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A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush

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3.98  ·  Rating details ·  5,192 ratings  ·  345 reviews
When Eric Newby, fashion industry worker and inexperienced hill walker, decided after 10 years in haute couture he needed a change he took 4 days training in Wales then walked the Hindu Kush. This is his account of an entertaining time in the hills!
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published July 1st 1999 by Adventure Library (first published 1958)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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Michael
A great classic in adventure travel writing, sort of a precursor cross between Theroux and Bryson. A Mayfair fashion executive, who moonlights as a magazine travel editor, reaches out to a Foreign Service buddy in 1956 to travel to the remote Afghanistan province of Nuristan and attempt to scale an unclimbed mountain in the Hindu Kush. It has a nice balance of humor, dangerous thrills, and personal encounters with fascinating geography and peoples. Entertaining with little lightning flashes of e ...more
Jan-Maat
This is a good light read.

Working in the clothing industry in 1950s London the author and his friends hit on the idea of having a mountain climbing adventure in Afghanistan. Why not after all? This is the 1950s, they'd never had it so good, and there were still years to go before the Profumo scandal.

Knowing nothing about mountain climbing and about as much about the Hindu Kush, they still think it's a good idea to attempt some peaks in Afghanistan but they do have a couple of days practise on a
...more
ALLEN
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The "Hindu Kush" is the western part of the Himalayan Construct at Central Asia and the "top of the world." (Everest, K2 and similar record-breakers lie farther east). We Americans don't use that term so much, but consider that the Khyber Pass is part of the Hindu Kush.

This 1958 travel account by Eric Newby is a kind of cross between the tough-it-out, Wilfred (MARSH ARABS) Thesiger type of journal that pits a Westerner against a nearly impossible environment (here: the world's most forbidding m
...more
Martine
Page 166 of the Picador edition of A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush ranks among the funniest things I've ever read. On it, Newby quotes from a phrasebook of the Afghan Bashgali language, which apparently contains opening gambits like 'How long have you had a goitre?', 'I have nine fingers; you have ten', 'A dwarf has come to ask for food' and 'I have an intention to kill you', which made me laugh so hard I actually dropped my copy of the book. One day I hope to lay my hands on the phrasebook from ...more
Will Ansbacher
I first read this over 40 years ago and it may have been the book that got me interested in this genre. This is travel writing as it should be, witty, dry and self-deprecating: two young Englishmen set out to walk through Afghanistan not that long after WW2, utterly unprepared yet prepared for anything.

I’m only adding this note because I recently re-encountered that wonderful incident Newby tells against himself where they happen to meet Wilfred Thesiger, the legendary solo explorer of the Midd
...more
Jeanette (Again)
It seems like it took me an awfully long time to get through such a short book. I think it was just his writing style and the way he included detail about certain things I wasn't so interested in, such as mountain climbing technicalities.
However, I did enjoy the book and stuck with it because I wanted to know what it was like in this part of the world in the 1950s as compared to the present.

In 1956, the author quit his job in the haute couture industry and trekked with a friend through a region
...more
Eilonwy
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Maybe 3-1/2 stars if I were in a better mood.

This was entertaining, although maybe a little too long and detailed, and definitely slightly dated in its attitudes (although not unbearably so).

It made good filler between other books, and took me into the terrain of Rudyard Kipling's story, The Man Who Would Be King, so that was interesting.
Deborah Pickstone
A travel classic and very funny with it! Two chaps set off to climb a mountain in Afghanistan with no prior experience of climbing mountains.....what could go wrong?

I laughed my socks off!
Magdelanye
Jul 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, disappointing
The title of this iconic book summerizes it well.
One does not just take a short walk in the Hindu Kush, take a look at any map.
As EN discovers early on, the beginning and the start are separate events, and the execution
something else entirely. What began as a lark takes on the nature of a grail quest, without the
religious overtones. Eric and his posh, poseur friend Hugh share more with bumbling Don Quixiote
than with the noble knights, and their destination might appear to be more tangible, but
...more
Feliks
Oct 31, 2017 rated it liked it
A very entertaining travel yarn, reeled off in that classic, disarming British manner--and set in one of the few places left in the world which can still evoke mystery. That strange, steeply mountainous region between Afghanistan, Anatolia, Northern India, and Nepal. Nuristan and Kafiristan.

