Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Alone-ness in the wilderness

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I have always liked to travel alone. When I was young and first began venturing into the great wilderness of Khirthar north of Karachi, there was no question of asking any of the Karachites I knew. They were all too city-bound. I liked being alone in the wilderness. I think it was this alone-ness (not loneliness) that cultivated the respect and admiration for nature and the wild places of this good earth.
For the first time then, in early 1979, did I actually become aware and extremely appreciative of birdsong. This could not have happened if I had been with a noisy group. Also the soughing of wind through the coarse vegetation of the Khirthar was another song that I had not known.
All my early treks - and these were in the Khirthar Mountains - were by myself. Then I met Maqbool Abbas who had good temperament and together we walked the length of the Hub River (about 250 km) in February 1987. In Chitral in 1986, 1987 and in Swat and Baltistan in 1988 and the year after, I was again alone. The expedition described in Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan was sponsored by a businessman friend and I had money to hire porters. Had this sponsorship not been in place, the expedition would never have taken place.
For the Muztagh Pass expedition (The Apricot Road to Yarkand), I saw Nasser Khan as a better team leader than myself. The man has excellent temperament. But our doctor Naeem Awan was nothing to write home about. I had the choice of going alone, but I was not sure if I would be able to handle a whole bunch of porters. I now know that I could have done it. The porters were all wonderful men. Now that I will be motorcycling whenever I get the time, I plan to do solo journeys. Travelling by oneself is more fun than being in a group.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 11:40,


At 10 May 2013 at 12:37, Anonymous Jenny said...

I also have a huge fondness for the great expanse or the mighty mountains. It is liberating to travel solo. When I need to escape, I walk into the unknown and spend time with myself in peace.

Your writing is so cool.

At 10 May 2013 at 13:41, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Jenny, we have this one thing in common then: to be alone in wild places. Nothing uplifts the soul as this experience. Thank you for the appreciation, too.

At 10 May 2013 at 15:25, Blogger Nayyar Julian said...

Perhaps groups are safer in the wilderness. More so when the journey is on such difficult and less travelled routes. No?

At 10 May 2013 at 16:04, Anonymous Kausar Bilal said...

In fact, your are right. Alone-ness is many times required in doing ventures like walking, traveling, reading, working out or so on. Actually, these things are directly related to not only our physical maintenance but spirituality.
In truth,in our society there is no clarity on loneliness and alone-ness. Many times we want to be alone with ourselves to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

At 10 May 2013 at 16:13, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Spot on, Kausar. Solitude nurtures the spirit.

At 10 May 2013 at 16:13, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Cannot agree with you Nayyar. What then of the sense of adventure if we must travel in groups for the sake of safety?

At 10 May 2013 at 20:41, Anonymous Ramla said...

Are you loner? How can a story teller want to be lonely? The way you tell the stories, I thought you love human company.

At 12 May 2013 at 05:30, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Ramla, An emphatic NO about being a loner. I like travelling alone, but I love meeting with people on the way and listening to their stories. Also travelling alone does not mean you are ever lonely; remember the birdsong and the scenery.

At 21 May 2013 at 10:45, Anonymous Labib said...

Alone, I want to get far, far away for all this 'life'.

At 28 September 2013 at 00:55, Anonymous Tariq Malik said...

Completely agree. However, it is the fear of the unknown that grips me presently. As the great Ghalib puts it so beautifully:

پڑیئے گر بیمار تو کوئی نہ ہو تیمار دار
اور اگر مر جایئے تو نوحہ خواں کوئی نہ ہو

[If I'm held laid up, no one to nurse me through my illness;
Should death be my fate, nary a soul to mourn in wilderness]

Some company is necessary, sire!


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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