Appreciating the Remaining Rock Art & Lamenting Their Impending Loss (Part 3) Shatial

This blog is about the rock art from Shatial. It is known as a “Buddhist site” because a huge pagoda petroglyph, which is included in many of the tours to visit the Hunza region. This time, I was able to take a leisurely tour to look around more, and I found that there are many other rare works than just the famous pagoda.

Rock engraving of the pagoda, buddha image

Since Shatial is such a well-used transit point to cross the Indus River, since ancient times, many merchants, pilgrims, travelers, as well as Buddhists, have passed through. Many distinct designs and images were carved by the travelers. I will introduce a number of these rarer rock engraving.

A person who is raising their right hand

At first glance, it may seem that this person raising their right arm up, may be angry or upset, but the round halo behind his head indicates that this person was an Enlightened Buddha.

A Swastika symbol

This 卍represents a swastika, which is a symbol of Buddhism along with the Dharmachakra wheel.

PitchforkThis is a three-pronged pitchfork. You can try to imagine whether it was used as a weapon, a religious symbol or for agriculture, but either way, it has been in use since ancient times.

Ancient characters engraved on the rock

There are not only pictures but also various writing engraved on the stones. It is believed to be languages like Karosti, Sogdian, Aramaic, and more which have been found here.

The center image to me, looked like three fingers with nails, but it may actually be depicting a plant.

This looks like a Buddha statue with Naga in the background, but it also looks like a flame, so there is a theory that it is a fire worship platform.

A person wearing a mask

This is a person wearing a round mask with horns. The person is also wearing a skirt-like outfit which was very interesting.

Many animals were also depicted as well.

The face of a camel

The camels were an essential animal for the travelers in their journey along the Silk Road.

An elephant

Did the Indian elephants come this far up?

It was a small image, but animals like antelope were also engraved.

In Shatiar, various things were engraved in rock paintings; things used by ancient people of that time, the things they saw, and objects they worshiped. Just looking at this timeless rock art made me feel like I travelled back in time and experienced part of the hustle and bustle of daily life on the Silk Road.

Photo & text : Koji YAMADA

Visit : Nov 2021, Shatial, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Category : - the Karakoram Highway > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Indus river bank > - Rock art / Petroglyph > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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Visiting the Rambur Valley Home of the Kalash

Visiting the Rambur Valley, where the Kalash live. It has been a long time since my last visit. I was thrilled to meet these beautiful young ladies.

The village scene at dusk. The valley’s steep slopes are used as a base for these lively dwellings.

Here is a Pashtun street merchant who was selling plates on the corner. The young lady is negotiating with the man, but instead of money, she placed some walnuts in the bowl she wanted to buy and handed it to him. They are bartering! The white bag behind him, to the left of the photo, is full of walnuts.

Going further into the village. The ditch full of trash caught my attention.

This lady was sewing on the terrace. She was using a sewing machine powered by her foot pedal. This is one of the beautiful sights of the Kalash Valley.

These young girls were playing a rock-kicking game. It is like an old Japanese children’s game! It really surprised me how similar it is.

The girls didn’t mind at all when the camera was pointed at them, and just continue to play their game. Some of the youngsters said proudly, “Foreigners take photos of us and publish them in books.” I really enjoyed spending time with these fairy-like girls, but the time came, and I needed to leave the valley.

This is the view of Tirich Mir (7,708m/25,288 feet), the highest peak in the Hindu Kush region. The view on the way through Ayun and Kalash Valleys, of this high peak, is one of the bonus scenes of this trip.

 

Photo & text : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Nov 2021, Rambur, Kalash Valley, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Category : ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Kalash Valley
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Kalash Valley: November in the Bumburet Village

In early November, I visited the Bumburet Valley. If I had a chance to go a little earlier, I could have seen the Corn Harvest season, but instead I was there during the time of everyone preparing for the coming of winter.
In this time of the year, there are very few tourists and the village is pretty quiet.