This travelogue has some of the best anecdotes you could ask for. Misadventures galore. What were they thinking? Two out-of-shape pasty-pale gits thinking they could just stroll up the sides of Mt Everest? I
...more
Nigel
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I guess I have to call this "interesting"... It is very much of its time. This trip was undertaken in the 1950s and remarkable for that alone. For two non mountaineers to travel where they did to climb an as yet unclimbed peak may seem a little foolhardy and that could be an understatement. But they were British damn it :) And there in lies some of the problem for me. It is a personal account of an interesting journey into a very wild part of the world done in a somewhat eccentric way. I often f ...more
Kay
Newby writes in a now-well-established genre of travel writing: the improbable, disastrous trip taken to an unlikely place by the totally unprepared. He wasn't the first to do this sort of thing -- among others, Peter Fleming's Brazilian Adventure stands out as an earlier blackly comic "bad trip," not to mention Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene. Today, the torch of the comic "bad trip" is carried by writers such as Redmond O'Hanlon, Bill Bryson, and Eric Hansen.

Like several of the writers mention
...more
Tim Yearneau
Aug 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I had searched the internet for the best travel book ever and this book showed up on almost every list. How good can a book about two guy hiking up a mountain be? Well, I found out; fantastic, mind blowing great.

Newby writes in short straight clear prose with wry, witty self-depreciating humor delivered with impeccable timing. Time and time again he left me ROFL.

Hugh comes across as this mysterious, aloof, travel partner whom Newby is able to portray with gut wrenching humor. Part of the succe
...more
Dinah Küng
Jul 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book made a delightful read for a week resting in the south of France; while Eric and Hugh labored senselessly up a mountain I'd never heard of and through villages full of unpredictable but ultimately missable minor tribes, I reclined on a chaise longue laughing my head off. I think the charm of this book, which is less than riveting in terms of travel discovery or anthropological profundity, is in the hapless and very English "Boys Own" confidence and optimism of the two trekkers. Hugh ha ...more
Rupa
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A travel classic. This is the unbelievable tale of 2 Englishmen who try to make a first ascent of a 19,000 ft mountain in the 1950s. The journey to the peak is through harsh and remote wilderness near Afghanistan. This would be quite formidable for even the most seasoned explorers/mountaineers but our pair were drawing on British grit and not much else.

Allow me- their only climbing experience was a 3 day crash course, when stuck on high glaciers they would refer to their climbing pamphlets rega
...more
Tweedledum
I read this book in a rather desultory way picking it up and putting it down for several weeks but it really began to resonate with me during a recent camping trip in the Lake District after putting 2 tents up in the pouring rain late at night and then discovering I had no way of boiling a kettle or making a hot meal.... Of course the English Lake Distruct hardly compares with the Hindu Kush but nevertheless it generated a real sense of empathy.

Eric Newby's impulsive adventure took place over 5
...more
Don
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
(FROM MY BLOG) By 1956, Eric Newby had devoted ten years of his life to working as a dress buyer for a London fashion house. Then one day, he received a telegram from Hugh Carless, a casual friend, asking "CAN YOU TRAVEL NURISTAN JUNE?"

Nuristan -- which until 1896, when its people were forcibly converted to Islam, had been called Kafiristan (land of the infidels) -- is one of the most remote and backward provinces in Afghanistan, nestled in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, northeast of Kabul. Af
...more
Chrissie
Apr 08, 2020 marked it as not-for-me
******************
*Love and War in the Apennines not-for -me
*A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush not-for -me
*Slowly Down the Ganges 1 star DNF
...more
Giki
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, favorites
A fabulous book. The ultimate amateur adventure story, everyone should read it. Eric Newby is irrepressible in his aim to climb the mountains of Afghanistan, Embarking on his poorly planned expedition, with little relevant experience, he has no idea of what disasters await him in the hindu kush. Faced with incompetence, illness and equipment failure they soldier on regardless. The delightfully self-deprecating style of story telling does dampen the spirit of high adventure and sheer grit that ke ...more
James
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Just a total pleasure and the travails of the explorers are just the thing to cheer one up when has a slight cold.
Kobe Bryant
Sounds like everyone had a great time
Rick Skwiot
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An improbable—though hilarious—foray into Afghanistan by two Brits in 1956.

