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- Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet - 5/42 -


worst, and covered nearly a foot deep everywhere with fine dust, which our bearers very soon stirred up into an impenetrable cloud, enveloping us in its folds to the verge of suffocation.

The sensation is strange enough, travelling in this way along a lonely road at dead of night, closely shut up in an oblong box, and surrounded by some twenty or more dusky savages, who could quietly tap one on the head at any time, and appropriate the bag of rupees -- inseparable from Indian travelling -- without the slightest difficulty. That they do not do so is probably from the knowledge they possess that with the bag of rupees there is generally to be found a revolver, and that an English traveller is of so generous a disposition that he seldom parts from his money without giving a little lead in with the silver.

JUNE 10. -- After a dusty jolt of forty miles, we reached "Gugerwalla" at eight A.M., and felt the change from Lahore most refreshing. The village seemed a quiet little settlement, very little visited by Englishmen, and the inhabitants, probably on that account, appeared of a different stamp from those we had hitherto met. The women, in particular, were more gaily dressed, and not so frightened at a white face as more south. The rearguard not having come up at six P.M. we started off without it. Crossed the Chenab during the night. The fords, by torchlight, were most picturesque, and rather exciting, in consequence of the water at times taking it into its head to see what was inside the "palkee." The Chenab makes the fourth out of the "five waters" from which the "Punjab" takes its name. The Jhelum only remains -- the ancient Hydaspes of Alexandrian notoriety.

JUNE 11. -- Reached "Goojerat" at five A.M. and enjoyed a few hours of quiet sleep in a very comfortable bungalow. The "khiltas" not making their appearance, we halt here for the night. In the evening we explored the city -- a straggling rabbit-barrow settlement, inclosed by a mud wall, and boasting the narrowest streets I had ever seen. In an open space we came upon a marvellously-ornamented "mundir," or Hindoo temple, painted in the most florid style, with effigies of dark gentlemen in coloured pants riding on peacocks, antelopes, and other beasts of burden common in the country. It seemed the centre of attraction to a numerous concourse of strangers from the north; among others, a bevy of young ladies with loose trousers and fair complexions, evidently "Cashmeeries," who seemed to regard the "heathen temple" as one of the wonders of the world. In the middle of the night the rearguard came in with the supplies, and we at once turned it into an advanced-guard, and packed it off to make preparations for our arrival at "Bimber."

JUNE 12. -- Spent a very hot day at Goojerat, and amused ourselves by inspecting the gold-inlaid work for which the place is famous. At 5.30 P.M. we started for our last night's journey in British territory; and thus terminated, for the present, our experiences of all the hot and dusty "pleasure of the Plains."

Cashmere.

JUNE 13. -- About two A.M. we passed out of India into the territory of His Highness the Maharajah of Cashmere, and halted at Bimber. The accommodation here turned out to be most indifferent, although in our route the edifice for travellers was called a "Baraduree," which sounded grandly. It means a summer-house with twelve doors; but beyond the facilities it afforded of rapid egress, we found it to possess but few advantages.

Putting a couple of charpoys outside, we managed a few hours' sleep AL FRESCO, in spite of the flies and mosquitoes innumerable, who lost no time in taking possession of their new property. On being able to discern the face of the country, we found ourselves at the foot of a range of hills of no great height, but still veritable hills; and although the sun was nearly as hot as in the plains, we felt that we were emancipated from India, and that all our real travelling troubles were over. In the evening we inspected the Maharajah's troops, consisting of eight curiously-dressed and mysteriously-accoutred sepoys under a serjeant. These same troops had rather astonished us in the morning by filing up in stage style in front of our two charpoys just as we awoke, and delivering a "Present arms" with great unction as we sat up in a half-sleepy and dishevelled condition, rubbing our eyes, and not exactly in the style of costume in which such a salute is usually received. We now found the "army" in the domestic employment of cooking their victuals, so that we were unable to have much of a review. However, we looked at their arms and accoutrements; ammunition they had none; and saw them perform the "manual and platoon." Their arms had been matchlocks, but had been converted, these stirring times, into flintlocks! In addition to these, which were about as long as a respectable spear, they had each a sword and shield, together with a belt and powder-horn, all clumsy in the extreme. In loading, we found an improvement on the English fashion, for, after putting the imaginary charge in with the hand, they BLEW playfully down the muzzle to obviate the difficulty of the powder sticking to the sides. After presenting the troops with "bukhshish," we strolled through the village and met the "thanadar," or head man, coming out to meet us, arrayed in glorious apparel and very tight inexpressibles, and mounted on a caparisoned steed. Dismounting, he advanced towards us salaaming, and holding out a piece of money in the palm of his hand; and not exactly knowing the etiquette of the proceeding, we touched it and left it where we found it, which appeared to be a relief to his mind, for he immediately put it in his pocket again.