We traveled through the town of Ayun to get to the Kalash Valley. This is the amazing view along the way. The towering Tirich Mir (7,708m/25,288 feet), the highest peak in the Hindu Kush, appears over the hills of Ayun. The massive form shines in the morning sunlight.

After crossing this suspension bridge, we come to the junction of the Bumburet and Rambur Valleys. We head west here and continue on to Bumburet.

The Kalash homes started to come into view. The wooden houses are built into the slopes, making efficient use of the terrace and roofs.

These young girls who were playing with a baby goat caught my attention. She has such a charming, fairy-like beauty.

I went up these stairs, made from a hollowed-out tree, to the shaman lady’s house.

This is the terrace of the shaman’s house. According to her, she has the power to foresee the future and find things people had lost, so the people asked her to become a shaman.

Inside the shaman’s house. With the light only coming in from the doorway, the traditional lifestyle of the Kalash people is simple.

These wooden statues stood in the village funeral parlour.

The handmade wine made by the Kalash people, I found it so good.

This woman is threshing crops on her roof. This is a scene that is unique to the harvest season.

It filled me with so much happiness to revisit a school teacher home in Anish village, I found daughter has now become a mother! I used to visit them often, so this is the best memory.

The last time I could visit Bumburet Village was 2 years ago. The Muslim population is increasing and the number of Kalash girls wearing hijabs was higher than before. The color of the handmade embroidery on the traditional folk clothing was quite popular and flashy.

Over the past 30 years, as a tour guide for Saiyu Travel, I have seen the decline of the traditional ethnic lifestyles and clothing in various parts of the world. For the people, the more things become more modernized, their life also becomes easier, so it means these traditional ways are lost voluntarily. But still, it makes me sad to see the sudden shift away from ancient traditions and beliefs. I send strong prayers that these precious ethnic minorities like the Kalash can hold on their culture and rich traditions as part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

 

Photos & text: Mariko SAWADA
Visit: Nov 2021, Bumburet, Kalash Valley, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Category : ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Kalash Valley
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Kalash Valley’s Bumburet and Rambur

This is a video that highlights the scenery of the Kalash Valley when we visited in October. In the past when we visited Bumburet village, it was during the tourist season and quite crowded with domestic tourists.

However, by the middle of October, there were very few visitors at this time of year and the village was quiet.

 

KALASH VALLEY Bumburet & Rambur|カラーシャの谷(ボンボレット&ランブール)

 

Image : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Oct 2021, Bomboret & Rambur, Kalash valley, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Category : ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > = Video Clip KPK > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Kalash Valley
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Crossing the Shandur Pass in the Autumn

In late October, Northern Pakistan’s poplar trees turn a golden hue, making it the most beautiful season of the year. Travel from Gilgit to Shandur Pass through the Ghizer District is spectacular. With less traffic in the valley, the view along the road is one of the best.

On this day, we left Gupis to travel towards Chitral. There were rows of golden poplar trees reflecting the sun against the clear autumn sky. However, as we kept stopping to get photos of the dynamic landscape, our progress getting to Chitral was quite slow.

As we made our way uphill to Phandar, we found a herd of yaks that were being gathered together. Due to snow in the higher elevations, they were being brought down and were being herded together to be taken to their pasture lands.

A view of the bridge near Phandar. In the past, many of the suspension bridges like this were made of stone, wood and wire. But they are steadily being replaced by concrete bridges made by China. As a photographer, it is sad to see these kinds of bridges getting phased out.

Eventually, we started up the Shandur Pass. We saw a donkey caravan passing us as they were heading down, loaded with fuel for their fires during the cold winter. Their heavy load was packed with materials for firewood, including dried cow and yak droppings

Shandur Pass at the altitude of 3,700m (12,140 ft). The Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa boarder is here. At the check post, all the foreigners will be asked to confirm their documents here.

When mentioning Shandur Pass, it is worth noting that it is famous for the “World’s highest altitude Polo Competition” the Shandur Polo Festival, which takes place in the summertime. The stadium was also covered by the snow.

This is a lake covered in ice on the Shandur Pass. This part of the road is extremely difficult to pass where the melting snow and sand mixes together into a muddy mess, causing a chaotic scene. 。

The steady, dependable vehicle of choice on these rough back country roads, is what is locally called the “Toyota Jeep.” These Toyota Land Cruisers from the 1970’s and 80’s are the go-to vehicle and have been retrofitted with the “Northern Pakistan Kit” both inside and out, which is designed to take a beating, but to get you to your destination.

These older jeep-type cars have been declining recently as newer land cruiser models become more popular, which is coming from Afghanistan into Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Non Custom Paid Cars).

Even so, when it comes to driving in the snow, these rugged cars have a track record for being the most dependable. I’m so glad to know that even now, such an old Japanese car is still so heavily relied upon in the mountains of Pakistan. It is playing a vital role of connecting a remote village and delivering the supplies they need.

As we made our way down from the Shandur Pass, at the foot of the mountains, we stopped for a late lunch in the village of Laspur. We had lentils, curry made of freshly harvested potatoes, chicken curry, rice pilaf and naan.

In Laspur, this father and his daughter were running the wonderful “chaihana”. I was enchanted by the smile of this young lady.

We continued on our journey, taking the rough road to Mastuj, and then on to Chitral. By the time we arrived in Chitral, it was already dark.

 

Image & text : Mariko SAWADA

Visit  :Oct 2021, Gupis, Phandar, Shandur Pass – Gilgit-Baltistan & Khyber pakhtunkhwa

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Shandur Pass > - Ghizer / Shandur Pass
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(Video) The Pakistan Railway Journey : From Peshwar to Rawal Pindi!

Taken from the train, going from Peshwar to Rawal Pindi, this video summaries the scenery during our journey on the Pakistan Railway.
Previously, I posted a blog about the highlights of the “Crossing the Indus River by Pakistan’s Tain,” but this time I could make video, summarized into 2 minutes and 43 seconds, starting from the town of Peshwar to the arrival of Rawal Pindi, including the tunnel along the way.

The Pakistan Railway was built as part of the colonial management during the British Empire’s colonization of the Indian Empire, with 7,791 kilometers of track that runs from Torkham, on Afghanistan’s boarder, to Karachi. From the time of independence to the present day, the nostalgic feeling of the colonial era buildings and operations are maintained for a good Railway journey in which we can still enjoy “The Pakistan Railway.”

 

The Pakistan Railway Journey, From Peshawal to Rawal Pindi

 

Videography: Mariko SAWADA
Boarded on: Feb 2020, the Pakistan Railway between Peshawar (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) to Rohri (Sindh)

Category : = Video Clip KPK > = Video Clip Punjab > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Peshawar / Khyber Pass > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Pakistan Railways
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Plumbeous water redstart (Chitral)

We found a male Plumbeous water redstart on the banks of the river running through Tooshi-Shasha Conservancy near Chitral, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

 

Unfortunately, it was raining; it seemed like it would turn into snow soon enough. We came in search of markhor, as we were told they often come to the riverbanks in the afternoon. So, we waited. That was when we observed both the Plumbeous water redstart and the White-capped water redstart.

 

A male Plumbeous water redstart displaying, with its tail wings spread out.

These redstarts breed in South Asia, Southeast Asia and China at altitudes of 2,000 meters to 4,000 m and then in winter, they will descend to slightly lower altitudes to overwinter there. In Pakistan, they are found in the mountainous areas in the north where the altitude is not so high, and it seems to be common near Chitral and Murree.

 

As we looked up at the mountainous slopes above the river, we could see a herd of Kashmir Markhor coming down towards us. And among them was a big male with a pair of enviable horns!

 

Photo & Text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: Dec 2020, Tooshi-Shasha Conservancy, Chitral, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Reference: Helm Field Guides “Birds of Pakistan”

Category : ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Chitral > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
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Eversmann’s redstart(Chitral Gol National Park)

Found wintering in the Northern mountain ranges of Pakistan, the Rufous-backed Redstart (Eversmann’s Redstart), can be found at altitudes of 1,500 to 2,500 meters. They can sometimes be spotted on the mountain slopes of Gilgit-Baltistan to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

This is the male Eversmann’s Redstart.

