Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything


Books Menu

Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog


- Himalayan Journals (Complete) - 70/157 -

Taktoong river, a tributary on the east bank, which rushes down at an angle of 15 degrees, in a sheet of silvery foam, eighteen yards broad. It does not, where I crossed it, flow in a deep gulley, having apparently raised its bed by an accumulation of enormous boulders; and a plank bridge was thrown across it, against whose slippery and narrow foot-boards the water dashed, loosening the supports on either bank, and rushing between their foundation stones.

My unwilling guide had gone ahead with some of the coolies: I had suspected him all along (perhaps unjustly) of avoiding the most practicable routes; but when I found him waiting for me at this bridge, to which he sarcastically pointed with his bow, I felt that had he known of it, to have made difficulties before would have been a work of supererogation. He seemed to think I should certainly turn back, and assured me there was no other crossing (a statement I afterwards found to be untrue); so, comforting myself with the hope that if the danger were imminent, Meepo would forcibly stop me, I took off my shoes, and walked steadily over: the tremor of the planks was like that felt when standing on the paddle-box of a steamer, and I was jerked up and down, as my weight pressed them into the boiling flood, which shrouded me with spray. I looked neither to the right nor to the left, lest the motion of the swift waters should turn my head, but kept my eye on the white jets d'eau springing up between the woodwork, and felt thankful when fairly on the opposite bank: my loaded coolies followed, crossing one by one without fear or hesitation. The bridge was swept into the Lachen very shortly afterwards.

Towards Lamteng, the path left the river, and passed through a wood of _Abies Smithiana._* [Also called _A. Khutrow_ and _Morinda._ I had not before seen this tree in the Himalaya: it is a spruce fir, much resembling the Norway spruce in general appearance, but with longer pendulous branches. The wood is white, and considered indifferent, though readily cleft into planks; it is called "Seh."] Larch appears at 9000 feet, with _Abies Brunoniana._ An austere crab-apple, walnut, and the willow of Babylon (the two latter perhaps cultivated), yellow jessamine and ash, all scarce trees in Sikkim, are more or less abundant in the valley, from 7000 to 8000 feet; as is an ivy, very like the English, but with fewer and smaller yellow or reddish berries; and many other plants,* [Wood-sorrel, a white-stemmed bramble, birch, some maples, nut gigantic lily (_Lilium giganteum_), _Euphorbia, Pedicularis, Spiraea, Philadelphus, Deutzia, Indigofera,_ and various other South Europe and North American genera.] not found at equal elevations on the outer ranges of the Himalaya.

Chateng, a spur from the lofty peak of Tukcham,* ["Tuk" signifies head in Lepcha, and "cheam" or "chaum," I believe, has reference to the snow. The height of Tukcham has been re-calculated by Capt. R. Strachey, with angles taken by myself, at Dorjiling and Jillapahar, and is approximate only.] 19,472 feet high, rises 1000 feet above the west bank of the river; and where crossed, commands one of the finest alpine views in Sikkim. It was grassy, strewed with huge boulders of gneiss, and adorned with clumps of park-like pines: on the summit was a small pool, beautifully fringed with bushy trees of white rose, a white-blossomed apple, a _Pyrus_ like _Aria,_ another like mountain-ash, scarlet rhododendrons (_arboreum_ and _barbatum_), holly, maples, and _Goughia,_* [This fine plant was named (Wight, "Ic. Plant.") in honour of Capt. Gough, son of the late commander-in-chief, and an officer to whom the botany of the peninsula of India is greatly indebted. It is a large and handsome evergreen, very similar in foliage to a fine rhododendron, and would prove an invaluable ornament on our lawns, if its hardier varieties were introduced into this country.] a curious evergreen laurel-like tree: there were also Daphnes, purple magnolia, and a pink sweet-blossomed _Sphaerostema._ Many English water-plants* [_Sparganium, Typha, Potamogeton, Callitriche, Utricularia,_ sedges and rushes.] grew in the water, but I found no shells; tadpoles, however, swarmed, which later in the season become large frogs. The "painted-lady" butterfly (_Cynthia Cardui_), and a pretty "blue" were flitting over the flowers, together with some great tropical kinds, that wander so far up these valleys, accompanying _Marlea,_ the only subtropical tree that ascends to 8,500 feet in the interior of Sikkim.

