Thursday, October 24, 2013

More on Charna Trip

This is the post from a fellow voyager who described the Charna journey in her own humorous style: چرنا آئی لینڈ

For those who might be interested in planning such a trip, here goes an introduction along with some handy tips: Fishing Around Charna Island

Monday, October 21, 2013

Boating Adventure: Fishing Around Charna Island

The Catch!
When the most of the city was busy in doing justice with the sacrificial meat, I thought of making a sea trip and discussed the idea with Tariq (University senior) and Waqar (work colleague) who asked me earlier if we could go somewhere during the long Eid holidays. I contacted the same boatman we made the Oyster Trip with. He told me that it would atleast need 15-20 people to justify the cost! So I contacted the family and friends around and got an overwhelming response to make a group of 17 adventurous souls.

It was a long day out; challenging and exhausting especially when most of us were not used to of sea voyages but at the end of the day it turned out to be a fully rewarding adventure.

We planned the trip early in the morning and everybody was punctual enough to make it to Kemari when the muezzin was calling for Fajar prayers. It took us some time to leave the port as the boatman could not arrange supplies in time. He had the valid excuse too as markets were closed due to Eid Holidays and then he might not be expecting us to be this prompt.

Things settled down once we reached the calm waters of the open sea after getting out of the rather turbulent Kemari-Manora channel. We sailed eventlessly along Karachi’s coastline and crossed Manora, Sands Pit, Hawks Bay, Cape Mount, Mubarak Village, Hubco Power Plant, and finally anchored near Charna.

Before the trip I thought we would be able to step on the island as was in the case of Oyster but it was impossible for the boat to dock there due to hidden underwater rocks. However, it was the fishing experience which made everyone’s day. Frankly speaking, it was my first fishing experience but as soon as I dropped the string I felt there was something. I was too excited and started screaming, forgetting to pull it back until a friend intervened. And believe me, I caught two fish in one go and that too in my first attempt – which must be some sort of a world record!

Soon there was exhilaration all around as almost everybody managed to bring something out of the sea. Fatima was the winner with a ~2kg Parrot Fish and ~1kg Sole Fish along with many other colorful varieties. In fact, it was amazing to see so colorful fish variety and an evidence why Charna is a favorite among scuba divers and snorkelers.

We were also accompanied by Oliver, my Couchsurfing guest from the UK and an avid traveler.

The return journey was more pleasant and cooler. Luckily, it was the full moon night and the sky was also clear. For the first time in my life, I saw the sun setting in the West and in the meantime full moon rising from the East. An experience of the lifetime!
Angler's Club with their Catch and Charna in the Background

Sunset Colors
Another Sunset Shot
And the Moonrise
Kemari Port
 Kemari - Charna Excursion Highlights 

A = Kmeari, B = Charna Island
Date: Saturday, October 19, 2013
Voyagers: 17 + 5 kids – Tariq’s Family, Waqar’s Family and his Cousins, Imran’s Family, Mine too, Oliver from UK, Nasreen and Fatima, Dr. Iqbal, Dr. Moeed, Nadeem, and Noman + 4 sailors
Catch: Parrotfish (Popat/Totamachi), Bream ((Dandia), Sole Fish, Red Snapper (Heera) and a variety of other colorful fish
Cost Per Head: Rs. 2,100 per person including 3 meals and fishing accessories, etc.
Food Menu (included): Breakfast; Prawn Biryani (Lunch); Prawn Karhai and Fried Fish (Dinner)

05:00     Left Home
06:00     Reached Kemari
07:00     Got Onboard
08:00     Left Kemari
10:00     Crossed Manora; Breakfast Onboard
13:00     Reached Charna, Anchored, and Started Fishing
14:00     Lunch Onboard
16:00     Left Charna and Started the Return Journey
20:00     Anchored Near Manora for Dinner
22:00     Back to Kemari
23:00     Back Home

Lessons Learned: Food
Instead of 3, 1 meal, i.e. lunch, could have easily sufficed as all of us lost the appetite for dinner. For the breakfast, homemade sandwiches might have done better as well. Carrying seasonal fruits, especially citrus, would have also helped sea sickness.

Other Useful Tips
Carry your CNICs/Passports which will be checked at the check post
We got parking inside the jetty although there is a private secured parking outside also
Take tamarind (imli) along which is a local remedy for sea sickness

Photo Credits: Nadeem, Moeed, and Myself

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Upcoming Event: Boating Trip to Churna Island

Family Boating Trip to Churna Island

Saturday, October19, 2013

Post Trip Details:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Charm of Medieval Bhaktapur

This is Day 12 of Nepal Travelogue (May 24, 2013)

Bhaktapur - Laidback, Unpolluted, and Picturesque
Bhaktapur is a refreshingly unpolluted precinct near Kathmandu. On the fact of it, the pebbled town is famous for its antique architecture; however, its charm is not limited to history buffs only as this laid-back place is a perfect escape from the noisy Kathmandu. After an exhausting jungle excursion we desperately needed a couple of peaceful nights before returning back home and nothing could have been better than Bhaktapur.

