Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Through Tunnel

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Visit any Mughal monument and the self-styled guide, secure in the knowledge that all comers are uneducated, ill-informed and gullible will foist himself upon you. Beside all other rubbish he spews out at you at blinding speed, he will also tell you that there are tunnels from the monument, say, Lahore Fort, to Delhi and Kashmir via Shalimar Gardens.

At Derawar, I have been told of such a subterranean connection with the fort of Jaisalmer and Bahawalpur; at Rohtas, of a link with Rewat (outside Rawalpindi which, incidentally, is not a fort but a caravanserai) and also Kashmir. The so-called guides proclaim that the emperors not wishing the unwashed subject to take a gander at their womenfolk travelled secretly between all these places by the tunnels.
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The Red Pass

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When I met Bashir two years ago I had liked him instantly. A native of Naran in the Kaghan Valley he is a rather unusual man for his background. He has ready wit and a delightful sense of humour. Best of all he is genuinely interested in his work as a mountain guide and does not treat his wards as useless pieces of baggage to be escorted from one point to the other and got over with as fast as possible. His most endearing feature, however, is the warmth in his boyish face and brown eyes.


By the time our trek finished we were friends and we parted with promises to walk together again. And so it was that the two of us set off into the gorge leading to Rutti Gali – the Red Pass, east of Battakundi in upper Kaghan. This is an uninhabited valley that comes alive every summer when the nomadic Gujjars and Afghans invade it with their herds of sheep and goats, and recedes into an icy somnolence when the storms of winter dump metres of snow in it.
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People I meet on the road

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Back in August 1990 on my long trek, I met two government engineers in Ishkoman (Gilgit-Baltistan). They were surprised I was travelling alone and asked me all sorts of questions about my fears. In the end one of them asked what if someone tried to rob me. I told them I had great faith in the inherent goodness of humans and had never been failed.

To tell you the truth, I have never felt threatened. I have always been welcomed when I have knocked doors in remote villages and asked to be taken in for the night. If I asked for the mosque in order to sleep there, I offended decent people who would not have a traveller sleep in the mosque and who took me home. And, mind, staying overnight meant at least two meals as well. Never once was I asked to recompense for the hospitality.
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Not even mediocre

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The other day I received a call from one of these private TV channels. The person said he wanted to speak to me regarding how we have failed to promote this sorry land as an attractive tourist destination and what we could do to turn things around.

And soon I had at my door two fresh-faced and very amiable young men with the accessories of their trade.

Now, being a travel writer is one thing and being able to wax meaninglessly, ad nauseum ineloquent on tourism promotion is another. I say this because anyone who is above forty in this country suddenly begins to look upon him/herself as an authority on everything that he/she knows nothing about.
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Travelling through Kaghan

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If I thought I had perfected the art of travelling like a tramp, my friend Bashir from Naran has given it finesse. Trekking in the outback whenever we came across a shepherd he would quiz the man in great detail about the nearest Gujjar camp and the leader, or Chaudhri, there. Then as we would go our way he would chuckle, ‘Should misfortune befall us now and we have no food or shelter I will tell the Chaudhri all the good things that people say about him as far away as Abbottabad.’


Bashir maintained that it was every human being’s egotistical desire to hear complimentary things and this was exactly what he gave them. Having not only survived an encounter with Chilasi brigands in the Rutti Gali connecting Kaghan Valley with Azad Kashmir, but through subterfuge having deprived them of a quarter of good lamb was elated. As we crested the broad saddle of Jalkhad Gali back into Kaghan we ran into Yusuf, the strapping Gujjar youth from the encampment at the foot of the pass.
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Canal Structures, Ingenuity at its Best

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If barrages and weirs are meant to raise water level in rivers and headworks to control flow, together making the irrigation system work, there are auxiliary structures on and along the canals that are examples of civil and hydraulic engineering at its ingenious best.

A distributary of Upper Swat Canal crosses a rivulet by aqueduct in the Yusufzai Plain

As far as the layman is concerned, a canal is excavated and water let in by the headworks to make it flow. However, as the channel winds its way across the topography, it traverses variable conditions, the most common being a river or canal crossing. In such a situation, there are three possible variables: the canal and diagonal water body flow at the same level, the canal flows at a level higher than the other water body or the canal is lower than the one to be crossed.
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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