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it for two or three days' journey, save the usual sickly looking poplars, which are planted on the banks of rivulets and streams; thus they are deprived of all manure both animal and vegetable, and their lands will in consequence go on dwindling from bad to worse until the place shall become barren and deserted.
The lands which are now under cultivation are coaxed to yield a seanty crop, by the annual small quantity of wheat and barley straws which are ploughed in, and by the addition of the small portion of dung which is obtained from a few goats and cows which graze on the edges of the fields, where grass and a yellow flowering lucerne spring up abundantly along the banks of the little rills, with which the fields are irrigated.
On the 13th of June, I again proceeded towards Spiti by a road which led us up the heights above Chungo. Many places on this day's march indicated the former existence of a deep water over the hills, at a height of 2,500 and 3,000 feet above the present channel of the river, which winds along beneath. Here the road stretches along the sides of hills shelving gradually towards the stream, along whose banks are wide and extensive level plains of several miles in area, and the hills receding on either side form a wide valley, bare of every sign of vegetation save the furze, the dog-rose, and the willow, with here and there a few dwarf bushes of the cedar. Trees there are none, and villages are now not seen for many days. All around seems cold and cheerless; not a living thing to break the deep silent melancholy which pervades the scene, and the traveller feels chilled, and his spirits flag, he knows not why, as he wanders on through the dreary and barren waste.
How marked a contrast does the scene present to the rich and wooded regions of Kunawur; here all is black and charred, and a mournful silence reigns around, unbroken save by the hoarse roar of the mountain stream, or the shrill whistle of the Bhair among the snows.
Journeying onwards from our last encampment, we came suddenly upon a deep rent or chasm in the rocks, through which at some depth below ran a rapid stream. Over this, from rock to rock a few loosely twisted ropes or withes of willow twigs were stretched to answer for the purpose of a bridge, and on these were placed large flat slabs of mica slate, apparently sufficient by their own weight alone to break through their frail support. Over this we walked, and though somewhat springy and unsteady to the tread, it was nevertheless perfectly strong, and is the only bridge for passengers and cattle. At a little distance from where we crossed, alarmed by the noise we made, up
started from among the rocks a small flock of Burrul, or wild sheep, which began leisurely to scale the steep sides of the glen, springing from ledge to ledge till they attained to a place of easy ascent, when, as if satisfied that they could bid defiance to pursuit, they stopped to survey our party. A shout from some one in the rear, again set them in motion towards the summit of the mountain from which we had just descended; the direction they took, lay right across the path, and just at the moment- when they gained it, my shikarree came in sight, on a part of the hill above them, a shrill whistle from one of the Tartars caught the ear of the hunter, who was soon instructed by signs to blow his match and give chace.
From his greater elevation he was able to bring himself near the line the animals were taking, and at the same time to screen himself from their view until just within gun-shot, when they perceived him. In an instant a flash was seen, and the sharp crack of the matchlock, ringing in echoes among the rocks, told that the quarry had come within reach, and at the same moment off bounded the flock towards the most inaccessible part of the mountain. The shot however had not been fired in vain, for suddenly the leading sheep was seen to turn downwards and avoid the rocks, as if conscious that he had not power to scale them, and taking an easier and more slanting direction along the side of the cliff, he soon slackened his pace and laid down. The rest of the flock losing their leader turned downwards also and rejoined him. The shikarree in the meantime had reloaded, and was again warily stealing on from rock to rock upon his game, but they were now fully on the alert, and once more leaving their wounded companion, bounded up the rocks at a rapid pace. Again the bright flash of the matchlock was seen, but alas, this time there followed no report, and ere the hunter could reprime, the sheep had won the mountain's brow and disappeared. Nor had the wounded animal failed to avail himself of the chance afforded for escape, but scrambling along the side of the rocky glen, he was fast gaining on a place where a turn of the mountain would have screened him from our sight, when scrambling up a rugged and projecting ledge his strength failed him, and falling backwards with a cry of terror, we saw him, for a while quivering as he fell headlong from rock to rock, and was lost in the rush of waters at the bottom of the chasm.
No village occurring this day to bless our longing sight, we at length encamped, after a long march, on the side of the hill, at a spot where sheep are usually penned for the night when travelling with
grain. This spot was called by the Tartars Chungreezing, and here I pitched my blanket-tent at the height of 12,040 feet above the sea. We passed a cold and comfortless night owing to the high keen 'wind which came whistling down from the snowy peaks above us. At sunset the thermometer stood at 48°, and at sunrise on the morning of the 14th of June, again at 35°! A nice midsummer temperature! what must the winter be? On the 14th we descended by a very rugged and precipitous pathway to the bed of the Paratee river, a branch of the Lee, which comes down from lake Chummor-rareel, through Chinese Tartary, and joins the latter river above Skialkur. This we crossed by the "stone sangho," as it is called, which is formed by several enormous masses of granite which have fallen from above, and become so firmly wedge into the bed of the river, as to form a safer and more durable bridge than any that could be constructed by the natives, and which from its great weight the waters are unable to remove. A small stream which runs down into the Paratee, a little distance below this bridge, is said to be the boundary line of Bussaher and Chinese Tartary.
