Mar 15, 2011
Zelda Harrison

Erin Moore: The journey to Balistan

Hello again! So, we’ve got 9 days left to make this project a reality, and I’m working hard to pull some loose ends together to make this happen! If you know of anyone else who would be excited to support this work, please show them the green button and bring them along!

In the meantime, several updates ago, I began telling you about the tumultuous history of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan and how it starts to relate to the work I will be doing… Here’s the next installment in the continuing story:

John Keay, who wrote “The Gilgit Game,” says that the recorded historical exploration of the mountain passes of Baltistan during the latter part of the 19th century is not the usual story of exploration; not the story “of finding a way through the mountains and opening them up.” Rather, the initial exploration of this region was focused on “finding all the possible ways through [the mountains] and closing them. The discovery of independent tribes and unclaimed valleys was cause for anxiety rather than celebration.”

You might not want to read his 600-page book to find out why, so I will tell you:

In 1870, and the years surrounding, Gilgit ceased to be a far-flung outpost of the Maharajas of Kashmir. It became the strategic point where the imperial powers of Britain, India, Tsarist Russia and the “jealously guarded” frontiers of China and soon-to be-Afghanistan met and maneuvered to gain control of Central Asia.

The territories surrounding Gilgit were not well known or explored and all sides sent spies to investigate, map the territories and report back. Reports from explorers were often sent in code or never formally recorded at all. Some of the most skilled mountaineers were killed before they were able to bring information back. The strategic maneuvering and espionage of these powers was calledThe Great Game. (Chronicled in another book of the same name by Peter Hopkirk)

At stake was the security of India, key to the wealth of the British Empire. The small town of Gilgit – nestled high in these mountain passes became the “hub, the crows-nest, the fulcrum of all of Asia.”

Through this conflict, Gilgit and the Baltistan district of Pakistan, (a remote and seemingly insignificant part of the country that most people still can’t find on a map,) played an enormous role in the creation of the nation of Afghanistan – a place that perhaps resonates more with the Western conscience these days.

There is extreme value in retracing some of these explorer’s steps and telling the stories that are not only worth celebrating, but that also have never been recorded.

Stay tuned, I hope to bring you a few more personal glimpses into these stories over the next 9 days!

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