Island of the Seven Hills (Urdu: جزیرہ ہفت تلار)
Last year in Dec, I went on an expedition to an island in Balochistan. One of THE most alluring location for me in Pakistan because it has the huge series of exotic landscapes. plateau & volcanic mountains, sandy beaches & fewer peeps! This owns the top spot on my list of “I love!”.
It was a usual day when my friend and CEO of a tour operating company added me in a Facebook group with the name “Secret Location”. The description of that group stated THE COST and THE REQUEST, NOT TO ASK FOR THE DESTINATION! He did not forget to disclose that we will be the first group going to this place! Crazy right? but that’s what made me pay for it right away and wait for the week to end as soon as possible!
Luckily, he is a close friend so he let cat out of the bag a few days earlier to me! So the secret location was not the “secret” anymore and turned out be “Astola Island”, the place which some of the crazy freaks like me wanted to explore for so long. Anyway, everyone knew about it one night earlier to the trip because the place has security risks so he had to tell everyone but no one backed off!!
Astola Island, also known as Jezira Haft Talar (Urdu: جزیرہ ہفت تلار) or Satadip or ‘Island of the Seven Hills’, is a small uninhabited Pakistani island in the Arabian Sea approximately 25 km (16 mi) south of the nearest part of the coast and 39 km (24 mi) southeast of the fishing port of Pasni. Astola is Pakistan’s largest offshore island at approximately 6.7 km (4.2 mi) long with a maximum width of 2.3 km (1.4 mi) and an area of approximately 6.7 km2 (2.6 sq mi). The highest point is 246 ft (75 m) above sea level. Administratively, the island is part of the Pasni sub-district of Gwadar District in Balochistan province. The island can be accessed by motorized boats from Pasni, with a journey time of about 5 hours to reach the island and it takes around 7-9 hours from Ormara, We choose Ormara to avoid sea sickness, though few people still suffered.
So the weekend came, It was Friday night and we were waiting for our transport at the meeting point… here comes the first surprise…Our transport was a huge fancy bus which had a nightclub inside… the picture says it all .
After taking few selfies (nightclub mode)… the travel began….around 2am we started our journey towards Pasni, Balochistan.
It was a working day for almost everyone and the bus was kind-of-caravan so everyone made the most of the opportunity to rest and took a nap. we reached Pasni in the morning after 8-9 hours of traveling with a single stopover. It was a beautiful sunny morning, while everyone was shifting baggage from the bus to boat I choose to enjoy the moment. I stretched and went for a short walk, distant from everyone enjoying the sea, mountain views & wide sky! what else do I need ! 🙂 *Happiest person on earth*
Challenge # 1
The first challenge was to hop on the boat, we had to make 3-4 rides in a speedboat to reach to the “big boat” which was hired to take us to the Island. After half an hour, we all were boarded and ready to leave for our destination and let me tell you right away that this is one of the best journeys I have experienced so far… Earlier, I was worried about sea sickness because I had never been to sea for this long but fortunately not a single minute of sickness instead loved every minute on the boat.
Wanderers who went with me on the voyage were 20 in numbers (as far as I can remember now) including 4 hardcore ladies (yeah that’s me, too !!), a brave couple & some adventurous men! Having like-minded entertaining peeps, indulging every moment together, making new strong bonds makes it worth every penny!
When you are travelling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.
When you are moving and you have the delighted companions like wavy sea, birds, mountains and silence, you don’t want the journey to end, you don’t want to go back to the routine life, you just can’t think of anything rational, you feel numb ecstatically…
Well…. It ended after few hours (approx 5) when we reach the Island… Another drill of baggage shifting.
Astola becomes a temporary base for mainland fishermen for catching lobsters and oysters. There is a small mosque dedicated to the Muslim saint, Pir Khawaja Khizr, which is used by the mainland fishermen during the fishing season. Ruins of an ancient Hindu temple of the Hindu goddess, Kali are located on the island and they call it Satadip. There are no lodging facilities so tents were pre-arranged for the night stay on the island.
Challenge # 2
After reaching the destination, everyone started to settle as soon as possible so that we can eat and rest. Because the journey was non-stop and tough so we were suggested not to eat anything except snacks, to avoid sea sickness. During the preparations of being settled, I was amazed to see the arrangements, especially for food.
They had amazing tasty food tins, gas stove, saucer, proper utensils to serve dinner & everything which you can’t even imagine having on the inhabited island. The food was served hot for the dinner and I really enjoyed it (Usually, I don’t care about the food). We also got lucky to catch a fish which was cleaned, cooked and eaten by us.
When everyone’s strength restored, we started the bonfire… another challenge was to ignite the wet wood but we managed… Sitting in a circle of goodness with the combination of darkness, music, laughs, silence and a hot cup of tea are good enough to tranquilize you…
Heard of bioluminescence? I witnessed it for the first time!
Following the bonfire, few of us went for a walk to enjoy the serenity of the place….I don’t remember what we chattered about…. though we witnessed bioluminescence along the sea shore….It was an amazing experience but it lasted for few minutes… we said good night to each other and headed to rest in our camps… few folks were up and listening to my favourite music so it was hard for me to close the camp, I slept closer …. (I woke up on the ground out from the camp, lol!!!).
The next morning, we explored the island…. I woke up late so I could not explore it as I wanted to 🙁 but I managed to trek to one of the tops of mountain…
We had snorkeling gears so everyone except me and another girl enjoyed it as well, though I was enjoying the rides in a speedboat to pick and drop them at the snorkeling spot. It was amazing to see them swimming in the center of a beautiful sea. No one was willing to come out of the sea… Aadil bhai (CEO & the friend) asked them so many times to hop on the boat so we can start our journey back to home but …. hahahaha I still remember how everyone ignored him so he waited until everyone was tired!
Our boat picked us from the snorkeling spot directly (we were running out of time, everyone had to reach home on time) and we headed back to Pasni….and from Pasni to Karachi. we made a brief stopover at Ormara for dinner and tea.. we reached Karachi in the morning @ 7. Everyone hurried to home so that they can get fresh and go to work. In a hurry, I forget to change my shoes and I realized it when I reached office… lol!!! But it does not matter as far as you have stories to tell, scrapes to heal, people to love & memories to cherish….you don’t have to worry about anything else… you are good….
Here is my picture album
PC : Sami Baloch , Sohaib Roomi & Aeman Shujat.