Kharan to Noh Kundi

There were so many of us that it was nearly impossible to accommodate all of us in the rest house, so the few of us who could not find beds slept in the drawing room on the carpet. We did not mind sleeping in the drawing room of the rest house, it was big and the sleeping bags were very comfortable.


The clatter of the plates being laid out for us for breakfast woke me up the next morning. Some of us were already up and getting ready for breakfast. Fried eggs, omelets, toast, ‘parathas’ and ‘khagena’ with hot tea, one couldn’t ask for more in this way out place. By the time we were all ready to leave it was mid-afternoon and we headed out towards town where Dr Baig had the electric cable welded and the Bronco had the tire repaired. Finally after filling the fuel tanks with more diesel and getting everyone to assemble together, we rolled out of Kharan by about twelve noon. The lead vehicle was the guide Hilux generously offered to us by Mr Nousherwani. It was instructed to take us to the main road leading to Dalbadin and then to return home. The many dirt tracks that lead out into the desert all look the same to the newcomer. The locals know their way about these tracks like the back of there hands and without them one would be lost. While we were still waiting for Salman to return from town where he was having the Jeep ‘fixed’, Wazir Ahmad, also affectionately known as ‘Papu Sahib’ to us, sped away as he does to gain time on the gravel tracks since he can’t drive fast on the tarmac surface. Just as we were leaving PK radioed to us that he had forgotten to fill the Jeep up with diesel in all the commotion and the only pump was back in town. There was one just outside town but it was unreliable, so we drove out as PK filled up with diesel. What followed was a comedic episode when PK discovered neither he nor the pump cashier had enough change to complete the transaction. The cashier got on a bicycle and followed PK while he drove out meet us so he could get some change to pay the cashier. This incident would provide comic relief for the next few days as we would taunt and torment him for delaying us even further.

We finally left Kharan towards Dalbadin via Phadak. The terrain was flat for a while with the hills on both sides of the valley. Dry river beds follow the track and in some places plantations of palms emerge out of the valley as the track travels up and down the dry river beds. The gravel track veers left a few kilometers out of Kharan toward the Chagi Mountains. We stopped for all of us to gather before turning off the track as the left turn was rather inconspicuous and would be easily missed. While we waited, I decided to check out the fan belt on my CJ-7, which had started squeaking at high RPM as we negotiated the bends. Constant driving in the heat had stretched the rubber belt out, but the bracket was already at full extension with no more give to stretch the belt further. It would need replacing at our next stop. Hopefully, it would not break during the high rev four wheeling that was yet to come. Since a diesel engine needs hardly any electricity once it is running, we deemed it safe to disconnect the alternator and run straight off the battery in order to ease load on the belt.

The track led us to the base of the mountain through some rough driving conditions. The gravel dust was suffocating at times as the desert duelers blew clouds of it as one jeep after the other cut through the powdery dust. The hills were an awesome sight as white dust mingled with dark black rock cut into exquisite shapes by the weather over the millennia. The track starts to climb and then cuts through a small gorge before it enters an opening where the last levies post is located. The bare black rock juts out into the brilliant blue sky, with a few shrubs and ferns, or ‘pish’ as the locals call them, scattered around. We made another pit stop here for all us to group up again as the next fifty kilometers are through a pass which is notorious for harboring bandits.

The drive through the pass was breathtaking; this is the ultimate rush for someone who loves four wheeling and the outdoors. The pass climbs up in hairpin bends, starting out as gentle loops and turning into treacherous switchbacks. The track carries on as the tires claw away for traction on the loose gravel and slate. The hillside hugs the gravel track so tightly in some places that the sides of the vehicles scrape the edges in an attempt to stay on the track. Cascading water from seasonal rains has etched exotic shapes into these barren slopes, and over time they have come together to make a scenic painting of images on a mountain canvas. Huge rock surfaces jut out onto the side of the track and then veer away; it would be impossible to drive through here in the rainy season. Stacks of twigs stuck halfway up the trees are a testament to the flash floods that thunder through these ravines and valleys.

The drive is steep and dangerous; it reaches the crest of the mountain and then the valley on the other side comes into view. The road descends down mountain in a series of switchbacks and levels out at the base of the mountain. A few kilometers from here is the main road where we turned left and carried on towards Dalbadin. By three in the afternoon we crossed the post near Phadak where PK enquired from the officer in command if we could make use of the company?s ground to have lunch. A tube well was pumping out cool clean water which flowed to the plantations nearby. We spread out the green sheet under the shade of the poplar trees here and lunch was served. The sound of the water rumbling past, the cool breeze under the shade of the trees and the hot food was a relaxing bonus experience.

