On Friday night August 14, we left Karachi at 3.00 am. The roads were crowded due to Independence Day celebrations. Our group of 25 Karachi-based tourists is riding comfortably in a modern Japanese bus. We reached Wander, Baluchistan at 7.00 am.
We pass through the Uthal desert. I take a picture.
Our first stop is zero point, where we had breakfast. The driver got fuel and changed the tyre. Our next stop was Kund Malir, where a beautiful beach waited for us.
We reached the beach at 1:00 p.m. and the view was breathtaking.
“KundMalir is a desert beach at Aghor in Balochistan. It is near Hingol, about 145 km from Zero-Point on Makran Coastal Highway. The area is part of Hingol National Park which is the largest in Pakistan. Traveling time from Karachi is roughly 4 hours (247 Km). It is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in this world.”
Our team decided to visit the Princess of Hope and the Great Sphnix. Our guide told us that we were passing through the Makran Coastal Highway where the rocky mountains were a treat for the eyes. The scenery was picturesque— if I were a painter I would have painted it.
Let me tell you more about the Makran Coastal Highway.
“The Makran Coastal Highway is located primarily in Balochistan, Pakistan. It is far away from the centre of Karachi at a distance of 240 kms and a drive of five hours, to be precise. It is a 653 km-long coastal highway along Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coastline. It is part of the Pakistan National Highway. It is passing near the port towns of Ormara and Pasni.
It follows the Arabian Sea coast from Karachi to Gwadar. The official and technical designation of the Makran Coastal Highway is N10, which is the abbreviation for National Highway 10.
Previously there was a muddy track linking Karachi with the town of Gwadar. Journeys between the two could take several days as the safest route was to travel via Quetta. The drive time has now been reduced to seven or eight hours with the construction of the new Makran Coastal Highway.
The construction contract for the Makran Coastal Highway was awarded to Pakistan’s Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), which built the Karakorum Highway.
Construction work on the Makran Coastal Highway Project commenced in 2002 and was finalized by 14 December 2004, in a period of three years.”
After an hour, we reached the “Princess of hope”.
“The Princess of Hope is a natural sculpture, found in Hingol National Park. It was given this name by famous Hollywood actress and the UN ambassador Angelina Jolie on her visit to this area.
“She stood there in the wilderness along the coast of the Arabian Sea, wearing a royal robe, a hood and crown.”
We are excited to give her a closer examination and normalize the blood flow in our legs and we use the opportunity to trek nearer to the tourist attraction.
After a short hike, we finally come within spitting distance of the Princess.
“This natural feature in the remote area in the Makran coastal region of the Balochistan province of Pakistan resembles the Egyptian Sphinx. A 740 year old wonder.”
Here lie the remains of the Harappan Civilization. The path leads to the remains.
We stopped at a dhaba near the Hingol River Bridge . We had some daal and roti.
“The provincial government has allocated Rs75 million for construction of a bridge on the Hingol River that would facilitate access to the Hinglaj Mata temple in the Lasbela district.
Balochistan Assembly Speaker Aslam Bhootani launched the construction work. Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani had approved the construction.”
“Hingol River or Hungol River is located in the Makran region, in the Gwadar District of southeastern Balochistan Province, in southwestern Pakistan. The river and valley are protected within Hingol National Park.
The Hingol River is 350 miles (560 km) long, the longest river in Balochistan. It winds through the Makran Coastal Range and Hungol Valley between high cliffs.
This river is outside the Indus river system that flows throughout the year with fresh and clean water and is the natural habitat of endangered wildlife.
The Marsh Crocodile, Olive Ridley and Green Marine Turtles, endemic and threatened species of fish, such as the Mahasheer occur and schools of Plumbeous Dolphins (Sousa plumbea) are known from close in-shore areas.”
A local is riding a bike Mountain Path
A fox den while climbing the mountain.
A graveyard of Muhammad Bin Qasim’s soldiers
Our next destination is Hingol National Park. We visit a Hindu temple called Nani Mandir.
“Nani Mandir, the last remnants of the Hindu society that once inhabited the region, is similar to a cave form that is bounded by mountains. It is covered by red clothes and vermilion. The Hinglaj Mata temples are located in a sizable and picturesque canyon.
As narrated by Maharaj Gopal, Since the Mandir is located in a desert which is called Maru in Sanskrit; the shrine is referred in holy texts as Marutirtha Hinglaj which means Hinglaj “the shrine of the desert”.”
“The shrine of Devi Hinglaj, among the 51 Shakti Peeths of Hinduism is situated in the Hingol National Park. It is a 15km trek from the main road. There is also a dirt track that leads to the site.”
People from the locality told us that several thousand Hindu pilgrims visit the temple each year. They call it the Nanika Haj.
Our visit to the temple was an hour long trip. But when the sun set, I forgot all my worries. I tried to capture what I could.
“The area in and around Shah Noorani & Lahoot Lamakan is filled with strange stones having shape of animals and reptiles etc. Fresh water streams are found in every corner for devotes. Distance from Karachi is about 120kms.
According to Local People (Lahootis): Lahoot is an Islamic allegorical term for the world beyond the corporeal existence.
In a three day festival thousands of Lahootis visit the shrine in a strange and mysterious journey. They cross the treacherous mountains and rivers by foot on a journey which takes 14 days. The Lahootis come here to attain the mercy of God.”
Final note: The route is safe try traveling during the day. It lacks basic facilities like hotels, restaurants, fuel stations and no cell phone signals. But the journey is worth the trouble.
text and photos by Hussain Hyder