Monday, November 1, 2010

Guerilla's, voyeurs, tolls and Tatta!

One of the last pieces of the Himal (or the remainder of Asia?) jigsaw puzzle remains: a larger piece is Pakistan
Not really high on any soakers to-visit agenda, but nonetheless it has a couple of hot springs. 
However, besides the existence of hot springs one seems to miss a soaking culture, not like higher up or on the other side of the mountains ...

Compiled web-based information concerning hot springs in Pakistan (be they in the north or anywhere else in the country) is non-existent with one exception. This is not at all surprising, considering the infancy in which other countries compile their own data as well as a lack of a soaking culture. 
The Pakistani exception is the report on geothermal sources by Zaigham ([1] 2005). But even this publication fails to come with any estimate concerning the amount of hot springs in Pakistan. In the following, I'll add a number of names of possible soaks which can't be verified.

Soaking crocs
Away from the Himal,
Manghopir hot spring is a sort of a anonymity. From wikipedia:
'Manghopir is a rural area of Karachi [Pakistan's largest city located at the Indian ocean], named after Sufi Pir Haji Syed Sakhi Sultan. The area has the oldest Sufi shrines in the city, hot sulphur springs that are believed to have curative powers, and many crocodiles - believed locally to be the sacred disciples of Pir Mangho. Balochs often call this place as ‘Mangi’ or Garm-aap / Sard-aap (due to the presence of the hot & cold springs)'.
There are actually a couple of entries on Wikipedia concerning this place. This entry adds:
'There are hot and cold springs about a kilometer from the shrine. Warm water passing through the sulphur rocks is said to contain some medicinal qualities. Many people with skin diseases regularly come from long distances to have a bath to cure them. There are separate swimming pools and shower rooms for men and women. Scientific analysis has shown that this warm water is naturally saturated with carbon dioxide, besides containing some sulpher & other skin friendly nourishments, which are no doubt suitable for many skin-diseased patients'.
Most striking though are the many crocs lying around this swampy hot spring.
'More than 200 crocodiles live at the shelter in Manghopir, said Sajjad Sheedi, the caretaker of the pond. He added that the current Mor Sahib has been the chief of all crocodiles in the pond for almost 70 years.
“The descendant of the Mor Sahib usually becomes the chief crocodile. But when a crocodile is able to kill the Mor Sahib, he is nominated in his stead,” Sajjad Sheedi added.
The crocodile pond is around 400 feet (120 metres) long and 200 feet (61 metres) wide. It is nourished by an underground stream, and provides shelter to crocodiles that range between six and seven feet in length'.
Other info on the management of these crocs can be found on this website. There is a good recent article from the Pakistani Daily Times:
'“Over 100 men, women and children visit to take bath in the hot-spring to an average every day and the number rises on Sundays,” said 23-year-old Khan Mohammed Baloch, who mans the ticket section outside the gate where the hot spring is located a kilometer away from the main shrine of Manghopir'. 
'Hot water sulphur springs, Manghopir
Warm water passing through the sulphur rocks is said to contain some medicinal qualities. Scientific analysis has shown that this warm water is naturally saturated with carbon dioxide, besides containing some sulpher & other skin friendly nourishments, which are no doubt suitable for many skin-diseased patients'.
Source: Fawad_Ikram

Not so far from Karachi is the hot spring of Kargaz [1].
In Balochistan province (the area between the Indian ocean and Afghanistan) is the hot spring of Bugti. Little information on this very remote hot spring other than this derived from a picture on (now not functioning):
'A Bugti guerrilla waits his turn to bathe in a hot spring at the Bugti tribe headquarters camp in the mountains near the city of Dera Bugti in the Balochistan province of Pakistan on January 23, 2006'.
Near the coast is the hot spring of Gawadar (panaramio) or Gawdar. Then there is a reference to hot springs in Sarhad.

Taking note of the above we now shift our attention to the north, towards the Himal and there is nothing beyond the Gilgit-Baltistan Territory, a piece of Pakistan which fits inbetween the Pamir / Wakhan corridor, Kashmir and China.

(Chu Tran, Basho valley, Chutung) contains a hot spring which can be described as follows:
'The name literally means "hot water" in the local Balti tongue. In Chutran, there is a medicinal hot springs. Over the decades, the spa has become popular with the local people, who are even coming from beyond Hunza (15 hours by road) to soak in the 40-plus degree Celsius water. Nestled at the base of the northeast side of the Haramosh Range, Chutron is partially shaded and thereby relatively cool. Its scalloped terraced wheat fields are intercrossed by footpaths and stone field boundaries, all of which conspire to provide beautifully pastoral views and retains a primitive charm, seemingly stuck in in the 19th century'. source
On Flickr the following picture with accompanying explanation:

Chutran Hot Spring
'"Chu" means water and "tran" means hot in the local language, Balti. Chutran is about 2 1/2 hours from Shigar or a little over 3 hours from Skardu. There is a government resthouse there with an outhouse which has a bath with the hotspring water running through. There are also other similar baths for the locals. Apparently, there is another hot spring 3 hours further away, which is supposed to be too hot to bathe in'.
By Zain Mankani.
The Karakoram highway is the major highway heading up the mountains and yonder into China's Xinjiang and Tibet. It is also the source of many a link with some even mentioning hot springs.
ear Raikot (Rakhiot) bridge are a number of hot springs (source). Possibly referring to the same (link no longer functioning):
'Tato (alternatively Tatta, meaning 'warm') is the name of a small village in the Rakhiot Valley (2300 m) which is named after a hot spring nearby'.
Other valleys in the north of Pakistan contain their own hot springs such as Bisil (Arandu valley, Baltistan). What follows may lead you to think that foreigners don't like smelling sulphur:
'Bisil also has a hot spring, with the small pool emitting strong smells of sulfur. Locals rarely see foreigners and are quite welcoming'. source
Elsewhere there are hot springs in Dowo Kraming (Khaplu), quite close to the border with China. Near the Wakhan is the hot spring of Darkut (source) in the Yasin valley and Pechuz (source, but not working).
Possibly not so far away is the hot spring of Immit:
'... bathe in the hot waters of spring to "cure their physical ailments". Separate rooms have been built for men and women'. source
Screening voyeurs
An often internet mentioned hot spring is the hot spring of Chitral (otherwise known as Garam Chasma (or Lotkoh), which is actually located 30 kms from Chitral). Here are a number of those internet finds:
'East of the main road near the town is a famous hot spring. The hot water comes from the hills. Near the residential area, a small steaming stream branch off to enter bathrooms and swimming pool (constructed by Chitral Scouts) before it joins the main course again. There are quite a few legends (or facts) famous about the hot spring. As per Mohyuddin, the water of hot sparing is a cure to Gouts and numbers of other skin diseases. I only revelled into the hot water to freshen up. It was very comforting'. source

'Swimming Pool full of hot water from Garam Chashma'.
Photo by NitroCario (note photo not available anymore?)
'The very basic Hotel Innjigaan (s/d Rs 80/120), east of the bazaar, has a big pool full of hot spring water to soothe your bones. Voyeurs are screened out so women in bathing costumes should feel quite safe'. source
'This un-spoilt enchanting valley of orchards, verdant fields and snow clad peaks is renowned for its boiling sulphur springs which are famous for healing effect on skin diseases, gout, rheumatism and chronic headaches. For the convenience of tourists “humans” (baths) have been constructed near the springs. Foreign tourists are requested to pay a toll tax of Rs.5.00 per person'. source
'I missed one point, crucially, in afore-mentioned list of Shahzada Amanur Rehman’s priorities; that is ‘Garam Chashma’ itself. I mean the famous “hot spring” which we always use as a trademark to introduce this beautiful valley to outsiders!
Any person who have had a chance to visit Garam Chashma mainly to have a ‘hot bath’ must have been disappointed to see the pathetic condition of bathrooms, showers, unhygienic pools and the lacks of other basic facilities related to natural hot baths. Hot spring swimming pool of Injigan hotel is a good option of course but not easily available to public'. source
There's even a website blog dedicated to this place with some stories and many pictures but none of the hot springs. The websites' entry phrasing:
'"Garam Chasma" means hot springs in Chitral. The hot springs are located at about 30-40 km distance from Chitral town and you can visit the place with a jeep drive. The hot springs are rich in sulphur content and are believed to have healing powers. There are places to take bath in the water of these springs'.
This website mentions that it is believed that especially women are said to profit from taking the waters, which is backed up by an article in the Dawn (Mar. 7, 2011).

And more hot spring trivia from Chitral. What is a Shu?
'Shu is a hand-spun, hand-woven, hand-loom fabric made of sheep’s wool, and is a product of the cottage industry'.
Great, but was this got to do with Pakistani hot springs? Well, take a look at the next photo and it's description:

'After weaving, the Shu is washed. It is felted in hot spring water (Garam Chashma), where it is washed and beaten with a stick (Moraik) to make the fibers cling together and produce a wind proof finished fabric'.
So much for clean hots springs! More info at the Shu site.

Other hot springs mentioned [1] in this region are Murtazabad, Mushkin, Budelas, Sassi and Dassu.


The aforemention Tatta is an often recurring name for a hot spring in the Himal and as elsewhere the name leads to some confusion. There is a Tattapani near Kotli in Azad Jammu Kaskmir Territory.
'Tatta Pani is famous for its sulpher water springs. During winter season a large number of people visit this place daily to have hot water bath for the cure of skin & rheumatic ailments'. source
'When we finally reach Choutron, we dipped our feet into the hot springs for as long as we could stand'.

[1] Nayyer Alam Zaigham (2005) Geothermal Energy Resources of Pakistan [pdf]. Proceedings World Geothermal Congress 2005, Antalya, Turkey.

[Updated January 2013]

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