I kept listening to myths and stories about the far flung wildlife zone(s) of Balochistan until I decided about exploring Duroon Hills myself in April 2015. Duroon is over 15 kilometer long hill feature in Awaran district, interesting to watch on Google Earth and even more while walking on real earth. For three days-long expedition, we chose local friends company; also invited Makbool (Mac) and Zarnab from Karachi. Mac is a film making adventurer while Zarnab an amateur artist (essentially singer). My younger brother Feroz, a student at Karachi University, also rode along to try his first ever long trek.
From Awaran, it was me along with District Forests Officer Abid and Mama Marri, an old man of 70 yet younger than many when trekking in the wilderness. Few armed guards of Levies Force accompanied us per protocol (I was Awaran’s area administrator / Deputy Commissioner then.) In two vehicles we drove along the Ara Kaur/stream off the Awaran – Bela Road in Jhaoo Tehsil. We bought a goat from Daleen Jah village for food that night as we reached our camping site after sunset.
Travelling around Ara Kaur in Awaran – Balochistan, Pakistan Credits: Aziz Ahmad Jamali
Weather was dusty that night; so it didn’t let us enjoy the full moonlight. Before sleeping amidst a battle against mosquitoes, we set our sole tent near an abandoned room which appeared to be used as a Wildlife Check Point in recent past. Since the time anti-state insurgency had spread around Awaran, part of wildlife protection job was self assumed by Baloch militants in an attempt to overtake the Government. This time/visit, however, Forests & Wildlife Department officer accompanied us in an attempt to reassert their authority; and I endorsed the idea being representative of Pakistani State.
It dawned at six in the morning and we were all set to begin trekking by 7.30 am. Our starting point was where Duroon Kaur (Stream) drains into Ara Kaur which then joins the main body of Hingol River further south. The first wildlife we saw was a multicolored, essentially green beetle sitting on a stone that lay across my feet by chance. Thereafter we kept on craving for next eight hours but we couldn’t spot much except a mad camel (foot prints of mountain goats aside).
A Multicolor Beetle Spotted near Daroon Kaur Stream – Awaran, Balochistan, Pakistan Credits: Aziz Ahmad Jamali
Duroon village is day long travel from Ara Kaur; and the better trek (walk) being all along Duroon Kaur. Another, longer camel trek existed but locals said that’s devoid of water; so we left it for camels to decide and continued along the stream. After three hours we reached the most beautiful sight on Awarani soil: it was where the stream took to shape of water falling down in a broad pond, round in shape; the colour of water had turned greener due to depth and vegetation effect. Instantly it reminded me of Pir Ghaib of the Bolan Pass and of Pari Chashma in the hills above Harnai. All these spots have flowing water in a fall-plus-pond shape with floral vegetation adding more to their fairy-tale beauty. Mac assisted by Umar rushed to set the camera for clicks and videos; while Abid, Feroz and I took to enjoying the heavenly place for whatever short while we were there.
A Beautiful Water Pond on Duroon Trek – Awaran, Balochistan, Pakistan Credits: Aziz Ahmad Jamali
Our trek further to that point was getting steeper; a 20 feet long rope was permanently fixed at a hard-to-hike spot for convenience of travelers. Having climbed up that Pul e Sirat, we came across pools of water that we couldn’t resist jumping in. Since the day had already turned warmer, a cool bath was the best treat after the blissful sight just before. Local partners served us with hot & sweet tea to dispel any after effects of cold water. Abid kept briefing us about wildlife while Zarnab sang our favorite songs thus enabling us cherish the experience. Then we continued with our long walk to destination in high hills.
Having passed by few dens of the mountain goats (one could guess from the feces and foot marks), we hiked up the treacherous turns to emerge in the long valley which seemed like the last part of journey. That steep portion showed us quartz like stones, white and yellowish in color resembling marble. Fellas guessed that those were signs that an ocean existed there in distant past; a couple of sea-shell fossils also support such evidence.
Daaru turned out as the most helpful company with us that day and night (we were not drunk for sure). Daaru was a Forest Department official who carried heaviest of weight despite being lightest of all travelers in our adventure group. His eyes would speak without the man speaking himself; the strength of his gaze took one deep look into the deprivation which engulfed the poor community atop mountains. Duroon village has no approach road, no education or health facility, not even a mosque to boast a bit. While we took along tiredness with us, Daaru carried only weight – without a remorse or worry.
Daaru: Forest Department Official on Duroon Trek – Awaran, Balochistan, Pakistan Credits: Aziz Ahmad Jamali
Passing by ripe wheat crops at its very entrance, and a mad camel just before, we reached the hilltop village of Duroon situated at an altitude of 4500 feet above sea level. One would be surprised to observe impressive agriculture in that isolated valley.
