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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"


perspiring panting mount and hands me in exchange a sturdy-
looking chocolate brown horse, which looks neat, fresh and powerful.

I dawdle, saddle-weary, on the simply constructed bridge for a
few moments and watch the white-foaming, flowing current pass
beneath me. Bhotia traders, half-Indian, half-Tibetan, come down
across this point from the higher passes with goods from Tibet,
generally salt and borax, and take back grain and cloth. Many bells
are tied to their pack-animals, which are often sheep and goats, each
being loaded with little double panniers. Fifty yards higher up there
flashes a steep waterfall, where the stream roars and sprays like a
cascade as it enters into combat with massive rocks and then dashes
victoriously through their ranks. The noise of its fall to a lower level
sounds like the hurrahs of an invading army seizing a fallen capital.

Before it plunges over the rapids the Bhagirathi flows through a
narrow canyon-like gorge whose steep grass-grown granite walls
confront me like a pair of enormous fortresses* They are grim and
relentless despite their green colouring, and no human feet could
ever scale their impressive perpendicular faces.

What masses of drifting snows and melting glaciers have mingled
to make these frosty waters that run beneath my feet? What titanic
cargoes of avalanches, ice and minerals have disappeared, to be
carried into their depths? For the swift torrent of the Ganges has
yet to flow onwards across the entire breadth of this Indian sub-
continent into the seven m6uths of the Hoogly, a distance of more
than a thousand miles, and to broaden until its banks are very
wide apart. Who can feed the gargantuan thirst of the plains if not
inexhaustible Himalaya?

It will be long, if ever, before I forget the dancing streams of this

I turn my heel on the swirl and roar of the river and mount the
waiting horse. I direct its head towards the forbidding height which
awaits us and move on once more in quest of another transient home.

The path here is a little broader, with a fissured precipitous
rocky wall on the left and the river below on the right for the first
part of its length. Its surface too is superior. Then it becomes steeper,
forcing the horse to move with slow and laborious steps despite its
strength. Whenever we reach a bend the animal stops unbidden and
puffs for a minute before proceeding. However, the gradient
becomes steeper still until, at one point where the path-makers seem
to have relented, it becomes a zigzag streak upon the mountain
face, thus rendering the ascent less trying at the cost of doubling the
distance to be travelled.

Multitudes of pebbles and rock fragments line the way. Most of
them are tinted a beautiful violet colour. Thick forest vegetation