Earlier in the morning, Kathrine once again continued the generosity and arranged to drop us to the rustic town. For the night stay, we haggles around and negotiated a small but clean room at the family run Nyatapola Guest House located in one of the surrounding alleys.

Cutting short the other trivial details lets sit back and enjoy the pictorial tour of this medieval city!

Welcome to Bhaktapur But Please Pay the Ticket First!
Ticket Counter - Look at the Heavy Woodwork
You Cannot Get Lost in the Small Bhaktapur Even Without a Map
Bhaktapur Darbar Square
Bhaktapur is Full of Antique Architecture
Another Piece of Medieval Art
Good Thing is that All the Sites are Well Maintained
An Antique Sky-scrapper
Buddhist Monks Roaming Around Town
Enjoying the Full Moon from the Rooftop Restaurant
Traveler’s Tip # 21: Souvenir Shopping
Bhaktapur is a paradise for a souvenir shopper so much so that I would recommend holding on to your pockets during the Nepal trip and cut loose only when you are in Bhaktapur. From ladies handbags to the jute wall hangings, there is a great variety to get spoiled. But whatever you buy, make sure that it is not an easy sell for the vendor; as prices vary depending upon how much you can pay for the same artifact!

Traveler’s Tip # 22: Bhaktapur’s King Curd
Among locals, Bhaktapur is famous for its special curd, called King Curd. It appeared like the normal curd however tasted more like the Bengali sweet curd found at Dhaka Sweets in Karachi and was well worth the money. And yes, make sure that you are buying fresh one from one of the more busy shops.
King Curd: Bhaktapur's Specialty

Monday, October 7, 2013

Searching for Islam in Boudhanath

This is Day 11 of Nepal Travelogue (May 23, 2013)

Kathmandu's Giant Boudhanath
During our previous travels also, we visited Buddhist temples around Malaysia and Singapore, but this big one in Kathmandu - Boudhanath - which we visited today was not only different from others but was also far more impressive. First influence I encountered upon was those omnipresent eyes on the forehead of the extended white dome. It was like God keeping an eye on what one is doing; good or bad – especially on those salesmen trying to rip-off innocent tourists!

That inevitably reminded me of  الله دیکھ رہا ہے (translation: God is Watching) hanging around Karachi shops, to the same effect.

Inside the arena, the most notable activity was people circumambulating around the big dome and around many indoor prayer wheels devotedly. I’m not sure if there is a fixed number of rounds one needs to make, however, the fervor was similar to that I observed during the seven rounds طواف around Kaaba – the holiest Muslim site in Saudi Arabia.

Chants in the prayer rooms also resembled to those in the Muslim ritual and so were the flying flocks of pigeons. Upstairs we noted a couple of girls performing a repetitive ritual shockingly similar to the movements in Salat (نماز )! 

There were several seminaries spread around the white dome out of which we visited one. Students were reciting religious scriptures while one of them was distributing the stipend and sustenance – as if in a Pakistani madrasa!

Well, I don’t feel qualified enough to shed light if there is a connection between Dharmic and Abrahamic religions but after these experiences my instincts insist that there might be one! 

Who knows!

The Big and the Ubiquitous
Yes One Can Get Lost Around the Boudhanath Vicinity
This is a Prayer Wheel
Let Me Try It!
A Bunch of Smaller Prayer Wheels
Going Up the Stairs
Please Note!
And Beautiful!
Namaz Like Prayers
Bigger Bang!
A Seminary
Inside the School
Buddha in Nepal
The Forbidden Lama
Students in the Madrasa!
Distributing Sustenance
Some Political Figure Was Awaited
Herbal Incense!
Some Folks Suggest I Look Like Mongol!
Momo Menu
Food for Stomch Now!
Momo Variety; Steamed Ones
Today’s Bills – in Nepali Rupees

Sight Seeing
Entry Ticket: Boudhnath
Snacks, Momo, etc
Indian Suit for Urooba!
Nepali Incense
Taxi - Boudhanath to Civil Homes
Total for May 23, 2013

Total as of Today

Traveler's Tip # 20: Umbrella and the Raincoat

While we were busy in exploring souvenir shops, it suddenly got overcast, as per the weather forecast, and started raining heavily. The downpour was far heavier than mentioned in the prediction making us really difficult to make it back to Kathrine's place, who graciously arranged the morning drop for us in her 4x4 Terios.

