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- Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet - 6/42 -


of one anna, or three-halfpence each, out of their hardly-earned wages. To-day we find ourselves once more among the rocks and pines, and as we progressed nothing could exceed the beauty of the views which opened upon us right and left. A mountain stream attended our steps the whole way sometimes smoothly and placidly, sometimes dancing about like a mad thing, and teasing the sturdy old battered rocks and stones which long ago had settled down in life along its path, and which, from the amount of polish they displayed, must themselves have been finely knocked about the world in their day. Rounding a turn of the river, where it ran deeply under its rocky bank, we came suddenly upon the ghastly figure of a man carefully suspended in chains from a prominent tree. His feet had been torn off by the wolves and jackals, but the upper part of the body remained together, and there he swung to and fro in the breeze, a ghastly warning to all evildoers, and a not very pleasing monument of the justice of the country. He was a sepoy of the Maharajah's army, who had drowned his comrade in the stream below the place where he thus had expiated his crime. Not far from this spot we discovered traces of another marauder, in the shape of a fresh footprint of a tiger or a leopard, just as he had prowled shortly before along the very path we were pursuing.

From this we gradually got into a region of fruit-trees, interspersed with pines; and sometimes we came upon a group of scented palms, which looked strangely enough in such unusual company. Through clustering pomegranates, figs, plums, peach-trees, wild but bearing fruit, we journeyed on and on; and, as new beauties arose around us, we could not help indulging in castles in the air, and forming visions of earthly paradises, where, with the addition only of such importations as are inseparable from all ideas of paradise, either in Cashmere or elsewhere, one might live in uninterrupted enjoyment of existence, and, at least, bury in oblivion all remembrance of such regions as the "Plains of India."

About ten A.M., after a continuous series of ups-and-downs of varied scenery, we arrived at "Chungas," a picturesque old serai, perched upon a hill over the river. It was marked off in our route as having no accommodation, but, located among the mouldering remnants of grandeur of an old temple in the centre of the serai, we managed to make ourselves very comfortable, and thought our "accommodation" a most decided improvement upon our late fashionable but rather overcrowded halting-place. From the serai we can see, for the first time, the snowy range of the Himalayas, trending northwards, towards the Peer Punjal Pass, through which our route leads into the Valley of Cashmere.

JUNE 17. -- Another ride through hill and dale to "Rajaori," or "Rampore," a most picturesque-looking town, built in every possible style of architecture, and flanked at one extremity by a ruined castle. Our halting-place was in an ancient serai, with a dilapidated garden, containing the remains of some rather handsome fountains. It was situated on a rock, several hundred feet above the river which separated us from the town; and, from our elevated position, we had a fine view of the whole place, and got an insight into the manners and customs of the inhabitants, without their being at all aware of our proximity.

The women and children appeared to be dressed quite in the Tartar style: the women with little red square-cornered fez caps, with a long strip of cloth thrown gracefully over them, and either pyjamas of blue stuff with a red stripe, or a long loose toga of greyish cloth, reaching nearly to the feet. The little girls were quite of the bullet-headed Tartar pattern, of Crimean recollection, but wore rather less decoration. The Crimean young ladies generally had a three cornered charm suspended round their necks, while the youthful fashion of Rajaori, scorning all artificial adornment, selected nature only as their mantua-maker, and wore their dresses strictly according to her book of patterns. After enjoying a delightfully cool night in our elevated bedroom, we started for "Thanna."

Our path led through a gradually ascending valley, cultivated, for the rice crop, in terraces, and irrigated by a complicated net-work of channels, cut off from the mountain streams, and branching off in every direction to the different elevations. The ground was so saturated in these terraces that ploughing was carried on by means of a large scraper, like a fender, which was dragged along by bullocks, the ploughman standing up in the machine as it floundered and wallowed about, and guiding it through the sea of mud.

JUNE 18. -- Reached Thanna at nine A.M. and came to a halt in a shady spot outside the village. There was an old serai about half a mile off, but it was full of merchants and their belongings, and savoured so strongly of fleas and dirt, that we gave it up as impracticable.

This was the first instance of our finding no shelter; and, as ill luck would have it, our tents took the opportunity of pitching themselves on the road, a number of coolies broke down, and one abandoned our property and took himself off altogether. Under these interesting circumstances, we were obliged to spend the day completely AL FRESCO, and to wait patiently for breakfast until the fashionable hour of half-past two P.M. The inhabitants took our misfortunes very philosophically, and stopped to stare at us to their heart's content as they went by for water, wondering, no doubt, at that restless nature of the crazy Englishman, which drives him out of his own country for the sole purpose, apparently, of being uncomfortable in other people's. Our position, although at the foot of the grander range of mountains, we found very hot, and a good deal of ingenuity was required in order to find continued shelter from the scorching rays of the sun. The natives here, seemed to suffer to a great extent from goitre, and one of our coolies in particular had three enormous swellings on his neck, horrible to look at. During the night, Rajoo came in with the missing baggage, except two khiltas, for which no carriage could be procured, and which he was in consequence obliged to abandon on the road until assistance could be sent to them.

