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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

A   HERMIT  IN   THE   HIMALAYAS

ears became benumbed. We found ourselves unable to hold the reins
of our horses; it was only after some days that we became able to
accomplish this feat. We tried to warm our hands over a fire of
burning shrubs, but by the time that one side got warm the other
side was again frozen. You may imagine our sufferings, for we were
Hindus, accustomed to terrific heat, I being born in the South at
Rajahmundry and educated in a college at Lahoreóboth places
being among the hottest in India. I was curious to know how the
temperatures of Tibet compared with those of India and so I took a
thermometer with me on this jounrey. I found that the average
figure between the frontier and Kailas was not far from freezing
point.

"However, we persisted with our adventure, for to us it was a
holy pilgrimage and once begun was not to be given up except
through death. We had great difficulties on the way owing to our
ignorance of the language, and sometimes could not obtain change
of horses and had to walk over the icy ground. At other times the
difficulty was in procuring food of any sort. In many of the villages
we found that the people did not and could not take a bath even once
a year, so cold was it.

"At the trading mart of Gynamina a guide we had engaged
deserted us on hearing news of a Big caravan of merchants which had
been attacked and robbed by bandits of all its goods and personal
belongings, down to the very clothes of the unfortunate traders.
Armed bandits are fairly common in Western Tibet and make
travelling unsafe. The robbery had occurred upon the road which
we were due to take. Without a guide we could not proceed. How-
ever God did not fail to protect us. A merchant turned up later who
befriended us with food and lent us his own personal servant as a
guide.

"Yet no sooner was that trouble at an end when further distress
awaited us. False rumours were spread throughout the place that
we were two spies in the service of the British, and that the robes of
holy men which we wore were merely a disguise. The Tibetans held
us up, watched us closely and spied upon us in the effort to discover
our supposed true identity. Thenceforth I had to hide the camera
which I carried and use it only in secret. Somehow we managed to
refute their suspicions, sufficiently at any rate to enable us to get
away.

"One Tibetan habit which I tried to acquire but failed was that
of tea-drinking. The tea is boiled for an hour and mi xed with rancid
butter and salt. The first time I drank it I became ill only a half hour
later.

"A curious fact was that the prickly shrubs, which in many places

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