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- Himalayan Journals V2. - 3/94 -


in May for the upper Teesta valley, and, in the Governor-General's name, requested that he would facilitate my visiting the frontier of Sikkim, north-east of Kinchinjunga. The desired permission was, after a little delay, received; which appeared to rouse the Dewan to institute a series of obstructions to my progress, which caused so many delays that my exploration of the country was not concluded till October, and I was prevented returning to Dorjiling before the following Christmas.

Since our visit to the Rajah in December, no Vakeel (agent) had been sent by the Durbar to Dorjiling, and consequently we could only communicate indirectly with his Highness, while we found it impossible to ascertain the truth of various reports promulgated by the Dewan, and meant to deter me from entering the country. In April, the Lassoo Kajee was sent as Vakeel, but, having on a previous occasion been dismissed for insolence and incapacity, and again rejected when proposed by the Dewan at Bhomsong, he was refused an audience; and he encamped at the bottom of the Great Rungeet valley, where he lost some of his party through fever. He retired into Sikkim, exasperated, pretending that he had orders to delay my starting, in consequence of the death of the heir apparent; and that he was prepared to use strong measures should I cross the frontier.

No notice was taken of these threats: the Rajah was again informed of my intended departure, unless his own orders to the contrary were received through a proper accredited agent, and I left Dorjiling on the 3rd of May, accompanied by Dr. Campbell, who insisted on seeing me fairly over the frontier at the Great Rungeet river.

Arrangements were made for supplies of rice following me by instalments; our daily consumption being 80 lbs., a man's load. After crossing into Sikkim, I mustered my party at the Great Rungeet river. I had forty-two in all, of whom the majority were young Lepchas, or Sikkim-born people of Tibetan races: all were active and cheerful looking follows; only one was goitred, and he had been a salt-trader. I was accompanied by a guard of five Sepoys, and had a Lepcha and Tibetan interpreter. I took but one personal servant, a Portuguese half-caste (John Hoffman by name), who cooked for me: he was a native of Calcutta, and though hardy, patient, and long-suffering, and far better-tempered, was, in other respects, very inferior to Clamanze, who had been my servant the previous year, and who, having been bred to the sea, was as handy as he was clever; but who, like all other natives of the plains, grew intolerably weary of the hills, and left me.

The first part of my route lay over Tendong, a very fine mountain, which rises 8,613 feet, and is a conspicuous feature from Dorjiling, where it is known as Mount Ararat. The Lepchas have a curious legend of a man and woman having saved themselves on its summit, during a flood that once deluged Sikkim. The coincidence of this story with the English name of Ararat suggests the probability of the legend being fabulous; but I am positively assured that it is not so, but that it was current amongst the Lepchas before its English name was heard of, and that the latter was suggested from the peculiar form of its summit resembling that given in children's books as the resting-place of the ark.

The ascent from the Great Rungeet (alt. 818 feet) is through dry woods of Sal and Pines (_P. longifolia_). I camped the first night at the village of Mikk (alt. 3,900 feet), and on the following day ascended to Namtc (alt. 5,600 feet).

On the route I was met by the Lama of Silokfoke Goompa. Though a resident on the Lassoo Kajee's estates, he politely brought me a present, at the same time apologising for not waiting till I had encamped, owing to his excessive fat, which prevented his climbing. I accepted his excuses, though well aware that his real reason was that he wished to pay his respects, and show his good feeling, in private. Besides his ordinary canonicals, he carried a tall crozier-headed staff, and had a curious horn slung round his neck, full of amulets; it was short, of a transparent red colour, and beautifully carved, and was that of the small cow of Lhassa, which resembles the English species, and is not a yak (it is called "Tundro").

Namtchi was once a place of considerable importance; and still possesses a mendong, with six rows of inscribed slabs; a temple, and a Lama attached thereto: the latter waited on me soon after I had encamped, but he brought no present, and I was not long kept in suspense as to his motives. These people are poor dissemblers; if they intend to obstruct, they do it clumsily and hesitatingly: in this instance the Lama first made up to my people, and, being coolly received, kept gradually edging up to my tent-door, where, after an awkward salute, he delivered himself with a very bad grace of his mission, which was from the Lassoo Kajee to stop my progress. I told him I knew nothing of the Lassoo Kajee or his orders, and should proceed on the following morning: he then urged the bad state of the roads, and advised me to wait two days till he should receive orders from the Rajah; upon which I dismissed him.

Soon afterwards, as I sat at my tent-door, looking along the narrow bushy ridge that winds up the mountain, I saw twenty or thirty men rapidly descending the rocky path: they were Lepchas, with blue and white striped garments, bows and quivers, and with their long knives gleaming in the sun: they seemed to be following a figure in red Lama costume, with a scarlet silk handkerchief wound round his head, its ends streaming behind him. Though expecting this apparition to prove the renowned Kajee and his myrmidons, coming to put a sudden termination to my progress, I could not help admiring the exceeding picturesqueness of the scenery and party. My fears were soon dissipated by my men joyfully shouting, "The Tchebu Lama! the Tchebu Lama!" and I soon recognised the rosy face and twinkling eyes of my friend of Bhomsong, the only man of intelligence about the Rajah's court, and the one whose services as Vakeel were particularly wanted at Dorjiling.

