Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

'Horse Trading'

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Bashir arrived with Riaz who, he said, was a "brother". This could have meant that he was anything from a cousin thrice removed, to someone who simply lived in the same village. The loads were arranged, some last minute shopping done and we set off just before eleven with Bashir making dark observations about this being no way of running an expedition. From years of being a guide for Westerners, Bashir was almost de-culturised: he did not look upon his work as something to be done with quickly and his clients as useless baggage to be escorted from one point to another. He enjoyed being in the mountains, had a healthy respect for them and felt there was a bond between man and mountain. Riaz, on the other hand, had never been a porter and was a morbid fatalist who began every sentence with, "If tomorrow we live, if death does not overtake us...." considered it madness to be walking to Chilas when we could easily have taken the bus from Mansehra.


Past the clump of red roofed buildings that are the Tourism Corporation's resort we tramped into a broadening valley with fields lush with the vibrant green of young wheat, where women gave up whatever they were doing to shout greetings to Bashir and Riaz. Sometimes there were protracted discussions about how far they were going and when they would return. It defied explanation how both parties could make themselves heard above the roar of the river. Thus it was for the next three and a half hours until we got to Battakundi.
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The Apricot Road to Yarkand

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On The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Book is available at Sang e Meel (042-3722-0100), Lahore

Odysseus Lahori one year ago: Inspired by True Greatness

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Abbottabad: beauty and buried bounty

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I noticed young Asad Tanoli when he posted an image of his native Sherwan on social media. It was a right picturesque little alpine village and not the image I retained from 1972. Lying about 30 kilometres west of Abbottabad, it was then a hamlet of stone and timber houses with a sprinkling of some mud-plastered ones.

On the phone, Asad spoke of dozens of kots around his village and the remains of a house built by old James Abbott. Now in the vernacular, a kot is a fortress and I had visions of them dotting every hilltop. As for Abbott’s old home, I conjured up an image of something with a touch of the eerie much like the old Murree Brewery ruins near Ghora Gali or Reginald Dyer’s ruined house in faraway Rabat in Balochistan.
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Retracing ancient heritage

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My young friend Ahmad Umair has some business along the Ravi south of Lahore where he frequently travels on roads that are not on the itinerary of most travellers. One day he mentioned a place called Sarai Mughal outside which he had seen a domed building.

A couple of years earlier, I had been to Sarai Chhimba, near Jambar about thirty kilometres southwest of Thokar Niaz Beg and just off N-5. Talking at that time to my guru, the preeminent archaeologist Dr Saifur Rahman Dar, I was reminded that there were once upon a time inns at convenient intervals along all major intercity roads. In those days of travel either on foot or by horse or even bullock cart, a convenient distance for a day’s journey was ten kos or between thirty to forty-five kilometres.
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Thalle La - the pass I couldn’t make

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In the 1977 obituary of Eric Shipton, his lifelong friend and climbing partner Bill Tilman wrote of having suffered from “mountaineer’s foot” on the expedition to climb Muztagh Ata in 1947. At that time, Tilman was 50 and his mate ten years younger — and he explained that the disease was the “inability to place one foot in front of the other."

Both Tilman and Shipton were however supermen. They carried on mountain climbing and adventuring until the very ends of their lives. I am a far lesser mortal and after having quietly celebrated my sixtieth in February, I was still looking forward to a few more years of hill walking. However, the sobering memory of my 2009 trek to Mintaka when blistered feet caused me to ride a donkey took the spunk out of me.

Nevertheless, the following year I had redeemed myself by walking from Shimshal, over the Shimshal Pass (4725 metres) to the summer pasture of Shuwert — arguably the most strenuous trek anywhere in Pakistan. Now I thought I was ready to tackle Thalle La that connects Shigar with the Shyok valley about 25kms northwest of Khaplu.
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Train tourism

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Railways is among the more enduring legacies of the British Raj in the subcontinent. There is virtually an inexhaustible body of extremely interesting lore and history of the building of this great system of transportation discussed in a few excellent books and in the esoteric journals in the Punjab Archives. It is another story that the ignorant and asinine bureaucrats do not permit access to that great treasure trove.


Even if one has not read about the intricacies and heroism of the laying of the line from, say, Ruk (near Shikarpur) to Sibi, one can still stand on the platform of Ruk and wonder what the letters KSR and IVSR that adorn the façade in blue on white ceramic tiles mean. The lettering signifies that this little-known station was the junction of the Indus Valley State Railway coming up from Kotri and the new line to Quetta and Chaman called the Kandahar State Railway.
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In Peshawar

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In the Bazaar Qissa Khwaan (popularly Qissa Khwani), opposite the lane leading into Mohallah Jehangirpura, there stands a pair of marble cupolas. The plaque below commemorates the patriots who laid down their lives on the twenty-third day of April 1930. That was when the freedom movement took off in Peshawar. As the demonstrators reached this point in the bazaar, a heavy police picket opposed them. Then as the sides stood facing each other down, there came from the side of the cantonment an armoured car that drove right into the rioters as Raj authorities would have called them or the patriots as we like to say.

Then all hell broke loose. The authorities opened fire and many died. That was what made it to the history books. What never merited recording was the story of the boy not yet past his tenth year who had come to watch the demonstration. He stood to one side of the surging crowd and when the first volley was fired was as terrified out of his wits as any ten year-old should be. Ducking quickly under the shop-front ledge that extended over the gutter running along the side of the street, he could only get himself partially under cover.
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Deosai: Land of the Giant

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From DEOSAI: THE LAND OF THE GIANT - available at Sang-e-Meel Publications (042-3722-0100), Lahore 

Related excerpts: Land of the GiantDeosai National Park and Book Review - Deosai Romance

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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