Lahore - Karachi - Gawadar :: Mar / Apr 2008
Road To South :: 28th March to 5th April 2008
Over 3 months planning finally came to an end and we set off from Lahore, towards the southern part of country on the evening of 28th March 2008. This was a long awaited tour that Club had been planning for months and months and could not be executed earlier because of official (or unofficial ;) ) commitments of some members . End of March was a rather late time because summer was about to start and we were worried about the heat along the way. We finally managed to hit the road and the fun was all there for taking. Plan was to drive all the way to Karachi through southern Punjab and Sindh, a distance spanning 1,200 Kms. Second half of the plan was to travel further west from the Karachi driving through the newly constructed 650 Kms long costal highway and hit Gawader, a city in the making; in the future of Pakistan.
The journey began in the evening and our first stop was Multan almost 300 Kms south of Lahore. Multan is the largest city in southern Punjab, built just east of the Chenab River, famous for its bazaars, mosques, shrines and superbly designed tombs. A little over 4 hour journey passed smoothly with good road conditions, apart from Sahiwal Bypass suggested by APJ. After checking in the guest house in Multan; we started dinner hunt around midnight and were amazed to see loads of food points were operating at their peak even at this hour. After roaming through the Cantt area and short listing food spots finally KFC was the unanimous choice, primarily because of time constraints.
We did not plan to travel a lot the next day so we decided to do some sightseeing in Multan. We started with the Old Multan city, visited shrine of Shah Rukn-e-Alam and few old bazaars. Taste buds were treated with delicious Nihari and around 10 AM we pointed our noses towards Bahawalpur. Going through the City of Lodhran and dried up river Satluj we finally reached Bahawalpur around 12:30. Dr Kashif, a friend of Ahsan Paaji (aka AQPJ), had arranged sumptuous delicious lunch for the Club which we enjoyed and everybody in there was thinking if it was possible to have the leftovers packed. We really really wanted to sleep after the delicious meals but we kept our focus and left for the next Destination, Rahim Yar Khan (RYK). Bahawalpur was the last city in south that any of us had visited by Road. So after Bahawalpur to keep our directions right, maps and GPS devices were taken out of kitty bags. GPS was rather a luxury! We made it to RYK by 5:00 in the evening. After checking into the Army guest house, arranged by Brig. Zahoor, we headed towards the city. Driving through the city we noticed newly erect Bank buildings. Looking at these, the economic boom brought through the Arab investment in the city was apparent and that the residents will have improved lifestyles and amenities in the near future.
Day 3 was going to be a test of fortitude for the whole group because journey was long, destination far, land unknown and the weather unforgiving. Plan was to drive through the Sindh Province and reach Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan, by night. Journey started at 7:30 AM and within no time we were on Pujab-Sindh boundary after passing through Sadiqabad, the last city of Punjab. We had to go through some routine checking on the border check post. The documents that one must carry when travelling on own car is original registration book, License, Road Insurance certificate (which most probably is issued by Post office) and in case car belongs to somebody else it is advised to carry authority letter and NOC as well. And if one is short of few documents just carry few hundred rupees extra; this should solve all the problems. After successfully passing the security checking we were into the land of Sufis, Sindh. Now we were seeing places we had all only heard about - Ghotki, Rohri, Sukher etc. Sukher’s date orchards were a marvel to watch, and few kilometers ahead we could see the golden wheat glowing in the sun, ready to be harvested. We travelled and travelled for hours on end, sharing old time stories (as a PJC tradition, these stories are not to be made public!) with each other. We had lunch at Halani and after Passing through Moro and Hala we reached Hyderabad around 4 PM. Passing by Hyderabad we could not resist the temptation to have famous Rabri and responding to the call of our growling stomachs we finally entered the city (which was not in initial plan). After having Khoya like Rabri from Hafiz Rabri Shop and visiting the old “Bombay Bakery”, we again came back to track and started the last stretch for the day. Some 30 KMs short of Karachi there are few road side ‘truck hotels’ which are known best for their mutton karahis. Coming from Lahore we were not going to miss this opportunity and decided to have dinner there. It proved to be a right decision and we had wonderful time at Makkah restaurant. We finally reached place for our night stay, on sharah-e-faisal, around 9:30 pm and had a much-deserved peaceful night after that.
