If you have the travel bug and know a little about the diverse physical features of Pakistan, deciding where to go can be one hell of a task. From beaches in the south in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan to some of the highest mountains of the world in the northern areas, it is difficult to make a choice.
There are tonnes of scenic mountains, highest peaks, picturesque lakes, ice-cold rivers coming straight from the glaciers, large expanses of farms and terraces, mud volcanoes, and beaches. From Tharparkar, Hingol National Park, Ziarat, Sukkur, Lahore, Thandiani, and all the way to Naran and Khunjerab pass, there are too many places to choose from.
However, knowing your 'leave limitations', budget, personal weather preferences like summer or winter, and fondness for adventure or luxury, can help you choose your destination.
I decided to go to the Hingol National Park. It was a cold December, and I did not have an option to take a two-day leave from my hectic work life.
Hingol is Pakistan's biggest national park covering 640 square miles (1,650 square kilometres). It is home to many wildlife species listed as rare, vulnerable or threatened. If you spend time in the park, you can find marine estuarine and terrestrial animals, including the marsh crocodile, green turtle, houbara bustard, 2 varieties of pelicans, plumbeous dolphin, Sindh ibex, urial, chinkara gazelle, pangolin, Indian fox, leopard, and some usual and seasonal visitors.
After doing my research on the park, as well as the trips being offered by various start-ups, I signed up with Rover Adventure Club’s day-trip through Hingol.
As promised by Rover, it was a fun-filled experience. Keeping their promise of taking care of all the logistics, including the transport back and forth, breakfast at Winder (anda, paratha and chai), and biryani at the Kund Malir Beach, the trip was a relaxing adventure.
The four-hour road trip towards our destination was comfortable and scenic. The breakfast at Winder was filling, and the chai helped fight the wind-chill at 7 in the morning. As the sun came out, the majesty of the Makran Coastal Highway started hitting home.
The mountains along the highway are beautifully carved by the strong winds that have been blowing from the sea towards the land over probably thousands of years. It’s a geologic phenomenon worth experiencing. The canyons have been shaped and reshaped by the sea, wind, and also the sporadic mud volcanoes of the region.
Some of the portions of the canyon close to the Kund Malir Beach reminded me of my visit to the Grand Canyon in the US a few years ago. We saw the sand sculptures of the Sphinx and the Princess of Hope along the coastal highway, probably hoodoos or ‘fairy chimneys’ or ‘earth pyramids’. The Princess of Hope was the perfect spot for some photography. By the way, the free portraits and group photos taken by the Rover Adventure Club came out awesome.
After the delicious biryani lunch at the beach, we visited the Hinglaj Temple. The temple is dedicated to Hinglaj Mata, who is an avatar of Durga. The temple is nestled in a cave inside the Kirthar Hills, on the banks of Hingol River. The devotees of Devi take care of the site.
Walking through the temple is often referred to as the Hinglaj Yatra, a sacred pilgrimage for the Hindus around the world. I feel grateful for Pundit Majaraj Gopal’s hospitality. He gave us his precious time to explain the history of the Hinglaj Mata Mandir and the famous Hinglaj Yatra that has been undertaken by many famous people, including (as per Majaraj Gopal) Amitabh Bachan.
The temple site has restricted access and so is also a haven for the wildlife. While at the temple, we were lucky to see a herd of ibex around the complex, which are taken care of by the caretakers of the temple. It is also a bird-watchers delight. One can spot feral pigeons, long-billed pipit, brown-necked raven, plovers, and bulbuls, etc. Some reptiles like the Indian fringe-fingered lizard and the sand-swimmer can also be spotted.
All in all, the visit through the Hingol National Park was a wonderful experience.