All posts by ko

Day 6: Islamabad

Shopping: Covered Market, Jinnah Supermarket, Aabpara, Blue Area.

Restaurants: Pappasallis, Kabul Tikka, Hot Spot, and Bakery.

29th June 2000


I woke up at about 8:00 in the morning, and drove to the petrol pump where I had the Prado serviced on my last trip. I got there quite early as the serice boys hadn’t even arrived yet. I had to wait a little while but they were soon there and work was underway. They washed the exterior and undercarriage, vacuumed the interior, and changed the oil. Taimur and boys also arrived soon, there vehicles undergoing a similar routine. Each vehicle was cleaned inside out and it looked new by the time the boys were finished with it. Imad was not happy with the CJ-7’s braking and the rear brakes were readjusted at the mechanic’s shop next door.

Islamabad was overcast and cool and a light drizzle began as I drove off to pick the girls up for their shopping trip. It had rained yesterday in the afternoon till 6:00 in the evening just before we drove into the city. We were told that the weather had been hot the past few weeks before the rain. Maybe this was a good omen for the weather ahead. The good weather allowed the women to comfortably explore the Islamabad shopping centers, picking up supplies and souveniers. I bought some movie CD’s and went window-shopping with Susan and Patricia. Dinner was at the local Tikka shop.

Our stay at the Shalimar guesthouse, or the ‘Cockroach Motel’ as it was termed later, would be very eventful. Everyone complained of the poor service and the dirty linen, etc. The constant traffic of dubious looking characters through the place did little to ease our concerns.

Day 5: DIKhan to Islamabad

DI Khan, Darya Khan, Dullewala, Chashma barrage, Mianwali, Musa Khel, Akwal, Talagang, Chakwal, Islamabad.

Distance: 380km, 28th June 2000


Head northeast out of Dera Ismail Khan towards the Chashma Barrage, crossing the Indus at Chashma, and turn left on the main Indus Highway towards Mianwali (144 kilometers). Continuing to the east, the road to Mianwali gradually approaches the extremities of the Salt Range. The picturesque Nambal Lake is closeby, situated right at the foot of the Range. One gets a good view down onto the lake as the road starts to descend. Large numbers of migrating birds can be found here. The road then crosses wide plains of cultivated fields before entering the Talagang mud ravines to reach the city of Talagang (43 kilometers). After about eight kilometers the road forms a junction at the Islamabad – Lahore motorway. The motorway then winds it way through the hills of Kallar Kahar to reach Islamabad.


Dera Ismail Khan is north 31degrees 49.463 and east 070 degrees 55.668. Our overnight stay at the Midway Hotel was very pleasant. The rooms were Rs. 680 a night, which is very reasonable considering that they were air-conditioned and other comforts were provided free of cost, such as an extra mattress. They had arranged our breakfast in their dinning room, which was air-conditioned too. The total bill of the hotel was Rs.6800 for all twenty of us including dinner, breakfast, and the room rent. This hotel is highly recommended for travelers passing through DI Khan.

The hotel is almost on the riverbank itself, with the mighty Indus just across the road. The bank is paved with burnt bricks and measures about 20 feet in width. Everything around here is big, but even the massive trees lining the bank are dwarfed by the sea of muddy water that is the Indus. The river is several kilometers wide here, with the opposing bank hardly visible on the horizon. However, the water flows deceptively fast. Such is its force, that the old barrage that had stood there through the Second World War and countless floods was swept away the year before in some of the worst flooding the river has seen. The massive stone structure, built by the British well before partition, was a truly imposing sight. It was sad to find out that a piece of the history and attraction of DI Khan had been lost forever.

The bad roads we had encountered in the last few days claimed the luggage rack on the CJ-7. The constant shaking and shuddering over the rough roads, and sometimes lack thereof, caused the tubing to tear at the mounting bolts. For now, Imad would tie it up with durarope, but a more permanent solution would have to be sought in Islamabad. This minor setback delayed our departure slightly but we off from the hotel by 1.11 PM.

As we made our way to the Shell petrol pump in the suburbs of DI Khan, the temperature outside was already up to 50 degrees Celsius. The unbearable heat and humidity, typical of the plains of Punjab, made it impossible to venture out into the sun even for a minute at a time. Even the tar on the road was mushy from the intense heat. We filled the Prado up with 41 liters of diesel, worth Rs 568, and waited for the rest of the group in the orchard of date trees adjacent to the pump. However, the refueling stop at the petrol pump would take much longer than we expected. Most of us had come down with a stomach bug and a major queue forming at the loo at the petrol pump, with Khalid and Susan fighting it out.

Getting out of DI Khan was easy. Even though Islamabad is 380 km from here, we had no trouble finding our way. The roads here are very well posted with signs and directions to major destinations in the area. They are also properly paved, with the center islands painted yellow and black. Huge old trees, mostly poplar, line the road sides. There are recent plantations of these trees too.

We would travel towards the Chashma barrage first. The single road that leads here is a smooth avenue. The old trees lining both sides of the road formed a canopy with occassional shafts of sunlight shining through, dancing on the windshield as we drove through. The canopy shaded us from the blazing sun overhead, providing welcome relief from the brutal heat of the plains.

