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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

A   HERMIT   IN   THE   HIMALAYAS

On the way I pass a curious sight. A coolie is carrying a lady in a
queer conical'-wicker basket which is tied around his back. The
passenger's husband walks behind. Both are pilgrims to some holy
Himalayan shrine, although they have not taken the customary
route. The lady is not infirm, but the labour of walking steep trails
is too much for her.

A mountain spring bubbles slowly across the track out of a
rocky cleft in the massive wall of forest-covered slope. It creates a
shallow puddle and then drops over the side of the chasm. The
pony suddenly stops, drops its head to the ground, and thirstily
sucks the puddle. Had I not sensed what it was going to do, I might
easily have been tumbled out of the saddle again and down into the
gaping ravine. But I take the precaution of dismounting in advance!

From this point die trail keeps fairly horizontal and we move
at a faster pace. Nevertheless, because of the winding nature of the
country, we have to make considerable detours around the outside
of peaks and the inside of valleys; no short cuts are possible.

Fir trees Sourish hereabouts upon the mountain side and are
held in the tight-coiled grasp of creepers which climb in spirals
around their bark. Once I see a solitary rhododendron-tree ablaze
with red blossoms, and again a few clustering stars of Bower-
blooms.

Eventually the sun begins its fated decline, the heat rapidly
diminishes; a lustrous yellow pallor sinks over the landscape as the
sky turns to transparent amber.

Occasionally a gliding vulture and circling eagle sweep through
the turquoise blue sky to their eyries. I notice how the vulture does
not fly jerkily like other birds, but with movements exactly like those
of an aeroplane. It balances flat on its wings and glides evenly up
or down.

Once I hear the cuckoo. Its call makes me think of spring's sure
recurrence in Europe.

Sundown brings a rapid change of colours. The peaks and crags
of ethereal white which rise to the sky are now warmed by the
waning beams into masses of coral and pink; but this is only tem-
porary. The descent of the dying sun transforms the frosted silver
of the snows from colour to colour, while suffusing the lower forest-
covered ridges with saffron. The red drifts into gold and the gold
returns once again to yellow. And when the final rays take their
leave, the warm colourings also abandon the range and the snows
assume a chalky whiteness. The pallor becomes more pronounced
and ends in greyish-white.

Sunset, alas, is but a short interval 'twixt day and night in the
East, but these colourful moments are most precious* to me.