Imperial College 1970 Hindu Kush Expedition

A short account of a visit to Nuristan, and a lot of photos.

The present tragic events in Afghanistan, made me think about the time I spent in 1970 in this extraordinarily beautiful, but desperately poor country. Buffeted between competing empires for centuries, Afghanistan has rarely known peace. Nuristan itself has the distinctly mixed blessing of being probably the last part of the world to be converted to Islam by the sword, at the end of the19th century. When we visited, over 30 years ago now, the ordinary people of Nuristan already had a hard enough existence, what it must be like now I dread to think : they deserve a better fate.

This is a personal account, written many years after the trip, I beg, therefore, the readerís indulgence for any inaccuracies concerning the details. The essential is exact, the principal interest being the photos. The later are all my own, of average to poor technical quality by modern standards. The whole 3 month expedition was done on a budget of £1000 and we were far from what is considered necessary in todayís high tech, gadget ridden environment. No electronics, zoom lenses, radios or mobile phones - just petrol stoves, leather boots, and a naÔve disregard for any notion of risk. We thought sending a red, green or white flare every evening to keep in touch was pretty modern... but enough rambling.

The seven members of the expedition, with one exception, all students at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London, were : Mags and Ian Staples, Paul Bunting, Kevin Wills, Rich Wroot, Dave Palmer and myself, Bruce Hooker (click here for photos). We had financial backing from the collegeís exploration board for about half the cost, most of the rest being our own personal contributions. The Mount Everest Foundation gave us their moral support, advice, and documentary help. We also had a lot of help in kind from private companies. The latter ranged from multi-nationals like Delmonte fruits to the splendid contribution of the more modest, but proportionally very generous, British Peanut Roasting Company. Peanuts, roasted in their own railway arch premises, were a major part of Daveís scientifically planned diet.

(NB. Then expedition report in annex gives details of all those who helped us.)

We were also very fortunate to have access to Royal Geographical Societyís map room, as anyone who has tried to procure detailed maps of Afghanistan to follow the present crisis would confirm. In Paris, where I am writing these lines, they are unobtainable, even Internet searches only procure very small scale ones. I apologize in advance, therefore, for any mistakes in the names of rivers, valleys etc..