KLAP Tour: Royal Tour of Chitral & Shandur Polo Festival 2014

The KL Academy of Polo is pleased to associate with Alam & Co to present the Royal Tour of Chitral & Shandur Polo Festival 2014.  This is a very special tour to a unique polo festival, unchanged for centuries and steeped in tradition.  It is polo as it has been played through the ages, in its purest form on the highest polo field in the world at 3,700 meters.

The rivalries are as ancient as the game itself.  You will watch Chitral play Gilgit in a colorful spectacle of freeform polo played by the bravest and best.  Two 25 minute chukkas, both played on the same horse.  Six-a-side polo with very few rules as we know them today.

Experience the thrill of playing polo in its purest form in Shandur.

This 8-day tour of Chitral & the Shandur Polo Festival costs US$4,500 per person, flights to Islamabad, Pakistan are not included.  Each package includes Islamabad/Chitral Return Airfare, Accommodation, Meals, Entertainment, Shandur Practice Chukka or Stick n’ Ball, Transportation and all Pakistan Government related clearances.

The tour is a very special one and is limited to a maximum of 12 places.   Four places have already been taken, leaving eight available places at the time of writing.  The first two to confirm through KL Academy of Polo will receive a 10% discount.

Shah Qubilai Alam will lead this tour.  Qubilai is a 4-goal polo player who has captained Pakistan, played all over the world, and who has recently begun a career as a professional umpire and steward, officiating at the FIP Super Nations Cup, FIP Snow Polo World Cup and the RMPA Polo Leagues.

The tour comprises of the following:

Day 1 – Thursday 19th June

  • Guests to commence the tour at Islamabad Airport at 0600 hours.
  • 40 minute flight to Chitral.
  • Arrival in Chitral.
  • Check-in at Hindukush Heights Hotel (Dining Room pictured right)
  • Breakfast.
  • Guests may settle into accommodation or relax and explore the hotel premises.
  • Lunch.
  • Afternoon drive to the riverside to see the Markhor Mountain Goat descend the mountain slopes for grazing and drinking water. The Markhor is the National Animal of Pakistan and an endangered species. Trophy hunters pay the Government of Pakistan over US$100,000 for a hunting permit for one Markhor.
  • Return to hotel.
  • Happy Hour.
  • Dinner.
  • Traditional musical entertainment in the hotel garden.

Day 2 – Friday 20th June

  • Breakfast.
  • Drive to Mastuj Fort. This is a majestic four hour drive along the Mastuj River.
  • Lunch: Picnic at Kuragh.
  • Arrival at Mastuj Fort. Guests will reside at the wooden chalets in the walnut and apricot orchard of Mastuj Fort (an extension of Hindukush Heights Hotel)
  • Evening stroll in Mastuj village.
  • Happy Hour.
  • Dinner

Day 3 – Saturday 21st June

  • Breakfast.
  • Drive to Shandur (two hours) to watch the matches of the Shandur Polo tournament. Arrangements will be made to allow guests to participate in a “practice chukka” or “stick n’ ball” to enjoy the experience of playing polo on the “Rooftop of the World”.
  • Lunch: Picnic at Shandur.
  • Watch the polo match between the Chitral “B” Team and the Gilgit “B” Team.
  • Post polo campfire, Happy Hour and Dinner within the camp of the Chitral Polo Team Captain, Prince Sikander Ulmulk and his teammates. It will be a wonderful experience to join in the singing, dancing and strategy session, although this may mean staying longer at Shandur and returning to Mastuj Fort late in the evening.
  • Drive back to Mastuj Fort.

Day 4 – Sunday 22nd June

  • Breakfast
  • Drive to Shandur to see the final match of the Shandur Polo tournament.
  • Lunch: Picnic at Shandur.
  • Watch the polo match between the Chitral “A” Team and the Gilgit “A” Team.
  • Join the victory celebrations.
  • Drive back to Mastuj Fort.
  • Happy Hour.
  • Dinner.

Day 5 – Monday 23rd June

  • Breakfast
  • Return drive to Chitral.
  • Lunch: Picnic at Kuragh.
  • Arrival at Hindukush Heights Hotel.
  • Happy Hour.
  • Star-gazing at Hindukush Heights.
  • Dinner.

Day 6 – Tuesday 24th June

  • Breakfast.
  • A free day for those who just wish to relax at the hotel.
  • A shopping trip to the local Chitral Bazaar and a guided tour of Chitral Fort can be organized for interested guests.
  • Lunch: Picnic on the slopes of the Summer Palace.
  • Evening walk in the surrounding hills through some local villages.
  • Happy Hour.
  • Dinner.

Day 7 – Wednesday 25th June

  • Breakfast.
  • A day trip to the Kalaash Valley. This is an extremely scenic drive on a mountain road to meet with an ancient pagan tribe which is now highly endangered. Only some three thousand inhabitants of this tribe remain. The Greeks claim that this tribe is descended from Alexander the Great’s army. We will visit with Kalaash families in their homes, holy temple and museum, while strolling through their valley and enjoying their generous hospitality.
  • Lunch: Picnic at Bumburat
  • Drive back to Chitral.
  • Happy Hour.
  • Dinner.

Day 8 – Thursday 26th June

  • Breakfast.
  • Flight to Islamabad.
  • Arrival in Islamabad.
  • Conclusion of tour.

