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0045 Serindia : vol.1
Serindia : vol.1 / Page 45 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000183
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F. VER since, in the summer of 1904, the plan of my second Central-Asian journey had been definitely formed and submitted to the Government of India, I was eagerly bent upon

effecting my entry into Chinese Turkestan by a new route. It was to take me from the Indian administrative border near Peshawar, through the Pathan tribal territory of Swat and Dir into Chitral, and thence across the main range of the Hindukush to the uppermost Oxus Valley and the Afghan Pamirs. The attractions of this route were great for the student of early geography and ethnography, but great also the difficulties, largely political, which now practically close it to the European traveller. So I had special reason to feel glad when, after final sanction of my start on this expedition had reached me about the New Year of 1906, I succeeded, through the Indian Foreign Office, in obtaining permission from H.M. Habib-ullah, King of Afghanistan, to cross a portion of his territory not visited by any European since the days of the Pamir Boundary Commission. My lamented chief, Colonel Sir Harold Deane, K.C.S.I., then Chief Commissioner of the North-West Frontier Province, had already kindly agreed to my passing through the northernmost of the Marches of which he was so truly great a Warden.

However interesting the regions were through which this route was to take me on my way to

the Chinese frontier, a series of practical considerations, fully explained in the opening chapters of the personal narrative of my journey, obliged me to make my passage as rapid as possible. Owing to the formidable obstacle presented by the Lowarai Pass, then deeply buried under snow and very difficult to cross with baggage, my start from the Peshawar border proved impossible until April 27, 1906. Once en route I had the strongest reasons for guarding against any avoidable delay ; for if I could not reach the headwaters of the Chitral River before the close of May, I should run a very serious risk of finding its narrow uppermost gorges above Mastûj, which give access to the Oxus watershed on the Barbghil, closed completely to traffic by the melting snows. The rapidity of the progress thus imposed upon me is sufficiently illustrated by the fact that the marching distances covered within the month which brought me from the Peshawar border to the Chinese boundary on the Pamirs, amounted to an aggregate of close on 450 miles. Most of this marching was done over difficult mountain tracks and at a season of exceptionally heavy snow.

It is obvious that under such conditions of travel I was compelled here to restrict my

antiquarian and ethnological observations to what, as it were, could be picked up by the roadside. Nevertheless, I need not hesitate to commence the detailed account of my archaeological work from my journey over this ground ; for apart from the intrinsic interest of a region which has only recently and in parts become accessible to European researches, there is the broad fact that most of our historical knowledge about it is derived from the same Chinese sources to which we are indebted for all the essential facts concerning ancient Central Asia.

1374   B

Choice of route to Pamirs.

Start from Peshawar border.