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Capt. Pemberton's Mission to Bootan, 1837-38.
the 9th May at noon we left Punukka, the most uninviting place
We crossed both bridges of the palace without any interruption
The march was a moderate one; up to the ravine the country had the same barren aspect, but on changing our direction we came on fir woods. About Telagong the country is well wooded, chiefly with oaks, and the vegetation is considerably varied. Near the torrent we met with a village or two, and a little cultivation, chiefly of buck wheat.
April 10th. We descended to a small nullah just below the castle, and then commenced an ascent which lasted for three or four hours, and which was generally moderately steep. On surmounting the ridge, which was of an elevation of about 10,000 feet, we commenced a long, and uninterrupted descent along the course of a small torrent (the path being well diversified with wood and glade) until we reached Woollokha, distant fourteen and half miles from Telagong.
About 1200 feet above this we came on rather fine wheat cultivation, among which two or three villages were situated. Above this elevation we came on fine woods of oaks and yews, diversified with swardy spots; and on reaching the summit of the ridge an open sward with beautiful rhododendron, birch, and juniper woods. Herbaceous monocotyledons abounded here, in fact the vegetation altogether was very rich, and the first spring vegetation we had yet met with. Gooseberries and Currants were common from 9000 feet upwards : Euphorbius, Primroses, Saxifragis, Clematises, Anemones, Ranunculuses, &c.,, were some among the many European forms that I met
with on this march. Near the summit, on the descent, a genuine larch was observed, and lower down two species of poplar were very common. The scenery was generally very beautiful. We passed a delightfully situated Gylong village not much below the summit, and near Woollookha saw Symtoka, a rather large square building belonging to the Deb Rajah, situated two or three hundred feet above our road.
Woollookha is a good sized village, and the houses are very good : it is close to the river Teemboo, which drains Tassisudon valley, a few miles distant to the north. There are several villages around it, and a good deal of cultivation of alternating crops of barley, wheat, and rice. The valley, if indeed it can be called so, for it is very narrow, is picturesque enough, although the surrounding hills are not well wooded. The banks of the river, which here flows gently enough, are well ornamented with weeping willows.
11th. We continued our route following the river, the path generally laying down its bed, or close to it, occasionally ascending two or three hundred feet above it. Halted at Lomnoo, an easy march. The features of the country remained the same until we neared our halting place, when woods of Pinus excelsa became very common ; roses occurred in profusion, and the vegetation generally consisted of shrubs; villages were tolerably frequent, and the cuckoo was again heard.
12th. To Chupcha. Continued for some time through a precisely similar country, still following the river, but generally at some height above its bed. After passing Panga, a small village at which our conductors wished us to halt, although it was only six miles from Somnoo, we descended gradually to the river Teemboo, and continued along it for some time, during which we passed the remains of a suspension bridge. Leaving the rivers soon afterwards, we encountered such a long ascent that we did not reach Chupcha till rather late in the evening, most of the coolies remaining behind. Having surmounted the ridge immediately above Chupcha, and which is about 8600 feet in altitude, we descended very rapidly to the village, which is about 600 feet lower down the face of the mountain. The road was for the most part tolerably good; in one place it was built up along the face of a cliff overhanging the Teemboo. The scenery was throughout pretty, but especially before coming on the ascent: some of the views along the river were very picturesque.
* The first time I heard this bird was about Punukka. Although in plumage it differs a good deal from the bird so well known in Europe, yet its voice is precisely
After leaving Panga no villages were passed, and one small one only was seen on the opposite bank of the Teemboo; but up to the above mentioned place the country continued tolerably populous. The vegetation, until the ascent was commenced, was a good deal like that about Somnoo, Pinus excelsa forming the predominant feature. From the base of the ascent it became completely changed-oaks forming the woods, and from 7500 feet upwards, various rhododendrons occurring in profusion, mixed with wild currants, &c. We were detained at Chupcha for two days, at the end of which the last coolies had scarcely arrived: it is ten miles from Somnoo, and sixteen miles from Panga, and about 8100 feet in elevation, The greatest ascent, and this too after a march of twelve miles, must have been between 2500 and 3000 feet. We were lodged comfortably in the castle, although it was not white-washed, nor had it the insignia of a belt of red ochre. It is a short distance from the village, which again is two or three hundred yards to the west of the direct road. We thought Chupcha a delightful place: the scenery is varied, the temperature delightful, varying in doors from 46° to 52°
The face of the mountain although very steep, is about the castle well cultivated: the crops which were of six ranked barley, were very luxuriant, and certainly the finest we ever saw in the country. The red-legged crow recurred here. During our stay, I ascended the ridge immediately above the castle, passing through a very large village of Gylongs, elevated at least 9000 feet. This village was the largest I saw in Bootan, and was ornamented with a pretty religious building, surrounded by junipers, and more decorated than such edifices usually are. Up to the village the path passed through beautiful woods of Pinus excelsa: above it I came on open sward, which continued on the south face up to the very summit of the ridge, which was nearly 11,000 feet. The north face of the mountain was well wooded on it rhododendrons, a few black pines, beautiful clumps of Pinus Smithiana, Bogh Pat, Mountain Pears, Aconites, Columbines, Saxifrages, Primroses, &c. were found in abundance. The southern face was decorated with a pretty yellow Anemone, and the pink spikes of a Bistort. From the ridge still loftier ones were visible in every direction, all of which were covered with snow, which lightly sprinkled the one on which I stood. At this season snow scarcely remains for a day under 11,000 feet, except in very sheltered situations.
