UPDATED: Now with map!
Because every unfamiliar setting deserves one. 🙂 Passages in blockquote are from the book.
NOT QUITE A HUSBAND starts in Rumbur Valley, on the North-West Frontier of British India (today’s North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan) Rumbur Valley is one of the three valleys known as the Kalash Valleys, so called because of their unique Kalasha population. The Kalasha are a tribe of pagans who worship a pantheon of gods. They believe themselves to have descended from the soldiers of Alexander the Greek–and it is not unusual to find among the Kalasha fair hair and blue/green eyes. Unlike the Kafirs of Afghanistan who were forcibly converted to Islam in mid-1890s by the Amir of Kabul, the Kalash Valleys happened to fall on the British side of the Durand Line, and the Kalasha were allowed to continue in their ancient beliefs first under the British, then later under the constitution of Pakistan.
Across the stream, fields glinted a thick, bright gold in the narrow alluvial plain—winter wheat ready for harvest. Small, rectangular houses of wood and stacked stone piled one on top of another along the rising slope, like a collection of weathered playing blocks. Beyond the village, the ground elevated more rapidly, a brief stratum of walnut and apricot trees before the bones of the hills revealed themselves, austere crags that supported only dots of shrubs and an intrepid deodar or two.
LOL, this is not the exact same village, so it looks a little different. 🙂 But it is still a fairly recognizable as a Kalasha village.
He watched her wend her way past women in vibrantly embroidered black robes guiding water into the irrigation canals that supplied the fields of wheat, women in vibrantly embroidered black robes shaking ripe mulberries from trees onto blankets, women in vibrantly embroidered black robes cutting hay to make winter fodder.
Kalasha women’s costume is quite distinctive: black robe exuberantly embroidered, thick strands of beaded necklace, and headdress decorated with cowry shells.
Once Leo convinces Bryony to come with him, they leave the Kalash Valleys. The Kalash Valleys are lateral valleys cut into the mountains to the west of Chitral Valley. Chitral is a strategic forward hold for the British, who feared that the Russians could sweep down any moment and contest their crown jewel, India.
Chitral Valley is dominated to the north by the Tirich Mir, the highest peak of the Hindu Kush. Leo and Bryony, however, would only see the Tirich Mir when they look backward, as they are headed not north, but south, toward the plains of India.
To get out of Chitral Valley, Leo and Bryony brave Lowari Pass, elevation 10,230 ft.
It took dozens of one-hundred-eighty-degree turns for the road to zigzag up the steep slope leading toward Lowari Pass, ten thousand feet above sea level, a narrow gap in snowpeaked mountains that towered thousands of feet higher to either side. From the top, looking down at the way she’d come, Bryony thought the dirt path resembled so many hairpins that a careless goddess had dropped. The mountains, like a choppy sea, stretched blue and jagged toward the horizon.
The above image actually shows the descent side of the pass, which is not as steep and dramatic as the ascent side.
Once they have crossed Lowari Pass, they move ever closer to Swat Valley.
Swat Valley is called the Switzerland of Pakistan–please do yourself a favor and look at these spectacular pics here. Yet Swat Valley was nothing less than spectacularly dangerous in the summer of 1897. Inspired by the exhortations of a certain Mad Fakir, its population rose in a swift, powerful rebellion that caught the local British garrison by the short hairs.
Route Map (Or whatever I could get off Google Earth):
Their journey started in the Kalasha village of Balanguru. Nowshera is where they could get on the train. The yellow line is the Afghanistan boundary. The red line is the boundary between NWFP and FANA.
And here’s an aeriel view of the ascent toward Lowari Pass. Notice all the zigzags.
I wish I could show you more pics, but it’s hard to find good pics either in the public domain or in the creative commons. So I guess this will have to do. 🙂 I hope you have enjoyed your mini-tour and I hope you enjoy NOT QUITE A HUSBAND.