The vegetation all around here is very picturesque. Palm trees, poplar trees, and many other varieties of green shrubs can be found here in abundance. The large plantations of poplar trees look like a forest in the distance. Rice paddy fields on either side of the road lend the scenery different hues of green. An irrigation canal joins the road from the right side and carries along for miles. There are also sugarcane fields scattered all over the countryside.

We would reach Chashma barrage late in the afternoon. Taimur’s jeep would claim the second casualty of the trip – a swallow attempting an unsuccessful low flying pass over the road. Chashma was a breathtaking sight; ‘massive’ would be an understatement. The humongous stone and steel structure is one of several barrages dotting the length of the Indus river, designed to tame and regulate the flow of floodwaters during the monsoon season. The barrage stretches for miles across the river, its gates holding back a wall of water. About 20 km from the barrage is the Indus Highway. The roads here were under construction, reduced to little more than a muddy 4×4 track in places. We finally reached the highway itself, a luxurious dual carriageway well marked for traffic from both directions. We would now proceed to Mianwali and then towards Talagang.

Mianwali is about 13 km from the point where the Chashma Barrage road joins the Indus Highway. We reached Mianwali at 4:50 PM and were soon on our way to Islamabad. The airconditioning on Taimur’s jeep had packed up for some reason and Patricia, poor thing, was red from the 42 degree heat, so we took a reststop about 60 km from the M2 motorway to have some tea. The countryside here is very picturesque with small hills and ravines that have been cut by water currents over the millennia. Small bushes, shrubs and trees are scattered all over. The road is narrow but smooth as it makes its way through these aberrations in the terrain all the way upto Talagang.

We reached Talagang at 6:45pm. The weather had cooled down considerably though Pat still looked very red. Just short of the M2 motorway we made another pit stop and checked the air in the tires. The pump where we stopped had a very interesting water supply unit. It was an old hand pump connected to an electric motor for pumping out water from a tube well. About 10 km short of Chakwal is the turning towards the M2 motorway. We drove onto the motorway at 7:55 PM; it was 109 km to Islamabad from here. The drive on the motorway was uneventful and we reached the exit toll plaza at Islamabad around 9 PM. So far we had traveled approximately 1765 km from Karachi. The coordinates here were north 33 degrees 36.724 and east 072, and the temperature outside a comfortable 27 degrees.

We rolled into Islamabad at 9:45pm. The weather here was pleasant, the cool air fresh with the smell of foliage from the evening rain. We drove straight to the Kabul restaurant where we were going to have dinner, and from there to the Shalimar Guest house at 11:13pm. We had done 1791km so far. Islamabad would be our home for the next couple of days as we gathered the rest of the group and prepared ourselves for the adventurous part of the journey that was about to begin.

Day 4: Loralai to DIKhan

27th June 2000: Loralia, Mekhtar, Kingri, Rakhni, Khar,Fort Munro, Sakhi Sawar, Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan.

Distance: 402 Km, Odometer: 127000

Route: East of Loralai the old single lane road is in poor condition for much of the way. The road passes through green and fertile countryside with fruit orchards and wheat fields. It climbs gently through some low hills to Mekhtar (79 kilometers), a small village with teashops and basic food. The road then climbs steeply, passing the tiny village of Kingri (139 kilometers), before descending steadily to Rakhni (184 kilometers) After a left turn at the T-junction in the bazaar, the road again climbs, this time steeply into the mountains of the Suleman range, crossing the border into Punjab. The climb is similar to the Nathiagali climb from Abbotabad, replete with hairpin turns and switchbacks. It arrives at the village of Khar (200 kilometers), where a track leads south to the nearby hill station of Fort Munro. The main road continues east from the turning for Fort Munro, descending steadily through spectacular mountain scenery onto the Indus Plain, to arrive at Dera Ghazi Khan, 282 kilometers from Loralai and 534 kilometers from Quetta. There are a total of 3 river fordings along this last stretch. These can be tricky to negotiate after rains, particularly at Sakhi Sarwar, site of a famous shrine of a Sufi saint. The road then cuts through a ridge of low hills and crosses the wide and stony Daman plains, which stretch for around 120 kilometers north to south between DI Khan and DG Khan, sandwiched between the Suleman mountains to the west and the Indus River to the east.


We left Loralai early in the morning as it was going to be the longest drive of the trip. It was a task getting everyone ready at a decent time. Usually rigging the vehicles back up take the longest time but this time most of the packing had already been done the night before. The first order of business leaving Loralai would be refueling. The petrol pump was just down the road from the guesthouse, as you turn left on the main road. We filled up with diesel here, with the Prado taking 27 liters. The misty early morning smell in the air greeted me as I stepped out to check the digits on the pump. As the rest of the group refueled, Khalid mentioned he had been having trouble with the handling of his white M38 Willy’s. It felt loose and wobbly at highway speeds, thus making it difficult for him to keep pace with the rest of the group. These concerns would be addressed in Islamabad, along with all the other vehicles going in for routine inspections and oil changes. The rest of the 4×4s had performed well so far.

We reached Kingri at 8:55 am, almost 1026 km from Karachi. It was warm and sunny but still very pleasant. While driving through the hilly area before Rakhni, I saw a flock of Saysee, a subspecies of Chakor, suddenly fly to my left and land on the rocky surface of the hill. I wanted to videotape them so we combed the area like we do while hunting, but the birds were very well camouflaged and difficult to detect, literally taking off from under our feet making that chirpy sound that is so characteristic of them.