His chief conversation was on the subject of the Maharajah and the delights of Cashmere, and anxiety as to our having got all supplies, &c. which we required, as he had been appointed expressly for the purpose of looking after the comfort of the English visitors. What with our friend and his train, and the detachment of "THE ARMY" which had accompanied us, our retinue began to assume the appearance of a procession; and it was with great difficulty that we induced them all to leave us, which they did at last after we had expressed our full satisfaction at the courtesy displayed by the Maharajah's very intelligent selection of a "thanadar."

JUNE 14. -- Broke up our camp about three A.M. and started our possessions at four o'clock, after some difficulty in prevailing upon the coolies to walk off with their loads. On mustering our forces, we found that they numbered thirty-seven, including ourselves. Of these twenty-four were coolies, carrying our possessions -- beer, brandy, potatoes, &c.; our servants were six more; then there were four ponies, entailing a native each to look after them; and, last of all, one of the redoubtable "army" as a guard, who paraded in the light marching order of a sword, shield, bag of melons, and an umbrella. F. and I travelled on "yaboos," or native ponies -- unlikely to look at, but wonderful to go. Mine was more like a hatchet than anything else, and yet the places he went over and the rate he travelled up smooth faces of rock was marvellous to behold.

About eight o'clock we found ourselves once more among the pine-trees; and, although the sun was very powerful, we had enough of the freshness of the mountain air to take away the remembrance of the dusty plains from our minds. No rain having fallen as yet, the springs and rivers were all nearly dry; but we saw several rocky beds, which gave good promise of fly-fishing, should they receive a further supply of water.

About nine A.M. we reached our halting-place, "Serai Saidabad," a ruined old place, with a mud tenement overlooking, at some elevation, the banks of a river.

Here we were again received with a salute, by a detachment of warriors drawn up in full dress -- viz. red and yellow turbans, and blue trousers with a red stripe.

After undergoing a refreshing bath of a skin of water, taken in our drawing-room, we got our artist to work at breakfast, and shortly after found, with considerable satisfaction, that we were in for the first of the rains. This welcome fact first proclaimed itself by the reverberation of distant thunder from among the mountains to the north; then an ominous black cloud gradually spread itself over us, and, with a storm of dust, down came the rain in torrents, making the air, in a few minutes, cool and delicious as possible, and entirely altering the sultry temperature which had previously prevailed. The thirsty ground soaked up the moisture as if it had never tasted rain, and the trees came out as if retouched by Nature's brush; while as, for F. and myself, we turned the unwonted coolness to the best account we could, by setting ourselves to work to pull up all arrears of sleep forthwith.

JUNE 15. -- Started at four A.M., with our numerous train, and found the road all the pleasanter for the rain of the previous evening, and all things looking green and fresh after the storm. Our path led us up a rocky valley, with its accompanying dashing stream, in the bed of which we could see traces of what the brawler had been in his wilder days, in huge and polished boulders and water-worn rocks, which had been hurled about in all directions. We afterwards went straight up a precipitous mountain, wooded with pine, which was no light work for the coolies, heavily laden as they were. No sooner, however, were we on the top of this than down we went on the other side; and how the ponies managed their ups-and-downs of life was best known to themselves; certainly, nothing but a cat or a Cashmere pony could have got over the ground. About nine A.M. we reached "Nowshera," under another salute, where we found an indifferent-looking "Baraduree," completely suffocated among the trees of a garden called the "Bauli Bagh," or "Reservoir Garden," from a deep stone well in the centre of it. Here we got on indifferently well, the weather being close after the rain, and the place thickly inhabited by crowds of sparrows, all with large families, who made an incessant uproar all day long; besides an army of occupation of small game, which interfered sadly with our sleeping arrangements at night. In the evening we made the acquaintance of a loquacious and free-and-easy gardener, entirely innocent of clothes, who came and seated himself between F. and myself, as we were perched upon a rock enjoying the prospect. According to his account, the Maharajah's tenants pay about seven rupees, or fourteen shillings, per annum for some five acres of land. In the middle of the night we came in for another storm of thunder and lightning, which took a good many liberties with our house, but cooled the air; and only for the mosquitoes, and other holders of the property, whose excessive attentions were rather embarrassing, we would have got on very well. As it was, however, I hardly closed an eye all night, and spent the greater part of it in meandering about the Bauli Bagh, VESTITO DA NOTTE -- in which operation I rejoice to think that, like the Russians at the burning of Moscow, I at least put the enemy to very considerable inconvenience, even at the expense of my own comfort.

JUNE 16. -- About half-past four A.M. we got under weigh again, heartily delighted to leave the sparrows and their allies in undisputed possession of their property.

The "kotwal," and other authorities, who had been extremely civil in providing supplies, coolies, &c., according to the Maharajah's order, took very good care not to let us depart without a due sense of the fact, for they bothered us for "bukhshish" just as keenly as the lowest muleteer; and when I gave the kotwal twelve annas, or one shilling and sixpence, as all the change I had, he assured me that the khidmutgar had more, and ran back to prove it by bringing me two rupees. I gave the scoundrel one, and regretted it for three miles, for he had robbed the coolies in the morning, either on his own or his master's account,


Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet - 5/42

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