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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

/ Set Out Again on Horseback—Gorgeous Panorama in Tehri State—My

Journey Along the Ridge-tops and Mountain Trails—Through the Forests in

the Darkness—I Arrive at Pratapnagar,

IT would really be incorrect to say that one rides a horse across the
Himalayas; one merely sits in the saddle and lets the animal amble
slowly on at its own leisurely pace. To ride along these steep narrow
paths cut in the mountain-face at any proper pace would be to ride
abruptly off the outer edge of the ridge into pathless space and dis-
embodied existence. Besides this extremely obvious danger, there are
some minor difficulties in the way of indulging in a canter or two,
let alone a gallop, such as high gradients and low declines, frequent
corners like hairpin bends and rugged atony surfaces of the tracks
which sometimes billow up and down like the waves of the ocean.

For about three-quarters of a mile I pursue my way through the
forest and then emerge into the open. I can now see the winding
path run upwards like a grey ribbon along the ridge to the top of a
peak, then disappear over the other side, then reappear again and
dip deeply downwards and make a serpentine dctour^around the
three sides of a narrow glen and finally turn around a corner for
ever.

My coolies are already lost to view somewhere in the forest and I
shall not meet them again until the next day. The journey to Pratap-
nagar requires two days, if it is to be done with any degree of
comfort, but I intend to accomplish the whole distance in one day
and be done with it, even if it means arriving after midnight.

In this sparsely populated country, where one might travel for
miles and not see a single person, it is fortunate that I cannot
possibly lose my way, even though I am not mapless. There arc no
cross-roads to puzzle one, no side paths to distract and ho sign-
posts to be examined. One must cither go forward or retreat back-
ward; there is no other choice, unless indeed it be to go downward
into the bottom of a ravine!

I ride on right through the morning, noting with relief that the
early mists have cleared off completely and that the sky betokens a
perfectly fine day. The long toilsome ascent up the peak comes to an
end and the horse ceases to pant. At this point on the journey the
view of both the surrounding and distant landscape is wonderfully

widespread and well-defined against the horizon. I see a vast stretch
ife