Just short of Rakhni I saw a motorcycle approaching in the distance, little did I realize who the rider would be. It was an old classic Triumph motorbike in immaculate condition, with its chrome shimmering in the sun. The side saddle bags bulging with luggage. The Englishman riding the bike was travelling to Iran. Adventurous and brave is what I thought of him.

We reached the Rakhni borderpost at 10:57am. The outside temperature was now 39 degrees and rising – extremely hot. Rakhni is a border town between Balochistan and Punjab. One can see the signs of both the provinces in the shops. There are fertile green fields of cotton on both sides of the road. We could also see tubewells with diesel engine pumps pumping out water to the fields. Just outside of Rakhni there are petrol pumps on both sides of the road. PSO (Pakistan State Oil) owns most of the branches out here in the countryside. From Rakhni onwards the flatland gives way to the hills and the climb starts towards Fort Munro. The road is in good shape and the climb is at a comfortable gradient, save for some sharp bends and switchbacks as it crisscrosses through the mountains. We had to stop for a while over here for Hamid and the boys to catch up with us.

Further up, the climb becomes quite steep with Lowari Top like bends in Chitral as it climbs up to about 1600 metres. The road then approaches a crossing, the right fork leading towards Fort Munro, while the left fork goes on to Dera Ghazi Khan. The descent is just as spectacular as the ascent on the other side. The deep gorge comes into view as the road winds its way down the hill like a line scribbled with a pencil. The terrain soon changes from rugged mountains to a semi-desert before it becomes green with fields of cotton and other plantations on both sides of the road. We stopped at a PSO petrol pump about 30km before Dera Ghazi Khan, with the outside temperature hovering at 48 degrees. The unbearably hot and humid air of the Indus plains enveloped us like a suffocating blanket. We could feel the heat in our lungs as the refueling continued rather impatiently. Everybody was eager to get back on the road and in the wind again.

We reached Dera Ghazi Khan at about 3 PM and looked for a good restaurant from the guidebook. The weather was still unbelievably hot and stifling in the city. We darted around through the streets, keeping an eye for shaded places to park. Otherwise, the heat would turn our vehicles into ovens on wheels. We finally ate at a local hotel, our lunch consisting of biryani and chicken. The food was great and the bill came to Rs 1926 for the 20 of us. Not a bad deal by any means.

Heading out of DG Khan towards DI Khan, the mileage on the odometer read 127,274, and the temperature on the thermometer at about 45 degrees. We topped up our tanks with diesel, the Prado taking 47.11 liters worth Rs 650. We were finally out of Dera Ghazi Khan at 3:46pm heading towards Ghazi Ghat bridge, which we would cross on our way to the Indus Highway.

The Ghazi Ghat Bridge is about 10-15 km out of DG Khan on the Multan road. Somehow we landed up on the road going towards Laiya instead. Feeling that we were not headed in the right direction, we stopped to ask for directions from a family that was walking towards us from the opposite direction. The locals were very intrigued by us as we tried to communicate, first in Urdu and then in Punjabi, but could not make any headway. They greeted us with a strange dialect that none of us understood. Here we were in Pakistan trying desperately to get directions from our own folk yet we felt like stangers in our own land.

It turned out that we had missed our turning towards Peshawar after the Ghazi Ghat Bridge and strayed on down the road towards Laiya before realizing our mistake. We needed to be on the Indus Highway but instead found ourselves running on a road parallel to it. We then had to turn back and drive about 40 km towards the Indus Highway. This portion of the road was very poorly posted, making it all the more difficult to find our way.

Once on the Indus highway, it was another 93 km to DI Khan and about 8 PM on the clock. Taking advantage of the now smooth highway, the kids watched Stars Wars on the VCD player. However, our joy was shortlived, as the smooth road gave way to a rough bone jarring track where the highway was still under construction. For the next 20 km, the vehicles shuddered and groaned as the track made its way in the dimming light through muddy patches and diversions around gaping pits big enough to swallow a truck. Behind us, the boys in the CJ7 and the white Willy’s M38 played a game of jeep tag, trying to outrun each other with the leader popping the clutch causing the rear wheels to break traction and send gobs of mud flying at the chase vehicle. We stopped and took a well deserved 15-minute break after the bad stretch was over to stretch our legs while the kids had a wee stop.

We reached Dera Ismail Khan at 9.30 pm and hired a rickshaw to guide us to the hotel. The hotel manager was waiting for us eagerly. He had kept rooms for us even though he had been pressed by other guests to let them out. The rooms were clean and the air conditioning was working fine. We ordered dinner for the lot of us and after a quick meal, literally crashed for the night exhausted from the day long drive.

Day 3: Quetta to Loralai

26th June 2000: Quetta, Kuch Lak, Dil Sora, Khanozai,Loralai

Distance: 252 Km, Odometer: 126784

Route: Head northwest out of Quetta on the Chaman road, past the turning for the airport. The road crosses the Chaman railway line and passes through the Balleli checkpost. After another 25 km to Kuch Lak, turn right in the main bazaar (straight on for Chaman) and continue on a good two lane road to the junction known as Ziarat Mor for 52 kilometers towards Khanozai. The road is single lane and passes through orchards of apples, plums, and pomegranates, to reach Khanozai. Turn right at Khanozai towards Loralai. The road is extremely rough and graveled for a while before connecting the main road to Loralai. The road winds through the table topped mountains catching the edge of the Juniper forests of Ziarat before entering the barren plateau. The road from Qila Saifullah joins it from the left about 45km short of Loralia. It is then a steady, gradual descent past patches of cultivation to Loralia, 252 km from Quetta.


It was noon at Lourdes hotel when we left for Loralai. There was a change of plan last night; we will now be driving to Loralai, instead of Zhob, and then to Dera Ghazi khan, and from there onwards to Dera Ismail khan.

Delayed by a bad cutout on the white jeep’s alternator, we finally left Quetta at 1:13 PM. With the electrical contacts readjusted, we could get back on the road. I also had the ‘Cruiser’s radiator flushed and refilled with six cans of coolant. The 4×4 still heats up on long inclines. Also had 44.15 liters of diesel filled up, worth Rs 600 total.

We traveled from Quetta to Khanozai and then took a right turn towards Loralai. The rough unpaved road, or rather lack thereof, caused our radiators to boil over after only 10 minutes of driving. Green coolant was oozing out of the overflow pipe as the steam pushed its way out of the radiator furiously boiling the coolant in the overflow reservior. All the vehicles were parked in a line along the track with their bonnets open to let the engines cool down, when an old Hilux drove up with three pathan men sitting in the front and three females sitting in the cargo bay. I asked them about the condition if the road and they replied there were only five more minutes of the dirt track left until the paved section of the road.

794km from Karachi, we came across a spectacular sight – an old juniper tree approximately eight to ten thousand years old on the right side of the road. We stopped to photograph this extraordinary life form. The distance to Loralai from this unique site is approximately 100 km.

After driving for another hour we stopped at an apple orchard for lunch, 40 km short of Loralai. A ‘karez’ from across the hills supplies water for the orchards. The people are very friendly here. Even though they do not speak or understand our language, they respond with so much love and hospitality it is hard to believe that they can be barbaric or vicious as the media portray them to be. All throughout our journey everyone everywhere welcomed us with open arms.

The road came to a junction as we drove towards our destination for the day. We turned right here; the left fork in the road continues towards Qila Saifullah. This junction is about 45km from Loralai and the condition of the road is good. We reached Loralai at about 6.30pm, a total of 894km from Karachi. The weather here was nice, with the temperature at 22 degrees and very little humidity. We began unpacking our vehicles as the glowing fiery red sun melted into the hazy air just above the horizon.

The newly constructed guesthouse at Loralai is to the left of the main road. While the weather outside was lovely, the rooms allocated to us were quite a different story. The doors and windows had been closed for a while, and the lack of ventilation had left them stuffy and smelling musty. Our efforts to let fresh air in were fruitless as we tried to open the windows and found that only a few were in working order. The whole building was poorly ventilated and the trapped heat would make it hard for us to sleep later.

The Commissioner of Loralai had invited us to his residence. After dinner was over, the men, accompanied by some of the boys, made their way into town in a small convoy. The Commissioner’s residence is an English building. A relic of the British Raj, it boasts sprawling green lawns and massive trees. The trees seemed to be hundreds of years old and must have surely been planted by the Englishmen who lived there since the late 19th century or thereabouts. The Commissioner’s driver also pleasantly informed us that the condition of the road to Dera Ghazi Khan and Dera Ismail Khan was very good and the newly constructed Indus highway was almost complete. This meant that our journey to Dera Ismail Khan would be less tiring than what we had initially expected.

The night at Loralai left a strange mark on all of us. The guesthouse had a very eerie, almost haunted, vibe to it. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the building had also trapped heat from the sun during the day, making the rooms unbearably hot. As Anika tossed and turned in bed, I remembered from the good old days when my father would tell us that if one laid down covered with wet sheets, the air from the fan passing through the sheets would provide a cooling effect. This was a welcome blessing and Anika slept soundly the rest of the night.

Day 2: Khuzdar to Quetta

25th June 2000: Khuzdar, Surab, Kalat, Mastung (Ruins of fort). Tiri, Lak pass, Quetta. Distance: 327 km Odometer: 126,488

Route: The main route north continues across wide plains with mountains rising up on either side. The rugged and barren landscape is interspersed by small settlements and patches of cultivated land traversing a wide plateau to reach the crossroads at Surab.

At Surab 70 kilometers from Kalat a road branches off to the west leading to Panjgur (320 kilometers) and on to Turbat (598 kilometers), a long, arduous journey on rough gravel tracks. The main town of Surab is a short distance down this road. There is a check post at the junction, some teashops and also a petrol station. From Surab the road climbs to a low pass and then descends through hills to a wide plateau, the main road continues north over a wide open plain, it crosses a low pass before arriving at the town of Kalat, 163 kilometers from Khuzdar.

Past Kalat the road travels through the Kad Khucha section of Mastung division. Orchards of apples, apricots, pomegranates and almonds surround the scattered settlement of Manguchar in Kalat division. The RCD Highway continues straight and passing through orchards and fields arrives at the small settlement of Mastung.