Here then we were in the dominions of the celestial emperor, and as we crossed the sangho we were met by a deputation from the Chinese authorities, who demanded to know what were our intentions in entering their country, and how far we had determined to travel through it, intimating at the same time very politely, that they would " prefer our room, to our company," by telling us that we need expect no assistance or supplies of any kind. I had no intention of penetrating farther than was requisite into their country, but this being the only road yet open into Spiti, I had been necessarily compelled to follow it, as after all it merely ran across a corner of their territory for about a mile or so. Wishing however to ascertain whether, after having gone through the ceremony of prohibiting our advance to satisfy their rulers, they could not be prevailed upon to wink at our proceedings, I told this rough ambassador that I would require no supplies, nor take anything from the country, if he would allow me to proceed as far as Choomontee. His reply was evidently borrowed from the Chinese officers, and was worthy of the great Bombastes himself;" When horns grow from the heads of men, and wool is gathered from the rocks; then may the Feringee advance,-but not till then!" This was too ridiculous to be withstood, and we enjoyed a hearty laugh, while the dignified officer strutted away, pleased with the assurance that I was only crossing into Spiti.
His words brought to mind the old Scotch ballad,
"The swan, she said, the lake's clear breast,
May barter for the eagle's nest;
The Awe's fierce stream may backward turn,
Ben Cruachan fall and crush Kilchurn,
Our kilted clans when blood runs high,
But, I, were all these marvels done,
"Would never wed the Earlie's son."
And I thought it by no means improbable that the sequel might turn out after the same fahsion ;
"Still, in the water lily's shade,
Her wonted nest the wild swan made;
Ben Cruachan stands as fast as ever,
Still onward foams the Awe's fierce river;
No Highland brogue has turned to fly;
Yet Nora's vow is lost and won,
She's married to the Earlie's son.
and so it may be hereafter that the "Feringee" shall tread those now forbidden scenes, though his head be unadorned with horns, and wool be not gathered from the rocks.
It appears however from the accounts of the people, that so many travellers have at different times wandered through the upper hills, without any apparent object, save that of looking at the country, that the suspicions of the Chinese have been kept on the alert, and they are more particular than ever in enforcing their orders, especially since Runjeet's troops in Ladak have thrown out some hints of paying them a visit, when they have settled the affairs of their late conquest. There is however little chance of their carrying the threat into execution, as Chinese Tartary holds out to them no chance of plunder save its splendid flocks of sheep, which would easily be driven far beyond their reach, and leave them a barren waste for their portion.
Having crossed the stone sangho, we proceeded up the side of a hill by what the guide termed a road, though I could not distinguish it from the surrounding mass of crumbling soils. It got better, however, as we gained the top, and a short distance brought us to a small stream, across which we stepped out of Chinese Tartary into Spiti, dependent on Ladak. From this we travelled for some miles along the side of a bare black hill of decomposing shale, and then descending to a level plain of clay and rolled stone, we crossed a river which the Tartars called "Gew," from its passing a village of that name in Chinese Tartary. Above this river on the opposite bank, the beds of
alluvial clays towered up to some height, and the surface being flat and studded with a few bushes was pointed out as the usual halting place. As by halting here however we should have had a long and fatiguing march on the morrow to Larree, I thought it advisable to push on for another level spot, a couple of miles farther, where the Tartars said there was a stream of good water, and shelter beneath the rocks for all my people. The road now ran along the left bank of the Spiti river, at about 300 feet above its level.
The Spiti is a larger and finer looking river than the Sutledge, and the people of the country, as well as the Kunawurees who have seen the two, say that it is never equalled by the latter, except during the winter months, when the severity of the frosts in the districts through which the Spiti flows, causes a less plentiful supply of water to fall into it.
Its waters though rapid and muddy, have in general far less of that dashing violence which the Sutledge exhibits. This is most probably to be attributed to the nature of the country through which it flows. The Sutledge winding its rapid course among hard rocks of the primary formation, must often meet with obstacles, which cause it to break in impotent fury on its banks, in waves which hurl the spray far on high, curling and bubbling as it flows along over stones and boulders of various sizes.
The Spiti, on the other hand, though sometimes violent and rough, more generally glides along in a broad and rapid sheet through rocks belonging to the secondary class, and whose less firm and solid texture yields to the action of the current, which sweeps their crumbling fragments irresistibly before it.
The observations of Dr. Gerard also serve to corroborate the information furnished by the natives relatively to the two rivers. According to that traveller, the greatest breadth of the Sutledge at its narrowest parts where bridges occur is 211 feet, while at other places he measured it 450 feet across. This however is low down, and after the river has received the additional waters of the Spiti and Para, united in the Lee; the true comparison therefore cannot be formed, after the junction of the two rivers, but before.
At Skialkur, according to Gerard, the Lee in breadth was ninetytwo feet, and in August he thought it contained fully as much water as the Sutledge, than which it was broadest, the latter river being at their confluence but seventy-four feet. The true comparison of the Spiti and the Sutledge, must be institued however, before the junction of the Paratee with the former, and of the Lee with the latter,