Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Wonderland in Moola

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The Moola Gorge, for centuries a favoured route between the Kalat highlands and the fertile plains of Sindh, is a wide u-shaped, well-watered gorge. It cuts clear across the otherwise unbroken barrier of the rugged and barren Khirthar Mountains providing a travel route that could be used by ancient wheeled traffic. Keen to promote this beautiful valley as a tourist destination, a group of local young men have organised a Spartan rest house (N28°-08.754’, E 67°-08.434’) in the Keel hills.

Just behind and to the west of the rest house, the hills are riven by a narrow circuitous chasm, a feature that would be called a tungi in the Pushto-speaking parts of Balochistan. Here in Brahui-speaking Moola Valley, they call it Chuttok – The One that Drips. This is the site that the young men hope to promote.

The opening to the chasm – a gaping maw in the drab limestone draped with zamur plants – scarcely presages what lies ahead. But turning left into the rift one is overwhelmed by the sound of flowing water. The floor of the narrow gorge, never more than five metres wide, is taken up by a crystal stream whose water is pleasantly warm. Now deep as it plunges into the gravelly bed and gouges out a hole, the stream spreads out only to yet again become confined.

Water cascades down from unseen fissures high above or pours forth from tiny holes and natural spouts; a steady stream here, a mere dribble or a bounding torrent there. Within the narrow confines of Chuttok there is hardly an inch of vertical rock that does not glisten with wetness. Above, the sky is but a narrow strip that permits the sun few spots to shine upon. And where sunlight falls, the rocks are richly draped with tufts of lichens.

As one makes one’s way deeper into the chasm, a pool obstructs the way of the photographer for it is impossible to get through without dunking the equipment. Of all the tungis in Balochistan, Chuttok is indeed unique: in the others water from some subterranean source simply flows along the floor. Here it bursts forth from every crevice in the rock; from every little spout to stream down the polished limestone and join the flow from hidden underground sources.

If Chuttok drips in Brahui, Churrok flows. Barely a couple of hundred metres to the west of the trail about ten kilometres north of the Keel rest house, the mouth of Churrok lies at N 28°-17.468’, E 67°-12.974’. A short scramble through sere grass and over some rocks and one comes to a deep pond of liquid emerald so transparent that the rocky floor, some four metres below, is clearly seen.

Fed by a silvery cascade that drops down from a ten metre-high ledge accessible only to the expert rock climber, this delightful little freshet tumbles over a series of steps to the pond. Unlike Chuttok whose walls the sun reaches only in tiny patches, Churrok is bathed in sunlight for the full length of the day. Consequently, wherever there is soil a profusion of ferns add colour between flowing water and rock.

Back in the 1970s when the venerable Habib Jalib was incarcerated for protesting the army action in Balochistan, one of his poems smuggled out of Sahiwal jail contained a couplet about Balochistan where nary a cascade flows, where only barren, sun-burnt rocks stretch for as far as the eye can see. The great poet had not known of Chuttok and Churrok, two bits of paradise secreted away in the little-known Moola Valley of Balochistan.

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Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

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