Survival Guide: Held Captive

Image of people running from captivity
Art by Istvan Banyai

Held Captive

Picture of Trevor Price

Trevor Price

National Geographic Grantee
Expertise: Ornithologist
Location: Kashmir

Photograph by Bettina Harr
My team was studying the bird species of the Himalaya when ten people with machine guns entered our camp and said, “You’re coming with us.” We usually work 11,000 feet up in the mountains, but we had dropped down to monitor the birds living at the lower elevations. At 8,000 feet there’s a road. If we’d been higher up, they wouldn’t have found us. The Indian Army was everywhere—it was the early ’90s and the region was in the middle of an insurgency. Our captors were Kashmiri rebels. They marched us toward the nearest village and put us on a small bus. To keep covert, our captors kept changing our transport. They pistol-whipped a rickshaw driver for not giving up his vehicle quickly enough, took us about 15 miles, then commandeered another bus. Then they forced us to hike.

We stopped at a pasture that looked like a rebel outpost from a movie. The rebels wanted Amnesty International to come to Kashmir to document atrocities they claimed the Indian Army had committed. We—an Englishman and two Americans—were the bait. Our captors were nice to us. They let us stay together. They would clean the seats for us to sit on while balancing AK-47s in their other hands. They challenged us to a tug-of-war, using an AK-47 as the line we shouldn’t cross. We very judiciously lost. On the fifth night one of our team noticed there was no guard at the door. In stocking feet, boots in our hands, we raced up the hill. We ran until dawn, passing surprised shepherds. When we finally found a road, we took all our money—only 500 rupees—and got on a passing bus to start on our journey back home.

—Trevor Price, National Geographic grantee

Related: Listen to Price on National Geographic Weekend

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