JUNE 19. -- Started at daybreak from our unsatisfactory quarters, and enjoyed some of the finest scenery we had yet encountered. The road ascended pretty sharply into what might be called the REAL mountains, and finding our spirits rise with the ground, we abandoned our ponies and resolved to perform the remainder of our wanderings on foot. As we reached the summit of our first ascent, and our range of view enlarged, mountain upon mountain rose before us, richly clothed with forest trees; while, overtopping all, peeped up the glistening summits of the snowy range, everything around seems cool and pleasant, in spite of the hot sun's rays, which still poured down upon us. Our road from this, descending, lay among the nooks and dells of the shady side of the mountain; and the wild rose and the heliotrope perfumed the air at every step as we walked along in full enjoyment of the morning breeze. Our sepoy guide of to-day was not of the educated branch of the army. He was the stupidest specimen of his race I had ever met; and as his language was such a jargon as to be nearly unintelligible, we failed signally in obtaining much information from him.

Among other questions, I made inquiries as to woodcock, the cover being just suited to them, and after a great deal of difficulty in explaining the bird to him, he declared that he knew the kind of creature perfectly, and that there were plenty of them. By way of convincing us, however, of his sporting knowledge, he added that they were in the habit of living entirely on fruit; and he was sadly put out when F. and I both burst into laughter at the idea of an old woodcock with his bill stuck into a juicy pear, or perhaps enjoying a pomegranate for breakfast. Shortly after, we came suddenly upon quite a new feature in the scene -- a strange innovation of liveliness in the midst of solitude.

At a bend in the road, what should appear almost over our heads but a troop of about a hundred monkeys, crashing through the firs and chestnuts, and bounding in eager haste from tree to tree, in their desire to escape from a party of natives coming from the opposite direction. They were large brown monkeys, of the kind called lungoors, standing, some of them, three feet high, and having tails considerably longer than themselves. Their faces were jet black, fringed with light grey whiskers, which gave them a most comical appearance.; and as they jumped along from tree to tree, sometimes thirty and forty feet, through the air, with their small families following as best they could, they made the whole forest resound with the crashing of the branches, and amused us not a little by their aerial line of march.

After crossing a dashing mountain-torrent by a rude bridge of trees thrown across it, we arrived at the village of Burrumgulla. Here our guide wanted us to halt in a mud-built native serai, but, with the recollection of past experience fresh upon us, we declined, preferring to choose our own ground and pitch our first encampment. The ground we selected was almost at the foot of a noble waterfall, formed by a huge cleft in a mass of rugged rock. The water, dashing headlong down, was hidden in the recess of rock below, but the spray, as it rose up like vapour and again fell around us, plainly told the history of its birth and education. Even had we not seen the snowy peaks before us from the mountain top, there was no mistaking, from its icy breath, the nursery in which its infant form had been cradled. Just at our feet was one of the frail and picturesque-looking pine bridges spanning the torrent; while just below it another mountain river came tumbling down, and, joining with its dashing friend, they both rolled on in life together. As soon as our traps arrived, F. and I had a souse in the quietest pool we could find, and anything so cold I never felt; it was almost as if one was turned into stone, and stopping in it more than a second was out of the question. After breakfast and a SIESTA, we sallied out to try and explore the head of the cataract above us. After rather a perilous ascent over loose moss and mould, and clutching at roots of shrubs and trees, we were brought to a stand by a huge mass of perpendicular rock, which effectually barred us from the spot through which the water took its final leap. The upper course of the torrent, however, amply repaid us for our labour, for it ran through the most lovely dell I ever saw; and as it bounded down from rock to rock, and roared and splashed along, it seemed to know what there was before it, and to be rejoicing at the prospect of its mighty jump. Torrent as it seemed, it was evidently nothing to what it could swell to when in a rage, for here and there, far out of its present reach, and scattered all about, were torn and tattered corpses of forest trees, which had evidently been sucked up and carried along until some rock more abrupt than its neighbours, had brought them to a stand and left them, bleached and rotting, in the summer's sun. At night we found ourselves glad to exchange our usual covering of a single sheet for a heavy complement of blankets, and found our encampment not the least too warm. The authorities here were particularly civil and obliging, and supplied us with the best of butter, eggs, and milk. The latter was particularly good, and, not having often tasted cow's milk in the Plains, we did it ample justice here.

JUNE 20. -- Found it rather hard to turn out this morning, in consequence of the great change in the temperature, but got under weigh very well considering. Our path led us up the main torrent towards the snow, and in the first three miles we crossed about twenty pine-tree bridges thrown across the stream, some of them consisting of a single tree, and all in the rudest style of manufacture. Near one of these, under an immense mass of rock, we passed our first snow. It looked, however, so strange and unexpected, that we both took it for a block of stone; and being thatched, as it were, with leaves and small sticks, &c., and discoloured on all sides, it certainly bore no outward resemblance to what it really was.


Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet - 6/42

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