Friday, March 29, 2013

A Whirlwind Road Trip to Nagarparkar - Thar Desert



Nagarparkar is located near the Pakistan - India border in Thar Desert
Being the farthest town in the South Eastern Pakistan, Nagarparkar - or Nangarparkar as locals call it - had been on my radar since long. And last week I finally got the opportunity when Farrukh told me that his crazy Couchsurfing gang made a plan.
The Duo of Farrukh and Tanveer arranged the whole crazy road trip; Thanks Gyus!
From a traveler's perspective, Nagarparkar has to offer unique opportunities to explore, however, it is the least visited destination in Pakistan - mainly due to the remoteness and the harsh weather. Surrounded by Karoonjhar Hills, the town is located near the Pakistan-India border, a sensitive area so to say, and is inhibited mostly by the Hindu population, contrary to the rest of the country. Both of these features cast profound impact on the culture, religion, and wildlife of the area.

From Karachi, it is a 500 km drive (via Mirpur Khas) one way, all paved; a significant part of which traverses through the desert. Nagarparkar pierces into the Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujrat along the rather deserted section of Pakistan-India border. 

Overall, it was a fast-forward tour, during which we traveled more than 1,000 km: crossed Thar Desert, visited the Naukot Fort, made a sojourn in Mithi, touched Nagarparkar and Kasbo village, witnessed the highlights of the desert life, saw the ancient Jain Temple, and returned to Karachi – all this in 60 hours! Oh yes, it was too tiring and hectic but the infinite fun we had in between was the crux of the tour.

Luckily, the weather was relatively pleasant in the desert and gave me the liberty to absorb the vastness of the desert from the roof of the coaster along with the much needed Vitamin D!


Goodbye Civilization!
Cutting it short, here is a detailed overview – mostly pictorial – of what we saw during those 60 hours:

Naukot Fort: Entering Thar in style
First major sight we hit was the Naukot Fort; a mammoth structure built in the 18th century at the entrance of the Thar Desert.


Reaching the Naukot Fort - where the Thar Desert starts from
Front Bartizan(?) of the fort which was built in 1814 AD by the Talpurs
Vastness of the Thar Desert from the roof of the Naukot Fort
Inside of the Naukot Fort was mostly empty
The other end of this tunnel opens up in Delhi -:P
Before visiting the fort, we took a brief stopover in the Naukot town where Mr. Mahmood, Farrukh’s longtime colleague, kindly invited us to his home.


Bazaar of Naukot
Farrukh and Muhammad Ali trying to make a deal with the Cattle Smuggler -:P
 Naukot to Mithi
The real journey started from Naukot as we had to now travel into the middle of the desert - 175 km till Nagarparkar. The landscape quickly changed from the ready wheat crop to an unending sea of sand. Fielded with trees and rampant bushes, it was not a scene of a typical desert though. I suspect that the unexpected greenery was due to the torrential rains in Thar during past couple of years. In the 2011 monsoon, only Mithi city received 1,290 mm of rainfall against the all time maximum of 114 mm, i.e. >1,100%! (Numbers double checked).

"El NiƱo", Zubair - one of the aware trip members - screamed when we were discussing about life in the desert.

But those rains should have also brought some sort of sustainability in the life of the locals - as occasional green patches in the desert could be seen from the roof.

Throughout the route we kept on seeing cattle herds of the typical gray colored Thari cows with stylish horns. And being a Hindu Goddess these cows enjoy special treatment around Thar.

Abdul Qadir was too excited as it was his first time in the desert!
2013 Dane Dune Summit Challenge starts now!
And obviously I was the first to make it to the top :-P
Reaching Mithi - the capital of Tharparkar District
View of Mithi town from the surrounding sand dune - Gadi Bhit
A hotel in Mithi city where we had karak chia (tea) with paratha
Holy Cow: no one can disturb the Goddess even at a traffic intersection

Mithi to Nagarparkar
A village in Thar between Mithi and Nagarparkar
Moon is shining over a typical Thari Igloo-like House
Life in Thar: Innocent and Colorful
A sunset in Thar
Snakes are a part of normal life in Thar


Nagarparkar Town
We finally reached Nagarparkar in the evening where Farrukh had reserved the nice Circuit House - in fact the most luxurious place in the whole Nagarparkar for the night stay. There we had something yellow in the name of biryani and something white in the name of lassi but at that moment it was no less than a treat.

