From The Lion’s Mouth

All day I had walked round that unclimbed, sacred mountain, among yak trains and Buddhist pilgrims. High above me the ferocious wind on the 22,000ft summit created a constant arc of spindrift against the blue of the sky. But in the dying light of evening I walked away from the path to look for something else.

When Iain Campbell decided to follow the Indus River – the ‘River from the Lion’s Mouth’, as the Tibetans call it – from near Karachi to its source in the Tibetan Plateau, his dream was to travel by boat. The mighty Indus, however, had different ideas. Thwarted by the river’s sheer power, Campbell journeyed by land – crushed on rickety bus roofs, bumping along aboard venerable passenger trains, plodding on lung-crushing mountain ascents – through a world defined by the water. His book reveals the secrets of a river that both gives life and destroys lives as it twists through Pakistan and The Punjab, Kashmir and Ladakh.

Campbell leads us to spectacular and mysterious landscapes, but his is also a story about stories. First-hand accounts by those who travelled before him, from Alexander the Great’s armies to European mountaineers, echo the river’s timeless siren call, while the characters he encounters on his way – Sufi ascetics, Pakistani spell-makers, toddler Buddhist abbots and mischievous mountain fairies – populate a picaresque tale that is impossible to forget.

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