Colors of the Kalash
Rumbur is the land that time forgot.
CHEREE FRANCO EXPRESS TRIBUNE
My journey officially begins at the Chitral police station, where Pakistani friends sip sweet green tea while Shane and I try to argue our way out of 24-hour armed escorts.
“I was here just last July, and I didn’t have a guard then,” says the adamant Irishman, a five-year resident of Islamabad and a seasoned traveller in the northern areas.
Apparently, since October 2010 — a point in time that seems completely arbitrary to us — all foreigners are assigned guards. Will the guards fit in our Landcruiser? Okay then, not a problem. They’ll send a separate truck. So the next afternoon, we begin the treacherous uphill chug into what was, until recently, the North West Frontier, following a pick-up packed with cops — at least seven at last count.
The midsized Kalash valley of Rumbur is the land that time — and electricity, mobile service and hot showers — forgot. It’s less commercialised than Bhumboret, the larger valley, and its population is almost purely Kalash — a tribe of Indo-Aryans who consider themselves the progeny of Alexander the Great. Rumbur has five villages of between 10 to 50 families each.
It’s twilight when we arrive in the largest village, tumbling out of the Landcruiser like clowns on parade. Women stand on low roofs, their gazes fixed and expressionless. Men and boys crowd the road to witness the spectacle. The girls — miniature copies of their mothers in regal headpieces and baggy black, neon-trimmed dresses — scatter like minnows as we approach.