As it was supposed to be a rest day, we woke up late, relaxed ourselves, listened to songs, watched TV. In afternoon visited Mizar-e-Qaid, had lunch at Park Towers. Since Ali Paa ji (aka APJ) had not visited Karachi before so we had to go to so many places just to shut his ever open mouth. We got the Car serviced as next day’s travel was going to be very hectic and demanding for the car. We slept early that night just to make sure we are ready for the next day’s hardships.
Though we planned to leave early, as was advised by everybody, but we were late by an hour to start with and then the Karachi traffic showed no mercy to us either. It was almost 8:30 when we got out of City and hit the highway. Road condition of RCD Highway was very bad and we were cursing all those who had said that Karachi-Gawader highway is a wonder and all those pictures that we had seen of coastal highway seemed to be a trap to bring us all here and make us suffer. Not knowing that Coastal highway starts after travelling almost 100 KM on the RCD Highway, all we could see were Milestone and boards leading towards Quetta. Only ray of hope remained our GPS and map which were still telling us that we were heading in right direction. And no wonder we all almost started chanting and yelling when we saw first board of Coastal highway after almost 99 KMs. And within first few miles on this man made wonder i.e. coastal highway we knew what we were up against. Thankfully we had lot of bottled water, juices and biscuits with us. Travelling on Coastal highway without water is almost calling trouble home by opening doors yourself as there is literally no drinkable water or shade from the raging sun above in the way…well most of the way. Soon our redbull cans were out , which we had in abundance courtesy redbull Marketing team and Nadia Umer who were kind enough to load us with all the supply when we left Lahore.
Our first stop was rather unplanned at a place called “Kund Malir” some 300 km from Karachi. As far as I know this is the only place in Pakistan where you can find mountains, sand dunes (a mini-desert) and a turquoise color sea all in one place. It was only but natural for us to rush out of the car and run to the beach after having the first glimpse of sand, sea and mountains but we kept our stay short and restrained ourselves from rushing to water and limited ourselves to few photo sessions only. Getting back to our cars we were soon entering the Buzi pass. This place is like Grand Canyon (which a friend of mine confirmed from USA after going thorugh the photographs I sent him), with huge cliffs and gorges stretching in every direction. All the cliffs somehow are tilted on exactly the same angle as if millions of years back somebody just caressed his hand so gently on all the peaks that they all kneeled in one direction. And all the mountains are in such symmetry that one has to believe that some town planner from modern days actually planned these. We all unanimously declared that years back this region was surely under water and this is “Bahria Town” of those days. After passing through the Buzi pass we were heading towards small town of Ormara which is known to have beautiful beaches and a naval base as well. After passing Ormara next closest populated area is Pasni and it was decided to have our car’s fuel tank refilled from there. Reaching there in time and refilling the fuel tank with ‘Persian’ Petrol we headed towards our final destination Gawader. We still had over 200 Kms to travel and soon we were experiencing dust/sand storms. For kilometers and kilometers, there was no sign of human existence! Some parts of the region resemble a lunar landscape, empty of human habitation but possess of an almost mystical beauty – one has to be there to experience this. Enjoying the music and juices we made it to Gawader around 5:00 PM. After checking into the guest house, which was almost next to the sea shore, we went to Pearl Continental hotel to enjoy high-tea. The evening was spent watching the sunset from the small hill on which Pearl Continental Hotel is located. The edges of this hill are quite jagged with steep drop down the roaring ocean smashing on rock boulders far below. We held our breaths, mustered whatever was left in the name of courage and inched closer to the jagged edges to get ourselves pictured with the setting sun in the ocean. After the picture session we headed back to the main Gawader City and were soon resting in our beds recalling events of the day & journey.
