Thursday, March 29, 2012

(Video) Fairy Pond at Ranikot

The fresh spring pond inside the Ranikot fort walls, knows as Paryan jo Tarru (Fairy Pond) among locals, is a nature’s true gift.

Crystal clear water stream is not only too refreshing but it has got a variety of colorful fish in it making the experience unworldly. If one keeps still in the water, a smaller variety of fish rubs the body actually eating the dead skin, especially around the feet! Natural pedicure or Fish Massage, whatever you call it, the experience was just beyond explanation!

Here goes a brief shoot of the pool (from the mobile camera) which I captured during a recent visit:

The flow of water was amazing keeping in mind that this is South Pakistan and there had been no rains recently!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day Trip: Exploring the Mysteries of Ranikot

Ranikot - World's Largest Fort (?)
The Fort of Unknown Emperor
Ranikot, or Runikot, is arguably the world's largest Fort and the second largest wall after the Great Wall of China. Apart from tall claims it is yet to be known who built this fortification, when, and why!? One theory suggested that it dates back to 300 BC, or more, however, nobody knows the wisdom behind this gigantic human effort.

Ranikot Wall, Standing High in the Wilderness

The Opportunity
Taking advantage of the long weekend, on account of Pakistan Day, I tried assembling a small troupe, not to solve the the mystery inside the walls, but to capitalize on Haris' skills who had just returned from an adventure camping exercise in the same arena. Mubeen agreed to push the wheels while Nadeem also joined at the cost of his MBA classes.

It turned out to be a great experience at the end of the day, more than what anyone of us had expected, and now I can highly recommend it to my adventure loving friends for an easy day trip from Karachi.

The Troupe
Haris - the Guide
Mubeen - the Driver
Nadeem - the Cashier
Muzzammil - the Photographer  

The Fun Begins
The journey started around 7 in the morning, a little late than we initially planned, and it took us around 2 hours to reach Zaman hotel (located almost at the end of the Karachi - Hyderabad Super Highway, or M9, on the left hand side besides PSO pump) where we stopped for the breakfast. 

With the flavorsome Daal Mash and Chana Palak we actually converted that into a wholesome brunch. The brown Tandoori Roti (live oven hot bread) was a typical Truk-adda specialty; fresh, delicious, and highly nutritious!

Here we also shopped for accessories like water, fruits, and snacks – which could have been done a day earlier to save some precious time – and then resumed the journey through the Indus Highway (N55) till Sann where we took the left turn off-highway on Ranikot Road. 

Ranikot Sign on the Indus Highway (80 km from Hyderabad)

Haris Explaining the Ranikot Map

The Destination

000 km Karachi
135 km End of Super Highway
215 km Sann
245 km Ranikot Fort Starts
250 km Mirikot

Ranikot Fort Wall is Visible from Far

A Closer Look of Ranikot
Ranikot Entrance

Photographer Gone Mad!

Mirikot - Fort Within a Fort


Inside Mirikot

At around 12 we finally reached the elevated Mirikot, or the Miri Fort, which is located strategically somewhere in the center of the Ranikot precinct on a hill overlooking the surrounding valley. 

We parked our car inside the fort and then prepared our backpacks for the trek to Paryan jo Tarru (Fairy Pond) knowing little about the coming surprises. Before we would have started the trek downhill we ascended to the top of the fort through the narrow staircase to have a bird eye view of the terrain inside the external walls. It was mostly rugged and hilly with a course flowing in the middle, water of which was enough for the hardworking and peaceful Gabol dwellers to cultivate seasonal crops and vegetables.

The Valley

And the Lifeline of the Valley

On the Top

Going Up

Reality Check


The first surprise was the harmless looking trek which soon turned into an unending strenuous trail partly because of the scorching sun and mostly because of our deteriorated fitness levels. Haris did it remarkably well not only by pushing and encouraging us – in fact continuously telling us that the destination is only a couple of hundred meters away and that this Charhai (ascend) is the final one – but also by navigating like an expert guide and that too without any gadgets. 

I Found Some Companions

After an hour of nonstop endurance test Haris finally stopped and gave the verdict that that we had reached the desired pond which was essentially not different from ones which we had already left behind. However, according to him this was the only pond which was around 4-5 feet deep with others digging down deeper than 65 feet. And obviously nobody wanted to challenge that!

Changing Room

The Second Surprise
As soon as I entered in the water – after getting rid of extra clothing – my foot slipped because of the slick base which was obviously followed by a free fall with a big splashing sound thankfully without any injury. I tried to give a look to my colleagues as that I was entering into the water with a style until I came to know that everyone had to pass through the same fate.

But the surprise had still to come!

Water of the fresh spring puddle was not only crystal clear but was also full of colourful fish. It was like relaxing inside an aquarium without anything to care about!

Real fun began when the smaller variety of the fish, with a pair of supposedly fake eyes on their tail as well, started rubbing the body. They were actually eating up the dead skin, i.e. Stratum Corneum, effectively cleansing up the body, especially the feet! Call it Fish Massage, Natural Scrub, Pedicure, or whatever you wish to; the experience was beyond words, completely unworldly!

Before the trip, we were not sure how to react when Haris told us about that unique phenomenon! And now it is hard to refute him that fairies in reality come down to this magical place during full moon nights. No surprise if I will be going back soon with the camping stuff!

Paryan jo Talab - Fairy Pond

No Worries

Sadiq Gabol
The only painful thing was to come out of the water as the sun started falling down and we had to hit the Indus Highway before it would have sunk completely. In the meantime Sadiq Gabol – the knowledgeable  and the only Chowkidar (Guard) of this archeological treasure – appeared and helped us in finding our way back smoothly.

Sadiq Gabol has Many Stories to Tell

The Way Back

The Beauty of it

Locals Named it Toll Plaza!

Looking Behind

Hard Work

The Canal

Rolling Stones
The trek appeared easy until we reached to the point where we had to climb up to get back to the Miri Fort. Once again, Haris’ cool head and experience saved us from any untoward happening which at one time looked imminent as we lost our way up before resuming to the right path. Everyone had to be very careful as the rolling stones under the shoes were making it really difficult to keep the balance. It was around 6 when we entered the fort again and offered combined qasar prayers of Zuhr and Asr.

Upstairs Without Stairs

Up the Ladder


Getting Closer

Prayer Time

Traces of Civilization

The Treat
At around 8 we hit back the Super Highway but before continuing to Karachi it was absolutely essential to give ourselves a sumptuous treat; the Grilled Mutton Chops at Hala Naka.

It was 11 in the night when we safely reached back Karachi after another great excursion.

Salateen Hotel, Hala Naka, Hyderabad

Its Mutton Time!

The Delicate Cut

Chanpen in the Making

Expense Sheet
4500 Fuel (Distance Traveled: 550 km)
1000 Juice, water, fruits, etc
400 Brunch
160 Toll Tax
100 Tip
2100 Dinner

Security Note
We found the route and the site perfectly safe for traveling even with the family however normal precautionary measures prevail. Right at the start of the Indus Highway we were intercepted and thoroughly checked at the Police check post which initially looked a routine exercise unless one of the uniformed guys started making it complicated despite complete documentation. His attempt was off course futile but this might be worth mentioning for those who are thinking of planning such a trip

Road Condition
This is a paved passage throughout therefore suitable for any type of vehicle with satisfactory fitness. Karachi - Hyderabad Super Highway was not as perfect as one should expect and the sudden influx of heavy commercial traffic, which might be waiting for the sunrise to start their upcountry journey, also forced Mubeen to check the speed a few times.

From the Super Highway, we had to take the left turn, i.e. the Jamshoro turn, which we missed due to poor marking and instead hit the Hyderabad Toll. The Toll guy kindly allowed us to make a u-turn without a charge suggesting that it could have been a standard practice, i.e. people missing the turn due to lack of road signs. Even then it gave us hard time to find the right interchange to connect to the Indus Highway without any further detour.

The recently renovated Indus Highway, N-55, was in the good shape atleast till Sann from where we took the left turn off the highway towards wilderness. Condition of the 31 km Ranikot road, which goes all the way to Miri Fort, was better than our expectation except for a couple of diversions due to the under construction bridges. That forced Mubeen to sail the Corolla through the water stream which he did effortlessly capitalizing on his SITE area skills.

In summers though, water level may rise making it difficult to cross the channel inside the fort unless the under construction bridge – mentioned above – get functional.

Under Construction

Red Tape