Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

On Mintaka

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On a track less travelled

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On the twenty-fourth day of May 1883, the Sindhu River was bridged at Attock. The magnificent new steel structure stood within sight of the medieval fort built by Akbar the Great and over this bridge, the first through train from Lahore rolled on to Peshawar. Within the next two decades, new bridges spanned the mighty river again at Khushalgarh, Sukkur and Kotri and most of the railway network that Pakistan inherited at the time of independence was complete.


There is the ‘main line’ that most of us know of that runs from Peshawar to Karachi through Lahore. And there are other lines that only the most ardent railway enthusiast has ever heard of. There is one line that I had long known from hearsay for its very fine railway architecture deemed to be well worth travelling along. This is the railway connection between the towns of Attock up on the Potohar Plateau and Daudkhel in the foothills of the southwestern part of the Salt Range near the more famous Kalabagh.
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The Salt Range and the Potohar Plateau

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The Salt Range and the Potohar Plateau  - Book is available at Sang e Meel (042-3722-0100), Lahore 

Odysseus Lahori one year ago: Land of the Giant

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World's End

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Northeast of Skardu, on the right bank of a stream that flows with the colour of molten slate lies the small village of Askole. Here the seemingly interminable web of glaciers punctuated by a jumble of great, icy peaks takes over and spreads north and eastward as far away as the deserts of Tartary and the Tibetan plateau. Askole has been referred to as "World's End", for that is what it truly is -- the last village before an endless wilderness.

Entrance to Askole [Image from the Apricot Road to Yarkan]

Long before they built the jeep track through the Shigar Valley the shortest connection between Skardu and Askole was through the Skoro Lungma -- Valley of the Skoro River. This narrow and desolate gorge and the high pass at its head were usable only between the months of July and September and all early expeditions, whenever possible, passed through it. But now, as they speed through the Shigar Valley by jeep, the route lies abandoned and forgotten; crossed rarely even by local shepherds. Even fewer trekkers use it to satisfy their spirit of adventure. And this was the way I had planned for the Expedition to get to Askole.
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A Punjab odyssey

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Shabnam and I crossed the border on a cold winter morning to a warm reception on the far side of the gates at Wagah. We were not part of any delegation; this was a purely private trip, a follow-up of my March 2008 yatra. The earlier visit, my first ever to India, was an attempt to discover the fate of one part of a family I had never known.

One day about the fourteenth of August, 1947 my grandfather Dr Badaruddin who lived on Railway Road, Jalandhar and his wife, two daughters and father in law together with their servant, his wife and five children were lost to the world. They became part of the one million mostly Punjabi people, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims, who died for the division of India. From living beings, these people suddenly became statistics.

This time around, I hoped to find cases among Sikhs and Punjabi Hindus whose families had migrated from what became Pakistan and whose stories were similar to mine. We found people, we heard their stories, and together we became misty-eyed putting on brave Punjabi faces to show that we did not cry. As I wept privately at night, I am sure others did too. The grief of that event 62 years ago continues to haunt those like Darshan Singh in Jalandhar who was just a child when his family migrated from Klasswala near Pasrur. Others like Mohinder Pratab Sehgal, then just in his teens, who remembered my grandfather and the slaying of the family, still feels the guilt of that terrible time.
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Drivers

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This piece appears in the December 2014 issue of Herald

Most semi-educated blockheads believe Darwin said we had evolved from monkeys. He didn’t. What he said was that we evolved from a lower form of life and going by the behaviour of our civil, military and mullah politicians, it can safely be deduced that monkeys can only be a higher form of life. However, looking at Pakistani male drivers you know that they very likely come from a long and unillustrious line of rats and mice. Not even monkeys would drive like them!

This is especially true if you are either a motorcyclist or a paid or underage driver (whose father is either a powerful politico or a bureaucrat). By the way, underage here means any man less than seventy years old because here men never grow up; they just grow old.
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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