I have often heard people talk of the “call of the wild”. A feeling so unique one has to actually be there to experience it. Till I took this off road adventure though these phrases seemed like hogwash to me. Still it troubles me that most of Pakistan cannot ever see what I have in the last 2 days. Problem being that its not easy for anyone to get to these places for off roading. Its not the distance I am talking off when I quote inaccessibility here but the fact that most of this land “belongs” to someone else, meaning its private property so unless you are as fortunate as “The off Road Pakistan” group which includes Zulfiqar with his own immense stretch of mountains, streams, desert and terrain you are nowhere. Who knows though, there may still be unclaimed mountains lying out there for the adventurous whom I urge to tally forth and claim!!
I was invited to this adventure by my co conspirator on LBS Dr Awab Alvi, who is an avid off roader himself. So there I was on a Friday (very early morning) with my duffel bag and sleeping kit packed and sitting in his stickered vigo, stickered to save it from scratches. Even at this point I was scratching my head as to what the fuss was all about, but as soon as we went off the beaten path about an hour or so into our journey it began.
We started out with a dirt road which soon turned into a mountain trail, wide enough only for the width of a jeep with mountains broken by nothing but wind erosion in every direction and dust blowing up with every turn of the tires. At one point we came to an area immediately following the hub dam where 3 jeeps got badly stuck, one in the sand and two inside a very muddy pond. However the “Offroad Pakistan” group is well equipped enough to handle all sorts of mechanical and terrain difficulties as it carries winches, toe straps and mechanics on board (heck most of its members are extreme mechanics themselves) thus we muddled on and on. By nightfall and several stops later which serve the purpose of loo breaks as well as fuel and food re fillers our caravan had arrived at the previously mentioned off roaders farm. The facilities at the farm were to say the least brilliant, as it is a serving hunting lodge for Arabs and other people who want to chase game in the Sorh area. I personally cannot thank him enough as it gave an amateur a little civilized break from our further adventures. However there was at least one member of the group “Khan Sahab” who was adamant at us being wishy washies and opting to stay near indoor plumbing rather than do what we came here to do.
Khan sahab is a person who has been hunting for about 45 odd years and at the prime age of 70 + is what we call a local Indiana Jones type. His views and stories are not only a delight (lined with choice expletives) but would require an entire article to themselves to do justice hence more on this later in the Friday times version.
The night spent at this farm was not without action either as after we had settled down we loaded up in jeeps and went off in the night for some “deer spotting”. A wildlife safari in the dark with floodlights which I can best describe as “terrifying”, what with Faraz driving the open jeep I sat in at breakneck speed through the dirt tracks, and the wind hitting my face along with showers of sand and dust . A small part of this whole night though was indeed beautiful as we all stopped at one point, turned off the music and engines and looked up to see a canopy of millions of stars in the black void of the sky shining down on us through zero pollution. I can safely say I have never ever seen a sky like this..
The second day we awoke to cold weather and much jostling to set off on the road again for our mountain camping site. The highlight of the morning to me was Khan sahab roaring at people near the breakfast cooking area to “get your english muffin type breakfast away B.C as I cook some puris and parathas” which he most certainly did to everyone’s joy. After about 7 hours of more off roading (including a few peaks we went across) and my resignation to the backseat for some sleep (the vigo felt like a ship going up and down) we reached the campsite deep into the Sorh area, off course on another steep incline up from an alligator 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) After which on the insistence of the crowd we did the Laidback show by the campfire and got to hear many more stories of which my particular favorite was the “uncensored gamsoth one”
Suffice to say after that kind of food and company, not to mentioning Faraz’s helping spirits 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, 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 on paper, the last chapter of my now almost finished book 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 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 “sahab jidhar dekho teetar the” Well I guess you have to go there with this bunch to experience it, this scribes words fail him too sometimes.
The worst part though of the whole expedition is the moment your cell phone signal comes online and the data stream of endless proportions re enters your life. Twitter, blogs, fbook, emails, smses all lined up for your perusal…a constant reminder of the beauty & the solitude you have left behind, where hawks dare tread and only off roaders roam!!