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Himalaya

Day 8: The Kalash Valleys

Michael Palin - HimalayaWe're at 6500 feet (1980 m) and as the Kalash live in a largely pre-industrial state, with almost no modern gadgetry of any kind, the air is clear and fresh. Two small hydroelectric generators provide what electricity is needed; otherwise, life is entirely based around agriculture. The women till the fields in traditional costume while the men look after the livestock. The houses, stout and stone-walled, are tiered up on top of each other to save space, with one person's roof another's front porch. They have neither gabled roofs nor chimneys and the smoke from the open fires has to find its way out of a hole in the ceiling.

It's picturesque and soothingly quiet, but as we walk through the village there are signs that all is not well. Children have runny noses and dirty faces, their clothes are grubby and their eyes often red and watery from the wood smoke that fills the houses. Faces show the effects of in-breeding and for each smile we get there will be another dull, dejected, vacant glance. Though Saifullah is proud and protective of his community, he can't disguise the problems. The Kalash, infidels, squeezed to the very edge of their country, are neither powerful nor numerous. Rumbur consists of 50 families, about 300 people, and the combined population of the Kalash villages is around 4000.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 8: The Kalash Valleys
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Rumbur
  • Book page no: 26

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