Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

The railroad to Quetta

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As modern trains labour up the gradients of the Bolan Pass en route to Quetta, few travellers on-board would know that the first train to reach that city had not come up this way. In March 1887, the first ever train to reach Quetta had turned north at Sibi, passed through the Nari river gorge to reach the cool heights of Harnai, traversed that dramatic crack of Chappar Rift, veered west to Khanai and thence turned south to Bostan in order to make it to Quetta.

Chappar hill is shaped like a Swiss roll – a convex semicircular structure – at its western end. To the east, it turns into a fat mass of rock, deeply furrowed by rainwater that has washed down its contours for eons. Near the western end, the hill is cut asunder by a gaping chasm — a rift wrought by an earthquake that hit very long ago. At the bottom of the gash flows a stream which, depending on the weather, can either be a foaming torrent or a mere puddle.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 13:28, ,


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Paul Theroux, the American travel writer, began the madness. In 1979 he wrote that masterpiece, The Old Patagonian Express, that took readers from North America across the equator into the deep south of the continent. He bested himself a few years later with The Great Railway Bazaar and, finally, in the 1980s coaxed communist China to improve her railway system with Riding the Iron Rooster.

Any railway buff reading those three delightful works would have thought the last word on great railway journeys around the world had been delivered. But more was to come.

Reading Monisha Rajesh’s recent Around the World in 80 Trains: A 45,000 Mile Adventure, I discovered a kindred soul. She loathes air travel and laments that so many believe the age of railway journeys is a thing of the past. It is not. She notes — and so rightly — the disdain loaded in phrases such as ‘the middle of nowhere’ and ‘lost tribes’. Even ‘nowhere’ has hamlets sprinkled across it and lost tribes are well established in their respective niches, only outsiders are unaware of them.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 13:38, ,

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