The Kalash Valleys
Trip Start Aug 10, 2008
80Trip End Dec 01, 2010
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Where I stayed
Holding onto the Shu'shut on my head I navigated the snow and ice to visit some of the neighbour's houses and had my first insight into the homes here. Before we left I felt a little obliged to buy the Shu'shut they offered me because of the hospitality, and we all got back into the jeep to continue to Rumbor. The driver had also been drinking but not too much and seemed more alert, anyway without him I was stranded!
We drove in the dark and for quite some way - I shyly had to stop at the side of the road for the toilet because the journey seemed to go on for ever and the bumpy roads meant I couldn't hold it in! We arrived at Engineers Khan's guesthouse and I was welcomed into their home and they made fresh omelet and chai for me - which I was really grateful for. Again I was the first guest of the year for them but I felt confident because they'd been highly recommended by the Icelandic guys I'd got so much advice from. Their recommendation was deserved - they were a lovely family and my room rate included all my meals - we were in the middle of nowhere and even if I had wanted to (which I didn't) I couldn't have got food from anywhere else! The walnut bread was one of my favorite things and also a walnut/lentil paste that you ate with bread. I was also treated to some fantastic red wine that Engineer made himself - it was the first I'd had for ages and the only homemade red wine I'd tried.
Rumbor wasn't as snowy as Bumboret but I was still glad of my big sleeping bag at night
On my first day, Engineer took me to meet some of the neighbours and to the community hall and encouraged me to just take a walk around and meet people. Some people are shy, some a little guarded but others give a big smile and welcome and want so much to talk, but here our language stops us, they speak Kalash here so even my few words of Urdu I'd picked up were of no use. I suddenly felt a bit shy myself, I felt a bit like I was intruding and didn't want to be like a typical tourist looking through a camera lens. This area was very different to anywhere I'd seen, in fact I think I was a bit awe-struck by it all. I went for a walk down to the river and let my thoughts drift. Maybe it was the beauty of the remoteness of this place but my head was buzzing with thoughts so I got out my notebook and did some drawing and writing. Here are some thoughts from my diary. It's a bit rambling and philosophical but I just want to try and explain my feelings here...
Sitting on a rock, legs dangling, warm sun burning my cheeks and through my clothes, cool air from the freezing cold river sometimes touching my back, arms, hair to remind me of the snow covered mountains around. The water is the only sound, roaring, rippling, rushing and plopping over the rocky river bed.
I closed my eyes for minutes, maybe an hour, thinking of nothing and everything. What am I doing here? Why have I come? What do I expect? About Pakistan, the people I'm meeting, home..
Before travelling, I had no idea that a place like this existed. That sounds crazy, stupid, but this is a completely new world to me, a whole different way of life. It makes me think of my concept of a 'good life' and my purpose. What type of life do I like, want? For now, and for the future when one day I may have children. Life in England is good for work, learning, technology, "comforts", building on life, home, finances. I know when I go back I'll be absorbed back into that and sucked into the work-sleep-work cycle. Here is the extreme opposite. A very simple (but hard) life - nature, family, working for food, enjoying time with friends, wandering around without appointments, changing life depending on the season, surviving. I feel like I'm in a dream. I come with English money, thoughts and I'm suddenly dropped into this world. I am an outsider, an intruder, what do people really think of me? What do they imagine my life, my country to be like?
Here I am awestruck with the scenery, the nature, the people. The beautiful clothes that to me are like amazing costumes, but it truly is their reality. They don't dress for tourists, this is their life. I can only observe, it's hard to communicate so I can only guess. I can wander around, meet people, but is that selfish? What do I bring them? Do they see a dollar sign over my head? What harm do I do here?
This is Pakistan, and I had no idea it existed. Everywhere here is so different. I almost need to go home for a reality check, a baseline
After a day or so I found more courage to explore and see people. I walked around and found large groups of children and women, and I played a little with the children and spoke some time with a young girl, around 20, who spoke English. Later I got talking to another person and he took me to meet his family where they lit a new fire just to make chai for me. He then showed me the gathering place and community hall used during festival time, and introduced me to his father's family.
