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A floek of sheep arriving while we were deliberating on the best method of crossing the stream, decided our plans at once. impossible for even these sure footed animals, laden as they were, to cross in safety, at least their owners would not run the risk; and in a short time therefore young trees were felled and placed across a narrower part of the stream, and covered over with bundles of twigs laid on transversely. Over this the sheep led the way unhesitatingly, and we followed in their wake. From this we climbed the ghat to Tranda, where I encamped amidst a forest of majestic Kaloo pines. From Tranda I proceeded to Nachar, a pretty walk of about eight miles, some parts being steep and rugged. The road at first ascended for a short distance, and then turning round the hill brought us to a steep descent, down which it fell somewhat abruptly in a zigzag manner to the bottom of a wooded glen. In many parts it wound backwards and forwards so suddenly, from the steepness of the hill, that on looking upwards it was no pleasant object to behold the long train of my baggage coolies slowly winding downwards in a zigzag line above my head, and while thus standing below the crazy looking scaffolding, which in many places formed the road, I could not help thinking to myself, “ If those fellows with their loads should chance to come tumbling through, how terribly they would spoil the crown of a certain gentleman's hat,”—and the feeling made me hasten on to avoid the fancied, but not improbable danger.
Nachar is a small village situated at some height above the Sutledge, on the slope of the left bank. The thick forests and rocky glens from this place downwards to Sarahun, may be deemed the head quarters of the Gooral and Thar antelopes, the latter being known here by the name of “ Eimoo." Ther, and black and red bears are also met with, the first and last inhabiting the higher and colder portions of the range.
Bears are not found generally throughout Kunawur until the season when the grasses are ripening, and it then becomes a matter of great difficulty to prevent the vineyards being robbed at night.
Large dogs and men at this season keep nightly watch, making a continued shouting and firing of matchlocks to keep off the invader. They also commit sad havoc in the autumn crop of phuppra. At other times they are said to retire to the higher parts of the forests, where they lie concealed among the deep caves of the rocks, feeding on various roots and acorns. The Thibet bear is abundant on the heights abore Nachar, as also the red variety. Here they are both said to attack and kill sheep and goats, and they are often such a nuisance that it is considered a feather in a man's cap to shoot one. The elder brother of the Churria who accompanied me to Spiti had killed no less than fifteen bears, and was looked upon as a Nimrod in consequence.
The red variety is said to differ in nothing from the common black or Thibet species, except that it is red while the other is black. Both are said to possess the white band across the breast, but that it is constant in neither. I strongly suspect that subsequent research will prove that there are at least two if not three distinct species in these hills, namely, the Thibet bear, the red bear, and another black species without the white crescent on the breast, of smaller size and greater ferocity.
The natives say, both black and red live together in the same haunts, and that when both come down to feed at night in the vallies, the red one does not always return to the heights, but remains in the lower haunts of the black bear. If this statement be correct it would argue a greater difference in the species than that of colour, for why should climate act on some and not on all, since all are in turn found equally near the snows. If colour were the only difference, then the red one by staying in the haunts of the black bear would resume his former colour, and the black one by going to the heights would become red; but as this is said not to be the case, and that both black and red can reside together either high or low, it goes far to prove a specie distinction; the red bear is however found chiefly near the summits of the ridges, while the black one inhabits the lower and more wooded tracts in the thick forests of oak, where they feed upon the acorns and other fruits. Both species in the autumn make nightly incursions into the fields of phuppra, which they destroy in quantities, and they also in the summer approach the villages and steal the apricots.
In the winter time when food is scarce they are said to tear down the wooden hives, which are built into the walls of the houses, and to devour the honey, nor is this the extent of their plundering, for they have been known to force open the door of the sheep house, and run away with the fattest of the flock. A lad who accompanied me, hearing the questions I asked regarding these animals, very gravely declared that when the bee-hives were too high to be reached from the ground, the bears went to the forest and brought a long pole, which they planted against the wall and used as a ladder! We all laughed at this thumping fib, which was evidently made for the occasion, but he only persisted in it the more, and at last swore that he had seen them do so !!
Some are said to store their dens with grass and herbs, in which they keep themselves warm during the prevalence of the snows; others select the hollow trunk of some large decaying tree in which they form a similar warm bed. This however I look upon as a fable. There are not many about Cheenee and Punggee, and above those places they are not founded; the greatest numbers therefore inhabit the lower parts of Kunawur.
During the winter in those parts where the Emoo, the Gooral, and the Thér are found, it is the custom when the snow has fallen somewhat deeply, so that the animals cannot avail themselves of their natural speed, for parties of eight and ten men to assemble with their matchlocks and sally forth to the chace, guarding their legs from the snow by two pairs of woollen trowsers, and a warm thick pair of woollen shoes. He who is lucky enough to get first shot at the quarry is entitled by the rules of the Kunawur sporting clubs, provided he has fired with effect, to the skin of the animal, and the rest of the party share equally of the flesh, whether they have had a shot or not. The skin is the most valuable part of the prize, and out of it many useful articles are made, such as soles for their shoes, bags to carry grain and flour, and belts, &c. so that to get the first shot at the game is not only as much a point of honour as getting the brush in a fox hunt at home, but is also a source of profit to the lucky sportsman.
