Monday, July 7, 2014

Traveling to the Mud Volcanoes of Pakistan with SkyScanner

Where would you like to travel to if you get an all expense paid trip someday?

I have been asked this question quite a many times and every time my answer was Pakistan. I got a chance to visit Pakistan in 2012 and since then I always wanted to go back to that country. My last trip was self sponsored but this time, thanks to SkyScanner, I have got an opportunity to travel to the far-off lands of Pakistan without hurting my pocket.

Why Pakistan?

I’d say why not Paksitan? Because Pakistan is not what we see in the movies or TV channels. Because Pakistan is another colorful country like ours. Because Pakistan must be visited at least once by all the Indians. That way we will understand our neighbor in a much better way. My perception about Pakistan changed entirely after my first visit. And also Pakistan has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And not to mention the grandest of all, five of the fourteen Eight Thousanders belong to Pakistan.

So without wasting any time on thinking about location, my SkyScanner journey would mean traveling to Karachi, Pakistan. And then off to the remote tribal lands of Balochistan where one gets to witness the divine confluence of Hindu & Muslim faiths. Followers of both the religions revere the Hinglaj Temple of Balochistan and that’s where I am going with SkyScanner.

The Other Side of India: Wagha Border, 2012

Although I wanted to travel more and spend less but because mode of entry/exit to Pakistan have to be same, and these are harsh summer times, so I have decided not to go by bus or train but take the aerial route. Flying to Pakistan via Sharjah and deliberately choosing a long wait flight so that I get to see the best of Sharjah. An evening walk in Sharjah, sounds fun, doesn’t it.

Al Noor Mosque,. Sharjah | Image: Dubai Chronicle
Now comes the fun part, treating myself with the luxurious stay at Karachi Marriott. If I saw the best of rural Pakistan in my last trip, I would see the best of luxurious Pakistan in the SkyScanner Trip for sure. A relaxing day while I stroll around the National Museum of Pakistan and Mazar –e-Quiad. Visiting old friends would also be on the agenda. And of-course, Karachi beaches.

If Indo-Pak rivalry is known across the world, so is the Indo-Pakistan hospitality. Every time I said I came from India, people refused to charge me anything. From auto guys to adventure clubs, they refused to take any money from me.

A walk across Pakistan bazaars is a heartwarming experience always. Stories of cricket, movies, songs, and pre-independence era always make you emotional.

Visiting Hinglaj – The Land of Mud Volcanoes
Mud Volcano, Hinglaj | Image: Bashir Osman Photgraphy
Now comes the adventure part, traveling to the remote lands of Baluchistan. Some 300 kilometers from the mainland of Karachi lies one of the most important pilgrimage sites of both Hindus and Muslims. While Indians call it ‘Hinglaj Mata’, the Pakistani’s call it ‘Nani Ka Haj’.

Close by lies one of the largest active mud volcanoes of the world, the Chandrakup Volcano. The sand dunes rising against the backdrop of Makran Mountain Ranges takes you back to the Spiti Himalayas. The land is barren and the mud volcano looks like a rising guardian protecting the pilgrims from the evils of the deserts. And if time and money permits, there are 18 more mud volcanoes in the region.

Then head back to Karachi, spend another blissful day at the Marriott. 

My Travel Itinerary 

Day1: Karachi - Sharjah - Karachi - Stay

Day2: Karachi - Hinglaj Drive - Stay At Inn

Day3: Trip to Mud Volcano

Day4: Hinglaj to Karachi

Day5: Return to India 

My Expenses

Initial Budget – 100,000

Air Fare (Return) – INR 40,630
Hotel Stay Marriott – Two Days – INR 20,000
Sharjah Travel Spree – INR 10,000
Food and Shopping – INR 10,000
Hinglaj Yatra Registration – INR 5,000
Taxi Fare – Karachi to Karachi – (approximate INR 20 per km for 327km) – INR 7540

Total = INR 93170/-

Meanwhile, I am still left with 8,000 in my kitty.

Karachi Sweets? Anybody! J

This post is a part of Skyscanner travel wizard activity at

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The CarConnect Experience and Drive to Spiti

I came across Car Connect when I was surfing for feature comparison between Maruti and Chevrolet, as both of them had launched new hatchbacks (case in point Sail and Celerio). I browsed through the website and realized that the site was effortlessly smooth and also it did have a feature where users can not only share their car reviews but also drive experiences.

I also shared my Spiti Drive experience that we did in 2010. The road trip reminded of the marvelous views and amazing memories of the trip. Let me share an experience from that road trip here.

The journey started in July and we were told by a traveller friend that removed all our doubts regarding a Maruti 800 making across the Rohtang Pass (13000 feet) into the Lahaul Valley.

He said to us, “The machine doesn't matter. What matters is the courage of the person behind the wheel." At 21, you don't think much about the practical aspects and such one liners often pump up the adrenaline, and precisely that's what happened in our case too.
We ended up with a stranded Maruti 800 in the middle of the snow desert. But that we will talk about sometime later.
So we were talking about the features of Car Connect. The website sends you customized comparison sheets directly to your mailbox and that's what makes it a unique website. Also for the passionate ones, there is a special tab that talks about car news and new gadgets, which in my opinion is a good feature to keep the readers interested.

The user can submit as many drive stories or car reviews as he wants. There is no cap. Sharing your experiences and reading about the adventures of like minded people is a blissful experience. And then there is always the option of finding your name on the home page of the CarConnect.

Isn't that cool?

Currently, Car Connect allows only Facebook Login, which I think they must be working on. Because assuming all the users have an FB account, although not having a Facebook account in the current times is equivalent to blasphemy, but still it wouldn't hurt to have a normal login, along with other social logins like Twitter and Google Login.

I hope the Car Connect team has already taken notice of the same. Another interesting feature is keeping the User Community active by giving them badges and sharing top posts on the home page.

Who wouldn't want his/her name shared on a prestigious website like Car Connect?

The leaderboard feature along with find friends is another unique feature that helps the user to find people with similar interests.

Car Connect is all set to be the Carbook of the Internet World! :)