Ce nest que, le premier "pont" que coute.
The other bridges were all easier than the first, and we shot them gaily, spending the rest of the day in floating quietly down the river, and finally anchoring—or rather mooring, for anchors are, like boat-hooks, masts, sails, rudders, and rigging, alike unknown to the "jollye mariners" of the Jhelum—some two or three miles above the entrance to the dreaded Wular Lake.
This awful stretch of water, so feared by the Kashmiri that his eyes goggle when he even thinks of it, is an innocent enough looking lake, generally occupied in reflectively reproducing its surroundings upside down, but occasionally its calm surface is ruffled by a little breeze, and it is reported that wild and horrible squalls sweep down the nullahs of Haramok at times, and destroy the unwary. These squalls are said to be most frequent in the afternoons, and are probably the accompaniments of the thunderstorms.
It is only considered possible to cross the Wular between dawn and 10 or 11 A.M., and no persuasion will prevail upon a native boatman to risk his life on the lake after lunch.
Before turning in, I gave orders that a start should be made next morning at five o'clock, but a heavy squall of rain and thunder during the night had the effect of causing orders to be set at naught, and at breakfast-time there was no sign of "up anchor" nor even of "heaving short." An interview with the Admiral showed me that the Wular, in his opinion, was too dangerous to cross to-day—in fact he wouldn't dream of asking coolies to risk it. He was given to understand that we intended to cross, and that the sooner he started the safer it would be.
No coolies being forthcoming, I inhumanly gave orders to get under way—the available crew consisting of the wicked Satarah, the first lieutenant, and the Lady Jiggry. Sulkily and slowly we wended our way past the wide flats which border the Wular, all blazing golden with mustard in full pungent flower.
Before entering the lake the Admiral meekly requested to be allowed to try for coolies in a small village near by. He was allowed quarter of an hour for pressgang work, and sure enough he came back within a very reasonable time with a few spare hands, and then—paddling and poling for dear life—we glided swiftly through the tangled lily-pads and the green rosettes of the Singhara, and soon were in medias res and fairly committed to the deep.
The Wular lay like a burnished mirror, reflecting the buttresses of Haramok on our right, and the snowy ranges by the Tragbal ahead, its silvery surface lined here and there with the wavering tracks of other boats, or broken by bristling clumps of reeds and tall water-plants. Our transit was perfectly peaceful, and by lunch-time we were safely tied up to a bank, purple with irises, just below Bandipur.
A visit to the post-office and a stroll up the rocky hill behind it, where we sat for some time and watched a pair of jackals sneaking about, completed a peaceful afternoon.
May 3.—We were up with the lark, and, having moved along the coast a few miles to the west of Bandipur, left the ship before six of the clock in pursuit of bear. I had "khubbar" of one in the Malingam Nullah, and, after a brisk walk over the lower slopes, we entered the nullah and clambered up about 1500 feet to a quiet and retired spot under a shady thorn-bush, where we breakfasted.
We thereafter climbed a little higher, and then sat down while the shikaris departed to spy, their method of spying being, I believe, somewhat after this fashion:—Leaving the sahib with his belongings—notably the tiffin coolie—in a spot carefully selected for its seclusion, the miscreants depart hurriedly and rapidly up the nearest inaccessible crag; this is "business," and throws dust, so to say, in the eyes of the sahib, by means of an exhibition of activity and zeal. Passing out of sight over the sky-line, the hunters pause, wink at one another, and, choosing a shady and convenient corner, proceed to squat, light their pipes, and discuss matters—chiefly financial—until they deem it time to return, scrambling and breathless with excitement, to relate all that they have seen and done.
So, while the shikaris unceasingly spied for bear, for nine mortal hours Jane and I camped out on a remarkably hard and unyielding stone, varied by other seats equally tiresome.
Fortunately we had brought books with us, and we relieved the monotony by observing the habits of a pair of "kastooras," a hawk, and a brace of chikor at intervals, but it was truly a tedious chase.
At four o'clock the sons of Nimrod returned, declaring that the bear had been seen, but that as we had on chaplies and not grass shoes, it would be impossible for us to pursue him. I asked the shikari why the —— goose he had let me come out in chaplies instead of grass shoes if the country was so rough? His reply was to the effect that whatever it pleased me to wear pleased him!
May 4.—Armed cap-a-pie so to speak, with pith helmets and grass shoes, we again set forth at dawn of day to hunt the bear. Breakfast under the same tree, sitting on the same patch of rose-coloured flowers—a sort of fumitory (Corydalus rutaefolia)—followed by another nine-hour bivouac, brought us to 5 P.M. and the extreme limit of boredom, when lo! the shikaris burst upon us in a state of frenzied excitement to announce the bear! Off we went up a steep track for a quarter of an hour, until, at the foot of a rough snow slope, the shikari told the much disgusted Jane that she must wait there, the rest of the climb being too hard for her, and, in truth, it was pretty bad. Up a very steep gully filled with loose stones and rotten snow, scrambling, and often hauling ourselves up with our hands by means of roots and trailing branches, we slowly worked our way up a place I would never have even attempted in cold blood.
Twenty minutes' severe exertion brought us to a shelf, or rather slope, of rock on the right, sparsely covered with wiry brown grass from which the snow had but very recently gone, and crowned by a crest of stunted pines. Up this we wriggled, I being mainly towed up by my shikari's cummerbund, and, lying under a pine, we peered over the top.
A steep gully divided us from a rough ridge, upon a grassy ledge of which, about 200 yards off, a big black beast was grubbing and rooting about.
The shikari, shaking with excitement, handed me the rifle, urging me to shoot. I did nothing of the sort, having no breath, and my hand being unsteady from a fast and stiff climb.
I regret to be obliged to admit that, not realising that it would be little short of miraculous to kill a bear stone-dead at 200 yards with a Mannlicher, and being also, naturally, somewhat carried away by the sight of a real bear within possible distance, I waited until I was perfectly steady, and fired. The brute fell over, but immediately picked himself up again and made off. I saw I had broken his fore-shoulder and fired again as he disappeared over the far side of the ledge, but missed, and I saw that bear no more.
We had the utmost difficulty in crossing the precipitous gully to a spot below the ledge upon which the beast had been feeding—the ledge itself we could not reach at all; and the lateness of the hour and the difficulty of the country in which we were, prevented us from trying to enter the next ravine and work up and back by the way the bear had gone. A neck-breaking crawl down a horrible grass slope brought us to better ground, and I sadly joined Jane to be well and deservedly scolded for firing a foolish shot. The lady was very much disgusted at having been defrauded of the sight of a bear "quite wild," as she expressed it—a certain short-tempered animal which had eaten up her best umbrella in the Zoo at Dusseldorf not having fulfilled the necessary condition of wildness.
Next day I sent out coolies to search for traces, promising lavish "backshish" in the event of success, but I got no trustworthy news, "and that was the end of that hunting."
May 6.—Jane took a respite from the chase, and I sallied forth alone at dawn up a nullah from Alsu to look for a bear which was said to frequent those parts. A brisk walk of some four miles over the flat, followed by a climb up a track—steep as usual—to the left of the main track to the Lolab, brought us to a grassy ridge, where I sat down patiently to await the bear's pleasure. I took my note-book with me, and whiled away some time in writing the following:—
Let me jot down a sketch of my present position and surroundings; it will serve to bring the scene back to me, perhaps, when I am again sitting in my own particular armchair watching the fat thrushes hopping about the lawn.
Well, I am perched in a little hollow under a big grey boulder, which serves to shelter me to a certain, but limited, extent from the brisk showers that come sweeping over from the Lolab Valley. The hollow is so small that it barely contains my tiffin basket, rifle, gun, and self—in fact, my grass-shod and puttied extremities dangle over the rim, whence a steep slope shelves down some 200 feet to a brawling burn, the hum of which, mingling with the fitful sighing of the pines as the breeze sweeps through their sounding boughs, is perpetually in my ears. Across the little torrent, and not more than a hundred yards away, rises a slope, covered with rough grass and scrub, similar to that in the face of which I am ensconced.
Here the bear was seen at 7 A.M. by a Gujar, who gave the fullest particulars to Ahmed Bot (my shikari) in a series of yells from a hill-top as we came up the valley. We arrived on the scene about seven, just in time to be too late, apparently. It is now 3 P.M., and the bear is supposed to be asleep, and I am possessing my soul in patience until it shall be Bruin's pleasure to awake and sally forth for his afternoon tea.
There is certainly no bear now, so I pass the time in sleeping, eating, smoking, writing, and observing the manners and customs of a family of monkeys who are disporting themselves in a deep glen to the left. Beyond this ravine rises a high spur, beautifully wooded, the principal trees being deodar, blue pine (Excelsa) and yew. This is sloped at the invariable and disgusting angle of 45 degrees. Beyond it rise further wooded slopes, with snow gleaming through the deep green, and above all is the changing sky, where the clear blue gives way to a billowy expanse of white rolling clouds or dark rain-laden masses, which pour into the upper clefts of the ravine, and blot out the serried ranks of the pines, until a thorough drenching seems inevitable—when lo! a glint of blue through the gloomy background, and soon again,
"With never a stain, the pavilion of Heaven is bare."
The immediate foreground, as I said before, slopes sharply from my very feet, where a clump of wild sage and jasmin (the leaves just breaking) grows over a charming little bunch of sweet violets. Lower down I can see the lilac flowers of a self-heal, and the bottom of the little gorge is clothed with a bush like a hazel, only with large, soft whitish flowers.
