Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Momentous feat: as much for the expeditions as for the destinations

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Lukpe La (5700 metres) certainly was the highpoint of the 1990 expedtion described in Between Two Burrs on the Map. It was actually quite a relief having made it that far and then across this icy pass. But there were many miles yet to go before I could end the expedition in Chitral and the feeling of actually having accomplished came on only after crossing Ishkoman Aghost (Pass) en route to Yasin that I got the first sense of nearing completion and success. The last thirty odd kilometers through the Golain Valley into Chitral were triumphant. I felt on the top of the world.

But in the 2006 expedtion (The Apricot Road to Yarkand), there were at least three highpoints. First, the setting out from Raskam village where the jeep dropped my guide and me and we got the camels for the onward trek. Second, the attaining of Aghil Pass (4780 metres). This was because until 1963, this pass was part of Pakistan and had I been older, I could have been there without a passport. Also this was the source of the Surukhwat River that we had followed upstream since leaving Raskam. Third was entering the Shaksgam River valley at the bottom of Aghil because I had read again and again of it in Eric Shipton's classic of mountaineering and exploration Blank on the Map. No less exciting was becoming the only Pakistani to glimpse the north face of K-2.

In this expedition, everything was rather subdued. There was no great elation as in 1990. Could it be that in between I had travelled so widely in difficult places across Pakistan? That I was a bit blasé? Whatever it was, when we returned to Raskam and the jeep arrived to take us back to Kashgar, there was no sense of triumph. There was a muted sense of accomplishment – a sense of having been somewhere that I had been reading about since 1985. I didn’t toss my walking stick into the air and shout 'Yippee!' or anything. I shook hands with Wahab, my guide, and Seet, the camel man, and thanked them with genuine gratitude and feeling. I also patted the three camels. The journey was done; I had seen what I had set out to see. It is very strange, but I think when humans do things such as these they do not become arrogant, their heads stuffed with notions of their own greatness as, say, success in cricket does to so many.

British explorer extraordinary Ranulph Fiennes and Dr Mike Stroud man-hauled sleds weighing 800 kg across 1200 km of Antarctic ice under conditions that were not just extremely fraught with physical danger, but were also dreadfully tough. Never once do you get the gloating in Fiennes' book Mind over Matter (published mid-1990s). Also look at great men like Eric Shipton and William Tilman, they are extremely humble almost invisible human beings. I believe being in the wild places of the earth kills the ego; destroys all illusion of one's own stature. That is the truest form of self-discovery.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 10:19,


At 13 May 2013 at 10:59, Anonymous Brad said...

There is much more to the adventure that reaching from one point to another. It is the process that helps self-discovery. You are a great traveler. I am going to read the two books. Happy to find this blog.

At 13 May 2013 at 16:25, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Thank you, Brad. Between Two Burrs on the Map on the map may be hard to get. The other one is expensive on Amazon. If you have any difficulty, please email me and I'll see what I can do.


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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