Alicia Mollaun, a PhD candidate at the Crawford School at ANU, is based in Islamabad. This is the second of a three-part series on a journey to a remote corner of Pakistan: Part 1.
Ask Australians what they think of when Pakistan is mentioned and many say terrorism, violence and Osama bin Laden; few associate Pakistan with tourism. Despite having lived in Islamabad since 2010, I wasn't sure what I would encounter while travelling in Pakistan beyond its bustling bazaars and beautiful mosques.
Sitting in Fairy Meadow, in the crisp air, listening to the thunder of water flowing down the glacier (pictured above), it was difficult to believe that I was in Pakistan, let alone in a state that is part of disputed Kashmir.
From the 19th century, Gilgit-Baltistan was part of the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu. After the partition of British India in August 1947 it remained an independent state; it came under Pakistani control following the Gilgit Rebellion, which was led by the British Commandant of the Gilgit Scouts, Major William Brown, in November 1947.
Under Pakistani rule, the area was designated the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) and came under the direct control of Islamabad. As part of the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order passed by the Pakistan government in 2009, the FANA changed its name to the more meaningful Gilgit-Baltistan, and a Gilgit-Baltistan National Assembly was established.
Because the region is semi-autonomous, it is not mentioned in the constitution, does not have representation in Pakistan's National Assembly or cabinet, nor can its people vote in national elections.
As we trekked towards the 'Killer Mountain' we stopped in a tiny village in the centre of the valley and enjoyed some 'mountain tea' while the locals looked on.
The economy of the area is almost solely based on tourism, particularly trekking and mountaineering. Most of the village men work as porters or guides for groups trekking to the basecamp of Nanga Parbat, and some risk their lives assisting mountaineers hoping to summit the second highest peak in Pakistan.
Nanga Parbat is nicknamed 'Killer Mountain' because it was one of the deadliest eight-thousanders (mountains above 8000 metres, in climber parlance) for the first half of the 20th century. A 2010 German film, Nanga Parbat, is about an ill-fated ascent of the mountain in 1970.
Most villages in the area generate electricity using hydropower, courtesy of the water flowing down the Raikot glacier.
When the villagers heard there was a group of Australians at the campsite they were eager to show us their hydro project, which was funded through Australia’s Direct Aid Program and provides power for 60 households in the area.
Ice, ice, baby
Being from Queensland, I am not overly familiar with glaciers and I pictured them as snowy white and icy. A more experienced glacier spotter had to point out the massive, grey, moon-like thing at the base of Nanga Parbat which is Raikot Glacier (below). The roar of the water flowing down the mountain from the glacier was amazing.
In part 3: Pace of change.
Photos Alicia Mollaun.