Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Pir Balanosh, the dragon-slayer of Chaghi

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Urdu article about Pir Balanosh, the dragon-slayer of Chaghi district, Balochistan. A classic study in anthropology where ancient legend alters with changing modern reality [double click the image to enlarge].
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Trek record

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Trekking, as we know it, is actually a spin-off of the work of the early 19th century European explorers, surveyors and map-makers. Hiring local hunters and shepherds as guides, they followed the barely marked trails plied by earlier natives. The first adventurers, in the true sense, were mountaineers who had little to do with exploration and map-making, but were obsessed with climbing the virgin snows of the  system.


By the 1920s, yet another breed of adventurer was roaming this great knot of high peaks and glaciers. This bunch did not climb per se. Driven by curiosity, they simply walked the trails. Their purpose was largely historical and sociological studies and they worked on shoestring budgets. There was, of course, another sub-caste: wealthy, highly educated, cultured persons of the world. Theirs was the best written record.
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To the Shrine of the Invisible Saint

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The hills – as gold-brown as sun-dried chaff, or dark grey like fire-scoured lead, rise sharply on either side of the narrow gorge. Rarely is their burnished starkness broken by vegetation; rarely, save during a downpour, does one see a trickle of water on these slopes. Desiccated, harsh and barren, the slopes run down to the pebbly bed of the Bolan River where the water flows in a narrow channel. Rarely does the entire riverbed know the feel of water sluicing over it – and that again only during a downpour.


Long, long before Alexander the Macedonian was born; long before the Aryan hordes swept into the plains of the Sindhu-Ganga river system to give rise to a new religion and a new culture; even before the great tragic hero Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk (lower Mesopotamia), disturbed by the demise of his dearest friend, undertook his epic quest for immortality; the Bolan Gorge had resounded to the tramp of marching feet, to the clink of armoury and the jangle of camels’ bells. For this was the highroad leading west from the plains of Sindh where one of the great civilisations of prehistory flourished. The discovery of the ruins at Mehrgarh near Sibi at the lower end of the Pass and the verification that this ancient city had flourished as far back as the eighth millennium BCE testifies that the Bolan route has certainly been used as long as that.
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Walking into the unknown

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Funny thing is that I get lost driving my car around in some cities. I have never lost in a serious major sort of way in the wild places of Pakistan except one time on a solo trek when I blundered off the trail in Chitral and ended up on a dangerous rock face. Got out without any damage, though.

Another time, leading a group of Asian Study Group folks including the elderly and wonderful Dr Lois Mervyn of the then American Centre, I lost the way from Ara rest house to Nandna because I was too busy yakking away with my dear friend Rhona Atkinson. Lost face very much because only a few minutes earlier I had been telling young Brad, an American kid, 'only a fool would lose the way here.' Brad did not miss a chance to rag me to death after that.
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The last post

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On The Apricot Road to Yarkand - Book is available at Sang e Meel (042-3722-0100), Lahore

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The Men of Hunza

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In August 1861, the explorer Godwin-Austen was camped on the Panmah Glacier when he met four travellers coming down the icy slopes of the glacier above. They were Balti men returning home from Yarkand to meet friends and relatives. Godwin-Austen noted that they were very well-clothed and equipped and guessed that living in Yarkand had done them well in economic terms.


Though the explorer already knew of the depredations of the men of Hunza, he got first-hand information on the subject from his Balti visitors: the robbers from whom no one was safe were all over the place. The road across the glaciated Great Asiatic Divide to Raskam and beyond was within their reach. As well as that, they also prowled along the great trunk road from Leh that we today sometimes know as the Karakoram Route over the pass of the same name.
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شاہ دولہ کا پل

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The old man of Ghund

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When he was finally himself again, Baba Ghundi told the woman that under no circumstances was she to leave her home because he was bringing down a flood of mud and stones to destroy the evil folk of Chapursan. For her kindness, she alone was to be spared.


Chapursan is a right picturesque valley that stretches from the Karakoram Highway at Sost a full sixty kilometres westward to the watershed of the 5185 metre-high Chilinji Pass. Well-watered by many silvery streams and fertilised by the fine loam left behind by a glacier that melted perhaps about four hundred years ago, Chapursan has rich farmlands and orchards. The people, of old Kirghiz stock who speak Wakhi, a language that descends from archaic Persian, are notable for their extreme hardihood and cheerfulness.
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My Books

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

Books of Days