Three thirty was the deadline for departure as our vehicles rolled out of the post one by one and turned right towards Dalbadin. The road to Dalbadin is in OK condition; it is narrow and one has to let the tires on the left side off the road to let oncoming traffic pass. The terrain is flat with a gentle downhill gradient, with mountains along the left as big black projections piercing the blue sky, and the valley on the right. The yellow desert sand stretches out as far as the eye can see, occasionally disrupted by black rocks erupting out of the yellow sand, seemingly floating like chunks of a glacier in the ocean.

The road veers right as we drive towards Iran. The sandy desert tries to reclaim the road as the yellow sand encroaches onto the road in many places, making driving conditions treacherous. The tires drag the vehicle as soon as they go off-road and the pressure is transmitted to the steering wheel. Controlling these 4×4s off road is no mean feat. The railroad tracks suddenly come into view as they cross the road and the humps on either side are precariously placed. Some of the jeeps had trouble negotiating them and were jolted as they crossed the track. These tracks lead on to Taftan, which is our border town with Iran, and then into the Iranian territory. The view of the two metal rails cutting through the sands of the desert, disappearing into the horizon on either side of the road is quite picturesque; the mirage on the horizon shimmers in the heat as the tracks appear to dance on the dunes.

We had been driving for an hour and had to wait for the rest of the ‘paltan’ to arrive. Taimur aired up the rear wheel as it was leaking slowly and one can take such chances with tubeless tires. Once everybody regrouped we drove up to Dalbadin and met up with Papu Sahib, whose Jeep was tucked away in one of the garages. The front axle bearing had snapped and he had taken advantage of his early arrival by engaging the local mechanic to install a new bearing while the rest of us arrived. This was an ideal opportunity to have the fan belt replaced while we waited for the rest. I wanted to keep one as spare if it was needed.

It was starting to turn dark by the time everyone was ready to leave. Hamid wanted to fill the Cherokee up with petrol as we drove out, so we stopped at the last pump at the edge of the town. Choudhry Hanif, who had flown over from Lahore to be with us on this trip, offered to help. They placed the metal funnel and were about to pour the petrol when a static spark from the rubbing of the funnel and the filler neck on the Cherokee’s fuel tank made a loud bang. Luckily there was no petrol being poured at the time otherwise it would have been disastrous.

Taimur, unaware that we were waiting for Hamid to fill up, had assumed that we were all on the road and driving towards Nok Kundi. He had to track back and was not amused at the delay. The road from Dalbadin to Nok Kundi has been made by the Iranians and it is in very good condition, similar to the roads made by the FWO in Pakistan. The drive was uneventful and we reached Nok Kundi by eight at night. The Major and his colleagues were already waiting for us; they had the new rooms opened for us as well as the house in the adjacent yard to accommodate the twenty seven of us. Hamid had wandered off to the nearby caf� and ordered a dinner of Iranian ‘lobia’ and ‘tandoory roti’, but both the items turned out to be past their prime and we had to suffice with simple roti and tea for dinner, which was good enough. After deliberations with Choudhry Hanif, it was decided to pay the hotel owner only what was deserved. The weather in Noh Kundi was a lot milder than Khuzdar or Kharan. We slept in the commandant’s room on the floor in our sleeping bags while Dr Baig and Moazam Mirza snored the night through in the luxury of the double bed.

8 thoughts on “Kharan to Noh Kundi”

  1. vry pzd 2 c this web .i m kundi by nation so i m vry much eager to know abt noh kundi y this is given to this place

  2. Dear Sir ,

    Between August 1960 & December 1962 ,I drove my Riley 9hp car made in 1933 ,from England to Australia & back .I left England with £130 & otherwise worked my way as an odd job man /mechanic .The drive involved crossing quite a lot of desert in the Middle & Far East ,plus another dose crossing from Fremantle to Sydney in Australia (The Nullarbor) . The worst desert conditions were experienced in Iran & Balochistan . I could get no maps of the area probably because there were no roads as we know them in Europe ! A few miles of road had been built around Teheran but otherwise very corrugated tracks were the only way to travel from Ankara to the Pakistan border .I am just finishing my book on the journey after all this time & remember a place called Nok Kundi (?) at the border of Iran & Pakistan .Is this still a border crossing ? I remember the area well for the blinding sand storms & no shortage of parking facilities ! From Teheran to the Pakistan border I saw about half a dozen trucks but no cars . The road down to Ceylon was a very narrow tarmac strip full of potholes but easier on the car than Iran!It was a great trip using a marvellous little car which went on to cross USA to Canada .We shipped back from Montreal at Xmas time 1962. It didn’t cost much ,I arrived back with no cash to show for the trip but a wealth of experiences ,hence the long delayed book !

