Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains/The Snowy Range from Tyne, or Marma
THE SNOWY RANGE FROM TYNE, OR MARMA.
All adventurous persons who take up their head-quarters at any of the hill-stations, make excursions through the mountain passes beyond, and many penetrate to the sources of the Ganges and Jumna. We, who had travelled for the purpose of exploring as much as we could of this vast and most interesting region, made preparations, as soon as we had satisfied ourselves with the scenery and society at Mussooree, to continue our journey.
Our party consisted of three European gentlemen, each taking ten servants, while our coolees, or porters, amounted to eighty at the least. We provided ourselves with four tents, three sure-footed ponies, and two chairs, which in the plains are called taun jauns, but which in these hills obtain the name of jhampans, while the bearers, who carry them on their shoulders on poles, are called jhampanis. It is not always easy to induce the natives to engage in these expeditions, they consider the Feringis, who are not content with the comforts which they might enjoy under a good roof, to be little better than madmen, and have no idea of submitting, with patience, to hardships and privations brought on solely from a most absurd admiration of mountains, rocks, trees, and horrid snows. Accordingly, the instant that any disastrous circumstances occur, when food and fuel are scarce, the cold intense, and the prospect threatening, a general strike is almost certain to take place, and these mutinies are only suppressed by returning fine weather, the opportune attainment of a fat sheep, or the materials for a good fire—discontent gradually subsiding under the genial influence of sunshine, roast mutton, or even the blaze without the meat.
We knew beforehand all the perils which we had to encounter from cold, hunger, and the rebellion of our followers, but our ardour in the pursuit of the picturesque led us to think lightly of such things, and we started in high spirits, determined upon the accomplishment of our object. Without noting the events of every day's march, it will merely be necessary to say, that the commencement of our travels brought us to the place whence the accompanying view is taken. Marma, or Tyne, stands at an elevation of about ten thousand feet, and on the morning on which we reached this spot, the weather being remarkably clear, we had an opportunity of enjoying, to full perfection, the sublimity of mountain scenery. The foreground was composed of a rich ridge, covered with timber, the growth of ages,—and contrasting, by its dark foliage, with the barer eminences around, which, rising in all directions, appeared as if the tumultuous waves of a stormy ocean had suddenly been converted into earth, while the forest, standing forth in the midst, looked like a peninsula stretching far into the billows. Beyond
Snowy range, from Tyne on Marma.
this wild and confused sea, arose in calmer majesty, those towering piles of unchanging snow, which, from whatever point they may be viewed, can never fail to inspire sentiments of awe and admiration. The higher cluster of white peaks near the centre, are those of Bunderpooch, above Jumnootree, the source of the Jumna, which form conspicuous objects at a very considerable distance, and which had previously greeted our sight at Saharunpore; to the right are the Rudra Himala, near Gungootree, whence springs the Ganges; and still further to the east, the loftiest of the peaks, the Dwawalagiri, may sometimes be discovered, although the distance is two hundred and fifty miles, rearing its snowy coronet, and looking down, at the height of twenty-seven thousand feet, upon the pigmy world below; while far to the east and west extend the hoary tributaries of the giant, until their snowy eminences melt into air, and are lost to the straining sight. Although the distance, in a direct line, from the spot on which we stood, to the nearest mountains of the snowy range, is inconsiderable, not more than thirty miles, it requires a fatiguing journey of many days to reach it, in which the traveller has at least ninety miles of ground to go over. Several persons have succeeded in forcing a passage to the northward of these hills, but the peaks themselves are still untrodden by human foot. This snowy barrier divides us from the plains of Thibet and Chinese Tartary, and at the narrowest part may be penetrated by long and tedious journeys through sterile scenes, deserts of rock and snow. Thibet stands at an elevation of fifteen thousand feet above the level of the sea, and the descent on this side is easy, compared with the difficulties which must be encountered in climbing the southern face of the snowy range.
