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coolies shoulder our baggage, the more energetic of us start on foot, the less active one engages a pony. As we wind up through tolerably thick woods, which however open out at almost every corner of our steep and tortuous path, we have constant backward views of the broad plain beneath us, and to the right and left we look over the wooded spurs running down into the plain from the ridge above us.
Mussoorie is in sight for the greater portion of the way: a straggling collection of white houses perched on the top of the ridge, like some tourist-haunted village in the High Alps. We can see no snowy peaks yet, and we are disappointed with the bareness of the higher part of the mountains which are visible. We should have gone to Darjeeling or to the Narkunda Forest, beyond Simla, to see Himalayan forests in their full magnificence; but this we do not find out till afterwards: experientia docet.
As we near Mussoorie, we become conscious that we are still within the pale of British civilisation and British advertisements; a sign-board stares us in the face with the inscription, “This way to Tara Hall and Lammermoor,' designed doubtless as a sure way of winning over any patriotic Hibernian or Caledonian to take up his abode in a house whose name must be so dear to him.
We pass a number of shops and hotels with English names attached to them, and finally reach the Himalayan Hotel, which the manager, having had no visitors as yet, opens for us. The pedestrian of our party trails in somewhat behind the rider; and as for our poor Bengalee servant, who has come with us from Calcutta, his spindle shanks are ill-adapted, either by nature or by practice, to toiling up a Himalayan slope, and he makes his appearance some two hours later.
The air up here is delightfully fresh and invigorating, and by no means too cold, though we have still two days of February left; but the season' will not begin for another month or six weeks, by which time the plains will have become heated enough to be unpleasant. Then the Governor-General and his staff will migrate from Calcutta up to Simla, and throughout the ensuing six months all the Hill-resorts will be alive with AngloIndians, escaped for a shorter or longer time, as the case may be, from the great oven below.
Let us walk up to the top of the Camel's Hump, 200 or 300 feet above us, where we can stand quite on the top of the ridge, and have one of the best views which can be found within easy reach of Mussoorie. At the summit, we are standing at an altitude of about 6,500 feet above the sea level. As we look southwards, immediately below us, and reaching to the isolated range of hills through which our gharry was dragged yesterday, is the Deyra Doon, the white clusters of Rajpore and Deyra standing like little islands on its green and well-tilled surface. Beyond the hills we catch a glimpse of the plain near Saharunpore, part of the great plain of the Ganges and its tributaries, which extends from here uninterruptedly for more than 1,000 miles down to the sea. To the east and west of us, we look along the undulating ridge on which we are standing, and over the series of wooded spurs descending from it. Turning to the north, immediately in front of us lies a deep and narrow valley, whose brawling torrent at the bottom is nearly 4,000 feet below us.
This great depth of ravine and gorge helps us more than anything else in the scenery around to realise the gigantic scale on which these Himalayas are framed.
The wall of the valley that slopes so steeply down from our feet is well wooded; the opposite wall rises up, equally
steep, but more barren, till it terminates in a mountaintop due north of us, and 3,000 feet above us. Over the right shoulder of this mountain we catch sight of part of the central snow-clad range, which gives the origin of the name 'Him-alaya,''the abode of frost or cold.' There are several peaks and summits, one a uniform mass of white, another showing grey and black patches where the precipices are too steep for the snow to lie upon. They are a long way from us—sixty to eighty miles at leastand we must take this into account before we can realise that they are of such enormous heights as from 18,000 to 23,000 feet.
Looking to the left of the mountain over against us, we see more mountain-masses piled one behind the other, with here and there a patch of snow upon them. Far below them, and nearer to us, we can trace a deep valley uniting with the one that runs below us at a point ten miles lower down. That valley is the valley of the Jumna, which winds up into the Himalayas for a hundred miles from that point of junction, to where the infant stream springs from the foot of the Jumnotri peak, at a height of nearly 11,000 feet above the sea, and only a few miles from the glacier which gives birth to the greater river, the Ganges.
From Mussoorie to Simla there is a mountain road leading up and down great gorges, and over lofty mountainshoulders, often traversed by travellers and sportsmen, and provided at intervals in its long course of 120 miles with dâk bungalows of a primitive description, but sufficient to afford shelter from the weather.
We have not time to go through the whole, or even half, of this distance; but we may spend our four spare days in a short journey along it. The first thing, then, to do is, to get a staff of coolies, who may be found in the village
of Mussoorie, and who, after various attempts on their part to strike for higher wages, agree to go with us at the rate of six annas (9d.) per day per man—said to be good wages for them.
We order them to come at five o'clock on the ensuing morning, and meanwhile we get ready such few things as we shall want, and succeed in borrowing a small tent and one or two articles useful in .camping out. The ensuing morning comes, but the dawn brings not with it the coolies, who are pleased not to put in an appearance till half-past seven. Then follow various palavers about the number of men required, the amount of baggage they will carry, the supply of rope for the packages, and so forth. Finally they set off, and we, following them after an interval of half an hour, catch them up again at the distance of a mile from the hotel. Sundry invectives are poured upon them, and for some time we find great difficulty in getting them to move on at a tolerable pace. At last, finding that they are not to have their own way, they resign themselves contentedly to their lot, and trudge along cheerfully.
These hill-coolies are a very different set of men from the natives of the plains. They are shorter in stature, with less of the aquiline nose and lustrous eye of the true Hindu, but much better knit and far more active. They will carry great weights on their backs, their favourite method of packing things being to put them in a wicker tub-shaped basket, fastened by straps to the shoulders like a knapsack. They will trudge over the mountain paths at a slow and steady pace for the greater part of a day, sleeping at night round a fire of sticks, in a cave, or in some abandoned hut, and purchasing their scanty supply of rice, with perhaps some milk and meal-cakes, at any village they may pass through during the day. Their clothing is of a rough and simple description—a coarse woollen garment, loose like a dressing-gown, and belted at the loins, being all of their apparel that is visible. Their legs and feet are naked, although their walking is often over paths strewn with sharp stones, as trying to the feet as those of our Cumberland hills. They seem to feed only twice during the twenty-four hours—at morning and at evening. During the day they constantly chew their favourite stimulant"betel.' Two of our coolies are told off to carry a ‘dandy,' in case one of us or our Bengalee should fall weary by the way. This dandy' is about the simplest style of conveyance that could be imagined, consisting merely of a stout pole with a canvas seat fastened to it lengthwise. As we are carried in it along the paths that skirt deep precipices, sitting of course sideways, and looking down over the pole, on which our arms are resting, we inay often see nothing below us but a yawning space of empty air, finishing down in far distant depths in a roaring, rushing torrent, a scattered pile of rocks broken from the height above, or perhaps a clump of trees apparently waiting to receive us, in case we “fall like Lucifer, never to rise again. To light-headed people, this is trying at first; but a growing confidence is soon felt in the two bearers, who, with naked feet and supple forms, trudge up and down hill without ever a sign of a stumble, and only stop now and then to change the pole from one shoulder to the other, or to call the extra bearer into service.
For some seven miles after leaving Mussoorie, we wind down hill, in and out of deep ravines which run down into the deep valley which lay below us as we stood upon the Camel's Hump. Some of these ravines are filled with
. rhododendron-trees, many of them really trees, 40 ft. in height and 5 or 6 ft. in girth, and not such bushes as we