Boundlessly beautiful and magical, Gorakh is much more than just the ‘Murree of Sindh’
Despite travelling during the winters being a rarity in Pakistan, Gorakh, a hill station near the city of Dadu, has emerged as a popular destination to travel to during the cold season. Perhaps the most exciting factor about Gorakh is that the temperature is always close to zero degrees. Even in the summer, when the temperature in the nearest city of Dadu is touching 50 degrees, Gorakh is chilly, with a temperature of about three to four degrees at night.
As Gorakh had unexpectedly received a small amount of snowfall back in 2014, we decided to visit it earlier in January, expecting to catch a brink of snowfall by coincidence.
Our journey started early on a Saturday morning, as the distance from Karachi to Gorakh is around 400 kilometres. While a part of the distance can be covered in a car, one has to take a Potohar jeep from Wahi Pandhi, a small town on the edge of the Gorakh mountain range. We wanted to reach Wahi Pandhi by noon so we could reach Gorakh around 3:00pm, and after setting up camp and eating lunch, could get started on our way to Benazir Point.
There are two routes going to Wahi Pandhi directly from Karachi, and the nearest route is through the N55 highway where you can bypass Dadu and directly reach Sehwan from Jamshoro. The only problem, however, is that for around 150 kilometres, there is not a single gas station on the way, and you have to run your car on petrol throughout.
After we crossed Jamshoro, we were surrounded by lush green fields throughout our journey to Johi. For someone who was crossing Sindh like this for the first time, I was amazed at how green some parts are, with farmers growing mustard during the winters.
Once we got on the N55 highway, we discovered that there is only a single track for a two-way traffic. Though the speed limit is 120 kilometres per hour, we could rarely get to that speed at all, given the regular overtaking of vehicles and huge trolleys that cruise at turtle’s pace. Accidents are a norm on this route, so drivers should proceed with caution here.
The road to Johi begins after Sehwan, a small road that proceeds from within villages. The torment of unpainted speed breakers is continuous during this drive. At times, due to the narrowness of the road, tractor trolleys coming from the other side took up the entire space, thus we had to off-road in order to make way. We cruised at around 60-80 kilometres per hour throughout our journey from Sehwan to Bhan and then to Johi, a small town. According to our GPS, the road to Wahi Pandhi passed from the main city centre, which is a crowded area because of its small shops and immobile carts; quite similar to Joria Bazar of Karachi, but without the brick pavement.
Wahi Pandhi is only a 30-kilometre drive from Johi on an even narrower dirt road, and after reaching the town, it isn’t hard to find the local Potohar station, as we easily found several drivers willing to take us to the top of Gorakh. During the week, the Wahi Pandhi Potohar station is deserted, but on weekends, it is as crowded as a desi wedding. We were told that we can park our cars at the station for Rs100 and hire a jeep to reach Gorakh. The drivers usually charge Rs5,000 for the journey, but if you talk nicely and tell them that you are a student, they will bring the price down to Rs4,000. However, they do charge extra if you want to go to nearby places, such as Ganj Nadi and Chashma.
The road after Wahi Pandhi is quite elevated, and we found ourselves constantly moving at what felt like a 45-degree angle. The actual distance from Wahi Pandhi to Benazir Point (at Gorakh) is around 50 kilometres, but the journey is more than a three-hour ride, and that too provided that there are no hurdles on the road. These roads were built in 2004, and since then, the Dadu administration has done nothing to fix them.
Given the length of the journey, we stopped to freshen up at a local motel midway, and though the view is ravishing, this is the only place one can stop at during this incredibly long journey. As we travelled a bit further, we could see the restaurant we were heading towards as a tiny dot on the map, revealing that we were in fact only an hour away from Gorakh Hill Station.
During this part of the journey, once the hilly terrain started, we did not receive any signals for mobile networks. They weren’t available even when we reached the top of Gorakh hill, and were only available once we reached Benazir Point, where the government has installed a directional signal booster targeted towards the Balochistan area. The locals here have smartphones and are constantly connected to the internet, watching videos on YouTube and sharing lively movements on Facebook. In fact, we were surprised when our driver told us that he operates a Facebook page called ‘Gorakh Hill Station’.
After reaching the station, we found numerous huts surrounding a single restaurant, known as the Gorakh Hill Station Restaurant. One can easily camp in the parking area of this restaurant, especially if you have brought the required materials along with you. If not, beds, blankets and such can be borrowed from the restaurant administration by paying Rs500. The meals were quite pricy here, but given that we were in the middle of nowhere, the price hike felt logical.
After grabbing a quick lunch, we moved towards Benazir Point in order to enjoy a glorious sunset.
Benazir Point is roughly a two-kilometre walk from the hill station – a small pathway along the edges of the Gorakh cliff, with Balochistan on one side and Sindh on the other. From here, you can easily observe the boundless beauty and the profound depth of the Kirthar mountain range. The amazing thing about this place is that tourists can see the sun rise from the mountain ranges in Sindh and see it set behind the hills of Balochistan, all from 5,000 feet above the ground, surrounded by clouds.
If you have good company – which luckily, I did – or are one to enjoy a night gazing at the stars, spending a night here is simply ethereal. From the top of Benazir Point, you can even spot the Milky Way, but it isn’t very clear as the surrounding area is quite lit up, ironically due to tourism. Nonetheless, this is a great place to witness how magical the night sky can be.
Temperature wise, however, the nights are harsh and can easily go below zero degrees. Make sure to bring thermal clothes along with you while visiting Gorakh, or there is always the danger of freezing, especially if one isn’t used to such temperatures.
This point has a 500-metre long path constructed on the edges of the hill. At the end of this walkway is a sitting place, much farther from the resorts and huts. Staying here for the night, I could practically hear the voices of the mountains, and understood the actual meaning behind the phrase “deafening silence”.
Coincidentally, this place is also the go-to spot for viewing the sunrise.
Waking up early to witness the sunrise becomes an exciting possibility in such a magical location. Even before the sun rises, the twilight is as clear as a mirror, and is unlike anything that you can witness here in Karachi among the polluted, busy atmosphere.
Apart from watching the sun, it is also astounding to witness the mountains changing shades with the advent of the sunlight, almost as if playing with it. The view is beyond impressive.
Our total expenditure for this trip came to around Rs2,500 for four people, given that most of the journey was in our own car. Not only was this journey economical, the area was completely pollution free, the view majestic, and the sky cloudless, making this a great place to spend the night and even start a bonfire.
What came as a surprise was that, despite being a long and tiring journey, this was a completely rejuvenating experience for us. For anyone from Karachi who is looking for a beautiful view that accompanies a chilly adventure, Gorakh is one place to mark on your map.
All photos: Sharjeel Ashraf
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.