Friday, October 30, 2015

Family Camping at Kund Malir

Our Beachside Campsite at Hingol

Recently, a friend asked the reason why my travel blog has been quiet for some time. Mikael’s admission to prenursery and me switching the job kept us so busy that I could not even share the Ranikot dash we planned earlier this year with friends’ families and the Ormara leisure retreat we did in May – courtesy a great ex-colleague. 
After the adjustment pause, and with the change of weather, came two back to back adventures; first a 2 days family camping at Kund Malir followed by a 3 days ultimate voyage to the Astola Island! (Stay tuned for the enthralling details of the later of the duo)
Although we have been to the Makran Coastal Highway a many times, however, a family camping trip had been longtime due and needed someone like the generous Ghori Family for that to become a reality.  
It was the wee hours of October 17, 2015 when we (Mikael, Misha, Urooba, and I) left the home. Car’s trunk was stuffed with the required essentials; clothing, water gallon with stand and tap, extra fuel can, snacks and juices, a big chatai, popup mosquito net, medicine box, etc. At the meeting point, around SITE, ice box and the camping tent was also added to it while the rest of the stuff including food was already loaded on the rooftop carrier of our travel companions’ Hi-roof.  
We witnessed the sunrise on the RCD Highway after crossing Hub city and before stopping for the anda-paratha breakfast at a better looking truck hotel just short of Windar city. The next milestone was Hingol Bridge River where we reached well before noon with three brief stopovers: 1) Zero Point (the junction between the RCD Highway and the Makran Coastal Highway); 2) Bismillah Hotel where Ghori Sb had to hello-hi an acquaintance; and 3) at Coast Guard’s Chor check post. 
The Coast Guard post was the only security check we had to pass through in the whole journey, which was opposite to my earlier experiences when there were more checks. Even those guards were not much bothered and did not ask for the routine register entry. To me the low security was the sign of improving law and order situation, or maybe I’m a bit over optimistic. What do you think? Thankyou Raheel Sharif!?
At Hingol River Bridge, we had a much needed drinks break at Al-Hasan Hotel – my favorite stopover situated at the other end of the river – before making a detour to visit the primitive Hinglaj Temple situated inside the Hingol National Park. There is a paved road from the highway all the way to the site. With the construction of a bridge the pathway has become more convenient so it took us hardly half an hour to reach there. We parked the car inside the vicinity and walked to the cave encapsulating the cubical sanctuary. Signs of development were also visible – most notable of which was the paved walkway to the cavern which to me did less service to the pilgrims than did the disservice to the ambiance of the naturally scenic location. 
Contrary to my previous pilgrimages, when I found the temple – aka Nani Mandir – deserted, there were signs of life. A group of Hindu yatris was visiting from the Interior Sindh. Some of them were towing barefoot toddler sons for divine blessings. Inside the main temple, the busy Maharaj was seated beside the orange figurines in his typical posture. He took out time for us and elaborated about the commencement of the 9 day festival which is the second in importance, according to him, after the one happens earlier in the year. Besides feeling lucky to get the entry as the premises was then closed for non-Hindus due to the ritual, my mind was also trying to make a connection between Muharram and this ceremony, which is also linked to the lunar calendar. Just to make a point, Aashura has got tremendous significance in the Muslim history which goes all the way to Hazrat Nooh and Hazrat Adam, the reason of two days fasting, in addition to its connection to the sacrifice of Imam Hussain. 
We got back to the Al-Hasan Hotel for lunch and decided to stay for an extra hour post lunch waiting for the sun to go down further. Mid-October sun was still hot however the air was cool and refreshing. The moment I shared the idea of having a nap in the cool backyard with Shahzad Ghori, Mikael’s echoing screeched filled the whole surrounding. He fell over and got a cut on his forehead with blood flowing on his face. Initially it looked needing stitches but luckily, Alhamdolillah, it was not that serious and Urooba made use of her medical college training and managed that with the medicine box.
Soon we were back on the highway and finally made it to the camping site, Karachi – 249, leaving the Kund Malir beach around 10-15 kilometers behind us. Kund Malir has been gaining popularity among Karachiites which was visible at Al-Hasan Hotel where we met several tour groups coming from the chaotic metropolitan. It was a good sign, but there was a flipside also; the once virgin beauty was cluttered with the haphazard construction. However, one could still find clean stretches a little ahead.
At the last accessible beach from the road, also called Melan, we decided to setup our temporary abode. The sun was preparing to set behind the ocean encroaching hill on our right when we were erecting our camps. It was a clean secluded sandy beach slightly downhill from the highway. Cars were parked so that they were visible from the campsite. Ghoris knew their business and within minutes everything was ready; from encampments to the makeshift kitchen and from fishing equipment to the LED lighting system. Our kids were somewhat perplexed in the beginning, since it was their first time camping. Especially, the idea of responding to the nature’s call in the open nature was completely alien to them. 
But soon the excitement of freedom overwhelmed all feelings. While the Bihari Boti Karhai was in the making, kids had good fun running around unrestrictedly and playing with the abundant sand. As a father, seeing kids enjoying the liberty of it was a moment of satisfaction for me. I was also hoping that the unpolluted air, the antiseptic sand, and the Vitamin D from the early morning sun would strengthen their immunity to fight the unavoidable viral infections every school going child is supposed to suffer from. 
Following the sumptuous dinner, the much awaited bonfire started. Luckily, the air calmed down making it more convenient and pleasant for us. It was only us and the nature; gentle sea breeze, rhythmic sea waves, noiseless surrounding, and a glittering sky. On top of it, the aroma of chargrilled sweet potatoes and corns was making it all so surreal. 
Beams of spotlights and soldierly shouts brought us back to the real life. It was the Coast Guard patrol up on the highway who finally noticed our presence in the wilderness. It was not unexpected and Dr. Ghori knew how to deal with them. We took that more of a sign to go to the bed, or in fact to the camp. Trying to squeeze besides kids’ mosquito netting the last thought popped up in my mind was the outrageous tsunami prediction I read on some tabloid a couple of days back! 
Fortunately, the prophecy proved to be a rumor and we woke up to a beautiful morning. The sun was about to rise on our left from the ocean; a lovely setting which we observed with family! In the meantime, the breakfast was also being prepared as Shahzad wanted to wind up before the same serene orange ball would convert into a hell sphere. We were back in our cars by 8 am praising him as it was already getting hot with scorching sunrays directly hitting our faces. 
Return journey was eventless and after making brief stopovers we reached back home at around 1:30 pm, with sunburns and lifelong memories. 

