Those of us who work 9 to endless whatever need a healthy break every few months to keep their sanity intact. The thought of visiting Quetta and Ziarat seemed like a good idea.
If you are living in Karachi, you would acknowledge that the highway roads are a delight to travel. We don’t even have one smooth road at our disposition, even if the roads get fixed, they are bound to get bumpy in no time at all.
After a few hours of travelling, about 12 to be precise the next morning we had finally arrived at Gardenia Resort Hotel in the cold city, Quetta, although very warm in its hospitality. The hotel facade itself appeared very welcoming. The hotel served us with a very appetizing breakfast comprising of round and delicious parathas, omelette, and chickpea gravy. Even though I am not a tea consumer but got to know from those around that it was exceptional, something Quetta is quite renowned for.
Gardenia’s service turned out to be very decent, from their proper heating, warm running water, good food, and rooms with a good view. After settling down and resting for a few hours, we headed towards Hanna Lake and Orak Valley.
The lake looks beautiful in pictures because of the presence of water, unfortunately when we went, it was completely dry. However, the element of serenity and calmness surrounding it was almost surreal. See for yourself in the picture(s)! There was a small shop around Hanna Lake and the owner was inviting everyone in for a free kahwah as a goodwill gesture since he considered us guests. The hospitality of Quetta is just wonderful.
Hanna Lake is a water reservoir which is a little more than 10 km towards the East side of Quetta is perhaps another example of immense neglect. This was built in the British colonial era in 1894 along with a wall between two mountains. The purpose of the water filled ecological land was to collect water from snow that came melting from mountain tops and another was to divert water from Murdar and Zarghoon mountain streams. One can imagine the level of ecological destruction as a result of the lake completely drying up.
After spending a good time among the Earth’s ochre and umber, and the sun’s sprinkling gold, we headed off towards the Orak Valley which turned out to be a combination of dried foliage and small rural spots. The sunset was indeed beautiful with warm setting streaks amidst the coolness around.
Tip of the day: There are some renowned places that serve traditional food comprising of lamb and even chicken cooked in lamb fat which some people fall for, however if you don’t like lamb like me, it’s best to avoid it, you won’t like the smell to begin with. You should eat less and drink less anyway while travelling thanks to the tourism neglect at the government level. Trust me, drinking less it recommended, considering the lack of proper public bathrooms on the way, our government seems to pay zero heed to such basic needs even though domestic tourism is surging in Pakistan. We all love travelling don’t we? And you have to be flexible considering the inevitable downside, just have the traveller’s spirit that would keep you going.
The same night we went to visit the city centre. This was not part of the travel itinerary and the tour operators were open to suggestions which were the best part about them so we deviated slightly from our plan … and went shopping! We got to know about Liaquat Bazaar from some locals and went to literally hunt dry fruits thinking they would be more cost effective than in Karachi. There we flocked into a nice and presentable dry fruit shop which was indeed an eye candy but it was limited to that attraction only since the prices were quite high. A kind policeman outside realized we are tourist and came to rescue our pockets; he suggested that we commute for a few minutes and explore the dry fruit street a couple of meters away.
As excited as we were, and to the dismay of that shop, even those of us who had packs in hand, ready to be purchased, left them as they were and marched towards that God sent street. What a blessing! It was indeed a funny moment and a depiction of how one can instantly lose customers who are constantly looking for value for money. We all ended up buying a handful of dry fruits from that street we had discovered.
The following morning we were to witness the astounding beauty of a few other spots as we embarked upon the journey to Ziarat, the calm abode of the father of our nation. The route from Quetta to Ziarat takes about 2.5 to 3 hours and I once again found comfort in that van seat, snapping pictures on the way.
Tourism is an opportunity the government should definitely explore by investing for once in this sector, especially in the neglected province, Balochistan but everything seems in vain other than the natural beauty that stubbornly prevails despite us trying our very best to destroy it.
One extremely unfortunate recurrence that we observed was the pollution and trash left behind by people, us careless humans! There was so much of plastic (bottles, plastic bags, and wrappers) even at remote spots where human beings were not visible that it had become pretty evident that we are capable of massive destruction, climate change is happening and is sponsored by all of us. We are doing our best to destroy this planet and have maintained a good success rate, something we are good at.
We were very eager to visit the Quaid-e-Azam Residency and ended up being part of a very happening and festive place since it was just a day left for Jinnah’s birthday and celebrations were being planned on account of that very blessed day. Among everything else, the security was very prudent and we were allowed inside the house itself upon request. We ended up using our coming-all-the-way-from-Karachi-card, quite an appeal to emotion. No bags or cameras were allowed, instead phone cameras were acceptable.
After several narcissistic selfies and quick pictures inside the residency, we left … well it was like we were Cinderella’s about-to-return-to-the-original-state pumpkins that were extremely time bound, this had to be done to restrict movement inside the well preserved place and it had been crowded within seconds. There were people guarding the house religiously to upkeep the neatness and preservation as if it was their own house, one of them was moping the floor with what smelled like turpentine oil and ridding it of the last few remaining stains. I hope that prevails among all the sincerity there was.
Point Zero was our last visiting spot and it indeed felt like zero.
On the way back to the motel, we decided to get off a little distance away and walk and feel normal. There was a small dhaba that we went to for tea and naan refreshments. It felt and appeared very welcoming and the place seemed very amiable.
The night sky of Ziarat was breathtakingly enthralling and had countless stars, thanks to minimal air pollution. I regretted not taking my tripod for astrophotography as it’s an essential gadget to have to shoot a starry night, I could have even given it a try without it, at least I could have tried but I didn’t as I immersed myself in the beautiful moment and soaked my soul in the cold night (to be honest all my body fluids were freezing so there was no possibility of experimenting). It was minus 2 at night and it was well … freezing us from bone to blood. And that was what made us enjoy till the end.