photo by Zeeshan Haider
text by yours truly
My journey officially begins at the Chitral police station, where Pakistani friends sip sweet green tea while Shane and I try to argue our way out of 24-hour armed escorts.
“I was here just last July, and I didn’t have a guard then,” says the adamant Irishman, a five-year resident of Islamabad and a seasoned traveller in the northern areas.
Apparently, since October 2010 — a point in time that seems completely arbitrary to us — all foreigners are assigned guards. Will the guards fit in our Landcruiser? Okay then, not a problem. They’ll send a separate truck. So the next afternoon, we begin the treacherous uphill chug into what was, until recently, the North West Frontier, following a pick-up packed with cops — at least seven at last count.
The midsized Kalash valley of Rumbur is the land that time — and electricity, mobile service and hot showers — forgot. It’s less commercialised than Bhumboret, the larger valley, and its population is almost purely Kalash — a tribe of Indo-Aryans who consider themselves the progeny of Alexander the Great. Rumbur has five villages of between 10 to 50 families each.