Imagine your normal day. You wake up, reach for your phone and it begins, the data stream, you plug in and suddenly you are surrounded by your friends and co workers virtually that is. Your work and fun intermingles as you plant crops in farmville and negotiate deals in the other window. Its all digital, its all real-time and its happening constantly, so much so that sometimes at the end of the usual digital day you are walking around with a hangover and a headache from all the info you have taken in. Now imagine a total disconnect! The removal of this digital umbilical cord and a headlong dive into what is natural, because that is what this scribe just did a few days ago, switched off and headed into the wild.
Let me explain before someone thinks I went to some expensive vacation on one of them clichÃ© hotspots with 5 star resorts and masseuses with rose petals at every corner! No sir I mean real wild like as in the mountainous terrain of Baluchistan. The Sorh area specifically which I went to on a 3 day two night camping trip to with the Ã–ffroad Pakistanâ€group, whom I was introduced to by a co blogger Dr Awab. He had been threatening, cajoling and convincing me for the last 4 months or so to take one of these sojourns and this time I reluctantly agreed. reluctantly because no signal can penetrate those mountains, and it is very very hard for a geek to give up his gprs, no matter how weird that sounds.
So there I was on a cold friday morning sitting with my duffel bag and my sleeping kit packed and ready to go into the unknown.Â We started out at around 8am with a caravan of 13-14 vehicles, jeeps off every size and model basically and went through the new link road to the highway and towards hub dam. About an hour into the drive after stops for refuelling and lunch is when it all began. The caravan went off the beaten path and straight right, up the mountains, where through 5 and a half hours of bone jolting terrain, lakes, rivers, and every kind of stone eroded by wind you could imagine we arrived in the sorh area.Â The Sorh area is basically mountainous terrain full of minerals as well as small villages with only the basic of facilities. However we were lucky enough to have the owner of the lands we were travelling on with us, a Mr Zulfiqar who was kind enough to give us a place to rest our heads for the night at his seriously well appointed farm. I for one could have literally bowed to him as by now as every bone and whatever I had in my self had been thrown about to the extent of total disorientation in the ride to this point. Quite frankly I never imagined myself off roading up 60 degree inclines and watching people drive, get stuck and pull jeeps out of so many nooks and crannys and this was precisely why the mind was reeling. In any case the indoor plumbing and campfire was welcome respite for the night as we settled down and unpacked.
The adventure was not at all over for the night though as after dinner we loaded up in about 6 open jeeps and equipped with flashlights went deer spotting. Now let me tell you at this point dear readers that I have had the opportunity to go on many wildlife safaris on my travels but driving at breakneck speeds over anything the deer could run and jump over is a whole different experience. Not to mention that the experience was trebled by the fact that the person driving was high on not just the beauty of the land. So we screamed through trees like the blair witch project and finally came to a spot where thankfully we turned off our engines to gaze at the night sky, which the likes of I at least have never seen as there was 0 pollution and we could literally see millions of stars shining down on us. Looking at that sort of a sky makes one feel small, insignificant literally, like a speck of dust in this great cosmos, very humbling indeed.
After the return to camp and much needed rest I got up at about 730am to the roar of a co offroader who was walking around poking at sleeping bags and loudly proclaiming the coming of sunlight. It is at this precise moment that I met the man known only as Khan sahab. A local Indiana jones type and an intrepid hunter for over 45 years who had up till now been biding his time in one of the jeeps quietly. His loud proclamations echoed around the temporary camps we had set up because he was pissed to be near all the plumbing and bedding and wanted to get a move on into the mountains. Over a cup of hot piping tea which he thrust into my grasp, I spent an hour with him that morning being regaled by stories of his adventures in this beautiful land of ours, dotted with more than a few choice expletives off course as Khan sahab without his colorful language would be like a hunter without his gun which was licensed way back in 1964!
So afterÂ the required jostling we set off on the road again for our mountain camping site.Â After about 7 hours of more off roading (including a few peaks we went across) and my resignation to the backseat for some more sleep (the jeep felt like a ship going up and down) we reached the campsite deep into the mountains, off course on another steep incline up from an alligator (wahgu in local language) infested pond which we all took a bath in (yes we were that desperate)
Having set up our respective tents (which was surprisingly easy) we all gathered around different camp fires to talk, gossip, drink Sabiha Aunties fantastic soup and listen to roars of laughter coming from the Khan sahab, Taimur mirza, Saleem Khan area where the ageless wonder got a whole goat cut and went at it like a proper butcher to end up with a steaming pot of the most delicious mutton qorma and pilaw I have had in my life (no exaggeration here)
Suffice to say after that kind of food and company, the eyes started closing and most of us trundled off to different corners in the now almost zero temps to sleep. I however had the distinct pleasure of the company of Doc Awab, Nabil (blackhawk) and Rehan (an ent like sage) till about 3am after which I settled down in my own tent with a torch upright to write what you are reading on paper, which lasted an hour before I crashed.
So what is it like to sit under an open starry sky? Or to eat a goat cooked by hand and roti on stones heated from the fire, or to sing with the tree spirits inside you till the wee hours of the morning and to listen to Taimur Mirza and Khan sahab pay ode to hunting and offroading with phrases like â€œsahab jidhar dekho teetar theâ€ Well I guess you have to go there with this bunch to experience it, this scribes words fail him too sometimes.
The end of the expedition to this geek though was the worst as on the way back as soon as the city of Karachi came close, the before mentioned data stream re entered my life. Where it used to bring comfort it seems to be only annoying now as when I sleep I see that starry sky and smell the fresh air of those mountains, the city seems like a cage to me a big concrete and steel cage designed to keep the human spirit fettered in its guiles and wares, a stark contrast from the beauty & the solitude one has left behind, where hawks dare tread and only off roaders roam!!
As published in “The Friday Times” on 29th Jan 2010