My solitude has just been enlivened by the appearance of a cheerful party of lovely birds. They are very busy among the "hazels," flying from bush to bush with restless activity, and wasting no time in idleness. They are about the size of large finches—slender in shape, with longish tails. They are divided into two perfectly distinct kinds, probably male and female. The former have the back, head, and wings black; the latter barred with scarlet, the breast and underparts also scarlet. The others—which I assume to be the females—replace the black with ashy olive, the wings being barred with yellow, the underparts yellowish. The very familiar note of the cuckoo, somewhere up in the jungle, reminds me of an English spring.
4 P.M.—I knew it! I knew that if the wind held down the nullah I should be dragged up that horrible ridge opposite. Hardly had I written the above when I was hunted from my lair, and rushed down 200 steep feet, and then up some 500 or 600 on the other side of the stream, through an abattis of clinging undergrowth that made a severe toil of what could never have been a pleasure. There can be no doubt but that a pith helmet—a really shady, broad one—is a most infernal machine under which to force one's way through brushwood.
Well, all things come to an end—wind first, temper next, and finally the journey.
My shikari is a fiend in human shape. He slinks along on the flat at what looks like a mild three-miles-an-hour constitutional, but unless you are a real four-mile man you will be left hopelessly astern; but when he gets upon his favourite "one in one" slope, then does he simply sail away, with the tiffin coolie carrying a fat basket and all your spare lumber in his wake, while you toil upward and ever upwards—gasping—until with your last available breath you murmur "Asti," and sink upon the nearest stone a limp, perspiring worm!
5.30 P.M.—That bear has taken a sleeping draught!
I am now perched on a lonely rock, my hard taskmaster having routed me out of a very comfortable place under a blue pine, whose discarded needles afforded me a really agreeable resting-place, and dragged me away down again through the pine forest and jungle; hurried me across a roaring torrent on a fallen tree trunk; personally conducted me hastily up a place like the roof of a house; and finally, explaining that the bear, when disturbed, must inevitably come close past me, has departed with his staff (the chota shikari, the tiffin coolie, and a baboon-faced native) to wake up the bear and send him along.
After the first flurry of feeling all alone in the world, with only a probable bear for society, and having loaded all my guns, clasped my visor on my head and my Bessemer hug-proof strait-waistcoat round my "tummy," I felt calm enough to await events with equanimity.
6.15 P.M.—A large and solemn monkey is sitting on the top of a thick and squat yew tree regarding me with unfeigned interest. The torrent is roaring away in the cleft below. Nothing else seems alive, and I am becoming bored——What? A bear? No! The shikari, thank goodness!
"Well, shikari—Baloo dekho hai?" No, it is passing strange, but he has not seen a bear. "All right! Pick up the blunderbuss, and let us make tracks for the ship."
Wednesday, May 10.—Beguiled by legends of many bears, detailed to me with apparently heartfelt sincerity by Ahmed Bot, I have been pursuing these phantoms industriously.
On Monday we quitted our boat, and started upon a trip into the Lolab Valley. The views, as the path wound up the green and flower-spangled slope, were very beautiful, and, when we had ascended about 1500 feet and were about opposite to the supposed haunt of Saturday's bear, we determined to camp and enjoy the scenery, not omitting an evening expedition in search of our shy friend.
Jane joining me, we had a most charming ramble down a narrow track to the bed of the stream which rushes down from the snow-covered ridge guarding the Lolab. Here we crossed into a splendid belt of gaunt silver firs, the first I have seen here; whitish yellow marsh-marigolds and a most vivid "smalt" blue forget-me-not with large flowers were abundant, also an oxalis very like our own wood-sorrel.
Emerging from the pines, we crossed a grassy slope covered with tall primulas (P. denticulata) of varying shades of mauve and lilac, and sat down for a bit among the flowers while the shikaris looked for game. (I need hardly remark that the noble but elusive beast had appeared on the scene shortly after I left on Saturday; a Gujar told the shikari, and the shikari told me, so it must be true.) When we had gathered as many flowers as we could carry, we strolled back to the camp to watch the sunset transmute the snowy crest of Haramok to a golden rose.
Yesterday, Tuesday, I left the camp at dawn, and went all over the same ground, but with no better success, only seeing a couple of bara singh, hornless now, and therefore comparatively uninteresting from a "shikar" point of view. After a delightful but bearless ramble I returned to breakfast, and then we struck camp, and completed the ascent of the pass over into the Lolab. Arrived at the top, we turned off the path to the right, and, climbing a short way, came out upon the lower part of the Nagmarg, a pretty, open clearing among the pines where the grass, dotted thickly with yellow colchicum, was only showing here and there through the melting snow. Choosing a snug and dry place on some sun-warmed rocks at the foot of a tree, we prepared to lunch and laze, and soon spread abroad the contents of the tiffin basket.
There is something, nay much, of charm in the utter freedom and solitude of Kashmir camp life. There is no beaten track to be followed diligently by the tourist, German, American, or British, guide-book in hand and guide at elbow. No empty sardine-tins, nor untidy scraps of paper, mar the clean and lonely margs or village camping-grounds.
The happy wanderer, selecting a grassy dell or convenient shady tree with a clear spring or dancing rivulet near by, invokes the tiffin coolie, and if a duly watchful eye has been kept upon that incorrigible sluggard, in short space the contents of the basket deck the sward. What have we here? Yes, of course, cold chicken—
"For beef is rare within these oxless isles."
Bread! (how lucky we sent that coolie into Srinagar the other day). Butter, nicely stowed in its little white jar, cheese-cakes (one of the Sabz Ali's masterpieces), and a few unconsidered trifles in the form of "jam pups" and a stick of chocolate.
Whisky is there, if required, but really the cold spring water is "delicate to drink" without spirituous accompaniment.
Hunger appeased, the beauty of the surrounding scenery becomes intensified when seen through the balmy veil of smoke caused by the consumption of a mild cheroot, and peace and contentment reign while we feed the sprightly crows with chicken bones and bits of cheese rind.
Shall we ever forget—Jane and I—that simple feast on the Nagmarg?
The sloping snow melting into little rills which trickled through the fresh-springing flower-strewn grass; the extraordinary blue of the hillsides overlooking the Lolab Valley seen through the sloping boughs of the pines; the crows hopping audaciously around or croaking on a dried branch just above our heads; and above all, the glorious sense of freedom, of aloofness from all disturbing elements, of utter and irresponsible independence in a lovely land unspoiled by hand of man?
The afternoon sun smote us full in the face as we descended the bare and not too smooth path that led into the valley, and we were right glad to reach the shade of a grove of deodars that covered the lower slopes of the hill. The Lolab Valley, into which we had now penetrated, is a rich and picturesque expanse of level plain, some fifteen miles long by three or four broad, apparently completely surrounded by a densely-wooded curtain of mountains, rising to an elevation of some 3000 feet above the valley on the south and west, but ranging on the other sides up into the lofty summits which bar the route into Gurais and the Tilail. The mountain chain is not really continuous, the river Pohru, which drains the valley, finding outlet to the west e'er it bends sharply to the south and enters the Wular near Sopor.
Perhaps the most noticeable objects in the Lolab are the walnut trees; they are now just coming into full leaf, and their great trunks, hoary with age and softly velveted with dark green moss, form the noble columns of many a lovely camping-ground. We pitched our tents at Lalpura in a grove of giants, the majesty of which formed an exquisite contrast to the white foam of a cluster of apple trees in bloom.
It has been so hot to-day that we have stayed quietly in camp, reading, sketching, and enjoying the dolce far niente of an idle life.
Sunday, May 14.—On Thursday we left Lalpura and marched to Kulgam, a short distance of some eight or ten miles. Mr. Blunt, the forest officer, had most kindly placed the forest bungalows of the Lolab at our disposal; but, as they all lie on the other side of the valley, we are obliged to camp every night. We have been working along the north side of the Lolab, as the shikari is full of bear "khubbar," and as long as the weather remains fair we really do not much care where we go! Skirting the foot of the wooded ridge on our right, and with the flat and populous levels of the valley on our left, we marched along a good path shaded in many places by the magnificent walnuts and snowy fruit-trees for which the Lolab is justly famed, until, crossing the Pohru by a rickety bridge, and toiling up a hot, bare slope, we reached Kulgam, nestling at the foot of the hills.
After tiffin and a short rest we set forth up the nullah behind the village to look for (need I say?) a bear. The gradient was stiff, as usual, and the path none too good. Feeling that our laborious climb deserved to be rewarded by, at any rate, the sight of game, and Ahmed Bot having sent a special message to the Lumbadhar at Kulgam directing him to keep the nullah quiet, we were justly incensed when, having toiled up some couple of thousand weary feet, we met a gay party of the elite of Kulgam prancing down the hill with blankets stuffed with wild leeks, or some such delicacy.
Ahmed Bot showed reckless courage. Having overwhelmed the enemy with a vituperative broadside, he fell upon them single-handed, tore from them their cherished blankets, and spilt the leeks to the four winds.
I expected nothing less than to be promptly hurled down the khud, with Jill after me, by the six enraged burghers of Kulgam. But no. They simply sat down together on a rock, and blubbered loud and long; we sat down opposite them on another rock and laughed, and laughed—tableau!
On Friday I went for a delightful walk through the pine and deodar forests, the ostensible objective being, of course, a bear. Putting aside all ideas of sport, I gave myself up to the simple joy of mere existence in such a land; noting a handsome iris with broad red lilac blooms, which I had not seen before; listening to the intermittent voice of the cuckoo, and pausing every here and there to gaze over the fair valley, backed by its encircling ranges of sunlit mountains.
The chota shikari is a youth of great activity, both mental and physical. He almost wept with excitement on observing the mark of a bear's paw on a dusty bit of path. He said it was a bear which had left that paw-mark, so I believed him. Late in the dusk of the afternoon he saw a bear sitting looking out of a cave. I could only make out a black hole, but he saw its ears move. I regarded the spot with a powerful telescope, but only saw more hole; still, I cannot doubt the chota shikari. The burra shikari saw it too, but was of opinion that it was too late to go and bag it. I think he was right, so we went back to camp without further adventure.
Yesterday we left Kulgam, and followed up a track to a small village which lies at the foot of the track leading over to Gurais and the Tilail country. Here we camped in a grove of walnuts, which stood by an icy spring. Jane and I went for a stroll, watched a couple of small woodpeckers hunting the trunk of a young fir within a few feet of us, but retreated hurriedly to camp on the approach of a heavy thunderstorm. This was but the prelude to a bad break in the weather; all to-day it has rained in torrents, and everything is sopping and soaked. The little stream which yesterday trickled by the camp is become a young river, and it is a perfect mystery how Sabz Ali manages to cook our food over a fire guarded from the full force of the rain by blankets propped up with sticks, and how, having cooked it, he can bring it, still hot, across the twenty yards of rain-swept space which intervenes between the cook-house and our tent.
Monday, May 15.—The deluge continued all night, and only at about ten o'clock this forenoon did the heavy curtain of rain break up into ragged swirls of cloud, which, torn by the serrated ridges of the gloomy pines, rolled dense and dark up the gorges, resonant now with the roar of full-fed torrents.
The men are all beginning to complain of fever, and have eaten up a great quantity of quinine. Considering the dismal conditions under which they have been living for the last couple of days, this is not surprising; so, with the first promise of an improvement in the weather, we struck camp, determined to make for the forest bungalow at Doras and obtain the shelter of a solid roof. Many showers, but no serious downpour, enlivened our march, and we arrived at the snug little wooden house just in time to escape a particularly fine specimen of a thunderstorm. The Doras bungalow seemed a very palace of luxury, with its dry, airy rooms and wide verandah, all of sweet-smelling deodar wood. The men, too, were thankful to have a good roof over their heads, and we heard no more of fever.
Wednesday, May 17.—Yesterday it rained without ceasing, until the valley in front of us took the appearance of a lake—A party of terns, white above and with black breasts, skirled and wrangled over the "casual" water. It was still very wet this morning, but as it cleared somewhat after breakfast, we made up our minds to quit the Lolab and get back to our boat.
Doras has sad memories for Jane, for here died the "chota murghi," a black chicken endowed with the most affectionate disposition. It was permitted to sit on the lady's knee, and scratch its yellow beak with its little yellow claw; but I never cared to let it remain long upon my shoulder—a perch it ardently affected. Well! it is dead, poor dear, and whether from shock (the pony which carried its basket having fallen down with it en route from "Walnut Camp"), or from a surfeit of caterpillars which were washed in myriads off the trees there, we cannot tell. Sabz Ali brought the little corpse along, holding it by one pathetic leg to show the horrified Jane, before giving it to the kites and crows. He has many "murghis" left; baskets full, as he says, for they are cheap in the Lolab, but we shall never love another so dearly.
We had a shocking time while climbing to the pass which leads over to Rampur, the road being deep in slimy mud, and so slippery that the unfortunate baggage ponies could hardly get along. Jane, who is in splendid condition now, toiled nobly up a track which would have been delightful had the weather been a little less hideous.
Reaching the ridge which divides the Lolab from the Pohru Valley, we turned to the left, along the edge, instead of descending forthwith, as we had hoped and expected to do. It was raw and cold, with flying wreaths of damp mist shutting out the view, and we were glad of a comforting tiffin, swallowed somewhat hurriedly, under a forlorn and stunted specimen of a blue pine. Then on along a rough and slippery catwalk that made us wonder if the baggage ponies would achieve a safe arrival at Rampur.
Crossing a steep, rock-strewn ridge, covered with crown imperial in full flower, we began a sharp descent through a wood of deodars; and now the thunder, which had been grumbling and rumbling in the distance, came upon us, and a deafening peal sent us scurrying down the hill at our best pace; the lightning-blasted trunks stretching skywards their blackened and tempest-torn limbs in ghastly witness of what had been and what might be again.
At last we cleared the wood, and, plunging across a perfect slough of deep mud, crawled on to the verandah of the Rampur forest-house, where we sat anxiously watching the hillside until we saw our faithful ponies safely sliding down the hill.
Thursday, May 18.—The changes of weather in this country are sudden and surprising. This morning we woke to a perfect day—the sun bathing the warm hillsides, the picturesque brown village, and the brilliant masses of snowy blossoming fruit-trees with a radiant smile. And, but for the tell-tale riot of the streams and the sponginess of the compound, there was nothing to betray the past misdeeds of the clerk of the weather.
At noon we set out to cover the short distance that lay between us and Kunis, where we had made tryst with Satarah. The country was like a series of English woodland glades—watered by many purling streams, and bright with masses of apple blossom; the turf around the trees all white and pink with petals torn from the branches by the recent storms. Clumps of fir clothed the hills with sombre green—a perfect background to a perfect picture.
The flowers all along our path to-day were much in evidence after the rain. Little prickly rose-bushes (R. Webbiana) were covered with pink blossoms just bursting into full glory; bushes of white may, yellow berberis, Daphne (Oleoides?), and many another flowering shrub grew in tangled profusion, while pimpernel (red and blue), a small androsace (rotundifolia), hawks-bit, stork's bill, wild geranium, a tiny mallow, eye-bright, forget-me-not, a little yellow oxalis, a speedwell, and many another, to me unknown, blossom starred the roadside. In the fields round Kunis the poppies flared, and the iris bordered the fields with a ribbon of royal purple.
We reached Kunis at two o'clock, and found the village half submerged, the water being up and over the low shores from the recent rain. Our boats were moored in a clump of willows, whose feet stood so deeply in the water that we had to embark on pony-back! After lunch came the usual difference of opinion with the Admiral, who seems to have great difficulty in grasping the fact that our will is law as to times and seasons for sailing. He always assumes the role of passive resister, and is always defeated with ignominy. He insisted that it was too late to think of reaching Bandipur, but we maintained that we could get at any rate part of the way; so he cast off from his willow-tree, and sulkily poked and poled out into the Wular, taking uncommon good care to hug the shore with fervour.
Here and there a group of willows standing far out into the lake, or a half-drowned village, drove us out into the open water, and once when, like a latter-day Vasco de Gama, the Admiral was striving to double the dreadful promontory of a water-logged fence, a puff of wind fell upon us, lashing the smooth water into ripples, whereupon the crew lost their wits with fright, and the lady mariners in the cook-boat set up a dismal howling; the ark, taking charge, crashed through the fence, her way carrying us to the very door of a frontier villa of an amphibious village. With amazing alacrity the crew tied us up to the door-post, and prepared to go into winter quarters.
This did not suit us at all, and
"The harmless storm being ended,"
we ruthlessly broke away from our haven of refuge, and safely arrived at Alsu.
Friday, May 19.—An ominous stillness and repose at 3 o'clock this morning sent me forth to see why the windlass was not being manned. A thing like a big grey bat flapping about, proved, on inspection, to be that rascal the Lord High Admiral Satarah. He said he could not start, as the hired coolies from Kunis had been so terrified by the horrors of yesterday that they had departed in the night, sacrificing their pay rather than run any more risks with such daredevils as the mem-sahib and me. This was vexatious and entirely unexpected, as I had never before known a coolie to bolt before pay-day. Sabz Ali and Satarah were promptly despatched on a pressgang foray, while I put to sea with the first-lieutenant to show that I meant business. A crew was found in a surprisingly short time, and a frenzied dart was made for the mouth of the Jhelum.
All day we poled round the shore of the lake, over flooded fields where the mustard had spread its cloth of gold a short week ago, over the very hedges we had scrambled through when duck-shooting in April, until in the evening we entered the river just below Sumbal.
The towing-path was almost, in many places quite, under water, and the whole country looked most forlorn and melancholy as the sun went down—a pale yellow ball in a pale yellow haze.
Sunday, May 21.—All yesterday we towed up the river against a current which ran swift and strong.
The passage of the bridge at Surahal gave us some trouble, as the flooded river brought our upper works within a narrow distance of the highest point of the span, but we finally scraped through with the loss of a portion of the railing which decorated our upper deck.
The strain of towing was severe, so, when a brisk squall and threatening thunder-shower overtook us at the mouth of the Sind River, we decided to tie up there for the night.
This morning we started at four o'clock, but only reached our berth at Srinagar at two, having spent no less than six hours in forcing the boats by pole and rope for the last three miles through the town! An incredible amount of panting, pushing, yelling, and hauling, with frantic invocations to "Jampaws" and other saints, was required to enable us to crawl inch by inch against the racing water which met us in the narrow canal below the Palace.
All's well that ends well, and here we are once more in Srinagar, after a trip which has been really delightful, albeit the weather latterly has not been by any means all that could have been desired, and we have slain no bears!
 Commonly called the "Jungly-sahib."
 Can it be that Bernier was right? "Il ne s'y trouve ni serpens, ni tigres, ni ours, ni lions, si ce n'est tres rarement."—Voyage de Kachemire.
We have spent the last three weeks or so quietly in Srinagar, our boats forming links in the long chain that, during the "season," extends for miles along both banks of the river. A large contingent of amphibians dwells in the canal leading to the Dal gates, and the Chenar Bagh, sacred to the bachelor, shows not a spare inch along its shady length.
Not being either professional globe-trotters or Athenians, we have not felt obliged to be perpetually in high-strung pursuit of some new thing; and to the seeker after mild and modest enjoyment there is much to be said in favour of a sojourn at Srinagar.
Polo, gymkhanas, lawn-tennis, picnics, and golf are everyday occurrences, followed by a rendezvous at the club, where every one congregates for a smoke and chat, until the sun goes down behind the poplars, and the swift shikaras come darting over the stream like water-beetles to carry off the sahibs to their boats, to dress, dine, and reassemble for "bridge," or perhaps a dance at Nedou's Hotel, or at that most hospitable hub of Srinagar, the Residency.
Polo is, naturally, practically restricted to the man who brings up his ponies from the Punjab, but golf is for all, and the nine-hole course, although flat, is not stale, and need not be unprofitable, unless you are fallen upon—as I was—by two stalwart Sappers, sons of Canada and potent wielders of the cleek, who gave me enough to do to keep my rupees in my pocket and the honour of the mother country upheld!
On May 26th we took shikara and paddled across the Dal Lake to see something of the Mohammedan festival, consisting in a pilgrimage to the Mosque of Hasrat Bal, where a hair of the prophet's beard is the special object of adoration.
As we neared the goal the plot thickened. Hundreds of boats—from enormous doungas containing the noisy inhabitants of, I should suppose, a whole village, down to the tiniest shikara, whose passenger was perched with careful balance to retain a margin of safety to his two inches of freeboard—converged upon the crowded bank, above which rose the mosque.
How can I best attempt to describe the din, the crush, the light, the colour? Was it like Henley? Well, perhaps it might be considered as a mad, fantastic Henley. Replace the fair ladies and the startling "blazers" with veiled houris and their lords clad in all colours of the rainbow; for one immortal "Squash" put hundreds of "squashes," all playing upon weird instruments, or singing in "a singular minor key"; let the smell of outlandish cookery be wafted to you from the "family" boats and from the bivouacs on the shore; let a constant uproar fall upon your ears as when the Hall defeats Third Trinity by half a length; and, finally, for the flat banks of Father Thames and the trim lawns of Phyllis Court, you must substitute the Nasim Bagh crowned with its huge chenars, and Mahadco looking down upon you from his thirteen thousand feet of precipice and snow.
Half-an-hour of this kaleidoscopic whirl of gaiety satisfied us. The sun, in spite of an awning, was a little trying, so we sought the quiet and shade of the Nasim Bagh for lunch and repose.
Returning towards Srinagar about sundown, we stopped to visit the ancient Mosque of Hassanabad, which stands on a narrow inlet or creek of the Dal Lake, shaded by chenars and willows in all their fresh spring green. A little lawn of softest turf slopes up gently to the ruined mosque, of which a portion of an apse and vaulted dome alone stand sentinel over its fallen greatness. Around lie the tombs of princes, whose bones have mouldered for eight hundred years under the irises, which wave their green sabres crowned with royal purple in the whispering twilight.
Near by, the mud and timber walls of a ziarat stand, softly brown, supporting a deeply overhanging, grass-grown roof, blazing with scarlet tulips. Through its very centre, and as though supporting it, pierces the gnarled trunk of a walnut tree, reminding one of Ygdrasil, the Upholder of the Universe.
May 27.—What an improvement it would be if a house-dounga could be fitted with torpedo netting! Jane finds herself in the most embarrassing situations, while dressing in the morning, from the unwelcome pertinacity of the merchants who swarm up the river in the early hours from their lairs, and lay themselves alongside the helpless house-boats.
By 10 A.M. we have to repel boarders in all directions. Mr. Sami Joo is endeavouring to sell boots from the bow, while Guffar Ali is pressing embroidery on our acceptance from the stern. Ali Jan is in a boat full of carved-wood rubbish on the starboard side, while Samad Shah, Sabhana, and half-a-dozen other robbers line the river bank opposite our port windows and clamour for custom. A powerful garden-hose of considerable calibre might be useful, but for the present I have given Sabz Ali orders to rig out long poles, which will prevent the enemy from so easily getting to close quarters.
June 17.—It is quite curious that it should be so difficult to find time to keep up this journal. Mark Twain, in that best of burlesques, The Innocents Abroad affirms, if I remember rightly, that you could not condemn your worst enemy to greater suffering than to bind him down to keep an accurate diary for a year.
It is the inexorable necessity for writing day by day one's impressions that becomes so trying; and yet it must be done daily if it is to be done at all, for the only virtue I can attain to in writing is truth; and impressions from memory, like sketches from memory, are of no value from the hand of any but a master.
The time set apart for diary-writing is the hour which properly intervenes between chota hasri and the announcement of my bath; but, somehow, there never seems to be very much time. Either the early tea is late or bath is early, or a shikar expedition, with a grass slipper in pursuit of flies, takes up the precious moments, and so the business of the day gets all behindhand.
The fly question is becoming serious. Personally, I do not consider that fleas, mosquitoes, or any other recognised insect pests (excepting, perhaps, harvest bugs) are so utterly unendurable as the "little, busy, thirsty fly." It seems odd, too, as he neither stings nor bites, that he should be so objectionable; but his tickly method of walking over your nose or down your neck, and the exasperating pertinacity with which he refuses to take "no" for an answer when you flick him delicately with a handkerchief, but "cuts" and comes again, maddens you until you rise, bloody-minded in your wrath, and, seizing the nearest sledgehammer, fall upon the brute as he sits twiddling his legs in a sunny patch on the table, then lo—
"Unwounded from the dreadful close "—
he frisks cheerfully away, leaving you to gather up cursefully the fragments of the china bowl your wife bought yesterday in the bazaar!
How he manages to congregate in his legions in this ship is a mystery. Every window is guarded by "meat safe" blinds of wire gauze; the doors are, normally, kept shut; and yet, after one has swept round like an irate whirlwind with a grass slipper, and slain or desperately wounded every visible fly in the cabin, and at last sat down again to pant and paint, hoping for surcease from annoyance, not five minutes pass before one, two, nay, a round dozen of the miscreants are gaily licking the moisture off the cobalt (may they die in agony!), or trying to swim across the glass of water, or playing hop-scotch on the nape of my neck.
From what mysterious lair or hidden orifice they come I know not, but here they are in profusion until another massacre of the innocents is decreed.
It is a sound thing to go round one's sleeping-cabin at night before "turning in," and make a bag of all that can be found "dreaming the happy hours away" on the bulkheads and ceiling. It sends us to bed in the virtuous frame of mind of the Village Blacksmith—
"Something attempted, something done, Has earned a night's repose"
There are other microbes besides flies in Kashmir which are exasperating—coolies, for instance.
I had engaged men through Chattar Singh (the State Transport factotum at Srinagar) to take us up the river, and decreed that we should start at 4 A.M. yesterday.
We had been to an al fresco gathering at the Residency the night before, and so were rather sleepy in the early morning, and I did not wake at four o'clock. At six we had not got far on our way, and at ten we were but level with Pandrettan, barely three miles from Srinagar as the crow (that model of rectilinear volition) flies.
I was busy painting all the forenoon, and failed to note the sluggish steps of our coolies, but in the afternoon it was borne in upon us that if we wanted to reach Avantipura that night, as we had arranged, a little acceleration was necessary.
Then the trouble began. The coolies were bone-lazy, the admiral and first-lieutenant were sulky, and the weather was stuffy and threatened thunder—the conditions were altogether detrimental to placidity of temper.
By sunset we had the shikari, the kitchen-maid, and the sweeper on the tow-rope, and even the great and good Sabz Ali was seen to bear a hand in poling. Much recrimination now ensued between Sabz Ali and the Admiral, and the whole crowd made the air resound with Kashmiri "language," every one, apparently, abusing everybody else, and making very nasty remarks about their lady ancestors.
At 10 P.M. I got four more coolies from a village, apparently chiefly inhabited by dogs, who deeply resented our proximity, and at 2 o'clock this morning we reached the haven where we would be—Avantipura.
This morning I discharged the Srinagar coolies and took a fresh lot, who pull better and talk less.
How differently things may be put and yet the truth retained. Yesterday we reclined at our ease in our cosy floating cottage, towed up the lovely river by a picturesque crew of bronze Kashmiris, the swish of the passing water only broken by their melodious voices. The brilliancy of the morning gave way in the afternoon to a soft haze which fell over the snowy ranges, mellowing their clear tones to a soft and pearly grey, while the reflections of the big chenars which graced the river bank deepened us the afternoon shadows lengthened and spread over the wide landscape. Towards evening we strolled along the river bank plucking the ripe mulberries, and idly watching the terns and kingfishers busily seeking their suppers over the glassy water; and at night we sat on deck while the moon rose higher in the quiet sky, and the dark river banks assumed a clearer ebony as she rose above the lofty fringe of trees, until the towing-path lay a track of pure silver reaching away to the dim belt of woodland which shrouded Avantipura.
That is a perfectly accurate description of the day, and so is this:—
It was very hot—and there is nothing hid from the heat of the sun on board a wooden house-dounga. The flies, too, were unusually malevolent, and I could scarcely paint, and my wife could hardly read by reason of their unwelcome attentions.
The coolies were a poor lot and a slack, and as the day grew stuffier and sultrier so did their efforts on the tow-path become "small by degrees and beautifully less."
That irrepressible bird—the old cock—refused to consider himself as under arrest in his hen-coop, and insisted upon crowing about fifteen times a minute with that fidgeting irregularity which seems peculiar to certain unpleasant sounds, and which retains the ear fixed in nervous tension for the next explosion of defiance or pride, or whatever evil impulse it is which causes a cock to crow.
Driven overboard by the cock, and a feeling that exercise would be beneficial, we landed in the afternoon, and plodded along the bank for some miles. The innumerable mulberry trees are loaded with ripe fruit, the ground below being literally black with fallen berries. We ate some, and pronounced them to be but mawkish things.
After dinner we sat on deck, as the lamp smelt too strongly to let us enjoy ourselves in the cabin, and the coolies on the bank and the people in our boat and those in the cook-boat engaged in a triangular duel of words, until the last few grains of my patience ran through the glass, and I spake with my tongue.
There is certainly some curious quality in the air of this country which affects the nerves: maybe it is the elevation at which one lives—certain it is that many people complain of unwonted irritability and susceptibility to petty annoyances. And, while travelling in Kashmir is easy and comfortable enough along beaten tracks, yet the petty worries connected with all matters of transport and supply are incessant, and become much more serious if one cannot speak or understand Hindustani.
It takes some little time for the Western mind to grasp the fact that the Kashmiri cannot and must not be treated on the "man and brothel" principle.
He is by nature a slave, and his brain is in many respects the undeveloped brain of a child; in certain ways, however, his outward childishness conceals the subtlety of the Heathen Chinee.
He has in no degree come to comprehend the dignity of labour any more than a Poplar pauper comprehends it, but fortunately his Guardians, while granting certain advantages in his tenure of land and payment of rent, have bound him, in return, to work for a fair payment, when required to do so by his Government, as exercised by the local Tehsildhar.
The demand made upon a village for coolies is not, therefore, an arbitrary and high-handed system of bullying, but simply a call upon the villages to fulfil their obligation towards the State by doing a fair day's work for a fair day's pay of from four to six annas.
I do not, of course, propose to entangle myself in the working of the Land Settlement, which is most fully and admirably explained in Lawrence's Valley of Kashmir.
The coolie, drawn from his native village reluctant, like a periwinkle from its shell, is never a good starter, and when he finds himself at the end of a tow-rope or bowed beneath half a hundredweight of the sahib's trinkets, with a three-thousand-feet pass to attain in front of him, he is extremely apt to burst into tears—idle tears—or be overcome by a fit of that fell disease—"the lurgies." Lest my reader should not be acquainted with this illness, at least under that name, here is the diagnosis of the lurgies as given by a very ordinary seaman to the ship's doctor.
"Well, sir, I eats well, and I sleeps well; but when I've got a job of work to do—Lor' bless you, sir! I breaks out all over of a tremble!"
THE LIDAR VALLEY
We were glad enough to leave Srinagar, as that place has been undoubtedly trying lately, being extremely hot and relaxing. The river, which had been up to the fourteen-foot level, as shown on the gate ports at the entrance to the Sunt-i-kul Canal, had fallen to 9-1/2 feet, and the mud, exposed both on its banks and in the fields and flats which had been flooded, must have given out unwholesome exhalations, of which the riverine population, the dwellers in house-boats and doungas, got the full benefit.
Jane has certainly been anything but well lately, and I confess to a certain feeling best described as "slack and livery."
We had not intended to remain nearly so long in Srinagar, but the continuity of the chain of entertainments proved too firm to break, and dances and dinners, bridge and golf, kept us bound from day to day, until the fete at the Residency on the 15th practically brought the Srinagar season to a close, and broke up the line of house-boats that had been moored along both banks of the river.
We had arranged to start with a party of three other boats up the river, visiting Atchibal with our friends, and then going up the Lidar Valley, while they retraced their way to Srinagar.
The most popular bachelor in Kashmir was appointed commodore, and deputed to set the pace and arrange rendezvous. He began by sending on his big house-boat, dragged by many coolies, to Pampur, a distance of some ten miles by water, and, following himself on horseback by road, instituted a sort of "Devil take the hindmost" race, for which we were not prepared.
On reaching Pampur we heard that the "Baltic Fleet" had sailed for Avantipura, so we followed on; but, alas! having made a forced march to this latter place, we found that Rodjestvenski Phelps had again escaped us and "gone before."
We consigned him and the elusive "chota resident," who was in command of the rest of the party, to perdition, and decided to pursue the even tenor of our way to the Lidar Valley.
The upper reaches of the Jhelum tire not wildly or excitingly lovely. The narrowed waters, like sweet Thames, run softly between quiet British banks, willow veiled. The wide level flats of the lower river give place to low sloping hills or "karewas," which fall in terraced undulations from the foothills of the higher ranges which close in the eastern extremity of the Kashmir Valley.
It was well into the evening, and the sun had just set, throwing a glorious rosy flush over the snows which surround the Lidar Valley, when we came to the picturesque bridge which crosses the stream at Bejbehara.
The scene here was charming—a grand festa or religious tamasha being toward; the whole river was swarming with boats—great doungas, with their festive crews yelling a monotonous chant, paddled uproariously by. Light shikaras darted in and out, making up for want of volume in their song by the piercing shrillness of their utterances. The banks and bridge teemed with swarming life, and all Kashmir seemed to have contributed its noisiest members to the revel.
Beyond the bridge we could see through the gathering dusk many house-boats of the sahibs clustering under a group of magnificent chenars, over whose dark masses the moon was just rising, full orbed. The piers of the bridge seemed to be set in foliage, large willows having grown up from their bases, giving a most curious effect. We marked with some apprehension the swiftness of the oily current which came swirling round the piers, and soon we found ourselves stuck fast about half-way under the bridge, apparently unable to force our boat another inch against the stream which boiled past. An appalling uproar was caused by the coolies and the unemployed upon the bridge, who all, as usual, gave unlimited advice to every one else as to the proper management of affairs under the existing circumstances, but did nothing whatever in support of their theories. The situation was becoming quite interesting, and the "mem-sahib" and I, sitting on the roof of our boat, were speculating as to what would happen next when the Gordian knot was cut by the unexpected energy and courage of the first-lieutenant, who boldly slapped an argumentative coolie in the face, while the admiral dashed promiscuously into the shikara, and—yelling "Hard-a-starboard!—Full speed ahead!—Sit on the safety—valve!"—boldly shot into an overhanging mulberry tree, wherein our tow-rope was much entangled. The rope was cleared, the crew poled like fury, the coolies hauled for all they were worth, every one yelled himself hoarse, and we forged ahead. We crashed under the mulberry tree, which swept us from stem to stern, nearly carrying the hen-coop overboard; while Jane and I lay flat under a perfect hail of squashy black fruit which covered the upper deck.
We went on shore for a moonlight stroll after dinner. The place was like a glorified English park; chenars of the first magnitude, taking the place of oaks, rose from the short crisp turf, while a band of stately poplars stood sentry on the river bank. Through blackest shadow and over patches of moonlit sward we rambled till we came upon the ruins of a temple, of which little was left but a crumbled heap of masonry in the middle of a rectangular grassy hollow which had evidently been a tank, small detached mounds, showing where the piers of a little bridge had stood, giving access to the building from the bank. An avenue of chenars led straight to the bridge, showing either the antiquity of the trees or the comparatively modern date of the temple.
June 19.—Yesterday afternoon we left Bejbehara, and went on to Kanbal, the port of Islamabad. A hot and sultry day, oppressive and enervating to all but the flies, which were remarkably energetic and lively. The river below Islamabad is quite narrow, and hemmed in between high mudbanks.
Here we found the "Baltic Fleet," but, knowing that our fugitive friends must have already reached Atchibal, we held to our intention of going up the Lidar.
Having tied up to a remarkably smelly bank, which was just lofty enough to screen our heated brows from any wandering breeze, we landed to explore. A hot walk of a mile or so along a dusty, poplar-lined road brought us to the town of Islamabad, which, however, concealed its beauties most effectually in a mass of foliage. Although it ranks as the second town in Kashmir, it can hardly be said to be more than a big village, even allowing for its 9000 inhabitants, its picturesque springs, and its boast of having been once upon a time the capital of the valley. The first hundred yards of "city," consisting of a highly-seasoned bazaar paved with the accumulated filth of ages, was enough to satisfy our thirst for sight-seeing, and after a visit to the post-office we trudged back through a most oppressive grey haze to the boat. Crowds of the elite of the neighbourhood were hastening into Islamabad, where the "tamasha," which we came upon at Bejbehara, is to be continued to-morrow.
We had a good deal of difficulty in getting transport for our expedition, as the Assistant Resident and his party had, apparently, cleared the place of available ponies and coolies. An appeal to the Tehsildhar was no use, as that dignitary had gone to Atchibal in the Court train. However, a little pressure applied to Lassoo, the local livery stablekeeper, produced eight baggage ponies and a good-looking cream-coloured steed, with man's saddle, for my wife.
The syce, a jovial-looking little flat-faced fellow, was a native of Ladakh.
We made a fairly early start, getting off about six, and, having skirted the town and passed the neat little Zenana Mission Hospital, we had a pretty but uneventful march of some six miles to Bawan, where, under a big chenar, we halted for the greater part of the day.
Here let me point out that life is but a series of neglected opportunities. We were within a couple of miles of Martand, the principal temple in Kashmir, and we did not go to see it! I blush as I write this, knowing that hereafter no well-conducted globe-trotter will own to my acquaintance, and, indeed, the case requires explanation. Well, then, it was excessively hot; we were both in bad condition, and I had ten miles more to march, so we decided to visit Martand on our way down the valley. Alas! we came this way no more.