The river runs close tinder the eastern side of the valley, which slopes so steeply as to appear for many miles almost a continuous landslip, 2000 feet high.

Lamteng village, where I arrived on the 27th of May, is quite concealed by a moraine to the south, which, with a parallel ridge on the north, forms a beautiful bay in the mountains, 8,900 feet above the sea, and 1000 above the Lachen. The village stands on a grassy and bushy flat, around which the pine-clad mountains rise steeply to the snowy peaks and black cliffs which tower above. It contains about forty houses, forming the winter-quarters of the inhabitants of the valley, who, in summer, move with their flocks and herds to the alpine pastures of the Tibet frontier. The dwellings are like those described at Wallanchoon, but the elevation being lower, and the situation more sheltered, they are more scattered; whilst on account of the dampness of the climate, they are raised higher from the ground, and the shingles with which they are tiled (made of _Abies Webbiana_) decay in two or three years. Many are painted lilac, with the gables in diamonds of red, black, and white: the roofs are either of wood, or of the bark of _Abies Brunoniana,_ held down by large stones: within they are airy and comfortable. They are surrounded by a little cultivation of buck-wheat, radishes, turnips, and mustard. The inhabitants, though paying rent to the Sikkim Rajah, consider themselves as Tibetans, and are so in language, dress, features, and origin: they seldom descend to Choongtam, but yearly travel to the Tibetan towns of Jigatzi, Kambajong, Giantchi, and even to Lhassa, having always commercial and pastoral transactions with the Tibetans, whose flocks are pastured on the Sikkim mountains during summer, and who trade with the plains of India through the medium of these villagers.

Illustration--LAMTENG VILLAGE.

The snow having disappeared from elevations below 11,000 feet, the yaks, sheep, and ponies had just been driven 2000 feet up the valley, and the inhabitants were preparing to follow, with their tents and goats, to summer quarters at Tallum and Tungu. Many had goitres and rheumatism, for the cure of which they flocked to my tent; dry-rubbing for the latter, and tincture of iodine for the former, gained me some credit as a doctor: I could, however, procure no food beyond trifling presents of eggs, meal, and more rarely, fowls.

On arriving, I saw a troop of large monkeys* [_Macacus Pelops?_ Hodgson. This is a very different species from the tropical kind seen in Nepal, and mentioned at vol. i, Chapter XII.] gambolling in a wood of _Abies Brunoniana_: this surprised me, as I was not prepared to find so tropical an animal associated with a vegetation typical of a boreal climate. The only other quadrupeds seen here were some small earless rats, and musk-deer; the young female of which latter sometimes afforded me a dish of excellent venison; being, though dark-coloured and lean, tender, sweet, and short-fibred. Birds were scarce, with the exception of alpine pigeons (_Columba leuconota_), red-legged crows (_Corvus graculus,_ L.), and the horned pheasant (_Meleagris Satyra,_ L.). In this month insects are scarce, _Elater_ and a black earwig being the most frequent: two species of _Serica_ also flew into my tent, and at night moths, closely resembling European ones, came from the fir-woods. The vegetation in the, neighbourhood of Lamteng is European and North American; that is to say, it unites the boreal and temperate floras of the east and west hemispheres; presenting also a few features peculiar to Asia. This is a subject of very great importance in physical geography; as a country combining the botanical characters of several others, affords materials for tracing the direction in which genera and species have migrated, the causes that favour their migrations, and the laws that determine the types or forms of one region, which represent those of another. A glance at the map will show that Sikkim is, geographically, peculiarly well situated for investigations of this kind, being centrically placed, whether as regards south-eastern Asia or the Himalayan chain. Again, the Lachen valley at this spot is nearly equi-distant from the tropical forests of the Terai and the sterile mountains of Tibet, for which reason representatives both of the dry central Asiatic and Siberian, and of the humid Malayan floras meet there.