Next morning while the breakfast had to arrive I thought to have a quick walk around the town:


Nagarparkar or Nangarparkar?
Karoonjhar Hills surround the town of Nagarparkar
Kekra: WW-II trucks can still be seen around Thar and Nagarparkar
As compared to Thar, water can be found easily in Nagarparkar
After a day's of donkey work!
An abandoned temple in Nagarparkar
This looks like a temple specific for the market?
Nagarparkar bazaar from the roof of the coaster
Kasbo Village - Deep into the Desert
After the breakfast, we headed to Kasbo village, very close to the Indian border
It was India's good luck that our coaster got stuck up in the sand
Surprisingly, Kasbo was well irrigated thanks to the water from the jabal - i.e. Karoonjhar Hills
Onion is the most lucrative crop around Kasbo, Nagarparkar
Hard sell: a Punjabi salesman selling bedsteads in the desert
We enjoyed the bull race while the coaster was still stuck up
Guys had lost all their energy in the desert :-P
Another herd :-P
Ultimately, Farrukh called the Desert Rescue Service!
Jain Temple
Our last and the most importance site was one of the ancient Jain temples which are located around Nagarparkar:
Nagarparkar is also famous for its Jain temples
This picturesque Jain temple is located right in the Nagarparkar town
Intricately designed entrance of Nagarparkar's Jain Temple
Wall drawing of an elephant in Nagarparkar's Jain Temple
Trip Timeline and Cost


After an eventful journey, we returned back to Karachi ~5am Monday morning!


22nd March, Friday
17:00 started assembling                      
23:55 reached Mirpur Khas
23rd March, Saturday
10:00 left Mirpurkhas
13:00 reached Naukot Fort
16:00 Mithhi Viewpoint - Gadi Bhit
18:00 stopped for sunset and village tour
21:00 reached Nagarparkar
24th March, Sunday
10:00 left Nagarparkar for Kasbo village
14:00 back to Nagarparkar for Jain temple
18:00 reached Mithhi and had food
23:00 reached Mirpur Khas
25th March, Monday
05:00 reached Karachi safe and sound Alhamdolillah

Cost: ~4,500 per person

As obvious from the above timeline, we could not manage the schedule effectively mainly because of the large group. On the other hand, cost per head was lower for a comparable trip as Farrukh and Tanveer voluntarily added a lot of value to this event!

So it had been a nice explore indeed, however, I would have liked to spend more time to see the life more closely. Next time, when I will visit Thar inshallah, I would like to have local food along with attending a local festival.

In fact, I feel that the above post does not describe the adventure fully so you may expect a few more posts in the coming days covering some of the above described sights, most importantly the Jain temple, in more detail, inashallah.

13 comments:

  1. hahahaha this is not look like an Igloo house ...
    its called "Chohra" ... :)

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  2. we all were amazing.. we did it .. it was a team work ..
    Hats off to all :D

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  3. Great insight into Pakistan's less visited areas!

    One suggestion on the blog - your text is unreadable because of the background, it would be great if you could change either the text color or the background image :)

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  4. Thanks Umar for visiting and for the kind suggestion. For better readibility, you may find the email version more confortable with white background: http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=MuzzammilsTravels

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  5. very interesting!! is it true tht the tunnel leads to delhi??if so then its absolutely amazing!

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    Replies
    1. It was an intended pun :-D but the place was still too amazing!

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  6. Superb pix...it seems u ppl enjoyed a lot...I specially thanks Osama for introducing the interesting activities of you guyz..I ll join u ppl soon in next trip In shaa ALLAH.

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  7. Aoa. Yar i intend to visit nagarparker this weekend. can u plz tell be about the mobile network coverage there???

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    1. WS Farhan. there were signals of almost every mobile company in Nagarparkar with Warid being most popular. Enroute between towns, there will be stretches where there are no signals.

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    2. Ok. Thanks a lot. That was very helpful. I ll share my experience after coming back from trip. AH

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  8. Dear muzzammil,
    it is nice to see your blog and details about the tour to nagarparkar, but i need some information related to location in karachi from where i can get direct public transportation to nagarparkar and also if there is no such transportation, from which location in mirpur khas or hyderabad i can get public transport for nagarparkar.
    please do me a favor and send information on my email soomrokami@aol.com. as i have plan to visit nagarparkar. i also need some more information please share your contact number on my email to call you to get that information.

    hope to hear from you soon.

    regards,

    kamran ahmed soomro

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