New Year’s Eve took me to the unconventional destination of Gorakh, a Hill Station in Sindh. Known as the ‘Murree of Sindh,’ Gorakh is situated at considerable elevation in the Kirthar Mountains, 94 kilometres northwest of Dadu city.
I was one of hundreds of people traveling from Karachi and Hyderabad to attend the Gorakh Rung Festival that took place at the Hill Station between December 28 and December 31. We’re not used to extreme cold in Karachi and my primary concern was keeping myself warm during the trip; I had heard and had been warned about sub-zero temperatures in winter. Equipped with enough woollies to last me the trip, I felt I was finally prepared to deal with the chilly weather that apparently dropped to -2°C at 5am in the morning.
We left Karachi at midnight on December 28 and with a total of two stops – one at a hotel for chai and the other at Sehwan for early morning breakfast – we reached Dadu around 9 in the morning. From there on, we were shifted to jeeps for a 2-hour-long route that had uneven roads but it exposed us to some breathtakingly beautiful sights surrounding the place.
Camping, hiking, sunset
Upon reaching Gorakh at 12 noon, we were thrilled to see colourful camps all around and were excited to explore the place. Once allotted the camp, we (my friend and I) put our bags inside, went to freshen up and then rested a bit before heading out for lunch. The food was not as good as we expected; we were looking forward to a piping hot desi menu (karahi, barbeque, naan), preferably some local delicacies, but had to make do with a sad version of biryani.
Excited to experience sunset at this height, we hiked further up around 5pm to witness the beauty. It required a lot of effort, energy and will power and we were out of breath by the time we reached the top but it was all worth it. The sun setting right in front of us is something I will remember for long.
Musical night and bonfire
As the festival commenced, we spotted a few food and games stalls set up to keep everyone busy. We treated ourselves to tea, French fries and nuggets, mainly to combat the cold that we were trying to handle as we headed to the stage. Multiple performances by musicians, comedians and other artists were lined up for the night, with a major focus on promoting the culture of Sindh. Some of the artists who took centre stage included Ahsan Bari of Sounds of Kolachi, Zil the band, Zeeshan Ali (Nescafe Basement), Nafs and Akhtar Chanal Zahri, who energized the crowd with his powerful vocals.
Live music and cultural acts made the chilly, winter night even more colourful. As the temperature kept dropping, we hustled around a bonfire to stay alive. It was indeed a soothing experience and a much needed one. With plans to witness sunrise, we went back to our camps, enjoyed some stargazing that left us in awe and slept for a while. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the strength – it was too cold (-2°C) and dark – at 4:45 am to hike up again for sunrise so we dreamt of it instead.
We left Gorakh early the next morning and followed the same route back. Close to Dadu, we found a small bakery that turned out to be a very useful spot to recharge phones, cameras and stock up on tea and biscuits, which were so good that we got some more to take back home.
On way our back, we had onboard some aspiring musicians who made our bus journey more interesting with their soulful singing. Despite being exhausted, we sang along and enjoyed the bus ride. The journey came to an end on Sunday evening (December 30), a day prior to New Year.
Most of us living in Karachi long for winter and hold onto every drift of the Quetta wave that brings some chills with it. It was good to know that winter isn’t necessarily so far away and one could experience it at a relatively undiscovered place like Gorakh. Lofty peaks, cold weather, camping, hiking, bonfire and the musical night were key attractions at the event that hosted around 2000 people that night. The trip was facilitated by Royal Tourism Pakistan. It was a fun, memorable and worthwhile trip.