Without any exaggeration, it was the maximum rain in one day I saw in my life. Later next morning Kathrine sort of confirmed that as it broke Kathmandu's pre-monsoon record for the month of May!

Monsoon or not, the Himalayan country can get wet anytime, so keeping an umbrella and the raincoat is a must while traveling in Nepal. And it is pretty easy to buy one once there in case you don't prefer to bring it from home.
Raining Cats and Dogs!
It Was Undoubtedly the Heaviest Rain in My Life

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Roaming Around Patan Darbar Square

This is Day 10 of Nepal Travelogue (May 22, 2013)
 Day 11 Day 9  
An Antique Prayer Bell at Patan Darbar Square
After exploring the jungle we returned back to Kathmandu, which is not only a hub for trekkers heading to high Himalayas but also a place worth exploring in its own. 

Kathmandu Zoo

Before shifting the gear fully to sight-seeing mode we first concluded the wildlife episode by visiting the Kathmandu Zoo. Since it was in the proximity to Zaeem’s workplace (our hosts in Kathmandu) he offered us the ride and also took his son Rafan for the outing.

Kathmandu’s Central Zoo is the only zoo in Nepal – perhaps a country so rich in wildlife might not need even one! Nonetheless, it was a good experience. Most of the animals were brought from the tropical sanctuaries around the region and looked well kept – if I compare that to Karachi Zoo. The giant hippo was in activity mood attracting spectators’ attention while the Bengal tiger, whom we could not meet in the jungle, was also getting restless.

Apart from the animals, the interesting thing was the entrance fee. Ticket for locals was priced at NPR 100 while it was NPR 500 for foreigners, five times dearer. There I successfully distorted my Urdu to sound more like a local, or Indian, to get the subsidized one: all’s fair in travel and love!

Kathmandu Zoo - Ticket Counter
The Hip Hippo
Hey Big Mouth!
Rhino Asks Where's My Horn?
Bengal Tiger in Nepal!
A Nepali Buffalo
Study Tour
Studious Ones
And the Weird One!
Patan Darbar Square

After ogling enough at flying squirrels and other weird species we walked to Patan to visit the antique Darbar Square; a ‘must see’ sight in Nepal. Actually there are three such squares; each in Kathmandu’s three valleys – Kathmandu downtown, Patan, and Bhaktapur, collectively designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In the middle of everywhere, Darbar Square was as bustling and thriving as it could be with archaic structures spread all around. Architecture was impressive and reminiscent of various periods in country’s history. Again I found the site well maintained especially when judged against to such comparable places around Karachi, e.g. Makli, etc.

Although it was fenceless, i.e. no apparent restriction to wander around the busy street, government found its own ways to differentiate tourists from locals to obviously charge them. As soon as the proceeds are going for the upkeep of this historical treasure, I guess no one would mind being charged reasonably.

In the morning Kathrine graciously invited us for the in-house dinner; so after a day of sightseeing we rushed back to our home in Kathmandu where sumptuous grilled chicken, stuffed with flavorsome vegetables, was waiting for us. Post feast we had a cup of coffee together with our kind hosts and shared our traveling and other life experiences at length. The best part was that the kids, ours and theirs, also clicked in promising a good time in the coming days.
Going Towards Patan Darbar Square
An Ancient Structure at Patan Darbar Sqaure
The Big Bang
Patan Darbar Square from the Top
Darbar Square's Busy Street
This is Where Sacrificial Buffalo Are Tied Up
The Green Backyard
People Lined up for the Holy Water
Traditional Nepali Cap
And Pajama
A 'Rath' Was in the Making Near Jawalakhel
This Rath was to be Paraded in the Coming Festival
Today’s Bills – in Nepali Rupees
300 Sight Seeing Entrance Ticket: Kathmandu Zoo
90 Food Cone Ice Cream!
200 Sight Seeing Entrance Ticket: Patan Darbar Square
130 Food Snacks
30 Logistics Bus - Lagankhel to Nakhu
0 Accommodation Couch Surfing!
750 Total for May 22, 2013
28390 Total as of Today

Traveler's Tip # 19: Keep Kathmandu at the Tail-End of Your Nepal Trip
Most of the tourists in Nepal first arrive in Kathmandu and then spread around the countryside either for trekking or for exploring religious and wilderness sites. Kathmandu is itself worth spending 3-4 days as there are various cultural and historical sites skipping which will be a big mistake. However, it would be better to keep Kathamdnu sight-seeing at the tail-end of the trip, i.e. before departure, rather than doing right after landing there. This strategy will give you an emergency buffer in case you may not return back to Kathmandu in time due to various reasons, such as logistic hurdles, which is not uncommon in the mountainous Nepal.