Friday, February 8, 2019

Karachi to Rann of Kutch, Pakistan-India Border, near Nagarparkar, Thar Desert

Indian Border Fence Overlooking the Rann of Kutch near Nagarparkar, Thar Desert 

Pakistan-India Border at Choorio Village, Thar Desert,  overlooking the Rann of Kutch on the Indian Side which is also called White Desert, 40km from Nagarparkar, 500km from Karachi

The Great Rann of Kutch
Also called White Desert, the Great Rann of Kucth, a huge saline marshland mostly located in India, is said to be world's largest salt desert. It stretches between the mouth of River Indus, in Pakistan, to the Gulf of Kutch (Arabian Sea), in India. 

Nagarparkar is at the confluence of Rann of Kutch and Thar Desert, which is also called the Great Indian Desert.

Trip Duration: 3 days
February 2 Karachi-Nagarparkar
February 3 Nagarparkar-Border-Nagarparkar
February 4 Nagarparkar-Karachi

A View from Choorio Temple Top, Confluence of Thar Desert on Pakistan Side and Rann of Kutch marshalnds on the Indian Side
Feel of the Desert, Between Badin and Mithi, Thar, Sindh
Saturday, February 2, 2019
06:30 Left Karachi. Sunrise on Karachi-Makli National Highway.
08:30 Breakfast, past Sajawal at a roadside “Quetta” hotel.
09:30 Resumed the journey towards Badin and Mithi.
10:00 Entered Tharparkar District from Badin
11:00 Reached Mithi, roamed around the city and visited a recently constructed charity hospital.
12:30 Lunch break at a dhaba, off the main road in the vicinity of Thar Coal Mines.
13:30 Resumed for the last leg.
15:30 Reached Nagarprakar, got settled. Offered Zhuar Asar qasar prayers.
17:00 Visited the nearby Kasbo village, back to Nagarparkar by 19:00 and called it a day after having dinner.

Sunday, February 3, 2019
06:30 Short hiking and trekking on Nagarparkar's Kanjhoro Village till Sardhoro temple.
09:30 Breakfast
11:00 Left for Choorio temple at Pakistan-India border, 40km from Nagarparkar, In the hired 4x4, Ramesh 03412267900 (Recommended).
12:30 Reached Choorio Village and climbed the Jog Maya Mandir Rocks overlooking India-Pakistan border fence with views of the White Desert; the Great Rann of Kutch.
15:00 Left Choorio village and returned to Nagarparkar by 16:30. Skipped today’s lunch as per the plan.
17:00 Roamed around Nagarparkar Bazaar. Had roadside pakoray and tea.
19:00 Dinner. Packed for early morning return journey next day.

Monday, February 4, 2019
07:00 Left Nagarparkar
09:00 Breakfast at Mithi bypass. 09:45 resumed the journey
12:00 Tea break before Sajawal. Skipped the lunch as per the plan
15:30 Back to Karachi Alhamdolillah
Courtesy: Dr. Zeeshan for kind arrangements

