By Madeeha Syed | Photography: Sohaib Roomi
Curiosity can be a powerful driving force; the need to constantly seek and discover. The one thing that travel does is keep your senses sharpened — you are constantly exposed to new stimuli. With every step, you are seeing, breathing and experiencing something new. And with every journey, you grow. No wonder then that some find travel to be highly addictive.
“I’m not afraid,” says photographer Sohaib Roomi talking about his proclivity to simply get behind the wheel and let the road guide him to newer adventures. “I just don’t feel any fear when I go anywhere,” he adds.
It was on a visit to a site that he and a group of like-minded individuals (together they call themselves khanabadosh or gypsies), ‘discovered’ Moola Chotook sometime in March last year. Photos of green waters among scalding hot rocks of Khuzdar, in Balochistan, appeared on all the major travel groups in Pakistan resulting in one unfortunate, but unpreventable, consequence: Moola Chotook became one of the ‘must-visit’ places on this side of the country. As the weather cooled, ‘independent’ tour operators offered trips and this ‘secret’ place no longer remained a secret. On his last visit there, Sohaib noticed all the litter that the tourists had left behind — an unfortunate consequence to the rising tourism industry in Pakistan.
Nestled in the dry, rocky and barren terrain of southern Balochistan is a stunning oasis
It is not easy to get there. The drive from Karachi to Khuzdar takes five hours. Going a little further and you come across an off-road track which is so rocky that no car can be driven on it. The only option is to switch to a 4×4. “The Jhal Magsi racing track goes through the Moola River,” relates Sohaib. It takes another 35-40km to finally reach Moola Chotook.
“It took us six hours of off-road driving to get there,” says Sohaib, “You have to cross the river, rocks and climb small hills. At times your vehicle will be climbing angled at 45 degrees.”
However, if he thought Moola Chotook was beautiful, he was in for a surprise. A local man who often acted as Sohaib’s guide told him of a place that was far more magnificent. “You have to see this place,” the man said about Chhota Chotook.
“It is two hours from Moola,” relates Sohaib. “There is a route to get there that the locals know of. We didn’t know we had to climb. We were in our slippers but they made us climb these massive rocks and boulders.”
“At first it seems like there is nothing there,” he continues. “You don’t see anything. Then you climb for about 20 minutes and turn and suddenly you see the first pool and such greenery, and a waterfall. We weren’t expecting anything like that at all. It was like a hidden oasis.”
“At first it seems like there is nothing there. You don’t see anything. Then you climb for about 20 minutes and turn and suddenly you see the first pool and such greenery, and a waterfall.
There wasn’t just one waterfall or one pool — there were several smaller ones. Follow the rocky path around them and you come across the biggest one — it towers over you. “The water was clearer than at Moola Chotook,” says Sohaib. “This place is crazy beautiful. It’s hard to describe in words.”
How do you even find a place like this? “The only way you can get to places like this is by talking to the locals,” comes the response.
The saint at Pir Chattal and his ‘holy’ fish
Somewhere in the area, Sohaib came across another pool, albeit one reinforced artificially by the caretakers of the shrine that was built next to it. “The shrine belongs to the saint of Pir Chattal — the biggest of all saints in Balochistan,” relates Sohaib. “This pool is actually very big. They have routed fish away from it, to protect them. Some of the locals say that, ‘The fish are baba’s bhains (buffaloes) and that if anyone eats one, it comes out of them alive’,” he chuckles. “No one can touch the fish, but people do go to feed them.”
Published in Dawn, EOS, February 19th, 2017