Sunrise on the RCD Highway
Makran Coastal Highway Zero Point
The Uninterrupted Landscape
Al-Hasan Hotel at Hingol River
Entry Pont of Hinglaj Temple
A Camel in the Middle of Nowhere
Road to Hinglaj Temple Photo Courtesy Nasreen Ghori
Bridge on the Way to Hinglaj Temple Photo Courtesy Nasreen Ghori
Prepartaion of Festival at Nani Mandir
Inside of the Nani Mandir
Home Cooked Lunch reheated at Al-Hasan Hotel Photo Courtesy Nasreen Ghori
Mikael Enjoying the Tractor Ride after the Incident
Coming Back from the Buzi Pass
14 This is where we Camped - Karachi 249

The Campsite with Cars Visible on the Road

Our Home for a Night
The Sun was about to Set
Darkness was about to meet the Wilderness
Crescent of 4th Muharram
Crab's Hard Work Photo Courtesy Nasreen Ghori
Getting Dark
A Beautiful Morning Photo Courtesy Nasreen Ghori
Sunrise at the Beach
In the Desert, Camels Always Have the First Right of Way!
Trip Overview
Days: 17-18 October 2015 Saturday – Sunday
Cars: Suzuki Cultus – 2 adults 2 kids. Suzuki Bolan – 5 Adults 2 kids
Fuel: ~35 litres. 50% with AC (Cultus)
Distance Covered: ~600 km
Day 1 – October 17, 2015
05:00 Left Home; 0km
08:00 Breakfast at Windar; 85km
08:45 Reached Makran Coast Zero Point; 120km
10:45 Reached Hingol River Bridge – Al-Hasan Hotel; 242km
11:30 Left for Nani Mandir; 257km
13:00 Back to HIngol Bridge – Lunch at Al-Hasan Hotel; 273km
16:00 Resumed the Journey to reach Buzi Pass; 315km
17:30 Reached the Site and Setup Camps – Karachi 249; 332km
19:30 Beach-side Dinner and Stargazing
Day 2 – October 18, 2015
05:30 Woke up
06:30 Breakfast
08:30 Left the Beach
11:00 Reached Bismallah Hotel before Zero Point for stopover
13:30 Reached back home – safe and sound Alhmadolillah; 613km
Links of My Earlier Makran Coast Blogs
Makran Expeditions:
Survival Tips:
Great Canyon:
Chicken Karhai:
Karachi to Gwadar and Beyond:
Day trip to Kund Malir and Rock Formations: