Can You Travel Nuristan June?

Eric Newby’s cable to his friend, Hugh Carless, marked Newby’s exit from a career in high fashion. And the beginning of A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. Renowned travel author William Dalrymple described A Short Walk… as “the book that virtually invented modern travel writing.” In 1956, Newby and Carless attempted to summit Mir Samir, a twenty thousand foot peak in the Hindu Kush range in Nuristan, the land of the Tajiks in the northeast corner of Afghanistan. Neither had climbing experience, other than learning how to connect themselves to a rope and the rope to a rock, enabling one to haul in the other, in the event he found himself dangling in mid-air. Mountaineers call it belaying.

Newby’s prose is masterful and fun. The read is a short, delightful walk.

But it was the river that dominated the scene. In it boys were swimming held up by inflated skins and were swept downstream in frightening fashion until the current swirled them into deep pools near the bank before any harm could come to them; while in the shallows where the water danced on pebbles smaller children splashed and pottered. On its banks, too, life was being lived happily: a party of ladies in reds and brilliant blues walked along the opposite bank, talking gaily to one another; poplars shimmered; willows bowed in the breeze; water flowed slowly in the irrigation ditches through a hundred gardens, among apricot trees with the fruit still heavy on them, submerging the butts of the mulberries, whose owners squatted in their properties and viewed the scene with satisfaction. Old white-bearded men sat proudly on stone walls with their grandchildren, grave-looking little boys with embroidered pill-box hats and little girls of extraordinary beauty.

Newby and Carless failed to stand on Mir Samir’s peak, coming within 800 feet. Not important. Newby never makes the assumption that travel is more than the trip. There is one itinerary: the overland drive from London to Nuristan, the walk, the climb are fun enough, adventure enough. (The book is #16 on National Geo’s all-time list.) No peregrination here. No Journey Without Maps, Graham Greene’s introspective travelogue.

Newby’s spontaneous, vibrant descriptions of nature, people, personalities, meetings, valleys, rivers and mountains and his astonishing humor – facetious, amusing, comical and funny – open readers’ eyes like the swift brushstrokes of a master calligrapher creating anew an ancient Chinese character.

— Tucker Cox

Tucker Cox has worked and lived in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo, co-founded and managed a small, high tech company and taught marketing at The University of Georgia. He holds a Master of Liberal Arts from the University of North Carolina Asheville and a Master of Arts in International Transactions from George Mason University. Tuck’s lifetime travel goal is 100 countries and 7 continents. His current status is 87 and 6, Antarctica still outstanding.

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