Little knowing how much we were missing, we sat contented in the shade while the hot hours went by, merely strolling down to visit a sacred tank full of cool green water and swarming with holy carp, which scrambled in a solid mass for bits of the chupatty which Jane threw to them.
A clear stream gushed out of a bank overhung by a tangle of wild plants. To the left was a weird figure of the presiding deity, painted red, and frankly hideous.
We were truly sorry to feel obliged, at four o'clock, to leave Bawan with its massy trees and abundance of clear running water, and step out into the heat and glare of the afternoon.
I found it a trying march. The road led along a fairly good track among rice-fields, whence the sloping sun glinted its maddening reflection, but here and there clumps of walnuts—the fruit just at the pickling stage—cast a broad cool shadow, in which one lingered to pant and mop a heated brow e'er plunging out again into the grievous white sunlight.
The cavalcade was increased during the afternoon by the addition to our numbers of a dog—a distinctly ugly, red-haired native sort of dog, commonly called a pi-dog. He appeared, full of business—from nowhere in particular—and his business appeared to be to go to Eshmakam with us.
As we neared that place the road began to rise through the loveliest woodland scenery—white roses everywhere in great bushes of foamy white, and in climbing wreaths that drooped from the higher trees, wild indigo in purple patches reminding one not a little of heather. Above the still unseen village a big ziarat or monastery shone yellow in the sinking sunlight, and overhead rose a rugged grey wall of strangely pinnacled crags, outliers of the Wardwan, showing dusky blue in the clear-cut shadows, and rose grey where the low sun caught with dying glory the projecting peaks and bastions.
In a sort of orchard of walnut trees, on short, clean, green grass, we pitched our tents, and right glad was I to sit in a comfortable Roorkhee chair and admire the preparations for dinner after a stiff day, albeit we only "made good" some sixteen miles at most.
June 20.—A brilliant morning saw us off for Pahlgam, along a road which was simply a glorified garden. Roses white and roses pink in wild profusion, jasmin both white and yellow, wild indigo, a tall and very handsome spiraea, forget-me-not, a tiny sort of Michaelmas daisy, wild strawberry, and honeysuckle, among many a (to me unknown) blossom, clothed the hillside or drooped over the bank of the clear stream, by whose flower-spangled margin lay our path, where, as in Milton's description of Eden,
"Each beauteous flower, Iris all hues, roses, and jessamine Reared high their flourished heads."
Soon the valley narrowed, and closer on our left roared the Lidar, foaming over its boulders in wild haste to find peace and tranquil flow in the broad bosom of Jhelum.
The road became somewhat hilly, and at one steep zigzag the nerves of Jane failed her slightly and she dismounted, rightly judging that a false step on the part of the cream-coloured courser would be followed by a hurried descent into the Lidar. I explained to her that I would certainly do what I could for her with a dredge in the Wular when I came down, but she preferred, she said, not to put me to any inconvenience in the matter. We were asked to subscribe, a few days later, at Pahlgam to provide the postman with a new pony, his late lamented "Tattoo" having been startled by a flash of lightning at that very spot, and having paid for the error with his life.
A halt was called for lunch under a blue pine, where we quickly discovered how paltry its shade is in comparison with the generous screen cast by a chenar; scarcely has the heated traveller picked out a seemingly umbrageous spot to recline upon when, lo! a flickering shaft of sunlight, broken into an irritating dazzle by a quivering bunch of pine needles, strikes him in the eye, and he sets to work to crawl vainly around in search of a better screen.
Nothing approaches the great circle of solid coolness thrown by a big chenar. The walnut does its best, and comes in a good second. Pines (especially blue ones) are, as I remarked before, unsatisfactory.
But if the pine is not all that can be wished as a shade-producer, he is in all his varieties a beautiful object to look upon. First, I think, in point of magnificence towers the Himalayan spruce, rearing his gaunt shaft,
"Like the mast of some tall ammiral,"
from the shelving steeps that overhang the torrents, and piercing high into the blue. In living majesty he shares the honours with the deodar, but he is merely good to look upon; his timber is useless and in his decay his fallen and lightning-blasted remains lie rotting on these wild hills, while the precious trunks of the deodar and the excelsa are laboriously collected, and floated and dragged to the lower valleys, producing much good money to Sir Amar Singh and the best of building timber to the purchaser.
The road towards Pahlgam is a charming woodland walk, where the wild strawberries, still hardly out of flower, grow thick amidst a tangle of chestnut, yew, wild cherry, and flowering shrubs. Overhead and to the right the rocky steeps rise abruptly until they culminate in the crags of Kohinar, and on the left the snow-fed Lidar roars "through the cloven ravine in cataract after cataract."
About four miles from Pahlgam, on turning a corner of the gorge, a splendid view bursts upon the wayfarer. The great twin brethren of Kolahoi come suddenly into sight, where they stand blocking the head of the valley, their double peaks shining with everlasting snow.
It needed all the beauty of the scene to make me forget that the thirteen miles from Eshmakam were long and hot, and that I was woefully out of condition, and we rejoiced to see the gleam of tents amid the pine-wood which constitutes the camping-ground of Pahlgam.
We sat peacefully on the thyme and clover-covered maiden, amongst a herd of happily browsing cattle, until our tents were up and the irritating but needful bustle of arrival was over, and the tea-table spread.
Pahlgam stands some 2000 feet above Srinagar, and although it is not supposed to be bracing, yet to us, jaded votaries of fashion in stuffy Srinagar, the fresh, clear, pine-scented air was purely delightful, and a couple of days saw us "like kidlings blythe and merry"—that is to say, as much so as a couple of sedate middle-aged people could reasonably be expected to appear. The camping-ground is in a wood of blue pines, which, extending from the steeper uplands, covers much of the leveller valley, and abuts with woody promontories on the flowery strath which borders the river. Here some dozen or so of visitors had already selected little clearings, and the flicker of white tents, the squealing of ponies, and the jabber of native servants banished all ideas of loneliness.
About half a mile below the camping-ground is the bungalow of Colonel Ward, clear of the wood and with Kolahoi just showing over the green shoulder which hides him from Pahlgam. I was fortunate enough to find the Colonel before he left for Datchgam to meet the Residency party, and to get, through his kindness, certain information which I wanted about the birds of Kashmir.
An enthusiast in natural history, Colonel Ward has given himself with heart-whole devotion for many years to the study of the beasts and birds of Kashmir, and he is practically the one and only authority on the subject.
We were very anxious to cross the high pass above Lidarwat over into the Sind Valley, having arranged to meet the Smithsons at Gangabal on their way back from Tilail. Knowing that Colonel Ward would be posted as to the state of the snow, I had written to him from Srinagar for information. His reply, which I got at Islamabad, was not encouraging, nor was his opinion altered now. The pass might be possible, but was certainly not advisable for ladies at present.
Friday, June 23.—We were detained here at Pahlgam until about one o'clock to-day, as Colonel Ward, as well as two minor potentates, had marched yesterday, employing every available coolie. The fifteen whom I required were sent back to me by the Colonel, and turned up about noon, so, after lunch, we set forth.
Camels are usually unwilling starters. I knew one who never could be induced to do his duty until a fire had been lit under him as a gentle stimulant. He lived in Suakin, and existence was one long grievance to him, but no other animal with which I am acquainted approaches a Pahlgam coolie in vis inertia.
Whether a too copious lunch had rendered my men torpid, or whether the attractions of their happy homes drew them, I know not, but after the loads (and these not heavy) had been, after much wrangling, bound upon their backs, and they had limped along for a few hundred yards or so, one fell sick, or said he was sick, and, peacefully squatting on a convenient stone, refused to budge.
We were still close to some of the scattered huts of Pahlgam, so an authority, in the shape of a lumbadhar or chowkidar, or some such, came to our help, and promptly collected for us an elderly gentleman who was tending his flocks and herds in the vicinity. Doubtless it was provoking, when he was looking forward to a comfortable afternoon tea in the bosom of his family, after a hard day's work of doing nothing, to be called upon to carry a nasty angular yakdan for seven miles along a distinctly uneven road; but was he therefore justified in blubbering like a baby, and behaving like an ape being led to execution?
The first half-mile was dreadful. At every couple of hundred yards the coolies would sit down in a bunch, groaning and crying, and nothing less than a push or a thump would induce them to move. We felt like slave-drivers, and indeed Sabz Ali and the shikari behaved as such, although their prods and objurgations were not so hurtful as they appeared, being somewhat after the fashion of the tale told by an idiot,
"Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Presently we became so much irritated by the ceaseless row that we decided to sit down and read and sketch by the roadside, in order to let the whole mournful train pass out of sight and earshot.
Now, I wish to maintain in all seriousness that I am not a Legree, and that, although I by no means hold the "man and brother" theory, yet I am perfectly prepared to respect the droits de l'homme.
This may appear a statement inconsistent with my acknowledgment that I permitted coolies to be beaten—the beating being no more than a technical "assault," and never a "thrashing!"—but my contention is that when you have to deal with people of so low an organisation that they can only be reached by elementary arguments, they must be treated absolutely as children, and judiciously whacked as such.
No Kashmiri without the impulsion of force majeure would ever do any work—no logical argument will enable him to see ultimate good in immediate irksomeness.
It is very difficult for the Western mind to give the Kashmiri credit for any virtues, his failings being so conspicuous and repellent; for not only is he an outrageous coward, but he feels no shame in admitting his cowardice. He is a most accomplished thief, and the truth is not in him. He and his are much fouler than Neapolitan lazzaroni, and his morals—well, let us give the Kashmiri his due, and turn to his virtues. He is, on the whole, cheerful and lively, devoted to children, and kind to animals.
