Monday, December 20, 2010

Trip Report: Away from the Urban and the Modern (Part 1)

Inside of Shahjahan Msque Dome
"Haleji Lake (Urdu: ہالیجی جھیل) is located in Thatta District, Sindh, Pakistan. It is the Asia's largest Bird Sanctuary." says Wikipedia.

However, Wikileaks reveal that the ugly looking water reservoir is hardly a bird sanctuary let alone the largest in Asia! Unfortunately, the leak gets no attention amidst the high level political cum diplomatic cum carnal brouhaha and risked my credibility before friends who assembled around dawn on a chilly Aashoora morning for the long day trip around National Highway to explore the lake in addition to surrounding archeological sites.

For pictures please see Day Trip to Chowkundi Tombs, Haleji Lake, Shahjahan Mosque, Makli, and Banbore
The Chowkundi Surprise 
The Crown refers to the gender of the person burried

The neckless is for women
After taking a brief stopover at Qaidabad for Chai Paratha, we first stopped at Chowkundi Tombs, a cemetery consisting of aesthetically carved yet simple graves of 15th centaury Baloch tribes. The word Chowkundi refers to four cornered assembly made up of engraved stone blocks. To our surprise, those stone blocks were not cemented together and the whole assembly depends upon the gravitational force only! Design on each grave reflects the gender, social status and the profession of the deceased. And those who could not afford are sleeping without that much a burden! It took us around half an hour to appreciate the relatively well preserved and clean reminiscent of history.
An overview of Chowkundi Graveyard

A smoking chimney in the background
Ali Dinho, the proud watchman there, deserves special mention. He warmly welcomes visitors and guides them around with all the energy and interest. Don't feel shocked when the talkative Ali gives you his visiting card and shows some English speaking skills. Upon our inquiring about the safety of engraved stones from theft, he narrated us an example when a Belgian visitor spotted one such piece in the drawing room of his host, not surprisingly a senior police official!
Ali Dinho and I!
Directions: The cemetery is located on the left side off the highway while heading towards Thatta around 10 miles from Qaidabad; a signboard can be seen hiding between trucks and shops. Watch out for Total fuel station on the right hand side. The site is less than a kilometer off the highway and doing it first thing in the trip makes logistical sense.

For pictures please see Day Trip to Chowkundi Tombs, Haleji Lake, Shahjahan Mosque, Makli, and Banbore
The Ugly Reservoir of Haleji!
Caged Crocodiles at Haleji Sanctuary
Our next stop was Haleji Lake which does not require any introduction, and if you still need one then see the opening paragraph of this post! Nonetheless, we saw a handful of colourful birds contrary to our expectation of a birdstorm in addition to all colourful crows and colourless pelicans. The reservoir is also a sanctuary of marsh crocodiles out of which some are caged to entertain bored visitors. The place is not worth a visit unless you like to pay tribute to the Late Bird Sanctuary! Later on a friend told me that the migratory Siberian birds had long changed their route because of the Afghan War! Alas!

Directions: Do you still need one???

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