April 29, 2010
By Khalid Nasir
Citing downbeat expressions for Pakistan have become quite a norm these days. However, a trip to Hingol National Park or Hinglaj, as it is locally known, is guaranteed to toss out all the negativity that has amassed and replaces it with a remembrance of magnificent wonders of nature this area offers. All you have to do is to make a round day trip to Hingol National Park, Nani Mandir, the breathtaking Buzi pass and Kund Malir beach by taking a pleasant four-hour road ride out of Karachi.
And that’s exactly what I did with my comrades of late. Considering the completion of the Coastal Highway, the journey could easily be made using any 4-wheel vehicle that has been declared fit to run miles. Before you start your journey, check the weather. If it has rained recently or there is a forecast, better delay the plan as you might not be able to go to Nani Mandir across the Hingol River in your vehicle. Failing that, you have to get off at the river, cross it on foot and walk to Nani Mandir that is 6kms one-way walk from the river bank.
Try to visit the area on a holiday so that you find less traffic on the highway; check the security situation before setting off, and keep your car’s documents handy as you will come across many security check posts on your way. It is advisable to keep extra fuel. There is one petrol pump at Hub from where you can get the last tankful of ‘Pakistani’ fuel because you will only get a slush called ‘Irani fuel’ at places ahead.
To make the most of the trip, start early in the morning. Get to the Coastal Highway by taking the Hub River Road that will get you out of Karachi and onward to Balochistan. The road is smooth and offers to check your limits of insane driving. The turn-off point to the Mekran Coastal Highway is well-marked on the left side of the road about 10kms of Uthal. The smooth road leading into the horizon will make even 130kms per hour seem far too slow.
It takes about 3 hours from Karachi to get to a blue road sign on the right just short of the Hingol River Bridge, directing way to the Nani Mandir. Since the visit to Nani Mandir by the former Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh in 2006, the 15km road to Hingol River bank and 6kms onwards to Mandir have been paved and offer a pleasant drive by the river. If you have chosen the visit day wisely, there are chances that you will actually find nobody in the vicinity except few local children who look at you shyly. Otherwise, you will find worshipers making their way to the Mandir.
The Mandir is situated near an underwater stream in a cave-like form that is bounded by mountains. The end of the cave houses the holy relic that is covered by red clothes and vermilion. As narrated by Maharaj Gopal, Nani Mandir is an important Hindu pilgrimage. The visit or the pilgrimage is also called ‘Nani ka Haj’. 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.
Mandir is also the last remnants of the Hindu society that once inhabited the region. Area for rest has been built some half a kilometre away from the Mandir and offers basic amenities to visitors.
A visit to Mandir is an out-of-the-ordinary experience that takes you back in time for a while. A visit to the Mandir is a two-hour round trip; to get back to continue your journey towards Buzi pass.
Just across the Hingol River Bridge begins the Buzi pass that offers wonders of nature along the Coastal Highway. But before you throw yourself into this awe of nature, do make a stopover at the roadside dhaba near the bridge that offers tasty mixed vegetable, daal with hot roti made on wood stove.
Wonders of nature could be witnessed as soon as you enter the Buzi pass. On your left you can see the beautiful expanse of the sea while the other side puts you in the rocky rakishness. The best time to be around Buzi pass is between 3 to 4pm so that you can see the breathtaking landscape. You will find yourself amidst towering rock faces, interesting contrasts of rock and pinnacles.
The winding road keeps opening up panoramic vistas for you to behold. The most wondrous is ‘Princess of Hope’ that could be seen while driving through Buzi pass. It is nature’s crafting of a mountain that resembles a lady wearing a robe and hood and standing upright in a royal pose. Then there is another rock outcrop, the ‘Sphinx’ that appears to have a head of lion and body of a human being. It looks like the guardian of the valleys around and resembles the original Sphinx in Egypt to the extent that you will wonder for hours that perhaps the same civilisation crafted it too thousands of years ago.
Every turn on the Buzi pass reveals magnificent rock patterns and valleys. It is advisable that you make short stops alongside the road to take pictures of the spectacular views with ‘Princess of Hope’ and ‘Sphinx’ in the background.
On reaching Ormara, you can make a U-turn on the Buzi pass once you see the ‘Princess of Hope’. This turn will enable you to get back to the city the same day. If you have been able to stick to your scheduled time, you now should be able to relish the beauty of the dessert beach of Kund Malir on your way back to Karachi. In fact, you cannot resist getting your feet wet in the cold clear waters at the Kund Malir, and also fish here. There is a small fisherman village nearby from where you can buy a fresh catch and witness seagulls and other sea birds sitting on the beach, fearless of your presence.
Some Related Sites for more information on Hingol National Park: