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.
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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.
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.
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 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.
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.
One of the cars broke down in the Mashkell desert, so we towed it all the way to Dalbandin. Here, we put it on a truck and sent it back to Karachi.
We procedded from Quetta to Karachi with a stop over at Khuzdar for the night.