Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Roads Less Travelled

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The most primordial act of the human race is walking. Hundreds of thousands of years before they formed societies and built their cities, humans walked. They walked from end to end of the great land masses of the planet, discovering their world as they went. For the walker, there was no road too difficult, no obstacle insurmountable. The walker went everywhere. And then, some five thousand years ago, humans domesticated the horse and the world suddenly grew smaller.

There were straightforward journeys across the easy geography of the plains. But there were others across mountainous terrain that could only be traversed through gaps or passes. In some cases, these passes were ordinary conduits across low mountain barriers; in others these were high altitude, ice-bound gaps in walls of rock, ice and snow. While man’s facility in discovering the first kind is understandable, the heroism of discovery and the subsequent travel over glaciated mountain crossings is truly admirable. The stories of these passes speak of man’s hardihood and determination.


Within its geographical limits, Pakistan with its several mountain chains has virtually hundreds of passes, long and short, alpine, glaciated or desert, fertile and well-watered or utterly desiccated. But most people can count fewer than half a dozen. Even then there is only a vague inkling that these passes have stories to tell, that they witnessed the unfolding of history. Of the remaining, the ordinary person knows absolutely nothing. That knowledge lies in the realm of the geographer and historian.

The twelve passes selected for this year’s diary and calendar are geographically and physically as different the one from the other as their history is varied. The common thread is the glamour, heroism and drama attached to every one of the passes that feature in these pages. While the stories of eleven of the featured passes go back thousands of years, the Khunjerab Pass is the only one that appears as an upstart – but an important one – among this dazzling galaxy.
 
Note: Twelve stories tagged Road Less Travelled, coming next on this blog, are the transcripts of the Pakistan Petroleum Limited Book of Days 2011

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM,

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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