Road trips are the best way to discover a land, and Pakistan, with its geographical diversity and opportunities, makes it ideal for a road trip adventure. However, this aspect is largely overlooked with negative news and views engulfing us.
Sometime back I went on a three-day trip from Karachi to Gwadar and I can, without doubt, say that it was the most eye-opening and memorable trip for years to come. Therefore, I thought that it would be great to share this fabulous part of Pakistan with others. The one-way trip is 650 km long and takes about seven hours to cover.
Leaving Karachi on a fine morning, you head towards Hub. Hub is an industrial centre of the country located just within the perimeters of Balochistan.
Leaving the town of Hub, you pass the Sonmiani ridges and beaches on opposite sides. Approximately 90km from Hub is where you reach the ‘Zero Point’, where you move onto the Makran Coastal Highway.
From Zero Point to Kund Malir
Once on the Makran Coastal Highway, the landscape changes. For half an hour or so, on both sides are vast flat lands with some instances of green, cultivated fields. However, soon the landscape becomes delightful and interesting as you leave the plains behind entering into the Makran Range.
The first attraction is on the left side where there are various active mud volcanoes out of which the most prominent are, Chandragupt I and II.
Travelling an extra hour, you reach the serene Kund Malir beach, a rising weekend destination for Karachiites. The sand at Kund Malir is extremely clean as compared to the beaches of Karachi and the greenish-blue sea shines in the sunlight all day long. A number of dolphins can also be spotted here jumping out and diving back into the water.
Kund Malir to Ormara
The gradient of the road changes rising towards the highest point on the Coastal Highway, the Buzi Pass. Cruising through mountains on both sides of the road, it is a surreal experience. Sea and wind erosion have chiselled rocks into interesting and grotesque rock formations scattered across the area.
One such example is the Princess of Hope, named by Angelina Jolie during her visit in 2002. However, the gradient becomes flatter near the town of Ormara. The hammerhead rock jutting into the sea is one of its salient features.
Ormara to Gwadar
Ormara is about halfway on the Karachi to Gwadar journey. Activity in Ormara, like other towns in the area, centres around fishing. Therefore, it is a suitable place for a stopover for lunch or just for the purpose of breaking the journey.
In between Ormara and Pasni lies the Buzi Makola Wildlife Sanctuary, which is an inlet of the sea and a haven for migratory birds coming from Siberia in search of warm waters during winters. It is of particular interest to birdwatchers and photographers alike.
Near Pasni, the area is again hilly all the way till Gwadar. Pasni is also second only to Gwadar in terms of fishing industry in Balochsitan.
Right now is probably the best time to visit Gwadar and witness it in its developing stages and its relatively raw feel. There are various attractions in Gwadar such as the hammerhead, Omani Fort, boat-making yard and the Gwadar Port.
Gwadar is unique in the sense that it has two large bays. The East Bay is where the Deep Sea Port is located. The city is exposed to the sea from three different directions thus, shaped like a neck. Gwadar also has two hills, the Koh-e-Mehdi and the Koh-e-Batil.
The last town before the Pak-Iran border is Jiwani. It is a great place to visit for its spectacular sunsets. Visitors can also see the Queen Victoria hut maintained by the Pakistan Coastguards and built on her orders during World War II.
During the war, Jiwani had over 20 airfields where British pilots came to rest and refuel. Some of these can still be visited and have historical markings and name tags of British pilots. The sea here is quiet shallow, in fact, I spotted a number of motorcycles being driven on the sea with fishermen attaching their boats to them and hauling them in!
Pishukan — the highlight of the trip
Pishukan is a scenic place which, unfortunately, hardly gets any tourists. It is located at about a half an hour’s drive from Gwadar and is a small town along the sea where the population depends on fishing. In the future, it is planned that the Gwadar Jetty will be shifted here.
Driving to the top of the cliff near the coast is a majestic experience to say the least. The crystal clear waters and vibrant fishing boats make a sight to behold. On the other side of the road is a desert landscape with rippled, rolling sand dunes blowing over the tarmac. In addition, the track to Ganz village reveals mesmerizsing cliffs and table-top mountains. Ganz village itself is fabled for the blonde hair, blue-eyed and fair complexioned people who are believed to be of Portuguese descent.
Accommodation and security
Earlier, when people visited Kund Malir, they couldn’t spend the night there due to the lack of accommodation services. However, now a 20-room hotel has been built, with room costing around Rs3,000.
Gwadar, on the other hand, has various hotels and places for staying. The security situation is stable, contrary to popular belief about the area. The entire length of the highway is safeguarded by Pakistan Coastguards’ check posts and watchtowers. The fact that a restaurant in Ormara is run by a Pathan from Chaman reflects the safe and harmonious conditions that prevail within the region.
The writer is a young O Level student who is passionate about photography and Pakistan. He is on Instagram: @potentialpakistan
Published in Dawn, Young World, June 3rd, 2017