After a bad day at the office, the then 36-year-old London fashion salesman decides to quit his job, kiss goodbye his wife and children, and mount an ill-conceived exploration of mountainous Afghani hinterlands with an eccentric foreign service friend luxuriating in Rio.
After two days of mountain-climbing school in Wales, they drive off toward Kabul. Within weeks they find themselves scaling 19,000-foot mountains, inching
...more
Juha
Jan 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like travel literature, are interested in exotic cultures and lands and history.
This classic account of the author's climbing expedition to Mir Samir in Afghanistan in the 1950s is both informative and entertaining. The tone of the volume shifts from light and hilarious to more exhausted as the authors moves from preparation of the trip in England and Wales to the actual hardships in the Hindu Kush. Yet Newby never loses his wry humor. The extensive and detailed nature descriptions are well-crafted but may become a bit tedious at times. But the descriptions of the culture a ...more
Jim O'Donnell
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Surprisingly, even though I am a lover of mountains and trekking and, to be quite honest, would go just about anywhere, the Hindu Kush hasn’t really topped my Bucket List. I’m glad it did for Eric Newby however.

A former SBS officer, Newby, middle-aged, well-off and sick to death of his job in the fashion industry leaves (companion in tow) to scale a never-conquered mountain (Mir Samir) in one of the most remote regions of the planet. And they know nothing of climbing.

In 1958 it had already bee
...more
Clive Walker
A delightfully understated and hilariously funny account of what must have been a very serious undertaking. Fraught with danger, the author, seems not to notice as he stays ahead of death by the narrowest of margins. Where the rest of us, mere mortals that we are, may feel compelled to describe the tortuous hunger or the withering cold, Newby is moved to remark on an attractive butterfly which catches his eye, or an amusing incident regarding his boot .

Similar in narrative style to Jerome K. Je
...more
Scott
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1950s, walks, hills
In 1956 Eric Newby, a refugee from London haute couture, and Hugh Carless, a career diplomat, set out from Istanboul in a station wagon, intent on driving overland to Afghanistan, where they hoped to scale Mir Samir, a towering mountain in the Hindu Kush. Both Newby and Carless were complete amateurs, relying on decade-old army rations, donations from venerable geographic societies, and an endearing naïveté. Just about everything that could go wrong did -- breakdowns, accidents, imprisonment, mu ...more
Brandy
Jun 14, 2016 added it
The book jacket describes this as "laugh out loud funny" and while I was amused in a few places, I think a lot of the British humor flew right over my head (sadly). The other factor that might have interfered with my enjoyment was my deep seated irritation with travel novels in which the authors are frustratingly ill-prepared and take seemingly ridiculously dangerous risks, which seems to be a classic theme of the genre. But perhaps this novel was the first of that type, so I have to give some c ...more
Amanda Carlucci
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit tough to stay enthusiastic while reading. Though my mind wandered a lot, I still wouldn't consider it boring. Just a bit slow going is all. Plus there was quite a bit of very old British jargon that kept some sentences from making sense. With each chapter I found myself looking up at least one word, phrase, and/or event in order to properly keep up. It's been a long time since I had to do something like that, but I didn't mind. I did, however, find myself laughing out loud several times th ...more
Mustafa Bilal
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite
"God, you must be a couple of pansies,"

Two men with no idea of mountain climbing set off for a breathtaking expedition to Nuristan. The amazing journey is so well described by Newby that one can't help but walk with him through green and rugged valleys and fast flowing rivers to Nuristan and then back from it. An undertone of change is felt as these men travel miles and miles away from the comfort that they left behind and a feeling of maturity arises which comes only from travelling. The writin
...more
Philip
I read this in preparation for my own first serious trek in Nepal; not sure if it helped but certainly kept me amused. I could relate to these characters far better than to the "professional adenturers" I usually read about. The book ends with a hilarious encounter with famous explorer Wilfrid Thesiger, who nicely put the authors and their "short walk" in the proper perspective.
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George Eric Newby CBE MC (December 6, 1919 – October 20, 2006) was an English author of travel literature.

Newby was born and grew up near Hammersmith Bridge, London, and was educated at St Paul's School. His father was a partner in a firm of wholesale dressmakers but he also harboured dreams of escape, running away to sea as a child before being captured at Millwall. Owing to his father's frequent
...more

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