The bear is not held in much dread by the people of Kunawur, for in the season when they have young ones parties go forth to the chace with a few dogs and armed only with heavy sticks. When a bear with cubs is unkennelled by the dogs she at first makes off in great alarm, but as the dogs soon overtake and keep the cubs at bay until the huntsmen come up, she retraces her steps and wages war in defence of her young. Some skill and agility are now required by the hunters to avoid a hug, and at the same time to administer some weighty blows over the animal's head and snout, until having received a hearty cudgelling from the party, she once more makes off after her cubs, who have profited by the delay to get well ahead. The dogs however again overtake them, and again and again the poor mother returns to defend them, and receives a thrashing, until tired and exhausted she secures her own escape and leaves her offspring in the hunter's hands. Bears and leopards are somtimes killed by constructing an immense bow, charged with one or more arrows. A bait is placed to entice the animals, and connected with the bow string in such a manner that when seized the arrows are discharged into the animal's body, and with such force as often to pierce it through and through. The skins are cured and sold at a rupee and two rupees each to the Tartars and Lamas, who take them to the upper districts and dispose of them at a profit, or make them into shoes, &c; opposite to Nachar, on the Kooloo side, the wild dog is also said to be abundant, but so difficult is it to get a sight of the animal that the natives never go in quest of it, and indeed they have such a fear of it that even if they found one, they would not fire, as they say if only wounded the whole pack turn upon the hunter and destroy him. In this there is doubtless much exaggeration, but nevertheless the idea, however erroneous, is sufficient to deter the shikarre from the chace. These dogs are also found in the forests of Chooara, where, hunting in packs, they destroy deer and other game; even the leopard and the bear are said to fly before them, and will not remain in the same jungles. They also attack the flocks, and commit great havoc. I heard of an instance where a shepherd lay in wait for their coming, armed with a matchlock, with which, from the shelter of his hut, he intended to shoot or scare them away from his fold, which they had on a former night attacked. Alas, however, for the weakness of human resolves, no sooner did the pack arrive than the shepherd's courage vanished, and like that of Bob Acres in the Rivals, fairly oozed out at the palms of his hands, and he was afraid to fire; for said he, very prudently, “ Who knows if I only wound one but that they may pull down my house and attack me; no, no, let them eat their mutton in peace ;" and so in truth they did, for the next morning the coward found twenty-five sheep killed and mangled by his midnight visitors. This animal is also said to exist in Chinese Tartary, and is called “Chungkoo."
It is in the forests of these lower hills, that the various beautiful species of the pheasant tribe are found, and none but the Chikore and gigantic partridge are seen in the upper portions of Kunawur.
On the 28th of May I left Nachar and travelled for a mile or two over a capital road, descending to the Sutledge, which I crossed by the Wangtoo bridge. This although dignified with the name of a bridge, is in truth no more than a good broad sangho; it is constructed entirely of wood, and consists of three or more long trunks of trees thrown across the river, the ends resting on buttresses of stone masonry, and supported by three rows of projecting beams or slanting piles. On these buttresses stand two covered gateways through which the bridge is entered on from either side ; across the trees, are nailed planks of wood, and the sides were formerly protected by a slight rail. ing, though it has now almost entirely disappeared.
The space of the sangho is the breadth of the river, or eighty feet, and its height from the water, which I measured with a plummet, was fifty-seven feet.
In former years before the invasion of Kunawur by the Goorkhas, a good bridge existed here, but it was broken down by the inhabitants of the districts, to cut off the communication across the river and check the advance of the enemy. It was never afterwards rebuilt, until the time of Capt. Kennedy, when the present sangho was thrown across.
According to accounts received from the natives, the present bridge was built by them, and Captain Kennedy on the part of Govern. ment furnished the means, to the amount of two thousand rupees. Others say that it was built at the suggestion of Capt. P. Gerard, when stationed as commercial agent at Kotgurh, with the view of facilitating the communication with Chinese Tartary and the upper portions of Kunawur, as the fleece of the Choomoortee sheep, called byangee wool, was then in demand, and purchased for the British Government.
The glen is at this point very narrow, and confined by the dark rocks of gneiss rising up abruptly on either side, and affording merely space sufficient for the bed of the river. Beneath the bridge the river rushes like a sluice, and has such a deafening roar that the voice of a person speaking on it is scarcely heard. From this, a short quarter of a mile brought us to the Wungur river, which runs down from the Kooloo side to join the Sutledge a little above the Wangtoo bridge ; we crossed its stream by another sangho, and then addressed ourselves to climb the hill, which rose above us to the height of 2000 feet.
Up this ascent we toiled in a temperature of 98° over a road strewed thickly with the sharp cutting fragments of gneiss and granite, and wearied with the heat and fatigue of climbing in a midday sun. We felt vexed and disheartened on arriving at the top, to find that our labour had been all in vain, for on the opposite side of the hill the road again dipped down to the very edge of the Sutledge, while far away in the distance we could see a second long ascent to be travelled up ere we could find shelter and refreshment at the village of Churgong. The heat and length of this day's march were very painful, as the road often lay along the very brink of the river, the glare from whose waters was almost insufferable, which added to the fatigue of walking, or rather scrambling over the rocks and stones that were strewed along the banks, and the hoarse incessant roar of the foam. ing stream, completely fagged us all, and it was late in the evening ere my tent and baggage made their appearance.