Tharparkar and Umerkot have long been in the list of destinations i wanted to see. When i realized that i can spare a few days before going to Karachi for Eid, i started planning for it right away. December is fortunately one of the best months to visit this part of the region.
I left Islamabad on Friday, 5th of December on a NATCO bus heading for Karachi. Images of northern areas come to our mind whenever it comes to NATCO. Few know that it operates for Karachi as well. However if from this, someone expects that it will be a little better than the other private operators on this route, it is not. Taking the route of Talakang, Mianwali, Sadiqabad, Shikarpur and Sukkur, it dropped me off on the next morning near Hala(Hyderabad) on the National highway. After a long journey, my body just started to relax when a bus arrived from Hyderabad heading for Nawabshah. The moment i got inside, i realized that i am now in Sindh. It was in the sweet Sindhi accent, different getup and the Sindhi song that was being played inside were making all the difference. It was around midday when i reached Nawabshah. I checked my surroundings and started walking towards one direction to smell the city. Read my Nawabshah’s story here.
From Nawabshah, i reached Umerkot via Sanghar and Mirpurkhas through three different vans. It was around 9 pm when i touched Umerkot. First task was to find some place to stay. When it comes to staying in Umerkot, options are not too many. There is one signboard in the main bazaar showing some hotel but it was not looking in a very good condition from outside and thus i did not dare to explore. A little better option that i availed is the Karoonjhar guest house. It is near Narional Bank on the road that goes from one side of Umerkot press club. Rooms are available at Rs. 300 and 400 per night (as of 2008). The hotel can be contacted on (0238) 571493-94. One of the main attractions of Umerkot is its fort. The original fort was built in the eleventh century during the Sumra dynasty however the present structure was made by Kalhoras in the eighteenth century. The fort has remained under the control of Rajputs, Mughals, Kalhoras, Talpurs and the British before Pakistan’s independence. It was the birthplace of a famous and most controversial Mughal ruler, Akbar. While walking in the bazaar, i got a chance to see a Kekra from close. Don’t get confused from the word kekra. It is not the scorpion one rather is the name has been given by locals to the lorry truck. It is a mode of transport very unique to this part of the region that is used for transportation of goods, people as well as animals. These trucks were once under the use of Pakistan Army which later auctioned them and were bought and decorated by locals of the region.
From Umerkot, i reached Nagarparkar through Chachro after having a short stay at Islamkot. As not too many buses operate on the route, every standing passenger has to be boarded in whether there seems any space for the new comer or not. From chachro to Islamkot, I went to the bus top so that i can better see the surroundings. Many small villages come during the way. Villages of Tharparkar have a very specialy designed home structure made of mud and bricks. Roof is covered with bushes and dry grass that keeps it a bit calm in the summer heat. Based upon requirements, each house consists of different isolated rooms which are not connected to other rooms. A well defined boundary exists around the whole premises in the form of bushes. A single room can be 8-10 feet high with no windows.
Nagarparkar is different from rest of Sindh and even rest of Tharparkar because of its landscape and fertility. It is surrounded by the Karoonjhar mountain range from South and West which is spread over an area of 16 Kms. These mountains are unique because of their rock structure and large granite deposits. This area has a Hindu majority and some of the very old hindu temples are located here including the fourteenth century Jain temple and Sardhara temple.
The women of Tharparkar even minor girls wear a very special dress of some very bright colors. They will always be seen with bangles sometimes up to their shoulders.
Below are the fares and time taken during travel between different towns of the region. Don’t forget that the fares are as of December 2008 and time the public transport took.It will take a bit less to travel between these places directly on private transport.
- Hala – Nawabshah [1.5hrs, Rs.60 (bus)]
- Nawabshah – Sanghar [1.3 hr, Rs. 60(van)]
- Sanghar – Mirpurkhas [1.5 hrs, Rs. 60(van)]
- MirpurKhas – Umerkot [2 hrs, Rs. 60(bus)]
- Umerkot – Chachro [45 mins, Rs. 30(bus)]
- Chachro – Islamkot [1.5 hrs, Rs. 60(bus)]
- Islamkot – Nagarparkar [1.5 hrs, Rs. 60(bus)]
- Nagarparkar – Naukot (via Islamkot, Mithi) [4 hrs, Rs. 100(bus)]
- Naukot – Badin [2 hrs, Rs. 90(van)]
- Badin – Karachi (via Thatta) [3.5 hrs, Rs. 150(van)]
(Tharparkar. 6-8 December 08)