National Geographic : 1984 Jun
TO amITTGO G I started in Pakistan, from Jamrud, a deserted station a short distance from Jamrud Fort, which, having been built in 1836, is just ninety years older than the Khyber Railway. It was an early morning in July, and very hot-the monsoon was weeks overdue. Once a week the Khyber train descends the 3,500 feet from the highest point of the Khyber Pass, carrying the refugees and travel ers who can afford the seven-rupee (35-cent) fare. The train is re quired to climb such steep inclines that it is powered by two steam engines-one at the front and one at the rear of the five coaches both belching smoke and whistling as they make the journey to and from Landi Kotal. "Once there was no trouble here," a man told me as we clattered across the plain. "There was no water, no trees. Only small vil lages. Then a dam was built and water came to the valley in a stream, and since then there has been constant fighting." Tempers were very bad. Months of drought had scorched the face of the land and made it so hot that people had moved out of their houses and set up their string beds under trees. Men sat on the banks of the trickling stream beside the railway tracks and chatted keeping their feet in the water. There were more than 35,000 people in the Kacha Garhi refugee camp, and nearly as many in the one at Nasir Bagh not far away. Driven from their homes in Afghanistan by the war, they lay in hammocks, they cooked under trees, they waited for the weekly shipment of food; they watched the train go by. Across ten miles of gravel are the high gray-brown mountains that mark the border of Afghanistan, and the black smoking train makes its way across the dead land. This was always a tribal area, the people were always dressed like this, and always armed, the train was always pulled by smok ing, screeching steam engines, and the nighttime noises were al ways human voices and the clopping hooves of the tonga ponies, and when-hours late-the train pulls into Peshawar Cantonment station, it is pitch dark and 110°F. Most people make straight for the bazaar. "This is the Qissa Khawani Bazaar," said Ziarat Gul, a power fully built and kindly soul who was known in Peshawar as "Guj jar-Buffalo Man." He was pointing at a labyrinth of alleys too narrow for anything larger than pony carts. "This means the Storytellers' Bazaar. In the old times all the ka filas [caravans] came from Persia and Russia and Afghanistan, here to Peshawar. They told stories of their journeys." Peshawar is once again a great destination. Now the travelers 705 I I.