Tired of the eight-hour long walk, we removed shoes and took refuge under a thatch roof; it afforded us the best shade ever. Our hosts had prepared a traditional meal for us: Balochi Sajji (roasted lamb) and a simple yet tasty curry to be devoured with bread. Black tea with sugar added more to all this.
After that heavy and late lunch, a stride was essential and helpful. So we spread out around the village observing lifestyle. Youngsters were sitting and chatting only, least exposed to any of the modern sports. None of them knew who Shahid Afridi was; nor did they bother that their area administrator (Deputy Commissioner) had visited Duroon a rare time in history. Further chats with people revealed that they knew names of an old politician (Mir Majeed Bizenjo) and a levies official he used to send to Duroon.
Duroon village has no approach road, no education or health facility, not even a mosque to boast a bit. While we took along tiredness with us, Daaru carried only weight – without a remorse or worry.
Mac began with recording bits of the documentary with which he wanted to impress the world (Duroon seemed really amazing); it was an impressive community dwelling so isolated from rest of the world. They would treat injured animals by fastening their legs with dwarf palm (Mazri) leaves. Camel was their sole mode of travel; only a couple of diesel engines had made their way into Duroon to be used for fetching water out of depth. Housing was all mud-made primitive structures or thatch huts. Duroon seemed to have recently transformed from a hunter-gatherer community into an agrarian one.
Sitting on a nearby hilltop, we asked about visiting the highest spot of Duroon hill feature (5000 feet asl); but it was more than six hours travel on foot, we were told. Since we had spent half a day traveling on jeeps and a whole day on foot (leaving us with one day for return journey), it was a difficult decision to spare another day for journey to the heights. Thus we decided to return next day. We slept in blankets due to cold weather.
Around 7 am next morning we were served with fresh bread and hot tea and we set on foot to return via alternate route which Daaru & Company warned was impossible for us to traverse. Locals of Duroon contended that the trek was steep and, coupled with non-availability of water en route, posed greater risks than the one we came by last day. In our craze to explore more, we decided to give it a try. After two hours ascending trek we reached the steep descent point. The view was threatening yet thrilling – it was rightly called the Shak Pass (‘Shak’ means a comb in Balochi language and the way down went in long zig-zags like teeth of a comb literally).
Discussion during Duroon Trek – Awaran, Balochistan, Pakistan Credits: Aziz Ahmad Jamali
Low hills around the Ara Kaur could be seen about 2000 feet down, all visible in a single sight. For once we could not believe that we had to descend that distance inching down all the way; but we did it amidst no other option. Zarnab removed his shirt, sang another ghazal and began to descend in a last-travel-of-life mode. Abid and Mama Marri kept hopping like mountain goats, Feroz made comprehensible gestures of taking-shit-out-of-something and I kept encouraging all for next two hours. Asad and Mac were literally fastened with cloth bands to enable them move ahead/down instead of returning and two local men supporting beside; but we enjoyed each in an individual way.
We reached the next comfortable spot to gulp a cup of black tea contemplating how in the world we had just descended; it seemed more painful than Adam’s descent down from the paradise. While the tea break went on, we also enjoyed spotting and following brisk movement of a bi-color lizard, pure black & white. There we discussed as to how hard it was for the indigenous people to do that traverse every time they needed; and explored options to build a trek more comfortable for the community. Best advantage the Shak Pass trek offered that it was eight to ten hours shorter than the route via Duroon Kaur (on which camels took 18 hours from Duroon village to reach the nearest facility on Bela – Awaran road).
It took us half an hour to chalk out the plan, assess required implements and assign the project to Duroon’s community under able and experienced leadership. In next 100 minutes, we reached our vehicles parked along the Sorh Kaur, a tributary of Larrandari/Ara stream; there we enjoyed another simple meal of rice with drinks and laughter.
Within next 100 days, Mama Marri gave us the good news that an alternate trek was ready, the Shak Pass made traversable by camels and Duroon village accessible in eight hours from the main road; all made by their very own community. Costing us half a million rupees of districts resources, that camel trek was the best public service one could achieve for poor people who dwelled in Awaran. I had promised the community that Government would help them with a school building in future.
I was transferred from Awaran in August 2015; yet pleasant news kept reaching me at Quetta for another couple of months. The camel trek had not only facilitated patients or small traders of Duroon, it had also made transportation of construction materials possible. Thus was built the first ever school building, a stronger structure constructed in line with seismic safety guidelines prescribed by the reconstruction project Government had initiated after 2013 earthquake in the region.
Our craze to trek and touch the highest spots of Duroon hill feature and to watch ‘dozens of mountain goats’ still remains; hope to make it some other time.
Aziz Ahmad Jamali
Aziz hails from Jaffarabad, Balochistan and is an officer in civil services of Pakistan. He is a humble soul, avid explorer, passionate hiker and trekker with immense knowledge and experience particularly in Balochistan area.
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