To our liking and habits we were again having a rest day, which for us meant not highway travel. Ahhh we love waking up late. Not actually waking up late, as most of us are up early, but we love staying in our beds for hours and hours without doing anything. So around 11 am after having our breakfast we eventually decided to go and visit the city about which we had heard so much in the news and advertisements. To start with we first visited the Gawader bazaar which still had old shops and ragged road. Then we moved towards the new areas that are being developed and it was heartening to see that at least some common sense prevailed there and infrastructure that is being developed there seems to be following some planning. Roads that are being developed have got enough room to be widened on the later stages (if spared by encroachments). As is the case in every major city of Pakistan; armed forces have already got hold of the best spots but then one has to admit that they are helping in developing the region as well; as it was nobody but FWO who took up and completed the project of Coastal highway which is highly commendable. We visited the “Gwadar International Airport” and even saw a small plane land. We spent some time at Coastal guards’ beach on the eastern side of the city and then went back to our dugout for lunch. Evening was scheduled to be spent with an acquaintance of OPJ’s uncle; Navy officer Arsalan. He was kind enough to take us to the naval setup and arranged a boating venture for us also. We enjoyed the sunset from the sea, experience on Zolo boat and later on a more conventional Navy boat. We took snaps of Gawader port from the sea side and afterwards enjoyed a nice tea with Arsalan. After having dinner at PC we finally headed towards our guest room. That night was spent sitting in lawns of guest room, hearing splashes of waves hitting the seashore , enjoying redbull, Nimko, sipping tea , counting countless stars and discussing future plans of the Club.
So finally our journey back home started. We were more than 2,000 KMs away from our homes and we were in no hurry yet. Starting at 8 am from Gawader after refueling the car we took few eateries from the outskirts of Gawader. We tried to get those “pom pom” biscuits that Arsalan recommended but couldn’t get those. So we had to live with standard Tuc and Peak Freans biscuits. Going through the deserted land we saw few sky high dust twisters/tornados as well. We reached Ormara around mid-day and this time decided to spend some time at beach as well. We had this secluded virgin beach all to ourselves and just rushed towards it. After having some quality peaceful time we had our car re-filled from Ormara which later resulted in almost a catastrophe for us. As soon as we were into the Buzi pass the poor Baleno started coughing and it was only AQ’s skill and mastery that kept it breathing and we somehow managed to cross the buzi pass. All this time there were no music and we were praying to get out of the trouble; as there were no traces of humans existence for miles and miles and no means of communication. Finally, we reached Kund Malir where we decided to stop and have a look at the problem. Though nothing could be identified but somehow miraculously car was doing perfectly alright when we hit back the road. We reached Karachi around 5 in the evening and had a well deserved dinner after having showers and refreshing ourselves.
It was time to start looking back for home now. We got out of Karachi at 8 am and destination was RYK once more. We had rather an un-eventful day where all we did was to drive, listen to music and ask weird questions to each other. This time we decided to drift into Sukher and Rohri and add more cities to our long list of “cities visited”. We crossed into Punjab around sunset and had a lunch/dinner at a road side hotel. Upon reaching RYK we once again met Brig Zahoor and enjoyed a cup of tea with him with discussions ranging to all topics. He had also arranged a yummy dinner for us which we ate after delaying it for as long as we could!
Finally it was day to get back to our homes. We started at 8 am once more and reached Multan around 12 PM. After dropping the car at a workshop we headed towards some ice cream place which OPJ thought was too good to miss. Though ice cream was not as good as OPJ had described but it helped us passing the time while Baleno’s fuel tank was being cleaned from the remains of Ormara fuel. Around 2:30 PM we got the signal that our car was ready and it was time to hit the road yet again! We had late lunch at Khanewal on AQ’s recommendation and then just pushed the accelerator again. Finally we made it to Lahore around 8:00 PM. We were greeted by Lahore with a light rain. I (IPJ) was the first one to be dropped home and I assume that rest of the guys made it safely to their homes.