“The Silk Route” 10th January 2023
At the first meeting of 2023 Peter Ireland gave a talk entitled “The Silk Route”. Peter was a teacher of Classics at McLaren High School, Callander. He is also passionate traveller, and he described a six week journey he and a group of colleagues took in 2020 along part of the ancient Silk Route. The journey commenced in Lahore, thence to Tashkent, Urgench, and Khiva. Then they travelled by bus for 6 1/2 hours over featureless desert to Bokhara and from there to Samarqand. After a flight to Bishkek they took a minibus across Kyrgyzstan to Karakol for a homestay and then through the Pamirs into China for the Uyghur Sunday Market at Kashgar. They then went onto the Karakorum Highway down to Rawalpindi, with a detour to the Khyber Pass via Peshawar, ending up in Islamabad.
Peter’s love of travel includes a deep interest in the geography – both physical and social – and the history and customs of the areas he is visiting. In the case of this journey the enormous contrasts between the regions covered were of particular interest. The photographs he showed us included images of some extraordinary architecture and the exquisite tiling on some of the buildings. We also enjoyed images of the dramatic scenery in the more mountainous areas they travelled through, as well as of the many scenes of daily life of local people. He had particular sympathy with the much-oppressed Uyghur people he met on his journey. Peter described his approach to photography as just “pointing his wee -camera” at the scenes. But we were not convinced by this self-deprecating description given the extraordinary quality of the many beautiful images.
It was clear that Peter and his travel companions were made of strong stuff! We were struck his unconcerned descriptions of situations which most of us would have found terrifying. For example: travelling along precipitous unmade roads; encountering illness because of limited standards of hygiene; and risking being stranded in no man’s land at the Chinese border. Fortunately they had transport arranged and avoided being stuck there as was the fate of some luckless, less organised traveller. We also saw pictures of a less than luxurious yurt in which they passed a very uncomfortable night in freezing temperatures. The luxury of a good hotel in Islamabad, where their journey ended, must have been something of a contrast.
The meeting was well attended, and Peter’s talk was very well received and clearly of great interest to those present.