He told me that the Lassoo Kajee had orders (from whom, he would not say) to stop my progress, but that I should proceed nevertheless, and that there was no objection to my doing so; and he despatched a messenger to the Rajah, announcing my progress, and requesting him to send me a guide, and to grant me every facility, asserting that he had all along fully intended doing so.

On the following morning the Lama proceeded to Dorjiling, and I continued the ascent of Tendong, sending my men round the shoulder to Temi in the Teesta valley, where I proposed to pass the night. The road rapidly ascends by a narrow winding path, covered with a loose forest of oaks, rhododendrons, and various shrubs, not found at equal elevations on the wetter Dorjiling ranges: amongst, them the beautiful laburnum-like _Piptanthus Nepalensis,_ with golden blossoms, was conspicuous. Enormous blocks of white and red stratified quartz, and slate, some 20 and even 40 yards long, rest on the narrow ridge at 7000 feet elevation. The last ascent is up a steep rounded cone with a broad flat top, covered with dwarf bamboo, a few oaks, laurels, magnolias, and white-flowered rhododendron trees (_R. argenteum_), which obstructed the view. I hung the barometers near one of the many chaits on the summit, where there is also a rude temple, in which worship is performed once a year. The elevation is 8,671 feet by my observations.* [8,663 by Col. Waugh's trigonometrical observations.] The geological formation of Tendong in some measure accounts for its peculiar form. On the conical summit are hard quartzoze porphyries, which have apparently forced up the gneiss and slates, which dip in all directions from the top, and are full of injected veins of quartz. Below 7000 feet, mica-schist prevails, always inclined at a very high angle; and I found jasper near Namtchi, with other indications of Plutonic action.

The descent on the north side was steep, through a rank vegetation, very different from that of the south face. The oaks are very grand, and I measured one (whose trunk was decayed, and split into three, however), which I found to be 49 feet in girth at 5 feet from the ground. Near Temi (alt. 4,770 feet) I gathered the fruit of _Kadsura,_ a climbing plant allied to Magnolia, bearing round heads of large fleshy red drupes, which are pleasantly acid and much eaten; the seeds are very aromatic.

From Temi the road descends to the Teesta, the course of which it afterwards follows. The valley was fearfully hot, and infested with mosquitos and peepsas. Many fine plants grew in it:* [Especially upon the broad terraces of gravel, some of which are upwards of a mile long, and 200 feet above the stream: they are covered with boulders of rock, and are generally opposite feeders of the river.] I especially noticed _Aristolochia saccata,_ which climbs the loftiest trees, bearing its curious pitcher-shaped flowers near the ground only; its leaves are said to be good food for cattle. _Houttuynia,_ a curious herb allied to pepper, grew on the banks, which, from the profusion of its white flowers, resembled strawberry-beds; the leaves are eaten by the Lepchas. But the most magnificent plant of these jungles is _Hodgsonia,_ (a genus I have dedicated to my friend, Mr. Hodgson), a gigantic climber allied to the gourd, bearing immense yellowish-white pendulous blossoms, whose petals have a fringe of buff-coloured curling threads, several inches long. The fruit is of a rich brown, like a small melon in form, and contains six large nuts, whose kernels (called "Katior-pot" by the Lepchas) are eaten. The stem, when cut, discharges water profusely from whichever end is held downwards. The "Took" (_Hydnocarpus_) is a beautiful evergreen tree, with tufts of yellow blossoms on the trunk: its fruit is as large as an orange, and is used to poison fish, while from the seeds an oil is expressed. Tropical oaks and Terminalias are the giants of these low forests, the latter especially, having buttressed trunks, appear truly gigantic; one, of a kind called "Sung-lok," measured 47 feet in girth, at 5 feet, and 21 at 15 feet from the ground, and was fully 200 feet high. I could only procure the leaves by firing a ball into the crown. Some of their trunks lay smouldering on the ground, emitting a curious smell from the mineral matter in their ashes, of whose constituents an account will be found in the Appendix.

Birds are very rare, as is all animal life but insects, and a small fresh-water crab, _Thelphusa,_ ("Ti-hi" of the Lepchas). Shells, from the absence of lime, are extremely scarce, and I scarcely picked up a single specimen: the most common are species of _Cyclostoma._

The rains commenced on the 10th of May, greatly increasing the discomforts of travelling, but moderating the heat by drenching thunder-storms, which so soaked the men's loads, that I was obliged to halt a day in the Teesta valley to have waterproof covers made of platted bamboo-work, enclosing Phrynium leaves. I was delighted to find that my little tent was impervious to water, though its thickness was but of one layer of blanket: it was a single ridge with two poles, 7 feet high, 8 feet long, and 8 feet broad at the base, forming nearly an equilateral triangle in front.

Bhomsong was looking more beautiful than ever in its rich summer clothing of tropical foliage. I halted during an hour of heavy rain on the spot where I had spent the previous Christmas, and could not help feeling doubly lonely in a place where every rock and tree reminded me of that pleasant time. The isolation of my position, the hostility of the Dewan, and consequent uncertainty of the success of a journey that absorbed all my thoughts, the prevalence of fevers in


Himalayan Journals V2. - 3/94

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