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4.5 out of 5 stars
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 29 July 2007
From the pathetically inadequate preparations to the cooking of Eric Newby`s watch to the meeting with Thesiger...One absurd incident follows another as the two brave and foolish climbers fail to achieve their declared aim. It is such a funny book, every page is a joy. It is the kind of book you hope will never end. Sadly it does. Nothing to do but read it again...but, alas, I lent my copy to someone, and then it went out of print.
Luckily I managed to find a replacement in a second hand book shop.
So glad its in print again,now I can lend my copy without risk of being unable to replace it if it strays..
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2000
This book describes an incredible story about a climbing trip to the remote Hindu Kush. Their preparation for the climb consisted of a weekend under the instruction of a pub waitress in North Wales. Along the way (driving by clapped out car from London to Afghanistan) they have numerous adventures including being arrested for running over and killing a nomadic herdsman. They had actually stopped to help him!
Most people will go through life never experiencing an adventure of this magnitude but for Eric Newby this is just one of several. Newby's other books include "Love and War in the Appennines" and "The Last Grain Race" both of which I thought were excellent.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 23 October 2000
It has to be said that "Short Walk..." is the best of Newby's travel books. I certainly think it should go down as a classic. Newby's books always have a very readable and charming style. You can't help but enjoy his books, especially this one.

"Short Walk..." is enjoyable because it's very down-to-earth. They go and climb this mountain in the middle of nowhere just because it's there. They don't do it for fame or fortune, the two of them just simply have a yearning for adventure. This whole amateurishness of the escapade makes it a delight to read... I loved it and would highly recommend it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 17 October 2006
As per the other user reviews, this tells the story of a trip to the Hindu Kush taken in 1956 - apparently on no more than a whim.

Eric Newby was working in the fashion industry for some years before the journey and the opening chapter covers some of his time here.

As with other parts of the book, this can be a little confusing. Mr Newby also neglects to mention his time in the SBS and his earlier endeavours before and during the 2nd world war.

This book worked well on 2 levels for me -

Firstly, a charming travelogue chronicling the adventures and mishaps of 2 supposedly entirely inexperienced climbers going from a 2 day crash course in the Welsh mountains to the Hindu Kush in the space of weeks.

Bear in mind this lies in Afghanistan - "Kafiristan" - or Nuristan - is a region of that country rather than a country in its own right.

Secondly, many of the places mentioned on the way to the mountains are also mentioned in Rory Stewart's excellent book - "The Places In Between". In this book, Mr Stewart describes his walk across the mountains of Afghanistan in 2002.

The differences (or lack thereof) in the near half century gap are fascinating.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in either travel or the current situation in this region. On one level it is a simple and often funny story, on another an insight into a culture and way of life which must surely be living on borrowed time.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Eric Newby's account of his trip to the Hindu Kush is a book both daunting and delightful. He makes light of the incompetence and ignorance of both himself and his companion in the realm of climbing and exploring. Yet what they achieve is nothing short of remarkable, given their level of amateurishness. Perhaps a more experienced team would have sensibly given up in the face of hunger, illness and cold. Messrs. Newby and Carless soldier on and the account, understandably slightly incoherent, is both funny, self-deprecating and very, very readable. Their account of a chance meeting with the famous explorer Wilfred Thesiger is recounted, far less humorously, by the great man in one of his recent books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 October 2008
This incredible story dates back to 1956, when two very English gentlemen decided on a whim to go into one of the most inaccessible corners of the planet. This book will amuse and surprise you on at least two levels: firstly, the challenges they happily take on and endure are terrifying by modern outdoor travel standards (they undertook just one session of mountain climbing practice in Wales and brought along brand new hiking boots, not yet worn in, for example) and secondly, their unshakeable "Englishness" above all, at all times, almost comes across as something out of a Noel Coward play. Several times, the trip might have come to an end, but they lived to tell the tale, and Mr. Newby has told it very well. I would agree this is by far his best book. Enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2012
This book was my introduction to Eric Newby's writing, and it inspired me to read most of the rest of his stories, which are all equally funny and entertaining. The constant comedy of the duo's unsuitability to mountaineering due to almost total lack of experience & knowledge is the star turn of this book. Doing Damon Runyon (old style N.Y. gangsters) impressions 3/4 of the way up one of the highest mountains in the world gives you an idea of how they approached their challenge. Fortunately the farce does not devolve into tragedy and there are instead hilarious encounters with wild tribes who have never seen a white man before. All in all a top informative historical travel book which will appeal to those with a sense of humour.
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... or in the Hindu Kush of today.

The subject line is a classic one that flashes across the TV screen when professional stunt-persons are engaged in a particularly dangerous activity, and the show's producers want to protect themselves from lawsuits from an outrageously ill-prepared amateur sitting at home who goes out and attempts the same dangerous activity. This is a delightful story of two outrageously ill-prepared amateurs, Eric Newby and Hugh Carless, impulsively pursuing a whim, and not only living to tell the tale, but providing this very well-written account of same.