Here is a story which is fairly characteristic of the charming Kashmiri.
During the floods which nearly ruined Kashmir in 1901, a village near a certain colonel's bungalow was in danger of losing all its crops and half its houses, the neighbouring river being in spate. My friend, on going to see if anything could be done, found the water rising, and the adult male inhabitants of the village lying upon the ground, and beating their heads and hands upon it in woebegone impotence.
He walked about upon their stomachs a little to invigorate them, and, sending forthwith for a gang of coolies from an adjacent village which lay a little higher, he set the whole crowd to work to divert part of the stream by means of driftwood and damming, and was, in the end, able to save the houses and a good part of the crops.
When the hired coolies came to be paid for their labour, the villagers also put in a claim for wages, and were desperately vexed at my friend's refusal to grant it, complaining bitterly of having had to work hard for nothing!
You will find a good description of the Kashmiri in All's Well that Ends Well:—
Parolles. He will steal, sir, an egg out of a cloister.... He professes not keeping of oaths, in breaking them, he is stronger than Hercules. He will lie, sir, with such volubility, that you would think truth were a fool: drunkenness is his best virtue; ... he has everything that an honest man should not have; what an honest man should have, he has nothing.
* * * * *
He excels his brother for a coward, yet his brother is reputed one of the best that is: in a retreat he outruns any lackey; marry, in coming on he has the cramp.
We had not long sat sketching and basking in the genial glow of a summer afternoon among the mountains, when it began to be borne in upon us that the weather was going to change, and that the usual thunderstorm was meditating a descent upon us. Black clouds came boiling up over the mountain peaks, and the too familiar grumble of distant thunder sent us hurrying along the lovely ravine, through which the path leads to Aru. Only a seven miles' journey, but ere we had gone half-way the storm broke, and a thick veil of sweeping rain fell between us and the surrounding mountains.
Presently we found a serious solution of continuity in the track, which, after leading us along a precarious ledge by the side of the river, finished abruptly; sheared clean off by a recent landslip.
We were very wet, but the river looked wetter still, and it boiled round the rocky point, where the road should have been but was not, in a distinctly disagreeable manner.
However, Jane dismounting, I climbed upon the cream-coloured courser, and proceeded to ford the gap. The water swirled well above the syce's knees, but the noble steed picked his way with the greatest circumspection over and among the submerged boulders, till, after splashing through some hundred yards of water, he deposited me, not much wetter than before, on the continuation of the high-road, whence I had the satisfaction of watching Jane go through the same performance.
Hoping against hope that the coolies, by a little haste, might have got the tents pitched before the storm came on, we plodded on, until, wet to the very skin, we slopped into Aru, to behold a draggled party squatting round a central floppy heap in a wet field, which, as we gazed, slowly upreared itself into a drooping tent.
In dear old England this sort of experience would have spelt shocking colds, and probably rheumatism for life, but here—well, we crawled into our tent and found it, thanks to a couple of waterproof sheets spread on the ground, surprisingly dry. A change of clothes, a good dinner, produced under the most unfavourable circumstances from a wretched little cooking-tent, and a fire burning goodness knows how, in the open, showed the world to be quite a nice place after all.
After dinner a great camp-fire was lit in front of our tent, the rain cleared off, and I sat smoking with much content, while all our soaking garments were festooned on branches round the blaze, and Jane and I turned them like roasting joints, at intervals, until the steam rose like incense towards the stars.
The coolies, too, had quite got over their homesickness, and were extraordinarily cheerful, their incessant jabber falling as a lullaby on our ears as we dropped off to sleep.
Saturday, June 24.—We got away in good time for our short eight-mile march to Lidarwat. The coolies went off gaily—the day was warm and brilliant, and the views down the valley towards Pahlgam superb.
We had camped on the low ground at Aru, just across the bridge, but about half a mile on, and upon a grassy plateau there is an ideal camping-ground facing down the Lidar Valley, towards the peaks which rise behind Pahlgam. Want of water is the only drawback to this spot, but if mussiks are carried, water can easily be brought from a small nullah towards Lidarwat.
Tearing ourselves away from this spot, and turning our backs upon one of the most gorgeous views in Kashmir, we plunged into a beautiful wood. Maidenhair and many another fern grew in masses among the great roots which twined like snakes over the rocky slopes. Far below, with muffled roar, the unseen river tore its downward way.
By-and-by, the path emerging from the wood shelved along a green hillside, where bracken and golden spurge clothed the little hollows, while wild wall-flower, Jacob's Ladder, and a large purple cranes-bill brightened the slopes where happy cattle, but lately released from their winter's imprisonment, were feeding greedily on the young green grass.
I fancy the cattle have a remarkably poor time here in winter. Hay is not made, and very little winter forage seems to be collected. As the snows fall lower on the hills, the flocks and herds are driven down to the low ground, where they drag through the dark days as best they can, on maize-stalks and such like.
I noticed early in May the water buffaloes just turned out to graze in the Lolab, and more weakly, melancholy collections of skin—and—bone I have seldom seen.
Now, however, up high in every sunny grassy valley, the Gujars may be found camping with their flocks—cattle, ponies, buffaloes, and goats, working upwards hard on the track of the receding snow, where the primula and the gentian star the spring turf.
A series of grassy uplands brought us close to Lidarwat, when a sharp shower, arriving unexpectedly from nowhere in particular, sent us to eat our lunch under the shelter of some fairly waterproof trees in the company of a herd of water buffaloes of especially evil aspect.
One hoary brute in particular, with enormous horns and pale blue eyes, made me think of the legend concerning the origin of the buffalo.
When the Almighty was hard at work creating the animals, the devil came and looked on until he became filled with emulation, and begged the Deity to let him try his hand at creation. So the Almighty agreed, asking him what beast he would prefer to make, and he said, "A cow." So he went away and created a water buffalo, which so disgusted the Creator that the devil was not permitted to make any more experiments.
As soon as the rain held up and the thunder had rolled off up the valley, we packed the tiffin basket, had one more drink from an icy spring, and left the shelter of the friendly trees, followed by the glares of all the buffaloes, who appear to have a decided antipathy to the "sahib logue."
We soon came to Lidarwat, passing several tents there, pitched by the edge of a green lawn, and sheltered by a deep belt of trees. Crossing to the right bank of the river by the usual rickety bridge, we continued our way, as the farther up the glen we get to-night, the less shall we leave for to-morrow, when we intend to visit the Kolahoi Glacier.
The cream-coloured courser nearly wrecked my Kashmir holiday at this point, owing to the silly dislike of white folk which he possesses in common with the buffaloes. As I was incautiously handing Jane her beloved parasol, he whisked round and let out at me, and I was only saved from a nasty kick by my closeness to the beast, whose hock made such an impression upon my thigh as to cause me to go a bit short for a while.
We camped in rather a moist-looking place, where the wood begins to show signs of finishing, and the slopes fall steep and bare to the river.
A rather rank and weedy undergrowth was not inviting, and was strongly suggestive of dampness and rheumatism. It was fairly chilly, too, at night, as our camp was some 11,000 feet above the sea, and the little breezes that came sighing through the pines were straight from the snow.
Sunday, June 25.—A most glorious morning saw us start early for an expedition to the Kolahoi Glacier. The sombre ravine in which we were camped amid the pines lay still in a mysterious blue haze, but the sun had already caught the snow-streaked mountain-tops to our left, and gilded their rugged sides with a swiftly descending mantle of warmth and light.
A very fine waterfall came tumbling down a wooded chasm on our right, and as fine waterfalls are scarce in Kashmir we stopped for some time to admire it duly.
The track now led out into a wide and treeless valley, flanked by snow-crowned mountains, and we pushed on merrily until we arrived at the brink of a rascally torrent, which gave us some trouble to ford, being both exceeding swift and fairly deep. Luckily, it was greedy, and, not content with one channel, had spread itself out into four or five branches, and thus so squandered itself that Jane on her pony and I on coolie-back accomplished the passage without mishap. For some miles we held on along an easy path which curved to the right along the right bank of the river, which was spanned in many places by great snow bridges, often hundreds of yards in width. We lunched sitting on the trunk of a dead birch which had been carried by the snow down from its eyrie, and then left, a melancholy skeleton, bleaching on the slowly melting avalanche. Some two miles farther on we could see the end of the Kolahoi Glacier, its grey and rock-strewn snout standing abrupt above the white slopes of snow.
Behind rose the fine peak of Harbagwan, in as yet undisputed splendour, Kolahoi being still hidden behind the cliffs which towered on our right.
Distances seem short in this brilliant air, but we walked for a long while over the short turf, flushing crimson with primulas and golden with small buttercups, and then over snowy hillocks, before we reached the solid ice of the great glacier.
It was so completely covered with fragments of grey rock that Jane could hardly he persuaded that it really was an ice slope that we were scrambling up with such difficulty, until a peep into a cold mysterious cleft convinced her that she was really and truly standing upon 200 feet of solid ice.
The sight that now burst upon us was one to be remembered. Kolahoi towered ethereal—a sunlit wedge of sheer rock some six thousand feet above us—into the crystal air. From his feet the white frozen billows of the great glacier rolled, a glistering sea, to where we, atoms in the enormous loneliness, stood breathless in admiration. Around the head of the wide amphitheatre wherein we stood rose a circle of stately peaks, their bases flanged with rocky buttresses, dark amid the long sweeps of radiant snow, their shattered peaks reared high into the very heavens. A great silence reigned. There was no wind with us, and yet, even as we watched, a white cloud flitted past the virgin peak of Kolahoi—ghostly, intangible; and immediately, even as vultures assemble suddenly, no one knows whence, so did the clouds appear, surging over the gleaming shoulders of the mountain ridges, and up and round the grim precipices. We turned and hurried down the face of the glacier, and made for camp, as we knew from much experience that a thunderstorm was inevitable.
