. I hope in some years time the coast of this beach will also be lined with restaurants, hotels and entertainment and the sky will have hot air balloons flying like in Cappadocia (wishful thinking?). We lack nothing in terms of variety of seasons and natural beauty – with security, good administration and awareness about how to keep our country clean, we can be the next top travel destination!

Pak sar zameen shaad baad, kishwar-e-haseen shaad baad – Indeed!

*This article was published in TGIF Magazine, Daily Times

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