Travel & Leisure: Out and About: Pakistan’s Outback The Thar & Parkar

A little over a couple of weeks ago we took you to the much inviting and ­rich seas of Karachi stretching further West to the dreamy fish filled waters of Dubai.

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With this read let us take you to venture out under the same open skies but instead of the waves of the sea, on the grains of sand of the desert, trail-blazing our way through the dunes set in ancient realms to the times of today, at the resource rich lands of the Thar & Parkar.

There are no two choices as to the mode of transportation. What alone will take you through this mystical laid back desert is a sturdy four wheeler capable enough of treading it through dunes fared soft by camel trod. This tends to make the sand soft and therefore more difficult to drive through. All the more fun. It is almost impossible to take the vehicle back out if once it has been stuck in the sand, without the help of another. And that is only to begin with. Care and expertise are the main things to keep in mind when travelling through these mystical deserts of the Thar & Parkar. The very same desert in the Summer season scorches any and everything under the merciless sun and in the Spring season transforms into a lush tall-grassed region which remotely resembles its earlier season’s form . Therefore, you may also choose well, the time of the year when you want to visit these deserts. Let us begin with the challenge ridden travel of the Summer. Anyhow, most of the land is going to bloom during the Springtime.

Lying on the Eastern borders of the Province of Sindh, Pakistan, the Thar & Parkar may be accessed from either the towns of Sajawal, where there is now a paved road to proceed in the belly of the desert. The other route is from Nawabshah, which takes one directly to the dunes past the paddy fields and the small nomad native tribes. These tribes move with the provision of water and food. This route is far more challenging and shall require some serious 4×4 power and trailing expertise as we stated earlier.

If you move on from the Sajawal side that was charted back in the 18th Century, you are welcomed by the vast expanse of arid desert land. But don’t be too sure of yourself. If you tread way off the course and far then be very careful of the quicksand stretches just around the famous Nadesar and Bodesar waterholes and in the environs of Nagarparkar (waterhole is a place in the desert-land where animals and birds alike gather to drink water and find respite after they have been filled by the rains of the season, the native tribes frequent it as well for the same reasons). Although, as much as it is now developed, for the thrill of it you may want to go beyond the waterholes further towards the 18th Century travel establishment of the British guest house (commonly known as the daak bangalow) that now lies in ruins and rumoured to be haunted. The guest house has its own story or shall we say stories. This is where the desert rocks are to be found. The mountainous region of the deserts. Almost to the Eastern border now you turn towards North – East and your drive is parallel to the border of India’s province of Rajasthan. The area is somewhat developed and you will come across a lot of hunting, animal watching, and /or just driving and living in the very vast desert, rich in the red granite and birds of the most unique sort. Though, these thrills are always better if you are near the waterholes towards the forest/shrub side of the deserts.

Let’s now see what lies when we enter from the Nawabshah side of the desert. The first village after crossing Nawabshah is Deh Akro which is also a Wildlife Sanctuary. From here on you will cross through the desert and those challenging dunes we talked about earlier. This is dry country we have entered. There are much more surprises ahead but as for now the main challenge is to cross the first set of dunes and to reach over to witness and capture those moments on camera, if at all care was taken to bring one along to make this journey an epic one.

For getting across the dunes you need to drive in a ‘zigzagging’ fashion in the low gears of your vehicle avoiding any puffy sand dips that you may see on your way (this is called trailblazing where the driving is done on the lines of the dunes formed by the wind). Once over and past the dunes we are suddenly on the road that comes from the other route we stated earlier . A few more miles will take us to the deep set Wildlife Sanctuary of main Deh Akro. Welcome to another world within the desert of the Thar & Parkar. Beautiful, serene, untouched lakes with luscious and colourful surroundings suddenly change the entire feel of the journey, not to mention, the temperature as well . Ironically, there are no guest houses in this area. Though you may still see quite a few guard posts from days of past. You are solely dependent on your vehicles. Rather not stay overnight in the open, near the lakes. Crocodiles of a rare breed inhabit the serene waters of these lakes. It may also be said here that just venturing for the lakes for a dip is highly inadvisable unless you want to become the lunch of a mother croc. This is because the female crocs are protecting their freshly hatched. But as the season passes, the crocs take to the deep water and the other side of the lakes in most cases. It is not surprising that once beyond the sanctuary and the lakes we once again come across the arid land and then the desert itself. In a nutshell, either route you take will lead you to similar looking places. All you need to do is to have navigated properly. 

As for the food and supplies there are stops where the same can be found but not in any extravagance. It is simple, made by the locals and should do fine unless you take your own edibles and supplies to last you the entire trip. It is better if there are more than one vehicle that you’re travelling in. Due to the ruggedness of the (let’s call it Pakistan’s Outback) region’s climate and the extremes it  goes to during the days and nights, one’s preparedness is a must. Rest assured if you have prepared well and have charted a good plan to travel through the region the trip will be a memorable one. Be sure to save all the memories in your camera for later enjoyment. Bon Voyage!

*Courtesy pictures for their respective photographers

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