Trip to Gorakh Hills
Last week we decided to explore a new place and spark our adventurous souls as we planned to go to Gorakh Hills along with a travel group called the Rover Adventure Club as they're quite renowned for their well planned travel trips in Pakistan. We thought it's finally time to try their services. Gorakh Hills is a hill station which is located at a distance of 406 km from Karachi and 95 km Northwest of Dadu, Sindh. Also being known as the Murree of Sindh, it definitely is meant to create a memorable experience starting from the long, long, loooong journey as it takes about 8 to 9 hours to travel all the way to Gorakh Hills from Karachi. Gorakh is known to be a Sanskrit word which means shepherding and when you'll visit, you'll know why. It is also said that the medieval saint, Sri Gorakhnath Ji had wandered in these hills. The hill station is situated at an elevation of over 5,600 feet in the Kirthar Mountains. The temperature is often pleasant in summer, generally staying below 20 °C and dropping below zero °C in winter. It even witnessed snowfall once. However, when we went last week, it was pretty hot till we eventually reached G-Resort at Gorakh Hills. But it wasn't a matter of concern since we were taken in fully air conditioned and clean vans till Wahi Pandhi (Gorakh Base Camp) after which we travelled up hill in jeeps. The latter part was warm but that's the point of being adventurous; you get to feel the essence of that place while exposing yourself to its climate. The cost of Rs. 7,000 per head seemed quite reasonable and justified considering the overall trip and the astute management of this travel group. The meeting point was Aga Khan Hospital where we departed from at around 12:45ish - Saturday morning and reached Sehwan Restaurant at around 8 in the morning where we had the scrumptious unda paratha. The reason I called it scrumptious is because trust me, people can even end up burning or deep frying omelettes, this one was good. Sindh is enriched with natural beauty, especially the bird species that you would encounter on your way so make sure you're carrying a zoom lens along and have a keen eye for details. Asim, our trip coordinator had been very proactive from the beginning till the end while being available at the onset of any tantrum anyone would throw, so basically this young boy was the mommy for grumpy grown up souls. He often refrained from eating most of the time; for some, travelling and eating don't go along that well so that should be a point of consideration. I have a little issue of motion sickness so I made sure that I wear my motion sickness straps (acustraps) that my sister-in-law sent me and they are quite effective. There is a small stud on each bracelet that applies constant pressure to the P6 point on your wrist thus preventing and relieving motion sickness.
The jeep ride was quite exhilarating and the way, quite winding (reminds me of a poem we read back when I was in the second grade - Winding Ways) and at times bumpy but it was fun. If you're not up for the adventure including the long ride then you might want to think twice.
Following our stopover at Zero Point when we finally reached G-Resort, our camping tents were waiting for us where we crashed, post the never ending drive. And then finally lunch was served. You can even pay an additional amount if you want a room to yourself especially the bathroom possessive people because in this case there were a lot of people with only one bathroom to share so this was slightly challenging ... well I guess more than slightly. However, despite so many people, the place was well maintained and there was an endless amount of water unlike here in Karachi. One can even see the water pipe going all the way up. So for a Karachiite like me this aspect was somewhat fascinating - a lot of WATER! Also, you should leave all 'nakras' at home if you're going to a place like this; the food is ok and you shouldn't expect a hi-end menu. We were not happy with the biryani that was cooked but then dinner was very decent, the chicken karhai they served was very well cooked and I loved their chapatis, they were out of the world, including the parathas that were served the next morning for breakfast. You have to catch up on your sleep while on the go because there won't be enough time to sleep on the spot. The unique selling proposition of this place is the gorgeous sunset and stargazing thanks to no pollution unlike in the city. Benazir Point which is at a hiking distance of 15 minutes is where magic happens. Although we had to hike all the way up but the tour coordinator made an exception for my mother and got the jeep ready since she has an issue of arthritis and her knees become sore easily. It is therefore, a safe ride for people with such medical issues too, don't kill the adventurer inside you just because your joints often feel unhappy. And this place, my friends was so pleasant and mesmerising that it seemed like a totally different planet altogether. With the sunset so dramatic, thus reflecting upon the mountains with its sheer warmth that it seemed we were on Mars. When you watch movies depicting Mars, often warm hues are highlighted, this is exactly what it seemed like. Also, be careful as it gets extremely windy as you get engulfed by rapidly sweeping clouds. If you don't hold on to your camera or phone properly, these can easily get swept way by the wind to the point of no return. I had my camera set on the tripod, yet it seemed that the kleptomaniac gale was interested in taking both.
