صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the account given me by Puttee Ram of the results of Gerard's experiments.

Our path now again lay buried deep beneath the snows which were spread on the northern face in a sheet from the crest of the hills to many hundred yards below us. Here too, although it was both deeper and extending farther down than on Koonung pass, the gradual descent of the mountain's side made it far less fatiguing to walk over. We left the pass at eleven o'clock, and though we ran at a good jog-trot sort of a pace down the hill, it took us nearly three quarters of an hour by the watch ere we had cleared the first unbroken field of snow. Beyond this it was lying in patches, and here and there quite sloppy, so that my shoes, stockings, and half way up my legs were wetted through in a few minutes ; lower vn still, the water was running in deep streams from the snow, and as the track which had been dignified with the name of a road, was somewhat hollowed out on the mountain's side by the action of the feet of sheep and men, it of course formed a capital aqueduct, and accordingly a pure crystal stream ran along it, in which we were obliged to walk ancle deep (for there was no other safe footing to be had) for a couple of miles nearly, the temperature of the water being 43°, while that of the sun was burning over our heads at 90°. After about three hours walking and sliding by turns, we reached Hungo, a miserable ruinous village situated in a dreary glen at the foot of the pass, on a large and nearly flat tract of well cul. tivated land, at an elevation of 11,413 feet, and about 3,624 feet below the crest of the Hungrung pass. The snow was lying in a solid mass from the top of one of the glens arising from near the summit of the surrounding heights, down to within 150 feet of Hungo. This is however a most unusual occurrence at this season of the year, the snows having generally all disappeared from these heights by the beginning or middle of May, excepting in some of the deep recesses and ravines at the very summit of the range. Not a tree was to be seen, even at this elevation, except a few sickly looking poplars on the banks of a stream below the village, all of which had been planted there by the hand of man.

The hills rising immediately behind this village are not however bare and barren, but are well covered with the furze already mentioned, which was just beginning to put forth its beautiful yellow flowers. Along with it was another species which until to day we had not noticed ; it is smaller than the other, bears the same yellow flower, and extends to a much greater elevation ; both are called "

Tama,” but the last mentioned is distinguished as Cheenka Tama" or Chinese furze. The other species is termed by Gerard

[ocr errors]

“ Tartaric furze,” but the name is scarcely appropriate, since the plant is equally abundant over the higher hills of Kunawar, as on those of Tartary; and from the extensive range it takes, the name of “Himalayan furze” would suit it better. Besides which the species most common to the heights of Tartary is that known to the natives as the “Chinese furze.” Both these species are cut and dried in the summer months, and form nearly the only fuel the Tartars are possessed of.

Lower down the glen, the hills assume a more desolate appearance ; the furze grows scantily and at last fails altogether, leaving a bare and crumbling soil, which is annually precipitated in quantities by the action of the weather into the stream which winds it way down to join the river Lee. Over the upper part of these hills the furze is also abundant, as well as an aromatic plant, which furnishes an excellent pasturage in most of these elevated regions, where grass is either scarce or not at all procurable, to large flocks of sheep and goats, as also to the cows and yâks, which are seen sometimes, to the traveller's danger and dismay, serambling along the whole hill-side, and hurling down stones and fragments of rocks directly on his path. It often happens too that large masses are detached by the action of the frost, and come tumbling down with a thundering crash into the glens below, rending and tearing up the soils in their descent, and scattering the fragments in vollies into the air. One of my coolies had a narrow escape from a fragment of rock, below the Hungrung pass ; a mass that had hitherto been supported by the bed of snow into which it had alighted from above, was now by the thawing of the snow again let loose, and came bounding down the hill with horrid crash, until striking on a projecting crag, it was shivered into fifty fragments, one of which fell in a direct line for the coolie, who frightened at the sight, and hampered by his load, fairly stuck fast to await the coming blow. By the greatest good luck he escaped unhurt, though the stone alighting full in the kiltah on his back rolled him head over heels down the side of the hill. He soon recovered himself, however, when it was found that the only damage done was a crushed leg, not of the coolie, but of mutton ; my pro. visions being in the unfortunate kiltah.

On crossing the Hungrung pass a most remarkable alteration is observable in the aspect of the country. The range on which the pass is situated forms part of the northern boundary of Kunawur, separa. ting it from the Tartar district of Hungrung, now forming a portion of Bussaher, although evidently at some former period it has been sub

ject to, and constituted with the Spiti district an integral part of Chinese Tartary.

The change in the nature of the country is most sudden; looking from the summit of the range in a northerly direction over Hungrung, the country is seen to wear a sad and sombre air of cheerless desolation ; not a tree is to be seen, and the black and crumbling hills are either wholly barren, or clothed with nothing of larger growth than the dwarf willow and the dog-rose. The hills are chiefly of the secondary class, and being more rounded in their outline, want the grand and almost terrific beauty of the towering granitic peaks which so strongly characterises the scenery of Kunawur, Villages are situ. ated at wide intervals from each other, and cultivation is wholly confined to the immediate vicinity of them, and usually upon a confined patch of alluvial soils, evidently the deposits of some former lakes. The practice of cultivating in steps upon the mountain's sides, appears indeed to be almost universally neglected, which however is most probably owing to the nature of the hills themselves.

On the southern side of this range lies the thickly wooded district of Kunawur, where cultivation is often carried in steps nearly to the summit of the mountains, and presenting a rich and cheerful picture which delights the eye, and imparts a feeling of joyousness and security to the traveller, as he wanders on through forests of majestic pines.

