January 2005 News

An Easy Read On A Rough Road

2 January 2005
The Washington Post

Washington DC: Where India meets Pakistan, 'the border road through Kashmir is open, and free from Pakistani shelling, for the first time in 15 years,' Matthew Power says in the latest National Geographic Adventure. So he sets off on a 1,500-mile motorcycle journey that takes him from punishing heat to the freezing, oxygen-starved summit of Khardung La - at 18,380 feet, it's 'billed as the world's highest road.' Power makes the trip so real, you may need to shower off the muck after this read. It's not just the vivid descriptions of 'door-handle-clawing rhesus monkeys' and machine-gun nests dotting 'the roadside like mile markers' that transport you, but the joy-and-struggle cocktail of discovering a place just back from forbidden. This ride is not for the meek, though. 'I can't decide who are the more pathological drivers, the Muslims, who believe in eternal life, or the Hindus, who believe in reincarnation,' Power says. At the highest point, 'Buddhist prayer flags, strung along the ridgeline, hum in the wind, shredding and fading in the punishing atmosphere.' But it's not all hardship. At Srinagar he encounters 'hundreds of beautiful, ornately carved Victorian houseboats in the middle of the lake, with floating gardens alongside. . . . Sitting on a houseboat porch and drinking a local tea of saffron, cardamom, and almonds, it is easy to forget about all the suffering endured by Kashmiris in 15 years of conflict.'


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