We descended by a pre
15th. I left Chupcha with much regret. cipitous path to a torrent about 1800 feet below the castle. Crossing this, we descended gradually until we came on the ravine of the
Teemboo; at which point there is a small pagoda, visible from Chupcha. We then turned southwards, and continued for a long time at nearly the same level, passing a small village, Punugga, three or four hundred feet below us, and in which Capt. Turner had halted on his ascent. The descent to Chuka was long and gradual, becoming tolerably steep as we approached it. We reached the Teemboo by a miserable road, about half a mile from Chuka castle, which occupies a small eminence in what has once been the bed of the river.
The march was seventeen miles. The road in many places was very bad, and scarcely passable for loaded ponies. The scenery was frequently delightful, and vegetation was in the height of spring luxuriance. The hills bounding the ravine of Teemboo continued very high until we reached Chuka; they were well diversified, particularly at some height above us, with sward and glade, and richly ornamented with fine oaks, rhododendrons, cedar-like pines, and Pinus excelsa. Water was most abundant throughout the march, and in such places the vegetation was indescribably rich and luxuriant.
No village besides that of Punugga was passed or seen, nor did I observe any cultivation. I was much impeded by droves of cattle passing into the interior, for the road was frequently so narrow, and the mountains on which it was formed so steep, that I was obliged to wait quietly until all had passed. These cattle were of a different breed from those hitherto seen in Bootan, approaching in appearance the common cattle of the plains, than which however they were much finer and larger.
We were sufficiently well accommodated in the castle of Chuka, which is as bare of ornament as its neighbour of Chupcha; it is a place of some strength against forces unprovided with artillery, and commands the pass into the interior very completely. There is a miserable village near it, and several trees of the Ficus elastica.
16th. To Murichom. We descended to the Teemboo, which runs some fifty feet below the castle, and crossed it by a suspension bridge, of which a figure has been given by Capt. Turner; it is very inferior in size and construction to that of Rassgong, although, unlike that, it is flat at the bottom. We continued following the Teemboo winding gradually up its right bank, chiefly through rather heavy jungle, and descending subsequently about 600 feet to its bed by a dreadfully dangerous path, built up the face of a huge cliff. We continued along it until we crossed a small torrent at its junction with the large river, and then ascended gradually, following the ravine of this through humid jungle. As we approached Murichom we left the Teemboo a little to our left, and continued through a heavily
wooded country. Before ascending finally to Murichom, we descended twice to cross torrents. We reached Murichom late in the evening, the distance being eighteen miles.
No villages were seen until we came in sight of Murichom. The mountains were much decreased in height, and clothed with dense black jungle. We passed two water-falls, both on the left bank of the Teemboo, the one most to the south being the Minza peeya of Turner. Neither of them appeared particularly worthy of notice. The vegetation had almost completely changed, it partook largely of the subtropical characters, scarcely a single European form being met with. The road was absolutely villainous, it was very narrow, frequently reduced to a mere ledge, and painful owing to the sharp projections of the limestone, the prevailing rock of this part of the country. Murichom is a small village, rather more than 4000 feet above the sea; the houses, which are about eight or ten in number, are thatched : it is prettily situated: there is a little cultivation of wheat and maize about it. Although at so considerable an elevation, most of the plants were similar to those of Assam.
17th. Leaving Murichom we descended rapidly to a small torrent, from which we re-ascended until we had regained the level of Murichom. The path then wound along through heavily wooded country at an elevation of 4000 or 4200 feet: we continued thus throughout the day. At 5 P. M. finding that the coolies were commencing to stop behind, and failing in getting any information of my companions, I returned about 1 mile to the small village of Gygoogoo, which is about 300 feet below the path, and not visible from it. It is a miserable village of three or four bamboo huts. We had previously passed another and much better village, but as this was only six miles from Murichom, Capt. Pemberton determined to push on.
18th. I proceeded to Buxa. The path was somewhat improved, and the ascent gradual until an elevation of about 5500 feet was surmounted, from which the descent to Buxa is steep and uninterrupted. This place is seen from a ridge about 1200 feet above it. I reached it between 9 and 10 A. M., and found that my companions had arrived late on the preceding evening, having accomplished a march of twenty miles in one day. Scarcely any coolies had arrived, however, before me. The features of the country remained the same, the whole face being covered with dense black looking forest. Even on
Such is the nature of the path from Chuka to the plains, although it is the great thoroughfare between both capitals and Rungpore, that either the trade of Bootan with that place must be much exaggerated, or some other road must exist between these two pouts.