KL Academy of Polo & ALAM Co. undertake to provide the highest quality of service and attention to each guest on this luxury tour, and promises a memorable experience. Only 12 places are available on this tour for Adult guests while children can also be accommodated at special rates.

Each package includes Islamabad/Chitral Return Airfare, Accommodation, Meals, Entertainment, Shandur Practice Chukka or Stick n’ Ball, Transportation and all Pakistan Government related clearances. Accommodation at Mastuj Fort will be on a twin-sharing basis.

Airport Transfers and Accommodation in Islamabad can also be booked for our guests on request.

An invitation from Qubilai:

My friends,

I invite you to join us and experience a traditional polo tournament which has been held annually since 1936, between the polo teams of Chitral and Gilgit…

The tournament is held on Shandur Top, the highest polo field in the world at 3,700 meters (the pass itself is at 3,800 meters). The festival includes folk music and dancing, while a large camping village of polo enthusiasts, adventurers and supporters also adds to the atmosphere for the duration of the tournament.

During the early 20th century, the British colonial rulers of India were the patrons of the game. In 1935, the British Political Agent, Major A.H. Cobb commissioned a polo field at Shandur, which came to be known as “Mas Junali” in the local Khowar language, the “Moon Polo field”. Cobb then encouraged the people of Chitral and Gilgit, quite often at odds, to settle their differences through an annual polo fixture, now known as the Shandur Polo Festival.

So Mas Junali became a venue of conflict resolution between the people of Chitral and Gilgit, while the three day Shandur Polo Festival has developed steadily in recent years into the massive celebration of mountain polo that it is today

Chitral and Gilgit have always played the game of polo closest to its original form. Each team has six members. The match is divided into two halves of 25 minutes, with a 10 minute interval. Only 1 polo pony is permitted per player, and if a player or pony leaves the field injured, the opposing team also reduces its strength by 1 player. A fresh polo pony may not be introduced into the game, as that will prove to be a distinct advantage.

The field measures about 200 meters by 56 meters (a normal polo field is about 270m by 150m), with 60 cm high stone walls running the length of the field on both sides instead of boards. Players rarely wear helmets, the horses’ legs often have no bandages, and very few mallets have grips or straps.

In order to decide the final teams to play at the Shandur Polo Festival, preliminary matches are played both in Chitral and Gilgit, from which the best horses and players are chosen for the final games by the local juries.

Free-style mountain polo is arguably polo in its purest form. This version of the game played at Shandur-Top has attained legendary status and is of great interest to international and domestic adventure tourists alike. There are no umpires and everything goes. The rules are: There are no rules!

In “The Roof of the World” Amin/Willets/Tetley write: “by comparison, an American Wild West rodeo might pass for choir practice.”

I’ve played polo all over the world, but rarely have I experienced such exhilaration on a polo field as I have in this form of polo! The pace is frenetic and the game never stops. Once I had recovered from the polo culture-shock in my first game up in Chitral, I reveled in the freedom to hook my opponents under the belly or over and across their horses. No whistles! I once T-boned an opponent into the stone wall and a spectator fell off the wall onto the field. Apparently it was a perfectly normal occurrence and the crowd standing ten deep roared with approval at the brutality of the play, while the spectator quickly scrambled back up the wall.

No hit-ins! If the ball runs out over the back line, the goal-judge immediately launches another ball towards the middle of the field and the game carries on. If a player scores a goal, the goal-judge gives him a ball to hold in his stick hand while also carrying the stick. The player must then gallop down the side of the field, and at the halfway line chuck the ball in the air and strike it. Hit or miss, the game continues, but if he scores, he gets to do it again. This is known as the “tumbuk”, truly a privilege to witness if it sails through the goal!

Chitral is the only place in the world where I’ve watched kids play foot polo on the streets with branches and twigs. Most other places, its either Cricket or Soccer. Such is their (pardon the pun) unbridled passion for what they consider “their” sport! Yet there is a certain method to all the madness, it’s an extremely strategic sport! Man-marking is just as important as in any other form of polo. It’s also interesting to note how team members take turns in giving their mounts periodic breaks while the game carries on. They care very deeply for their entire pony string of ONE, which they maintain at great expense and sacrifice!

I have many such mountain polo experiences to share with you, but perhaps we should wait till we’re sitting around the campfire at the War Council of the Chitral Polo Team, surrounded by the full majesty of Shandur.

Since there are only 12 spots up for grabs, act fast! I’m anticipating that we’ll have an interesting mix of adventurous polo enthusiasts from around the world.
I look forward to meeting up with you as our epic journey begins on the morning of Thursday, June 19th.

Best wishes,

Experience polo as it is played at the top of the world.  Join the Royal Tour of Chitral and the Shandur Polo Festival.

To book this KLAP tour, contact Peter Abisheganaden at pete@equestrian.com.my, Shaik Reismann at @shaikreismann@gmail.com or Stanley Sinnappen at stanley@vamco.com.my.




The KL Academy of Polo

The KL Academy of Polo is formed by three passionate polo players – Malaysian World Cup captain Shaik Reismann, RMPA Executive Secretary Peter Abisheganaden and lawyer Stanley Sinnappen. Based in Kuala Lumpur, the KL Academy of Polo conducts activities in the Klang Valley and abroad.