Heading north out of Mastung, the road climbs gradually over the wide plains and the Lak Pass comes into view to the left. At the bottom of the pass, the road to Taftan and the Iranian border forks off to the left. The road climbs steeply in hairpin bends to cross the pass and descends sharply to enter the Quetta plains. The Hazerganji National Park, 13 kilometers from Quetta, is to the left here. The road carries on straight to enter the Quetta suburbs.


By the time we had finished a good sumptuous breakfast, it was 11:30am and we were ready to leave the Bolan Mining guesthouse at Khuzdar. Imad took the CJ-7 to the mechanic early in the morning and had fuel system bled. Our earlier diagnosis had been correct – it had pulled in mass amounts of air.

The second day’s journey was about to commence. We found the Levvies escort, which had missed us yesterday, waiting for us at the guesthouse. We filled up at the Khuzdar Aziz petrol pump; it has become a routine now to visit this particular pump for filling up fuel whenever we are in Khuzdar. It was hot and dry outside, about forty degrees, while inside the ‘Cruiser it was a more bearable thirty with the air-conditioning running at full capacity, keeping us cool. The hills towards the right side of the road appeared hazy in the hot, dusty air. The shimmering heat haze coming off the landscape gave the admiring viewer a false impression of the hills quivering in the distance.

From Khuzdar to Surab there are barren mountains in the distance on both sides of the road, with little hillocks sprawled in between. Out in the dry thirty six degree air, one can also see numerous dust twisters. Also known as dust devils, these occur when hot air currents twist up towards the sky due to the difference in temperature, sucking dust from the surface. Dust devils can be several hundred feet tall and look like mini-tornadoes from a distance.

The highway up to Surab is excellent, flat and smooth tarmac. Sharp bends in the road here break the monotony as it climbs at a gradient of about ten to fifteen degrees for miles on end. The long uphill stretches in the unforgiving heat took their toll on our loaded up vehicles, causing our engines to heat up every now and then. Streams and irrigation ditches along the way provided ideal places to stop and cool down by pouring water on the radiator. An added bonus of this method is that the fan pulls water dripping off the radiator and sprays a fine mist on the engine block, further dissipating heat.

Our next stop occurred at Surab. A faulty radiator cap and lack of an overflow reservior on the white jeep kept causing boilovers and overheating. This time the radiator was almost bone dry with the needle on the temperature gauge stuck in the red zone. With Taimur and Hamid lagging behind, the extra time spent fetching bottle after bottle of water to refill the radiator and cool the engine down allowed them to catch up. They arrived as the boys finished refilling the water bottles, and we were back on the road once again.

We reached Kalat at 2:26pm, with the outside temperature at thirty-eight degrees. The road from here onwards was still under repair. Although the tarmac was still holding, it had now been reduced to a bumpy single track with too many diversions. Next we stopped at the plum and apple orchards in Mastung where we had stopped the year before on the trip to Quetta. The plums were ripe but the apples were still green. This was a nice place for some tea and roti kebab sandwiches. Susan stepped in a heap of cow dung while walking through the orchard. It was of the finest vintage, fresh and very wet. The stink, however, was quite another matter. She had to wash her feet and slippers before I could let her in the vehicle.

Susan wanted to drive for a while, and what an eventful drive it was. Ten kilometers down the road, past a few small villages, she was already going like a flash. She had adjusted well to the handling of the ‘Cruiser, which was fully loaded with luggage and clothes to last us five weeks and therefore handled differently than when unloaded as in city driving.

The intercity trucks and buses coming from Quetta are absolutely reckless. When approaching one from the opposite direction, one has to be prepared to drop the left side wheels off the road in order to cross them. The shoulders of the roads are in poor condition, peppered with huge potholes and tire slashing edges. Susan was managing very well though. About thirty kilometers short of the Lak Pass, we came upon an errant goat. I could sense that it was going to run across the road. Susan sensed it too and she slowed the Landcruiser down. The goat, however, ran across the road, then turned around and tried to run back the other way. The shepherd, meanwhile, had approached the right edge of the road. On seeing the goat trying to come back to him, he picked up a few stones and hurled them at the goat to scare it off to safety. By now the goat was double minded and it had no chance of turning back again as the Landcruiser bore down on it. Susan couldn’t slow down significantly as there was an impatient bus bearing down on our tail. There was hardly a bump as the 2600 Kg Landcruiser ran over the poor goat. I could see in the sideview mirror that it had been crushed, not even a flinch as it lay sprawled on the road. A little while later, the bus that was following us came up behind us flashing his headlights to get our attention. We let it drive alongside, and the driver yelled, “the goat!” He had picked up the carcass and wanted to give it to us. I yelled back , “you keep it, we are going on to Quetta!”

Just short of the Lak Pass I took over the helm of the ‘Cruiser. It climbed well as we negotiated the bends in second gear without any difficulty. I was confident that it would do well up in the mountains of the North where it would be put to the test. Taimur was filming us as we made the ascent. Meanwhile, the boys, as usual, made a quick getaway as we made our descent on the other side of the Pass.

With the mileage now showing 126784 km on the odometer, we finally reached Quetta at 6:10pm. Taimur stopped and obtained directions for our next stop and final destination for the day, the Lourdes Hotel.

