The photo to the right above is Charna Island off the Karachi coast
There was a time when most of my day was spent riding motorcycle on Karachi streets. I had literally driven more than 40000 km in the first year I bought my motorcycle. After I had travelled all the metalled city roads, my friend Umar and I decided to go for an off-roading trip.
It was Christmas morning of 1991, when before dawn I took my motorcycle out and went to Umar’s place. The cold wave from Quetta valley had come to grip the city and it was extra cold that morning. The night before, a tree outside my bedroom window kept shrieking in the cold wind and I kept praying for the wind to stop so that we could go on our motorcyle safari in the morning.
Despite the cold weather, we made our way towards the beach on two motorcycles. I had a Yamaha 100 and Umar had a Honda HS100. Our plan was to take an unmetalled road North of Hawkes Bay and explore Hub River’s delta.
From Hawkes Bay a 40 km long single lane asphalt-cum-gravel road goes towards the Hub River delta. Few kilometers before the delta a sandy and marshy road branches off and goes to the actual Bay where sweet waters of Hub River meet the salty Arabian Sea and form a huge lake. It is arguably the best swimming spot in Karachi. Locally the place is called ‘Sunehra’ (Golden) beach. The ride to Sunehra beach is an adventure in a sense that there are no gas stations or puncture shops enroute. Any mishap can result in one being stranded in wilderness.
By 9 a.m we had reached the point on this gravel road from where the sandy road branches off to Sunehra beach. It was before the daily tide comes in the bay therefore water level in the bay was so low that it could be crossed on foot. We saw many boats marooned in the mud. The rise of tide here is spectacular during monsoon, when within few hours the water level at its deepest point may go up to 10 feet.
We took a walk along the beach and saw the breath taking view of the beautiful Charna island which lies few kilometers away in the Arabian Sea and right across the Hub rivers delta. ‘Charna’ is the largest among rocky islands around Karachi. ‘Oysters Rocks’ are the other well known rocky islands off Karachi coast. The photo to the left shows Charna Island in the distant from the beach. After visiting Sunehra beach, Umar and I decided to explore the road further to the south west. After few kilometers of travel the road ended in a village called Goth Alla-Bino. As we were driving through the village we saw a notice board on the road side reading:
yehaN hamari aurateN rehti haiN
ghair afraad ka daakhla mana hai.
Ba-hukm-e-Wadera, Goth Alla-Bino
(Our womenfolk live here. Outsiders are not allowed.
By the orders of village leader, Goth Alla-Bino)
The satellite image to the left shows Hub River delta and Goth Alla-Bino locations marked in blue and red arrow respectively. Charna island is visible in the top left enclosed within a red square. The coast line towards lower right are the Karachi beaches of Cape Monze.
On this trip, Umar and I were claded from head to toe in jeans and motorcycle helmets that looked like part of a space suit. Therefore there was no way we could’ve blended in this village as locals. As we were cruising on village dust roads, village children gathered around us. Some started clapping and shouting. As we drove forward, the dust road ended in a hut which turned out to be Goth Alla-Bino’s grand cafeteria. The owner came out and asked us whether we would like to park our motorcycles in a dedicated parking lot and take a gasht (local word for a tourist visit). When we said yes, he beckoned us to the village parking lot. It was a 20′ x 20′ lot with a fishing net used as its boundary wall. A donkey was already parked there. We parked our motorcycles in parallel to the donkey who lifted his face, looked at us and gave a muted little bray as if saying: mat cheRh malangaaN nooN(leave me alone, dude).
The cafeteria owner invited us in. The wooden doors at the entrance creaked open and in a semi lit room we saw three other locals sitting and staring right back at us. This could’ve been a scene right out of a Clint Eastwood’s westerner. Everyone started asking the cafe’ owner that why were we there and he had to pacify them by telling that we were just on a gasht (visit).
Beautiful Charna island was visible from this hut cafeteria. While we were enjoying the natural beauty, the cafe’ owner put two bowls full of tea in front of us. He also proudly announced that the milk used in the tea was from his own pet goats. That remark alone took away all the left over excitement we had for the tea. Anyways not to break his heart we drank those bowls of tea.
While we were enjoying the sight of Charna Island, a local Baloch started having conversation with us. He said that this area is famous for catching labashtar (lobster). After giving us an unwanted detail of a lobster’s aphrodisiac powers he told us that he sells it for Rupees 500 a piece at Karachi’s fish market. In 1991 it was a handsome amount of money for a lobster.
He told us that Charna island used to be much higher at its peak but over the years, Pakistan Navy has been using it for target practice and thus the height of the island has reduced to its present. He also told us that any little tremor at the little island is felt at the mainland too because in his own words donoN ka jaR to ek hai (both have the same roots). What he meant to say was that under the sea bed the island and mainland are connected together by the same rocky formation. I was very impressed by this geological explanation.
After spending some more time at Goth Alla-Bino we rode back to home and thus ended one of our best safari picnics. The return journey was eventless so it is not worth mentioning in detail. Both motorcycles however, proved their metal as we did lots of off-roading on this trip.
Photos from Asif Ahmed at flickr.com and pbase.com.