From this difference in the appearance of the two districts and their inhabitants, it would seem as if nature had elevated or interposed the Hungrung range as a barrier between two countries, destined, for some purpose, to remain distinct; and furnishes to the inquisitive a source of speculative thoughts, from which it is difficult to draw any satisfactory conclusions, for the mind is almost involuntarily lead to ask while contemplating this marked contrast, why, on the one side the forests should be allowed to advance actually to the mountain's base, while on the other not a single tree should be allowed to grow.

From Hungo, on the morning of the 9th of June, I proceeded to Leeo, which is a small village situated on the right bank of the Sing Pho or Lee river, in a basin or valley entirely surrounded by high granitic rocks. The spot has evidently formed part of the bed of a deep lake, the different elevations of the water being still apparent in the lines of rolled stones, which are seen on the hill-side, far above the level of the river.

The bottom of the lake, now furnishes a broad and level tract of land which is well cultivated, and from its warm and sheltered situa

tion in the bosom of the hills, is highly fertile, producing in favorable seasons two crops, consisting of wheat, celestial, beardless, and common barley, with beans and peas. Apricots too are abundant, but this is the last village towards Spiti where they occur. The elevation is however only 9,362 feet, or about that of Soongnum in Kunawur.

From Leeo, I proceeded towards Chung or Chungo, leaving the village of Nako on the heights to the right. At Leeo we crossed the Lee by a crazy and not very agreeable sangho, the planks being so far apart that the water was seen rushing along at a fearful rate beneath, dazzling the eyes with the glare of the foam, as one looked down to secure the footing; a very necessary precaution, as the bridge from the bank slopes with a disagreeable curve towards the centre. From this we ascended to about 2,000 feet above the stream, which was a steep pull up, though luckily we had a cool and cloudy day. The road, which is very rocky and leads along the left bank of the Lee, lies generally over immense beds of fragments brought down by the ele. ments from the heights above, and after one or two moderate ascents and descents, dips suddenly down, at the distance of nine miles from Leeo to the village of Chungo.

On the 12th of June I halted at this place for the purpose of laying in several days supply of grain for my people, in case we might not be able to procure any in Spiti, which, according to accounts we had received at Soongnum and other places in Kunawur, had been plundered of every thing by Runjeet's troops, after they had expelled the Rajah of Ladak. The Tartar guide, however, who accompanied me, declared the rumour to be false, as he had lately been in Spiti and found no lack of grain, and he therefore advised me not to burden myself with more coolies, which would be necessary if I carried supplies. In order to be safe I thought it advisable to carry a few days provisions in case of emergency, and lucky it was that I did so, for without them my people would on more than one occasion have had no food at all.

Chungo is situated in a basin somewhat similar to that of Leeo, but much more extensive; it is walled in as it were on every side by Jofty hills, whose sides in many places bear witness to the former presence of a lake. Large beds of clay and sand enclosing rolled and water-worn pebbles of every size occur on all sides, while the flat and level bottom of the vale again furnishes a broad tract for cultivation. The elevation of Chungo is about 9,897 feet. It was once a populous and thriving place, containing nearly one hundred people, but for some


years past it has been on the decline, and is now half in ruins and deserted by most of its former inhabitants. The reasons for this falling off are entirely attributable to local circumstances.

The soil is a mixture of clay and sand, the latter predominating, and is a deposit from the waters of the lake which once filled the valley. The whole area formerly under cultivation might probably have exceeded one and a half mile square, although at present it scarcely equals one. Celestial, beardless, and common barley, wheat, phuppra, beans, and peas, constitute the crops, and one harvest is all that is obtained; which is not to be wondered at, when we consider that on the morning of the 12th of June, at sunrise, the thermometer indicated a temperature of 35°. Snow was still lying on all the surrounding heights, and fell throughout the day on the 10th and 11th of June. In former days ere the cold soil was exhausted by the constant growth of the same crops, Chungo was at the height of its prosperity, and could even export grain to other parts, so abundant were its harvests. But alas ! too soon a change came o'er the vision of its dream,” and those days are gone, now never to return.

The constant drain upon a soil naturally poor and cold, soon changes its hitherto smiling and prosperous state to one of want and poverty. The barrenness of the surrounding hills, yielding not even a scanty pasturage to sheep and cattle, at once destroyed the chance of recruiting the soil, by depriving the cultivator of the only source from whence manure might have been procured ; and thus, from gathering an abundant crop, the villager was first reduced to a bare suflici. ency for the wants of himself and family, and finally obliged to leave his fields untilled, and to seek employment and subsistence in a happier clime. Many have thus emigrated into Spiti, Chinese Tartary, and other places, and their once well cultivated fields now exhibit a bare and hardened sand without one blade of grass, and strewed with the fragments of rock which the weather has hurled upon them from above. Could these people command annual supplies of manure, as is the case in many parts of these hills, Chungo would possess perhaps a finer cultivation than any village in Hungrung. In Kunawur it is a common practice to mix up leaves and the young shoots of the pine trees with the dung of cattle, and this forms a capital manure for their fields, which would otherwise, in many parts, soon become nearly as impoverished as the soil of Chungo. They have moreover in most parts of Kunawur a rotation of crops, by which the soil is recruited, whereas at Chungo, one crop, and that the same for years, is all that can be produced. This village has not a tree near

« السابقةمتابعة »