The Lourdes hotel is apparently more than one hundred years old. The rooms have high ceilings typical of old buildings. Thankfully, the climate control is modern with airconditioning. The hotel boasts a picturesque garden. We ordered tea here and enjoyed the surroundings. It is a lovely place with green velvety grass and old pine trees that tower towards the stars all around, their lovely smell adding that special fragrance to the dry air.

We checked into room number 18, Hamid in room number 20 and Taimur in room number 21. The boys are on the other side of the hotel. Although the hotel does not allow guests to wash their clothes, it did not deter Susan from her favorite past time and the room and bathroom were both soon littered with wet clothes.

Dinner was at 9:30PM at the famous Chinese restaurant. However, the food turned out to be a complete disaster – the prawns were off, the rice was half cooked and the Pepsi was warm.

The evening discussions, which were mostly concerned with the route, were rather intense as half the party wanted to go via Zohb, while Hamid’s friend advised us that the Loralai route would be better. It was decided to attempt the Loralai route as it is supposed to be more picturesque and safer.

Day 1: Karachi to Khuzdar

24th June 2000: Karachi, Hub, Uthal, Bela, Sunaro (chrome mines), Khuzdar. (Largest settlement on the RCD Highway). Distance: 410 km, Odometer: 12610

Route: The route passes through the industrialized landscape of the SITE area, before leaving Karachi’s sprawling suburbs. Traveling north on the RCD highway the road crosses the Hub River, which marks the border between Sindh and Baluchistan. There is a checkpost at Thana Mocha here. The road then enters the Town of Hub and carries on straight through towards the Somiani beach and the town of Winder.

The road passes within a couple of kilometers of Siranda Lake. Further on, there is a fork in the road; turning west here leads to a dam on the lake. At the small village of Winder there is a bazaar with teashops and simple restaurants. Further on down the road lies the town of Uthal, 115 kilometers from Karachi.

North from Uthal the RCD Highway passes through terrain that alternates between wide expanses of plateau surrounded by mountains, and the rough, barren hills of the Pab Range. The road then carries on through the scattered settlement of Wad, followed soon after by Urnach, where there are a few basic restaurants, teashops and a petrol pump. At Sunaro, set in an open plain, there are extensive chrome mines. The next settlement is Kohan, consisting only of a few houses and a check post. From here the road follows the course of the Porali River, with scattered villages and isolated clumps of date palms along its banks, before eventually emerging onto the Khuzdar plain.


We sat at the dinning room table with the maps sprawled everywhere charting out the route we would take, it had to be different from the last time. The planning would take us six months to get the fine details right, such as the route, the various modifications to the vehicles and how they would be carried out, booking the hotels and arrangements for the accommodation at the rest houses, informing local officials about our arrival, etc etc.

The final preparations for the trip – packing, last minute shopping, fine-tuning of the 4×4s – all completed the night before, we were all set to move to Hamid’s house early in the morning. We were to assemble at his residence before embarking on the drive across Pakistan. This trip promised to be an exciting expedition.

We reached Hamid’s house at about 10:00 AM. Taimur was late in arriving – a leaking valve stem, which broke as he stepped on it whilst climbing down from the roof rack, had to replaced. The coordinates at Hamid’s house were north 24 49.008, east 067 03545 on the GPS unit.

Final departure time: 11:15 AM Karachi, The Landcruiser’s odometer reading: 12610 km.With an average of four persons per vehicle, our five 4×4s would start the journey at the Omar residence in Karachi and meet up with the rest of the contingent in Islamabad for the rest of the trip. The 4×4s were in the order of, Hamid Omar and his Ford Bronco, the white M38 Willy’s jeep piloted by Khalid Omar, Taimur Mirza and his own version of the Jeep Wrangler, totally self-designed and built at the factory, Imad and his brothers Yaseen and Salman in the latter’s CJ7, and my family and myself in the Landcruiser Prado. The Prado is equipped with all the gadgets and gizmos that you can think of. The latest Garmin III GPS unit, a VCD and CD player and a TV, temperature gauge for outside and inside readings, an altimeter, and adjustable shocks, which will be of help in dampening jounce on the rough terrain. Our vehicles were fully loaded with all sorts of equipment apart from the occupants’ luggage and suitably modified to endure the trying journey that lay ahead.

On the way out of the city, we had the vehicles weighed at the weighstation at the fork on the Shershah road heading towards Hub. The Landcruiser weighed in as the heaviest of the group at 3500kg. The next stop was at the Shell petrol pump on the Hub road. Tire pressures were checked and fuel was topped up. Myra video taped the proceedings as Sabiha rested her elbow on the Bronco’s fender and inhaled a deep puff of roasted Marlboro tobacco smoke, paused for a second and then, in great anticipation of exciting things to come, exhaled the smoke into the morning air.

We crossed the toll plaza into Hub at 12:30 PM. The cool seabreeze blowing from the south brought clouds – a welcome break from the oppressive heat. The clouds grew darker and occassional showers rained down upon us to provide instant relief from the summer heat. These showers would sorely be missed later in the afternoon at Uthal, where we stopped for tea.

By the time we rolled into Winder, at 1:25pm, the rain and clouds had gone and it was getting hot and sunny again with a gusty wind still blowing from the seafront towards the countryside. The visibility towards Kanrach was very poor and dusty; it looked like a dust storm was brewing up on the northern side of the road towards the hills. Taimur was in the lead, followed by myself then Imad, Khalid, and as usual, Hamid trailing behind in the rear. We looked for our police escort along the way but couldn’t find any sign of them. We would report to the levvies post on the way and maybe they could radio them to let them know that we had crossed the town of Hub.

As we approached Uthal, the freshly repaved highway announced its presence with a much improved ride. A note of acknowledgement to the Frontier Works Organization (FWO) here as they have done a tremendous job of repaving the road leading into Uthal and onwards. The roads are much wider now and the curbs vastly improved.

In Uthal, the Department of Wildlife Office would be the venue for our afternoon tea break. At about 2:10 PM in the sweltering heat of the afternoon, the vehicles pulled off the road one by one and lined up at the compound. KFC chicken, parathas, and sandwiches were the fare for the afternoon, finished off with tea. The news at the office was that DFO Iqbal had been transferred to Khuzdar.

Our next stop was the Coastguards checkpost on the outskirts of Uthal. All vehicles passing through this checkpost are checked for smuggling. As the Coastguards proceeded to check our vehicle documents, Taimur had a word with the officer in charge to expedite the process, and we were finally off again after a delay of a few minutes.

It would soon be time to fill up with diesel for the remaining drive to Khuzdar, so we stopped at the Bela petrol pump. This is our usual refueling point returning from camping trips into Balochistan. The Landcruiser took 36 litres in all. Fuel consumption for the driving conditions was quite satisfactory at 12 km per litre.

Outside Bela the terrain changes from a flat plateau to rough barren hills, through which the road cascades as it climbs and descends. The weather was pleasant, cool and overcast, and the drive was very picturesque. There are Pish bushes all around, which resemble ferns, with scattered trees on both sides of the road. It felt as if the road had been carved out through the many small valleys that surrounded us.

We were still about 100 km from Khuzdar when the first sign of vehicular trouble popped up. The brake pedal on Taimur’s jeep had gone lax. Being equipped with an automatic transmission, the jeep doesn’t have the braking effect of the engine like the rest of the manual transmission vehicles. Taimur would need every bit of the jeep’s remaining braking power on the steep climbs and descents of these hills.

At about 5:47pm and 70 km from Khuzdar, we stopped at a tube well pumping out clean and refreshingly cool water. The boys wasted no time in jumping into the holding tank, while the rest of us washed and freshened up. All empty bottles were filled up too. These would prove to be invaluable on long uphill stretches that taxed our engines to the max in the oppressive heat.

The brake drum on the left rear side of Taimur’s jeep was smoking when we made our next pit stop. A metallic grinding noise indicated something was definitely wrong with the brake, so we decided to disassemble it. The return spring on the brake shoe had come loose and the adjustment lever was rubbing on the drum making the metallic noise. The lever and the spring were fixed back into position and the brake started to function normally again. However, our troubles for the day were not over yet. It was about 7.30 PM by the time we were on the road again after fixing the brake. Only a few kilometers down the road, and Imad’s, jeep started to lose powerl. Air bubbles in the fuel line were making it impossible for the engine to stay running, and quite soon the vehicle refused to run at all. Despite our collective efforts, the bubbles persisted. The jeep would now need to be towed the next 50 km to Khuzdar. Khalid graciously obliged and we were underway again. The little white jeep showed off its superior power-to-weight ratio as it towed the heavy equipment and luggage laden CJ-7 up the hills at highway speeds without a problem. We finally reached Khuzdar at 9.30 pm, the staff of the Bolan Mining rest house l waiting for us. The jeeps were unpacked and an absolutely delicious dinner was served. The day came to a relaxing end as we sat on the terrace for a review of the day’s events and later played cricket with Sheheryar till late at night.


Traveling by road has always brought out the best in me. The hum of the engine, the rumbling noise of the tires, and the passing scenery have a calming effect on my being. Ever since I was young, traveling by car to far off places was the ultimate in adventure. We have been on numerous trips, some for a short duration of a week others for longer. Some offroading adventures others by road upcountry. This present trip had been meticulously planned with some like-minded friends. The driving experience across the country up to the Chinese border on the Khunjerab pass would take us through the wilderness of Balochistan and the lush green Punjab plains. Our bunch has extensive experience in traveling by road, so this long distance of approximately 3000 Km one way would be fun. It is said that the more knowledge you have of the area you are going to visit, the more you will enjoy the trip. So I picked up travel guides and articles, books and all the material I could lay my hands on to prepare myself for this adventure. The more I read about the history, culture and countryside, the more I found myself in awe of this land of mine. How ignorant are we that we do not realize how much this land has to offer, in terms of history, adventure, sightseeing, and above all, happiness?

Continue reading Foreword

Dalbandin to Quetta

With the Cherokee Karachi-bound on a truck, its occupants were accommodated in the remaining 4x4s for the rest of the journey, which sadly had to be cut short because of a sudden death in the family. The group would now return to Karachi via Quetta instead of the original longer route.

Noh Kundi to Mashkhel

The Hamoon-e-Mashkhel is a large expanse of desert located on the lower western border of Pakistan extending into Iran. We had been warned about the tough conditions and the need to be together all throughout the drive as one’s sense of direction in such situations can falter with disastrous results. Four people had lost their lives here recently and their remains were found within four to five kilometers of their vehicle. They had lost their way amongst the many tracks that lead nowhere in the desert. Eventually they ran out of fuel and in a desperate attempt to save their lives, they had tried to walk to the nearest habitation. There are also patches of quick sand in the desert and one has to be wary of these black holes. Staying on the tracks and not wandering off the main track was the advice given to us by the young Captain at the base.

Continue reading Noh Kundi to Mashkhel

Noh Kundi to Neza-e-Sultan

The young captain had made arrangements for us at the Amirchah post; he had been in touch with the post commander should we require any help on our way to the Neza-e- Sultan. The team of cooks was preparing for breakfast when the twenty seven of us descended upon them. They were not geared up to cater for such a large party at a time as Nok Kundi is a non-family station and the mess is for the few officers that stay there, yet they did a remarkable job of frying eggs and making omelets, ‘parathas’ and bread. We finished breakfast by eleven in the morning and gradually made our way in the direction of the hills where the pillar mountain was supposed to be located. The two guides with us were well aware of the terrain and were seated with Salman in his jeep who was leading the team today. We made our way through the town center and crossed the railway track that had been following us yesterday. A small railway station with a few bogies suggests that the track is seldom used these days. The track leading out of town is of loose gravel and bumpy, the washboard-like ruts on the surface make driving very tricky as the vehicle shudders violently at slow speeds and tends to wander at high speeds. There is a specific speed of about fifty or so kilometers per hour at which the vehicle will neither judder nor skip the road. Maintaining this constant speed requires skill while negotiating the bends. The lone track leads out towards the rocky desert, a land peppered with small dark colored rocks on a flat terrain, probably remains of volcanic eruptions of the past. There is no indication of direction here and soon one is lost in the vast desert expanse. However, the guides know their bearings well and after about driving twenty kilometers we were asked to turn right on a small dirt track which from the look of the surface appears to be seldom used.

Continue reading Noh Kundi to Neza-e-Sultan

Khuzdar to Kharan

We got up early in the morning for breakfast which was laid out at nine. The boys were very enthusiastic and helped pack up all the Jeeps, there was so much gear in every vehicle that it’s difficult to imagine how it all fits in there. One by one the jeeps moved out of the BNR rest house and gathered at the petrol pump on the main highway where all the buses stop enroute to Quetta. The spare jerry cans were also filled up as for the next few days only Irani diesel would be available which is inferior in quality and not good for the engine. For this reason we had to carry diesel additive which counters any deficit in the quality and keeps the injectors clean.

Continue reading Khuzdar to Kharan

Karachi to Khuzdar

I had the CJ-7 prepared for the trip. We had modified the suspension to handle the weight of the luggage on the trail – there were two shocks on each side in the rear to handle the extra load and dampen the movement as the vehicle plied the gravel roads. Stabilizing arms also braced the rear differential to check the kick from the sudden thrust of power when engaged in 4×4. The arms prevent the rear springs from distorting under power and keep the pinion end of the differential pointed in the right direction. Finally, the GPS was installed on the dash to monitor the route. The other Jeeps with us were Dr Rehman Baig’s recently refurbished M38, and Salman’s newly acquired M170 field ambulance (military version of the long wheelbase CJ-6) with plenty of space for luggage and tents. Taimur was in his heavily modified CJ-7, while Hamid brought his Cherokee. Khalid and Abid followed in the white M38 and Bronco respectively, while Ahmad drove his CJ-7.

Continue reading Karachi to Khuzdar


We at the 4×4 Offroaders Club of Karachi are an eclectic collection of friends and their families who love the outdoors and, of course, four wheeling. The Omars take the honour of having the most 4×4s. Hamid Omar, the head of the family, is a genuine inventor. His imaginative mind works best under stress, especially when the electronics of his Jeep Cherokee play up, and for some reason they only play up in the bush. He has been an avid outdoor enthusiast since his teens, whether tackling the Indus by boat or driving and camping up in the northern areas. Sabiha Omar, his wife, is always game for the trips, organizing the luggage and the gear. Having the T-shirts and caps printed and designing the luggage for the future expeditions, she has brought that exciting look to the club. Their three children Mahera, Khalid and Abid are all born outdoor kids, Mahera has a flair for the video camera, while Khalid prefers driving and tinkering around with his Jeep. Abid is always there for the really classy shots with his still camera. Altogether they own a Jeep Cherokee, a Ford Bronco II, a modified and many times rebuilt M38, and a Kia Grand Sportage. Hamid’s younger brother, Ahmad Omar, who owns a CJ-7, is also known for filling up his jeep with so much food related stuff that one could last out in the bush for weeks.

Continue reading Preparations

Yaseen Ali

Photo credit – Imran Khan Photography

Member Profile: Founder Member 4×4 Offroaders Club Karachi. The youngest of the Mir brothers is an outdoors addict, long distance driver ready to go anywhere at the drop of a hat, avid photographer, sometimes hunter, party animal, resident tikka barbeque-ist, and above all, a Jeep aficionado since infancy. “I like my life in the city because it makes me long for the outdoors. I enjoy creature comforts but working on my Jeep on a Saturday afternoon has its own pleasure.” Continue reading Yaseen Ali