    Regards,

    George Yallop

    yallop.co. uk

  3. Dear Dr. Ahmad:

    In 1972-73 I made a road trip in a Toyota Corolla with 2 American guys. I was an exchange student from Kent State U. in Ohio, USA, (famous for the May 1970 shootings of students by the Ohio National Guard) to Pahlavi University in Shiraz, now Shiraz U., on a road trip during No Ruz break. On our way between Nok Kundi and Kandahar, a man who was apparently stranded on the road when his car broke down (it was a nice car), flagged us down for a ride. We weren�t sure if this was a set-up, and were afraid to stop for him, but he placed himself in our path in such a way that we would have had to run him over in order to continue on without him! I don�t remember if the road was asphalt, because all I saw was yellow sand, blown into mini-dunes all around. This may have been around the area of Quetta. He took us to a place that looked like an oasis! I thought I was dreaming! I don’t know who he was, or where he took us, but he hosted us very kindly. It may have been a placed called Dera Ghazi Khan.

    Now, reading your travelogue, I wonder if it was one of the karez supplied plantation areas?

    At any rate, your travelogue has inspired me to dig out my travel journals and read about my own adventures through the koh y dasht of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to document it for my nieces, nephews and their children.

    I�ll never forget my 21st birthday in Kabul, staying in a glassed-in “room” on the roof of a hotel there, since no other rooms were available. We were grateful to have been provided a few cots, rather than try to sleep all 3 of us in the little Corrolla. We awoke with the sun moving over the mountaintop. INCREDIBLE places! My heart aches for these places, and I was only passing through. What an amazing part of this earth. Thank you for the fun and interesting reading material in your travelogue. Ruth D

  4. Hi,

    I did not have the faintest idea that my travel memories would inspire some one on the other side of the globe. you leave me speechless, though i am glad that reading my broken english has bought back fond memories for you.

    You will be glad to know that area u traveled in the seventies has not changed much the dunes are the same and the road though somewhat improved is still rough and gravel tracks. we love it though just as u did that many years ago that is why we plan trips into the desert twice a year to revel in the beauty of the rugged terrain. those who have traveled the dusty roads can relate with us.

    I hope u get a chance to do it again we would welcome u with the same hospitality that u were showered then.

    Regards.

    DOC

  5. Dear Dr.Mansur!

    I read ur travelogue with ave and interest. As kharn always haunts me and keep looking anything related to Kharan,reading your account,enhanced my eagerness to go there.

    I belong to some stranded branch of Naushirwani tribe.My forefathers

    came here in Jhang, Punjab,centuries ago,Allah knows when how and why.So,Khran keeps haunting me where a lot of Naushirwan’s descendents

    dwell.

    I long to go there,to mingle with naushirwani’s.and to search my lost indedntity.Maybe someone of them or of the area can bridge this gruesome gap of centuries.

    I know nothing about the journey. Can you please guide me,what is the most convenient route from jhang to Kharan?where to stay?

    I do not know driving and will have to depend on public transport already available there.Maybe you can name someone who is helpful in my search and stay.I will be very thankful what ever knowledge you can provide.

    Sadiq

  6. Terrific post. Judging by the number of Toyota Land Cruiser FZJ79s and Stouts you must have seen plying the roads (as well as the non-roads), I bet your Jeeps must have looked exotic!

    I also read your excellent post (elsewhere on the site) about the trip between Mashkel and Plantak, and thence, onwards to Panjgur. If any of you are into a bit of “rock-climbing” on four wheels, there’s a very challenging route cutting straight between Mashkel and Panjgur, that leads right over the Siahan mountain range. It also reduces the traveling time between Mashkel and Panjgur, by 2-3 hours. Definitely not for the faint of heart, though!

    Keep up the good work with the site. Cheers.

    Fouad.

    1. Thanks! Will attempt to do that route at some point, and will get in touch for more details on that route.

  7. @ Sadiq Hussain Goher.

    I don’t know if you’re still following this thread (seeing as how it’s been a year and a half since your post), but the best way for you to visit Kharan, would be to reach Quetta (by air / road / rail), and take a bus journey to Kharan via Mastung, Panjpai and Nushki. You’ll be able to get seats from the bus stand (Adda) at Quetta for Rs. 400-500. Booking a vehicle for yourself, would likely cost you roughly 6-8 times that amount. The Nausherwanis themselves, are a prominent family of the region, and if you’re kith and kin you’ll be welcomed as an honoured guest. Best bet would be to get in contact with the DC of the district, and ask him to provide you with details of whom you might possibly contact. I’m not much aware of hotels where you might stay, but I’m sure you could manage a decent place to stay for a few days, at no great expense. Whilst there, you might want to take a trip to Galoogah (near Mashkel) which is the traditional burial site of the Nausherwani rulers. It’s well worth it, to find out where some of your ancestors may have been entombed. Other regions where the Nausherwanis are present, include Mashkel, Dalbandin, and Nokkundi; which are all within a few hours traveling time from Kharan.

    Best of luck with the trip, if you still have your mind set on it.

    Fouad.

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