Eric Newby, salesman for a London haute couture firm, receives word that his first book is about to be published. He quits his job and telegrams an old chum in the foreign service, suggesting they go on holiday in Afghanistan. What follows is the hilarious tale of two amateurs planning and executing one of the most ambitious explorations of the 20th Century. From their attempts to prepare for climbing the Himalayas by bouldering around Wales to their journey through Eastern Europe in an old station wagon, we find the story of two men with little to lean on but British pluck.
Once they arrive in the Hindu Kush (the “Indian Killer” range of western Afghanistan), we learn of a culture that time forgot. For all its understated humor, the writing waxes both poetic and manly, as we see in Newby’s description of the terrain near the end of the journey:
Here on the Arayu, one of the lonely places of the earth with all the winds of Asia droning over it, where the mountains seemed like the bones of the world breaking through, I had the sensation of emerging from a country that would continue to exist more or less unchanged what ever disasters overtook the rest of mankind.