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Himalaya

Day 15: From Mastuj Fort to the Shandur Pass

Mastuj Fort, Pakistan 
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Walking with the Colonel. Khushwaqt, Grand Old Man of the Ul-Mulk dynasty at Mastuj Fort.
Michael Palin - HimalayaThree hours of dogged mountain driving out of Mastuj, our convoy is climbing out of the last cultivated valley, which now lies far below us, tucked into the massive rubble-strewn flanks of mountainside like a fig leaf on a grey marble statue. With a last heave of the gears we push through 12,000 feet (3650 m) and soon level out onto a grassy plateau with a blue lake spread along its length and saw-tooth mountains surrounding it. We've reached the Shandur Pass, the watershed between the valleys of Chitral in the Hindu Kush and Gilgit in the Karakoram.

Although the three-day festival doesn't begin till tomorrow, this normally desolate and lonely place is beginning to resemble a small town. Vehicles raise clouds of dust as they arrive on the plateau laden with people, food, bedding and tents. As many as 10,000 are expected for the big polo game and shops and businesses from the surrounding villages have moved up here to supply them.

Cafés are opening, offering the obligatory karaoke, stalls are selling rugs and blankets, generators are coughing into life, and special prayer areas are being marked out with stones.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 15: From Mastuj Fort to the Shandur Pass
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: The Shandur Pass
  • Book page no: 36

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