And DAMN! The much planned stargazing was not possible because of the very cloudy weather which was quite unfortunate ... I mean not the weather but not having to see the stars. This is when I thought it's better to sleep and wake up early and avail the first opportunity to go to the bathroom! :) There were alot of moths at night and some appeared to be mutant moths as I saw one with glow-in-the-dark eyes. It was perhaps smiling too. I set an alarm of 4:30 am and yet ended up waking at 5 am so I wasn't the first one to avail using a fresh bathroom, my mom was. And again, the sunrise was lovely too. Here it is:
Something quite extraordinary about this place was its very young and happy donkeys, donkeys that seemed respected and were healthy. They were jumping around with glee, a feeling absent in Urban donkey because they are typically used as donkeys. Just look at these donkeys for yourself!
As we were returning, there were a lot of farms on the way which we missed observing earlier because it was dark in the night.
I tried snapping some pictures of the fields while in the fast paced van so they maybe blurred.
We stopped over at Sehwan Restaurant again for lunch and were served with the highly appetising and well presented Sindhi Biryani with each serving sufficient for two people. And throughout the trip there was an option of photography that Asim was busy in as he snapped pictures of whoever felt (and thought he/she was) beautiful and posed. Here's a comparison of traveller moods: How to Enjoy the trip:
Start enjoying the trip from the point of pick up. If you haven't had dinner, then Aga Khan Hospital's cafeteria is a food haven, you'll love their snacks.
Cherish the ride in Rover Adventure Club's comfortable and air conditioned van. You might want to keep something to cover yourself so that it makes you cozy and you doze off. No fazool music plays unless you request and give them a fazool mp3 collection yourself.
Amaze yourself with the sight of village life during your travel and the presence of unique bird species that you don't get to see in the city - thanks to trees being cut down and the evident monogamous plantation (the poisonous Conocarpus trees which are not indigenous to our land).
Have fun during the jeep ride and observe the mountains ... however, the steep roads and scary turns maybe a test of your nerves.
Make sure you don't look down from heightened places.
Devour the food at Sehwan Restaurant and admire the chapattis/parathas at G-Resort.
Thank God for the lovely sunsets and sunrises and well ... the stars too.
Hope for stars and when you return to Karachi, hope for clouds ... clouds that shower a consistent supply of rain all over the city.
Look at the helipad near G-resort in awe of the politicians who built it for their own convenience and neglected the basic needs for the natives, especially at Sehwan - the need of a hospital for instance.
Look at the happy donkeys and give your own (corporate) life a thought.
Breathe the fresh, clean air in and thank God for not being stuck in the city traffic jam that very moment.
And here comes the notorious part! How 'NOT' to enjoy the trip:
If you're travelling in the form of a group, thinking that you have the right over any specific kind or kinds of seats to stay glued to each other. More so, thinking that you have the right even over those seats which people are already seated on.
Thinking you're on a luxury trip despite paying an amount of Rs. 7,000.
Complaining about everything and everyone who is part of the trip - HELLO! That's the point of travelling with a travel group; you get to be acquainted with new and interesting people. However, you can ignore the not so interesting people and mind your own business.
Thinking that the menu maybe customised to suit your preference.
Expecting flying unicorns instead of donkeys at Gorakh Hills.
Expecting a rainbow to compliment the romantic sunset.
Expecting the jeeps to be limousines to rest your weight in (I'm being decent here. Ok?)
Complaining about the tent spot you got.
Not having the perfect seat to continue hugging your significant other while travelling.
Realising that you were not able to keep your mouth closed while you slept in the van.
Actually expecting the tour coordinator to become your mommy for two days despite being adults yourself.
Assuming that you have actually hired the trip coordinator as your official trip photographer and you are not able to exploit him properly.
Complaining that Magnum is actually worth Rs. 150 at G-Resort.
And these lists can go on, to add to the first one you should definitely travel with Rover Adventure Club. When asked why it was named as such, Asim explained the concept of rover being a free spirited person or one who spends his/her time wandering. In conclusion, it was a good experience and I hope to join this group for more adventures ahead.