I feel a little bit closer to the family and a little bit more relaxed as the days went on - and had 'breakthrough' moments with the children - Sarah, the young daughter who had seemed to dislike the fact that I was here today cracked a walnut for me, Nasir started playing a game I'd shown him the day before so that I'd join in, and as the quieter of the brothers I found him playing with my hair after dinner. Yasin, the older brother is as helpful as ever and accompanied me for part of my walk as soon as he'd finished school. Even Engineer's wife came with me for a walk today to show me a spring to get good clean water
By now Engineer's wife had also taught me some Kalash words and phrases and I loved the fact that everyone greets each other as 'brother' or 'sister' and an older lady will usually kiss you on your hand (which I returned). He's what I learnt, the spellings are my own interpretations of the sound:
Sister - baba
Brother - bhai
Thanks - bo proosht
Water - oik
Drinking - pindi
Eating - jimdi
Bye - codaya
How are you? proostie yiee
Good night/ good sleep - proosht doodie
Good morning - oboogeeyeh
I'm very hungry - aboo a nora
I'm very full - tat teer iram
See you - gel pashiq
Good - proost
Milk tea - kia chai
Hot water - peech oik
I wish to wash my hands - a me bizarre nigom day
What is your name - tie num kia
My name is... - may num...
My leg is ok - mia cour tarza (everyone always asked because of my limp!)
Beautiful - shishoyyak
Very beautiful - bosh she shore
On one of the days I took a walk to the Afghan village, further along the valley. A track led to it and it took about 2 hours to get there. For the start of the walk 2 of the girls I'd met accompanied me, singing and clapping as we walked. Further up I met some schoolboys who walked along with me - they walk the distance to get to school every day. The snow increased as we went on, and the path was covered in very deep snow in some places, and we had to navigate rockslides at other places - I'd been told to keep my eyes on the rocks ahead to make sure there was no new movement. I soon learnt the word for snow (Zim) because everyone I met warned my there was lots of it further up - I think they were surprised I was going that way
At one point we had to cross a fast flowing stream - the boys jumped across the rocks quite easily but I'd already got wet in another stream a few days ago trying the same so I was more cautious this time! The boys threw in and piles up more rocks for me to cross but they were so wobbly I couldn't do it! I felt like such a chicken! Thankfully a man working nearby came past and took my hands to help me over, telling me to find him again when I came back.
It was a beautiful walk, and when I reached the end, there I found the small village. A large gathering of men and children were outside when I arrived and it was as if the whole village stopped talking and looked around when I approached!
As I walked past one of the houses, an older lady beckoned me inside and onto a stool next to the stove. Soon I was surrounded by about 30 curious women and children crowded onto the stools, floor and beds around the edge of the room. Unfortunately none of them spoke English, or Urdu, or Kalash - they had a different language here. They gave me some green tea and soon a man arrived that spoke some English so he helped to translate their questions
After I'd had the tea, the English speaking guy took me to his house to meet his family and to eat some lunch and we talked some more. Too soon it was time to go back - I had to make sure I got back over the track before it got dark! On the walk back I spoke to one of the guys carrying big loads of crops on his back. He was an older man but insisted that I took his walking stick to navigate the snow so I had to accept and then raced to keep up with him down the track! When I got to the stream I was alone again and the man I'd met before must have finished his work because it was late. Even the rocks that the boys had stacked up had been washed away! Some men the other side saw me trying to cross and signaled for me to wait, then they brought a plank of wood and laid it over the water for me to use - I was so grateful and humbled by all the help I was getting. When I got back, Engineer had his motorbike keys in his hand and was just about to come and look for me..oops! Here's the few words I learnt while I was there:
Shimus - thank you
Iousha - hello to man
Iesha - hello to woman
Zim - snow
I spent a week in this beautiful little valley with no mobile signal, tvs, running water and just a single track road connecting it to Chitral. It had been an amazing time.