In the Hindu Kush with the Next Generation

Posted by Jonny Bealby 13th June 2024
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In the Hindu Kush with the Next Generation

One of the things that always staggers me when travelling in Pakistan is the near total lack of other tourists one encounters.

Despite visiting UNESCO world heritage sites, exploring ancient and unique cultures, staying in some amazing hotels, eating great food, feasting our eyes on probably the most epic mountain landscapes anywhere on earth, and meeting many wonderful people, on this trip it wasn’t until day 10 that we saw another tourist; foreign or domestic. Where else in the world, with so much to offer, could you say that?

Anyway, that is not the point of the blog I want to write. Today I am thinking about succession and the next generation.

Those of you reading this blog who are familiar with the Wild Frontiers story will know that I started my business over 25 years ago, here in Pakistan, and I have been using the same people to help our travellers ever since. Saifullah – who actually gave me the idea of setting up a travel company – Mufti and Atta have all been working with me for more than 20 years, so as we all grow older, it’s wonderful to see their children taking up the baton.

When I arrived in the Kalash Valleys this year, I was alarmed to learn that Saifullah – the chief spokesperson for this remarkable pagan community – had been unexpectedly called away. For more than 20 years Saifullah has helped with our groups, showing them around the village, explaining the culture and their religion and introducing our guests to other characters that live here. I needn’t have worried. 

Shakil and Jamil, Saifullah’s youngest sons, both incidentally educated by the Wild Frontiers Foundation – the former to post graduated level in environmental science (now working as a lecturer at Chitral College) and the latter having just finished a degree in tourism and hospitality – substituted admirably. Without their charismatic father around, they both blossomed into wonderful guides and companions for our group.

Mufti meanwhile is our main jeep driver. As the best driver I have ever known, skilfully manoeuvring our groups along the rugged roads of the Hindu Kush for over two decades, he is in charge of organising all the jeeps we use and it was great to be joined on this trip by is son, Zubair. With the best jeep in the valley, and with driving skills comparable to his father and excellent English, Zubair has been pushing the other drivers to improve their vehicles – by adding seat belts, more comfortable seats and the Wild Frontiers logo (see picture above!) – and generally improving things to offer an even better experience.

And then there is Atta, one of our key guides who has a knowledge of Pakistan and its history that is second to none. As well as being extremely amiable and fun, whether talking about the Indus Civilisation, Gandharan Buddhism, the Moghuls, British or domestic politics and culture, he is the font of all knowledge that brings his country alive. On this trip for two days, we were joined by his son, Tausef, who was a great help to the group on walks around the stunning Hunza landscapes.

Although neither I nor any of the old hands I have mentioned above have any plans to retire, it is great to know that there is another generation coming along that can pick up the baton, and help to continue showing this amazing country for what it is… one of the most special and rewarding places on earth.

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