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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

A   HERMIT   IN   THE   HIMALAYAS

raised these scores of frigid giants to girdle and guard the land. It
holds itself aloof from the rest of the world for very good reasons.

But how much longer can it maintain this suspicious seclusion?

Applied science and technical invention can conquer even the
peaked Himalayas. A cunningly built aeroplane has already nosed
its way around and over Mount Everest—the world's highest peak.
Consular Officer Sir Erich Teichman's epic flight from Kashgar
in Central Asia to Governmental Headquarters in New Delhi has
shown what twentieth-century man can do to traverse even the
snowy wastes of the Western Himalaya within less than a couple of
days.

When I visited Hardwar, the ancient town at the mouth of the
gorge through which the Ganges enters the plains after cutting its
way through the mountains, I received a tremendous surprise. From
Hardwar a path leads into the Himalayas as far as the famous
shrine-temples of Kedarnath and Badrinath. These places are so
closely associated with the Hindu religion that each year hundreds of
pilgrims make their way to them on foot, or, if they are well-to-do,
in small crude palanquins. But this year I found a new means of
travel for these pious folk.

Some enterprising Hindu engineers had formed a small company
and started an air transport line which was already functioning
briskly. Wealthier pilgrims were offered seats in a smart little
monoplane which covered the distance from Hardwar to the nearest
fit landing-points in a single hour. From these points the pilgrims
had but a four-day pony journey to reach the temple of Kedarnath
or a seven-day journey to Badrinath. Yet the poorer folk who
toiled their tired way up the mountain paths usually took three to
four weeks to cover the same ground.

If aeroplanes are now buzzing into the very heart of the Hima-
layas and transporting the pious to its sacred shrines, the arctic
barrier cannot remain unscaleable much longer. I may yet do my
"hop" across to Mount Kailas and startle the Buddhist monks in
one of the five monasteries around it with a totally unexpected
request for hospitality.

Imperilled by petrol plus the brain of man, Tibet's long security
may go. Its frozen fastnesses and lofty strongholds cannot remain
untouched in this century. The coming of the aeroplane may and
must bring the sound of whirling propellers across its high tableland
and through the very windows of the Potala, Lhasa's great palace.

The Everest Flight, Teichman's "hop", and the pilgrim plane
are but the heralds of what is yet to come. Even Ethiopia's conquest
is also a portent. Her seclusion was as old as Tibet's, albeit not so
harsh. But nearly three thousand years of reserve and freedom have