Over the beds of dirty snow, down by the side of the new-born torrent, which leaped full-grown to life from the womb of a green cavern below the glacier; over patches of pulpy turf just freed from its wintry bondage, and already carpeted with masses of rose-coloured primulas, we hastened, keeping to the left bank of the stream, in order to avoid the torrent which had so troubled us in the morning, which we knew would be deeper in the afternoon owing to the melting of the snows in the sunshine.
We had got but a bare half of our journey done when the storm burst, and in a very short time we were reduced to the recklessness which comes of being as wet as you can possibly be.
"The thunder bellows far from snow to snow (Home, Rose and Home, Provence and La Palie), And loud and louder roars the flood below. Heigho! But soon in shelter we shall be (Home, Rose and Home, Provence and La Palie)."
Crossing the river on a big snow-bridge below the point where our old enemy came thundering down the mountain-side, we tramped gaily through mud and mire and over slippery rocks until we were gladdened by the sight of our camp, dripping away peacefully in the midst of the weeping forest.
The rain, as usual, ceased in the evening. A great camp-fire was lit, and the neighbouring buffaloes of Gujar-Kote having kindly supplied us with milk, we dined wisely and well and dropped off to sleep, lulled by the roaring of the Kolahoi River, which raced through the darkness close by.
Tuesday, June 27.—Being still hopeful of achieving the pass over into the Sind, we struck camp early yesterday and marched down to Lidarwat, only to find that the party which we knew had camped there with a view to crossing, had given up the idea and retreated down the valley; so I sent a swift messenger to countermand the three days' supply of "rassad" which I had ordered from Pahlgam for my men, and we marched on to Aru. Upon the spur which overlooks Aru we found Dr. Neve encamped, and proceeded to discuss the possibility of crossing into the Sind Valley via Sekwas, Khem Sar, and Koolan. The Doctor, who is an enterprising mountaineer, was himself about to cross, but he did not encourage Jane to go and do likewise, as he said it would be very difficult owing to the late spring, and would probably entail a good deal of work with ropes and ice-axes.
This absolutely decided us, our valour being greatly tempered by discretion, and we camped quietly at Aru, and came on into Pahlgam this forenoon. The river, for some reason best known to itself, was so low that we got dry-shod past the corner which had worried us so much on the way up.
 This is incorrect, the European Residents having frequently attempted, but hitherto vainly, to induce the native authorities to curb Kashmiri cruelty.
Friday, June 30.—The last few days have been somewhat uneventful. We left Pahlgam at early dawn on Wednesday, just as the first lemon-coloured light was spreading in the east over the pine-serrated heights above the camp.
The rapids below Colonel Ward's bungalow, which had been fierce and swollen as we passed them on our upward way, were now reduced to roaring after the subdued fashion of the sucking dove; so we hardly paused to contemplate either them or the big boulder, red-stained and holy, at Ganesbal, but hastened on to the point where, just before turning a high bluff which shuts him from sight for the last time, we got the view of Kolahoi, with the newly-risen sun glowing on his upper slopes. An hour flew by much too fast, and it was with great reluctance that we finally turned our back on the finest part of the Lidar Valley, and sadly resumed our march to Sellar, crossing the river and following a rather hot and dull road. Sellar itself is not nearly as pretty as Eshmakam, and we grew rather tired of it by evening, as we arrived soon after one o'clock, and found little to do or see.
Yesterday we left Sellar and marched to Bejbehara, the hottest and dullest march I know of in Kashmir. A shadeless road slopes gently down across the plains to the river. All along this road we overtook parties of coolies laden with creels of silk cocoons, whose destination is the big silk factory at Srinagar, small clouds of hot red dust rising into the still air, knocked up by the shuffling tread of their grass-shod feet.
In the fields, dry and burnt to our eyes after the green valleys, squatted the reapers, snipping the sparse ears, apparently one by one, with sickles like penknives. They seemed to get the work done somehow, as little sheafs laid in rows bore witness; but the patience of Job must have been upon them!
The chenars of Bejbehara threw a most welcome shade from the noonday sun, which was striking down with evil force as we panted across the steamy rice-fields which surround them.
Hither we came at noon, only to find that our boats were not awaiting us as we had directed. A messenger bearing bitter words was promptly despatched to root the lazy scoundrels out from Islamabad, while Jane and I camped out beneath a huge tree and lunched, worked, and sketched until four o'clock, when the Admiral brought the fleet in and fondly deemed his day's work done.
This was by no means our view of the case, and the usual trouble began—"No coolies"—"Very late"—"Plenty tired," &c. &c.
Of course Satarah was defeated, and was soon to be seen sulkily poling away in the stern-sheets, while his son-in-law still more sulkily paddled in the bow.
We made about eight or ten miles, having a swift current under us, before a strong squall came up the valley, making the old ark slue about prodigiously, and inducing us to tie up for the night.
This morning we slipped down stream to Srinagar, only halting for a short while to obtain some of the native bread for which Pampur is celebrated.
The river seemed exceedingly hot and stuffy after the lovely air which we have been breathing lately, and we quite determined that the sooner we get out of the valley the better for our pleasure, if not for our health.
We have been greatly exercised as to how best dispose of the time until September, for, during the months of July and August, the heat in the valley is very considerable, and every one seeks the higher summer retreats. The Smithsons suggested an expedition to Leh, which would, undoubtedly, have been a most interesting trip, but which would in no wise have spared us in the matter of heat. Had we started about this time for Leh we should have reached our destination towards the end of July, and would therefore have found ourselves setting out again across an arid and extremely hot country on the return journey somewhere about the middle of August.
The game did not seem to be worth the candle, and the Smithsons themselves shied at the idea when it was borne in upon them that there would be little or no shooting to be done en route.
The alternatives seemed to lie between Gulmarg, where most of the beauty and fashion of Kashmir disports itself during the hot weather, Sonamarg, and Pahlgam.
Sonamarg, from description, seemed likely to be quiet, not to say dull, as a residence for two months. One cannot live by scenery alone, and even the loveliest may become toujours pate de l'anguille.
Pahlgam suffered in our eyes from the same failing, and our thoughts turned to Gulmarg. Here, however, a difficulty arose. It is a notoriously wet place. We heard horrid tales of golf enthusiasts playing in waders, and of revellers half drowned while returning from dinners in neighbouring tents.
We thought of rooms in Nedou's Hotel, but our memories of this hostelry in Srinagar were not altogether sweet, and we did not in the least hanker after a second edition; moreover, every available room had been engaged long ago, and it was extremely doubtful, to say the least of it, if the good Mr. Nedou could do anything for us. The prospect of a two-month sojourn in a wet tent wherein no fire could ever be lighted, and in which Jane pictured her frocks and smart hats lying in their boxes all crumpled and shorn of their dainty freshness, was far from enticing!
Tent existence, when one lives the simple life far from the madding crowd, clad in puttoo and shooting-boots, or grass shoes, is delightful; but tent life in the midst of a round of society functions—golf, polo, with their attendant teas and dinners—was not to be thought of without grave misgiving.
Sorely perplexed, and almost at our wits' end, the Gordian knot was cut by our being offered a small hut which had been occupied by a clerk in the State employ, now absent, and which the Resident most kindly placed at our disposal for a merely nominal rent. Needless to say we gratefully accepted the offer, in spite of the assurance that the hut was of very minute dimensions.
Sunday, July 2.—Yesterday we toiled hard in the heat to get everything in train for a move to Gulmarg. Subhana, that excellent tailor and embroiderer, arranged to have all our heavy luggage sent up to meet us on the 10th, and from him, too, we arranged for the hire of such furniture as we might require, for we knew that the hut was bare as the cupboard of nursery fame.
This morning we set off down the river to keep tryst with the Smithsons at Gangabal, where we hope to meet them about the 5th on their way back from Tilail. The usual struggle with the crew resulted, also as usual, in our favour, and we got right through to Gunderbal at the mouth of the Sind River, where we now lie amid a flotilla of boats whose occupiers have fled away from the sultriness and smelliness of Srinagar in search of the cool currents, both of air and water, which are popularly supposed to flow down the Sind.
As Jane and I returned from a visit to the post-office along a sweltering path among the rice-fields, from which warm waves of air rose steaming into the sunset, we failed to observe the celebrated and superior coolness of Gunderbal'
Thursday, July 6.—The lumbadhar of Gunderbal, in spite of his magnificent name, is a rascal of the deepest dye. He put much water in our milk, to the furious disgust of Sabz Ali, and he failed to provide the coolies I had ordered; I therefore reported him to Chattar Singh, and sent my messengers forth, like another Lars Porsena, to catch coolies.
This was early on Tuesday morning, and a sufficient number of ponies and coolies having been got together by 5.30, we started.
I may here note that, owing to a confusion between Gunderbal (the port, so to speak, of the Sind Valley, and route to Leh and Thibet) and Gangabal, a lake lying some 12,000 feet above the sea behind Haramok, our arrangement to meet the Smithsons at Gangabal was altered by a letter from them announcing their imminent arrival at Gunderbal! This was perturbing, but as the mistake was not ours, we decided not to allow ourselves to be baulked of a trip for which we had surrendered an expedition to Shisha Nag, beyond Pahlgam.