(Above timings are approximate)
Started the Journey Early Morning: Sunrise at Karachi-Makli Section of National Highway 
Breakfast Break at a Roadside "Quetta" Hotel After Crossing Sajawal Bypass
Finding a Clean Toilet, Even if Basic, is a Major Challenge while Travelling around Pakistan
A Rundown Sunflower Field Near Badin 
Thar Desert Starts No:w Badin-Mithi Road, Tharparkar, Sindh 
Police Check-post at Tharparkar Entrance 
Probably Some Kind of Desi Coal Processing (?) at Tharparkar Entrance
Heading Straight Towards Mithi Instead of Going via Diplo in the South 
Junction Connecting Naukut and Badin to Mithi Road 
Nagarparkar's Kanjhoro Hills Around Sunset 
Hired 4x4 from Ramesh (Recommended) to visit India-Pakistan border at Choorio Village, 40km from Nagarparkar, Phone: 03412267900, Rate: Rs. 3000-4000 Round Trip 
Uphill Jog Maya Mandir Entrance, Choorio Village at Pakistan India Border, 40km from Nagarparkar 
Lions at the Entrance of Jog Maya Mandir Choorio Village at Pakistan India Border, 40km from Nagarparkar, 500km from Karachi 
Lion Statue with Pigeons at Jog Maya Mandir, Thar Desert 
Water, Sacred (spelling intended) Resource around Thar Desert, at Mandir Jog Maya, Goth Choorio
Relaxing at Mandir Top Overlooking Rann of Kutch on the Indian Side (Far End Near the Horizon) 
Water Pumping Motor at Jog Maya Mandir
Group of Local Kids at Choorio Village, Nagarparkar, Thar Desert 
Government Boys Primary School (Main), Nagarparkar Town
Thar's Development Story: A Journey from Obsolete Kekra to Modern Chingchi (Sarcasm Intended)
Street Food: Seasonal Carrot Halwa at Nagarparkar Bazaar (I Couldn't Dare It!)
Street Food: Had Tea from this Nagarparkar Bazaar Roadside Hindu Vendor, Who Reconfirmed If We Were Fine Having His Tea Being Muslims 
While Driving on Thar Roads, Please be Watchful of Cattle - Goats, Sheep, Cows, and Camels. 
Road Condition: 450km Karachi-Nagarparkar
Karachi to Nagarparkar road has not only improved a great deal, as compared to when I last visited in 2013, but the shorter route through Badin is also fully functional now, courtesy full swing development work at Thar Coal Mines near Islamkot city. The new route has cut down the travel time by 2-3 hours from the previously preferred, but longer, route through Hyderabad, Mirpur Khas, and Nuakot.

We first took Karachi-Makli National Highway and turned right just before Makli city, through bypass, towards Sajawal and Badin. This part of the National Highway, ~100km, and beyond, is recently renovated as a dual carriage and has thus transformed into an excellent drive.

The single carriage Makli-Sajawal-Badin road, a little over 100km, is also in good shape with bypasses circumventing most of the enroute bigger towns and cities, making it a comfortable drive. 

Badin-Mithi is another 100km or so single carriage pleasant drive, which meets the Mirpurkhas-Naukot-Mithi road near Mithi. The smooth road then passes through Islamkot town before crossing Thar Coal Mines Turn, named Engro Morr, 50km from Mithi.

After crossing Engor Morr, the road towards Nagarparkar, another 80km, gets worse, with potholes and withered sides, making it not only uncomfortable but also risky to drive. Hope this part of the indigenous local population will also get some fruits of development in the near future.

Overall, it was a good driving experience and took 9 hours, in total, one way. with a couple of extended stops. On the return, it took around 8 hours due to brief stops, which is conveniently and safely doable without over-speeding. 

Nagarparkar to India-Pakistan Border (Choorio Village)
The visit to India-Pakistan border till Jog Maya Mandir at Choorio Village is possible through 4x4, which can be hired from Nagarparkar Bazaar. We went with Ramesh, 03412267900 and paid him Rs. 3,000. Recommended. It was one and a half hour tough ride, as compared to Karachi-Nagarparkar pleasant drive. It can get really hot during the day so keeping drinking water, which is scarce there, will be wise. Round trip will cost around Rs. 3000-4000.

Caution: Cattle Crossing
Cattle crossing - sheep, goats, cows, and camels - is a common occurrence around Thar roads and require driver vigilance. A friend who recently visited Nagarparkar with a group met an accident, in the night, when their hi-ace windscreen smashed with the head of peeking camel. So night driving is not recommended in this area. Another fellow traveler also reported hitting a sheep, in the daylight, thankfully without any damage.

Drinking Water: Keeping water for a desert trip cannot be overemphasized. Although we also tried the enroute water wells for experience.

Weather: November to March is the preferred season to visit Thar keeping in view the harsh climate in summers. It was perfect weather when we visited (February 2019) with cold breeze and pleasantly warm around noon.

Earlier Visits
It was my third Thar visit and second journey to Nagarparkar. Below are the reports from earlier trips:
Nagarparkar First Visit (March 2013):
Umerkot (November 2011):