The mean temperature of Lamteng (about 50 degrees) is that of the isothermal which passes through Britain in lat. 52 degrees, and east Europe in lat. 48 degrees, cutting the parallel of 45 degrees in Siberia (due north of Lamteng itself), descending to lat. 42 degrees on the east coast of Asia, ascending to lat. 48 degrees on the west of America, and descending to that of New York in the United States. This mean temperature is considerably increased by descending to the bed of the Lachen at 8000 feet, and diminished by ascending Tukcham to 14,000 feet, which gives a range of 6000 feet of elevation, and 20 degrees of mean temperature. But as the climate and vegetation become arctic at 12,000 feet, it will be as well to confine my observations to the flora of 7000 to 10,000 feet; of the mean temperature, namely, between 53 degrees and 43 degrees, the isothermal lines corresponding to which embrace, on the surface of the globe, at the level of the sea, a space varying in different meridians from three to twelve degrees of latitude.* [On the west coast of Europe, where the distance between these isothermal lines is greatest, this belt extends almost from Stockholm and the Shetlands to Paris.] At first sight it appears incredible that such a limited area, buried in the depths of the Himalaya, should present nearly all the types of the flora of the north temperate zone; not only, however, is this the case, but space is also found at Lamteng for the intercalation of types of a Malayan flora, otherwise wholly foreign to the north temperate region.

A few examples will show this. Amongst trees the Conifers are conspicuous at Lamteng, and all are of genera typical both of Europe and North America: namely, silver fir, spruce, larch, and juniper, besides the yew: there are also species of birch, alder, ash, apple, oak, willow, cherry, bird-cherry, mountain-ash, thorn, walnut, hazel, maple, poplar, ivy, holly, Andromeda, _Rhamnus._ Of bushes; rose, berberry, bramble, rhododendron, elder, cornel, willow, honeysuckle, currant, _Spiraea, Viburnum, Cotoneaster, Hippophae._ Herbaceous plants* [As an example, the ground about my tent was covered with grasses and sedges, amongst which grew primroses, thistles, speedwell, wild leeks, _Arum, Convallaria, Callitriche, Oxalis, Ranunculus, Potentilla, Orchis, Chaerophyllum, Galium, Paris,_ and _Anagallis_; besides cultivated weeds of shepherd's-purse, dock, mustard, Mithridate cress, radish, turnip, _Thlaspi arvense,_ and _Poa annua._] are far too numerous to be enumerated, as a list would include most of the common genera of European and North American plants.

Of North American genera, not found in Europe, were _Buddleia, Podophyllum, Magnolia, Sassafras? Tetranthera, Hydrangea, Diclytra, Aralia, Panax, Symplocos, Trillium,_ and _Clintonia._ The absence of heaths is also equally a feature in the flora of North America. Of European genera, not found in North America, the Lachen valley has _Coriaria, Hypecoum,_ and various _Cruciferae._ The Japanese and Chinese floras are represented in Sikkim by _Camellia, Deutzia, Stachyurus, Aucuba, Helwingia, Stauntonia, Hydrangea, Skimmia, Eurya, Anthogonium,_ and _Enkianthus._ The Malayan by Magnolias, _Talauma,_

Himalayan Journals (Complete) - 70/157

Previous Page     Next Page

  1   10   20   30   40   50   60   65   66   67   68   69   70   71   72   73   74   75   80   90  100  110  120  130  140  150  157 

Schulers Books Home

 Games Menu

Dice Poker
Tic Tac Toe


Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything