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Tag: Ethiopia

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April 3, 2013 Posted by tahir in Books

New Releases from My Backlist

TS ebook series backlist

I’m very pleased to share with you the release of my travel backlist as ebooks. Each book has been updated with a new introduction, with the exception of Travels With Myself, my 2011 release. Trail of Feathers will also be available very soon.

Get your copy now: Read more

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In Search of King Solomon's Mines

An inky hand-drawn map was hanging on the back wall of Ali Baba’s tourist shop, deep in the maze of Jerusalem’s Old City.

Little more than a sketch, and smudged by a clumsy hand, the map showed a river and mountains, a desert, a cave, and what looked like a trail between them. At the end of the trail was an oversized ‘X’.

‘Is it a treasure map?’ I asked. Ali Baba, an old man with a pot-belly, glanced up from his newspaper. ‘It shows the way to the fabled gold mines of Suleiman,’ he said. After an hour of negotiation, I slid a wad of Israeli shekels across the counter and left with the map. Anyone else may have scoffed at the object, or laughed at my gullibility. After all, Jerusalem’s Old City is cluttered with Holy Land bric-a-brac. I had a feeling from the start that Ali Baba’s map was suspect, for it had no place names or co-ordinates.

But to me it symbolised a family obsession.

To continue reading, see my full article at Explorers Connect.

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Tahir Shah's top ten do's & don'ts for expeditions

10 Key Things on a Jungle Expedition

1. Lead from the front. Never ever ever ever expect someone to do something that you’re not willing to do yourself.

2. Make sure that you have plenty of food — good food — and that the team eat before you do.

3. Think ahead. Never march on too late into the afternoon without taking into account that a storm could sweep in. So, build a camp when it’s not raining, even if you haven’t marched very far on a given day.

For more of my top tips on how to manage an expedition, please see my article over at Explorers Connect.

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April 26, 2012 Posted by tahir in Travel

Ten Worst Travel Moments

1. Being arrested, blindfolded, stripped, and flung into solitary at a Pakistani torture prison.

2. Being given the ‘rubber glove’ treatment on the border of Liberia and Sierra Leone when passing innocently through ‘Blood Diamond’ country.

3. Having dengue fever in the Madre de Dios jungle in Peru. That, along with having stomach problems, no skin on my feet, and worms burrowing out of me.

4. Having the most indescribably bad food poisoning in a locked down military area in Baluchistan, having eaten the sushi platter for four in Karachi the night before (a huge mistake).

5. Swallowing a live murrel fish in Hyderabad, a supposed cure for asthma.

6. Being lost and alone in a storm in a Cessna 152 somewhere above the Florida Panhandle, when I was aged 17 and learning to fly.

7. Being robbed of all my money, my travel documents and my luggage in the night on a train from Madrid to Algeciras.

8. Waiting for five days in a remote village in western Ethiopia for a truck to drive through so that I might have a chance to hitchhike to the next town and get stuck there.

9. Being on an organized tour of northern Namibia with retired workers from a ball-bearings factory in Dusseldorf (managed to escape, luckily).

10. Being lost at night on the live Niryagongo volcano in Congo with the threat of it erupting very likely.

How about you? What are your worst travel memories? Please share in the comments.

 

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Mentors

One of the problems about writing is that you are shut away a lot of the time and you can get the feeling that you’re detached. A bit of being detached is a good thing. Actually, it’s a great thing. But once in a while it’s even better to get a sense of where you are… whether you’re on the right rails. And a way of doing this is, over time, to get to know (preferably personally) a writer who influences you. I have had several great influences, and they have affected me in different ways. Some have touched the way I think, my outlook, and other the way I work. For the kind of life I want to live, Wilfred Thesiger was an enormous influence. I adored his clear reasoning, and the way he never ever ever altered his views depending on the audience. He was consistently politically incorrect, which was so refreshing. He said what he believed and didn’t live a life couched in fear. It was Wilfred who encouraged me to go to Ethiopia, and to go for a walk in the Upper Amazon, where he hinted I would probably meet ‘some interesting fellows’.  Hugh Carless has been another great inspiration to me. He was with Newby on ‘The Short Walk in the Hindu Kush’ (the journey was actually his idea). Carless has the finest conversational delivery I have ever heard, and is quite the most impeccable man I have known. As for writing, my father was an enormous influence. He used to tell me ‘we are basket weavers, Tahir jan, that’s what we do… we weave baskets’. My one memory of childhood is the clicking of a manual typewriter from morning till night. And, as I mentioned the other day, Doris Lessing, who is a writer’s writer. But even more importantly, is her plain-speak. Like Thesiger, she’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind.



TS
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July 5, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel

Swamp

To know about swamps you have to travel with mules. I mean it. Without one, you can’t really understand the other.

I had never been in a swamp before, not a proper one, until I ventured to western Ethiopia with Samson, my guide, and friend. I’d picked him up in Addis Ababa weeks before. Or, rather, he’d picked me up in his taxi. I was on the quest of the lost mines of King Solomon and Samson knew about gold, or so he said… so we went off together.
The trail eventually led to Tulu Wallel, a godforsaken craggy mountain towards the border with Sudan. I knew that if we could get to the mountain, and then up it, we’d have a chance at finding a secret mine once worked by the inimitable British trailblazer Frank Hayer, back in the thirties.
So we hired mules. Half a dozen of them. And we pushed forwards on to Tulu Wallel, a cloud-capped mount protruding from an ocean of green. From the first strides, I could see that these were animals with a sense of what was going on. I am not a horseman, but I know that horses are flighty, frisky, that they can’t be trusted when push comes to shove.
Very soon the rain began to fall. Torrential rain. And then the cold came.We were in a forest by this time and it was dusk. It was a wicked enchanted forest, the kind of place where grown men feel frightened out of their wits. And that’s just what we all were, although we were putting on brave faces.
Suddenly, there was a frantic call from Samson behind. He was wrestling one of the mules forward, steering it, pulling the reins to the left. Now, the amazing thing about mules is that they find their own path, and they keep their heads when all about them are losing theirs. The best thing to do is to let them go, and they will lead you through the horrors ahead.
The problem was that we had a muleteer who seemed ignorant of the genius of his herd. He drove them straight into swamp, a kind of swamp that verged on quicksand. To watch a strong, laden beast go down into a quagmire is one of the most terrible sights imaginable. The she-mule’s front legs sunk in deep, and she went down fast. Before she knew it, and we knew it, her muzzle was plunged in. She cocked it back, wailing, heaving, as the girth bindings were slashed with Samson’s knife.
I ran forward with him, and we both found ourselves being sucked in too. What a feeling, a feeling of utter helplessness, as if the end had come. Then a second mule came forward, answering the distress of the first. It sank as well.
Darkness was upon us, the sound of bats in the trees.
No light, just fear.
We must have been protected that night by some magical force. For we all made it out alive. I don’t know how because all the odds were stacked against us. It was as if we were lifted out of there, preserved by a greater power. It may sound mad, and it does, but I have always felt secretly that we were saved, all of us, by a patron… by the patron saint of mules.
TS