Indeed. When we embarked on our journey from Karachi, the weather guy reported 46 degrees Celsius in adjoining areas of Dadu. Surely an ascent of 5,688 feet would have improved our fortunes but what we eventually experienced was nothing less of an exception. A Miracle. A divine approval of our journey. And God be praised for choosing us to shower his blessings upon.
We did not know much about Gorakh Hill to begin with. I was told that it is the highest point in Sindh. It’s part of Kirthar range which stretches from Cape Monz in Karachi to East-Central Baluchistan. Some contested that it even snows there in winters. Also one keeps hearing that Govt. is building it as an alternate resort for people of Sindh. Looking at the legacy of such plans, I did not have much expectations and we will touch on that. We were told that security situation is, well, very much like rest of the country; unpredictable.
We started our journey from Karachi on Saturday noon, with mercury hitting the roof already. But the moment we turned left from Jamshoro on Indus Highway, dark clouds gathered and thunder and lighting filled the sky. A little later it started raining and a little further we were in the middle of a hailstorm. And not an ordinary one. Soon we had zero visibility and had to stop. It continued for good one hour. It turned beautiful post storm. The sunset left crimson lining on the clouds which were scattered now. The breeze blowing from the west was refreshing. The sunflower orchards added unlikely yellow color to the landscape. The God of love made us fall in love with the scene.
We spend the night in Sehwan which was eventful too but leave it for some other time. Next day we started around noon for Gorakh. I feared a hot post-storm day and this was the case. The road till Sehwan was in perfect condition. However major re-haul is underway beyond Sehwan. It took us almost an hour to reach Dadu on a dusty under-construction road. From Dadu we turned left to Juhi(which is not Indus Highway anymore). The landscape is not drastically different. It’s mostly arid zone with sporadic fields of Mirchi and Sunflower. The road is in bad condition and it got worse after Juhi. Finally we reached Wahi Pandi which is the last town before Gorakh Hill and you are advised to do grocery from here if you have not already. From Wahi Pandi, gradual ascent starts after covering four to five kilometers. The total distance from Wahi Pandi to Gorakh Hill is 54km. The first hills that you see are far from remarkable. It will appear to you if you are in a construction zone. However it starts getting impressive very soon and weather played a major role again. It started raining again and temperature cooled down. There were steep inclines and sudden curves, looking into deep ravines. Don’t think you can make it without a 4×4 or a powerful vehicle. It should take you three hours in total to reach there from Sehwan.
As you reach close to the top you could see signs of development; Street lights on the side of final few kilometeres and a perfectly paved road. Then you see the restaurant which is a recent construction and was inaugurated last month. There are two guesthouses for tourists and one for govt. The restaurant is open across the year and the same guy manages the two guesthouses. It can be booked from anywhere on the phone. By the time we reached the top, it was cold, mainly due to continuous showers. We directly went to Benazir viewpoint to witness the panoramic view of the area. The empty vastness was overwhelming. The wind was blowing vehemently, as if it will tear the trees on the top. It was cold and we were in T-shirts, but we did not care and went on a stroll downhill. We could see Gaj Nadi, the major stream in Kirthar, in which all smaller ones fall. The valley around Gaj Nadi has hidden treasures. Cave Paintings dating back to 6000 BC have been discovered around Gaj Nadi but alas many few know about it and it will require another trip. I spoke to the chowkidar who’s son of Gorakh soil. He told me of the days when there was no road and they traveled on donkeys. It took him five days to reach here from Wai Pandi. The scattered households in the area survive on livestock. There is not any other source of living. He told me that people living further, into Baluchistan side still make their journey on donkeys. I could see the tracks down there in the valley.
Gorakh hill has electricity now but it is disrupted often. The telephone in the restaurant is a PTCL wireless phone which works on electricity too. There is no connection with the world otherwise. There were eight rooms with double beds in the new guesthouse. The room was for 3000 rupees. Food and water is available in the restaurant.
People at the restaurant were hopeful about the fortune of the area. A better road which will reduce the distance by 2/3rd from Wahi Pandi is being considered. They also told me that families have started visiting from Karachi but perhaps it will take time until people in small groups could visit this place.
The night was cold and black. There was no electricity. We moved through shadows and finally settled in the corridor of guesthouse covering ourselves with warm blankets, looking at the hazy outline of Kirthar range, listening to Leonard Cohen, Geeta Dutt, Allan Fakir and Farida Khanum, dreaming of another adventure, of the life we don’t know.