 

In the summer, they breed in the high-altitude mountainous regions of Central Asia and South Siberia. Then, migrating south to Iraq, southern Iran, the Arabian Peninsula, northwestern Pakistan and northwestern India, they will spend their winters in the mountains.

 

I saw this bird at Chitral Gol National Park in northern Chitral. We came here to observe the Markhol, but was able to observe this redstart on the mountain slopes while we were waiting for the Markhol to descend.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: Dec 2020, Chitral Gol National Park, Chitral, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
Reference: Helm Field Guide “Birds of Pakistan”

Category : ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Chitral Gol National Park > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
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Himalayan griffon vulture (Chitral Gol National Park))

Himalayan vulture in Chitral Gol National Park, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northern Pakistan.

The Chitral Gol National Park has three deep valleys spanning 7,750 hectares and is an ideal place to observe these vultures. Our main goal here was to observe the Markhor, but a ranger asked us “There are some vultures gathering because a Markhor fell off a cliff and died. Let’s go see.” So we walked down the steep slope of the mountain, where there was no path, as we looked out over the valley.
I couldn’t see the dead Markhor below, but I could see Himalayan vultures, Cinereous vultures, Bearded vultures and Golden eagles flying by us, just at eye level. It was an amazing sight.

 

The Himalayan griffon vulture (Himalayan vulture) inhabits the Tibetan Plateau, adjacent to the Great Himalayas and the Pamir Mountains and can be found in the northern mountainous regions of Pakistan.

It is a large vulture, with a wingspan of 3 meters and it is said that it was once widely seen in northern Pakistan. However, like the White-rumped vulture that lives in central and southern Pakistan, the number decreased due to eating livestock carcasses contaminated with the veterinary drug Diclofenac. (*Diclofenac was banned throughout South Asian countries in 2006, and it is expected that the population will recover.)

 

This is an adult Himalayan vulture. The young birds have a dark brown body, including around their necks.

 

Cinereous Vulture flying and a  Himalayan vulture on the cliffs.

 

On this day, at least four Himalayan vultures, one Cinereous Vulture, and multiple crows (probably ravens) were attracted by the dead Markhor. According to the national park ranger, the Markhor was not attacked by snow leopards or wolves but was surrounded by a pack of wild dogs and fell off the cliff.
As if on cue, on the other side of the valley there was a herd of Markhor that were running away from a stray dog. If only it were a snow leopard, it would have been like a dream to see such a sight!

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: Dec 2020, Chitral Gol National Park, Chitral, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Category : ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Chitral Gol National Park > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
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Cinereous Vulture (Chitral Gol National Park)

The Cinereous Vulture, a black vulture observed in Chitral Gol National Park in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Cinereous means “gray” in Latin but it is also known as the Eurasian Black Vulture.

 

Cinereous Vulture is a large vulture that lives in the mountainous areas of Central Eurasia. On the Eurasian continent, it is a large vulture just like the Himalayan Griffon Vulture, with an open wingspan of nearly 2.5 to 3 meters wide and is quite a heavy vulture.

 

From a distance, the Cinereous Vulture looks black except for small portions of the head and beak. The mature birds have a bit of light brown on parts of the head and the neck feathers. The younger birds are an overall darker color. So it looks like the bird in this photo is still a young bird.

In general, Cinereous Vulture use the plains and deserts during the winter and spend their time roosting on cliffs. But I wonder if it is because it’s a young bird that this guy is in the mountainous areas above 3,000 meters during the winter time?

 

It might be confused because it was mixed in with the Himalayan vultures? Anyway, look like it has found some food as the Cinereous Vulture has their landing gear down!

 

Photo & Text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: Dec 2020, Chitral Gol National Park, Chitral, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Category : ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Chitral Gol National Park > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
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