In the progress of our journey, the scene became wilder and wilder at every march, the valley narrowing as we advanced, and the rocks on either side rising with greater abruptness: the stream which flowed along our path, sometimes boiling over rocks, making a sea of foam, at others diving into darkness, and gurgling beneath impenetrable brushwood. Occasionally the savage landscape was relieved by spots of a calmer and quieter nature, the castle of some chieftain crowning with picturesque beauty a lofty rock, with the greensward beneath sloping downwards to the water, embellished with scattered trees, and approached over a carpet of sage and thyme, intermixed with flowers of every hue. Then, again, we were surrounded with crags, the level space being circumscribed to a few yards, and cascades roaring and tumbling around in every direction. One day's march, though all presented some peculiar attraction, struck us as particularly romantic and beautiful.
The first part conducted us through a narrow gorge, walled on either side by fantastic rocks, and wooded with fine alders, the stream rolling deep beneath our feet, while the path was overhung by dreadful precipices, toppling crags now and then threatening to follow some of the huge fragments which had already fallen; then the scene widened a little, and a natural terrace, shaded by some splendid mulberry-trees, offered rest and repose, the rocks scattering themselves around, traversed at one place by a foaming cataract. Ascending a steep and rugged eminence, we toiled on our weary way up rock and crag, until we came to another halting-place of table-land, adorned with fine chesnut trees, and commanding an extensive view, backed by the snowy ranges, while we looked down upon a splendid confusion of waterfalls, wild precipices, and luxuriant forests. The air was delightfully cool and bracing, and, as it may be supposed, we enjoyed the meal that awaited us in this glorious halting-place. In addition to the foreign articles of luxury which we had brought with us, we regaled ourselves with mountain mutton, a hill-pheasant, some of the delicious wild honey for which the place is famed, and peaches of no despicable size and flavour. Our appetites, sharpened by exercise and the invigorating breeze, enabled us to do full justice to the meal, while we were at no loss for subjects for conversation, the adjacent scenery being sufficient to inspire the most prosaic mind with poetical ideas.
Every body who has visited the hills regrets the absence of those large bodies of water which alone are wanting to fill up the coup-d'œil. Illusion, however, often cheats the eye with the semblance of the element, the valleys being frequently covered with mist, which assumes the appearance of a sea, whence the higher land rises, till at length the snowy range starts up, and bounds the scene. The grandeur of these peaks, and their infinite variety, in the varying light and shade, would seem to leave nothing to wish for, did not the craving nature of man insist upon absolute perfection. Early in the morning, before a single sunbeam has illumined the dark deep twilight of the sky, they rise in solemn majesty, the icy outline being distinctly defined, while they stand out from the grey atmosphere around—anon a tint of amber spreads over them, and, divested of their chilling grandeur, they come out warm and glowing: again they shew like cold bright silver in the sun, while in the evening they are all crimson with the rose that flushes through the sky: a single mile, nay, even a single turn of the road, sufficing to invest them with new shapes and new peculiarities.
From this point, we might be said to traverse a land whose savage aspect was seldom redeemed by scenes of gentle beauty, the ranges of hills crossing, and apparently jostling each other in unparalleled confusion, being all rugged, steep, and difficult to thread, some divided from its neighbours by wide but rough valleys, their summits crowned with forests of venerable growth, while others, more sharp and precipitous, are nothing more than ravines, descending suddenly to a dreadful depth, bare solid rocks several hundred feet in height, or dark with wood, and apparently only formed by the torrents which have worn a passage for themselves through these fearful passes. In such a country, cultivation is difficult, nay, almost impossible; small pieces of ground can alone be reclaimed from the wilderness, and agriculture is carried on with unremitting toil for very inefficient results.
Every step as we recede from the plains becomes more and more fatiguing, while the faint-hearted would look upon an advance as totally impracticable, it being necessary to scramble along over rugged and rocky pathways, climbing at every step, or forcing a passage through the beds of rivers, or trusting to some frail and perilous bridge, which must be crossed before another yard of the journey can be gained.