The year was 1956. Both men were in their mid-30's. Both had survived the Second World War (Newby as a prisoner for three years). Newby was working in the family business, in the "rag-trade," that is, high fashion clothing for women. Newby needs OUT, and cables his friend, asking if he'd be interested in going to one of the more remote spots on earth, Nuristan, in northeastern Afghanistan, and climb a mountain. He receives a positive response, and the adventure of a lifetime - well, not really, seems like Newby in particular had several others - commenced.

Though neither were the wimps that Wilfred Thesiger, who used a more politically incorrect word, would accuse them of being when they had a chance meeting in Afghanistan, still, neither had ever done any technical climbing (that is, with ropes, karabiners, et al.). (This is the same Thesiger who twice crossed the Rub Al Khali of the Arabian peninsula, and would live with the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq for a couple of years). Carless and Newby set off for Wales to learn the skills of mountaineering... "belaying" and all... in a couple of days! That would be their total training. They then drove to Afghanistan, across Europe, and taking a (familiar to me) overland route through Turkey and Iran, and on to Kabul. Carless was in the British diplomatic service, with his next posting in Tehran. Time was limited, so they never had enough to "smell the roses." He had been in this area of Afghanistan before, and surveyed much of the territory. They drove north from Kabul, and were soon in Panjshir Valley, walking, with horses and Afghani guides.

Newby writes well. He is fully knowledgeable with the names of the flora and fauna. He lovingly describes the landscape (if Newby's words are not enough, I highly recommend some of the books of photography, produced by a French couple, Roland and Sabrina Michaud including Afghanistan and Caravans to Tartary who were there an approximately the same time). Newby's style is well-executed British understatement, as suggested by the title. (Hindu Kush means "Hindu killer," purportedly because so many low-land Hindus who were captured by Mongol raiders, to be taken to the slave markets of central Asia, died in these mountains.)

Neither Carless nor Newby had ever climbed on ice or snow before, but they attempt to climb Mir Samir, which is 19,880 ft. The Afghani guides, who did not accompany them on the climb, never thought they'd see them again. At times, they are literally reading the how-to manual as they climb. How many times they could have died... but it truly was a case of "beginners luck", as well as some understated British fortitude.

In the last third of the book they make it into Nuristan (which means country of light), and was renamed from "Kafirstan", (country of unbelievers) after their mass conversion - at the point of the sword - at the end of the 19th century.

There is an introduction by Evelyn Waugh who wryly notes: "For more than two hundred years now Englishmen have been wandering about the world for their amusement, suspect everywhere as government agents, to the great embarrassment of our officials." On a whim and a lark, "because it was there" motivation, a wonderful impulsive journey well-told. 5-stars.
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on 15 March 2014
Eric Newby is one of the greats that demonstrate the hard Englishman who was a gentleman first, tough nut second, comedian (self inflicting) third. The ludicrous thought of one week-end to master climbing, and a rush off to far unknown lands to be on the mountain ranges of Mir Samir, in 1956 it was called Nuristan the country of light, previously Kafiristan the country of unbelievers (now greater Afghanistan). The last known Englishman was there is 1891 so he thought. So sets the scene of two intrepid friends to go be local heroes.
The wonderful manner of describing inner thoughts, turmoils, doubts and joys comes through in clearly written narrative, giving rare views and insights to customs and peoples that very few ever have encountered. How sugar and butter and lamb meats and mulberries make for barter, pretty girls harboring curious views from afar, little boys to carry bags and chattels of great weight to earn very little, just to survive. And most importantly, the wonderful part of Eric is his ability to convey the manner of people, their outward impressions verses their innermost behaviours.
A must read for anyone interested in travels afar to that mystical region, and how I do wish to have met the man that wrote this.
For other joyful readings of travel, try the journey he took with his wife Wanda in - 'Slowly down the Ganges'
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on 13 August 2013
The title is quite ironic, in that the 'walk' in this personal item of history was anything but short.

The book packs in such a lot of fascinating detail in a very readable and enjoyable form.

The story begins with plenty of background information before the characters actually reach the beginning their 'walk' to reach the summit of their goal - a sumit not previously achieved - in the Himalayas.

The story is told in a light and quite amusing way, including preparation for the 'walk' that does not always provide what was intended (and needed).

The Hindu Kush region, and its inhabitants, are so different from the experience and knowledge of most readers, and provides a testing background for the main characters.

Such a lot of quite fascinating detail is packed into this story, making the book - in a relatively short space - a really gripping read.

I enjoyed the story very much, and hope that any other intended reader of it will feel the same.

This really is in my view a little classic gem.
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