26/1/92

THROUGH THE BARRICADES. The rain was still pelting down from a leaden sky when we boarded a minibus at 7.30am. The road was apparently blocked by a slip 25 km downstream, and we were told that minibuses were ferrying people from one side of the slip to the other where further transport down the Indus Valley was waiting.

The first landslide was 100 m wide and despite the occasional rock rolling down, one or two vehicles were crossing it. We unloaded our packs and began walking across the sea of mud, keeping an eye on the upper slopes above the road. Magnus panicked and began to run shouting “Hurry, for God sake hurry!” 

I just continued to walk, taking some photos as I went. As far as slips go this is nothing to worry about. On the other side, we climbed into a waiting Suzuki van which took us about 10 km downstream to the next slip. This one, however, was quite severe. Rubble and mud covered the road for about 80 m, and more was coming down. As we watched, three huge rocks, probably weighing 8 tonnes each, rolled down the slope and crashed into the raging river below, sending up an enormous shockwave of water against the trees on the opposite bank.

I was game to walk across, despite the risk, but Magnus was scared shitless and Linda wasn’t all that keen, so we took the advice of a couple of locals who said that they “didn’t want to die” and went to find a way around. About 100 m before the slip, a steep path let up the hill into the mist so he began to climb. It was very steep – almost vertical – and Magnus sat down trembling and would only go on after one of our guides had taken his pack and Linda had taken his day bag.

Our other guide took Linda’s backpack saying “it is my duty as you are a visitor to our country” and we continued to climb up the steep slope with rain pouring down on us.

The river below us was raging down the gorge: a vicious, seething mass of filthy brown water. Above it, the terraced hillsides stretched up into the mist and small collections of mud houses crouched on the ridges, safe from landslides and the river.

We crossed above the slip then began to descend to the road, again passing a long line of Pakistanis, some carrying huge loads on the heads, trudging up the hill in the opposite direction. Few people, it seemed, were game to tempt Allah by crossing the slip.

Back on the road again, we piled into yet another minivan for the 60 km run down to Mansehra,  a town of mud and rain, where we caught another bus to [Rawal]‘Pindi.

We got a taxi to the Saddar District and found a hotel with lots of hot water…lots and lots of hot water. We climbed out of our wet muddy gear and took turns in the shower which was utter bliss!

At night we made pigs of ourselves at a 95 rupee buffet at a restaurant called The Excellency Table, just down the street from the hotel.

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