A HOLIDAY IN THE HAPPY VALLEY WITH PEN AND PENCIL
T. R. SWINBURNE
MAJOR (LATE) R.M.A.
WITH 24 COLOURED ILLUSTRATIONS
[ILLUSTRATION: THE JHELUM AT SRINAGAR]
“_Over the great windy waters, and over the clear crested summits, Unto the sea and the sky, and unto the perfecter earth, Come, let us go_!”
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK
I observe that it is customary to begin a book by an Introduction, Preface, or Foreword. In the good old days of the eighteenth century this generally took the form of a burst of grovelling adoration aimed at some most noble or otherwise highly important person. This fulsome fawning on the great was later changed into propitiation of the British public, and unknown authors revelled in excuses for publishing their earlier efforts.
But now that every one has written a book, or is about to do so, I feel that my apologies are rather due to the public for not having rushed into print before. I have really spared it because I had nothing in particular to write about, and I confess I am somewhat doubtful as to whether I am even now justified in invoking the kind offices of a publisher with a view to bringing forth this literary mouse in due form!
No admiring (if partial) relatives have hung upon my lips as I read them my journal, imploring me with tears in their eyes to waste not an instant, but give to a longing world this literary treasure. I have no illusions as regards my literary powers, and I do not imagine that I shall depose the gifted author of _Eoethen_ from his pride of place.
I claim, however, the merit of truth. The journal was written day by day, and the sketches were all done on the spot; and if this account–bald and inadequate as I know it to be–of a very happy time spent in rambling among some of the finest scenery of this lovely earth, may induce any one to betake himself to Kashmir, he will achieve something worth living for, and I shall not have spilt ink in vain.
II. THE VOYAGE OUT
III. KARACHI TO ABBOTABAD
IV. ABBOTABAD TO SRINAGAR
V. FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SRINAGAR
VI. OUR FIRST CAMP
VII. BACK TO SRINAGAR
VIII. THE LOLAB
IX. SRINAGAR AGAIN
X. THE LIDAR VALLEY
XIII. THE FLOOD
XIV. THE MACHIPURA
XV. DELHI AND AGRA
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
THE JHELUM AT SRINAGAR (Frontispiece)
A SOLUTION OF CONTINUITY
A SRINAGAR BYE-WAY–EARLY SPRING
ON THE JHELUM–EARLY SPRING
THE BUND SRINAGAR–EARLY SPRING
IN THE NISHAT BAGH
THE PIR PANJAL FROM ALSU–MORNING
ON THE DAL–SUNSET
THE RAMPARTS OF KASHMIR
A TARN ABOVE TRONKOL
ON THE CIRCULAR ROAD, GULMARG
NANGA PARBAT FROM KITARDAJI
MIXED BATHING (UDAIPUR)
MAP OF KASHMIR
A HOLIDAY IN THE HAPPY VALLEY
A journey to Kashmir now–in these days of cheap and rapid locomotion–is in nowise serious. It takes time, I grant you, but to any one with a few months to spare–and there are many in that happy position–there can be few pleasanter ways of spending a summer holiday.
It would be as well to start from England not later than the middle of March, as the Red Sea and the Sind Desert begin to warm up uncomfortably in spring. Srinagar would then be reached fairly early in April, and the visitor should arrange, if possible, to remain in the country until the middle of October. We had to leave just as the gorgeous autumn colouring was beginning to blaze in the woods, and the first duck were wheeling over the Wular Lake.
The climate of Kashmir is fairly similar to that of many parts of Southern Europe. There is a good deal of snow in the valley in winter. Spring is charming, the brilliant days only varied by frequent thunderstorms–which, however, are almost invariable in keeping their pyrotechnics till about five in the afternoon. July and August are hot and steamy in the valley, and it is necessary to seek one of the cool “Margs” which form ideal camping-grounds on all the lofty mountain slopes which surround the valley.
Gulmarg is the most frequented and amusing resort in summer of the English colony and contingent from the broiling plains of the Punjab. Here the happy fugitive from the sweltering heat of the lower regions will find a climate as glorious as the scenery. He can enjoy the best of polo and golf, and, if he be not a misogynist, he will vary the ‘daily round’ with picnics and scrambles on foot or on horseback, in exploring the endless beauty of the place, coming home to his hut or tent as the sun sinks behind the great pines that screen the Rampur Road, to wind up the happy day with a cheery dinner and game of bridge. But if Gulmarg does not appeal to him, let him go with his camping outfit to Sonamarg or Pahlgam–he will find neither polo nor golf nor the gay little society of Gulmarg, but he will find equally charming scenery and, perhaps, a drier climate–for it must in fairness be admitted that Gulmarg is a rainy place. Likewise his pocket will benefit, as his expenses will surely be less, and he will still find neighbours dotted about in white tents under the pine trees.
Towards the middle of September the exodus from the high ‘Margs’ takes place–many returning sadly to Pindi and Sealkote–others merely to Srinagar, while those who yearn after Bara Singh and Bear, decamp quietly for their selected nullahs, to be in readiness for the opening of the autumn season.
Thus, from April to October, a more or less perfect climate may be obtained by watching the mercury in the thermometer, and rising or descending the mountain slopes in direct ratio with it.
It is quite unnecessary to take out a large and expensive wardrobe. Thin garments for the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, such as one wears in a fine English summer, and for Kashmir the same sort of things that one would take up to Scotland. For men–knickerbockers and flannel shirts–and for ladies, short tweed skirts and some flannel blouses. The native tailors in Srinagar are clever and cheap, and will copy an English shooting suit in fairly good material for about eleven rupees, or 14s. 8d.! One pair of strong shooting boots (plentifully studded with aluminium nails) is enough. For all mountain work, the invaluable but uncomfortable grass shoes must be worn, and both my wife and I invariably wore the native chaplies for ordinary marching. Foot-gear for golf, tennis, and general service at Srinagar and Gulmarg must be laid in, according to the traveller’s fancy, in England.
Underwear to suit both hot and cold weather should be purchased at home–not on any account omitting cholera belts.
Shirts and collars should be taken freely, as it is well to remember that the native washerman–the well-abused “Dobie”–has a marvellous skill in producing a saw-like rim to the starched collar and cuff of the newest shirt; while the elegant and delicate lace and embroidery, with which the fair are wont to embellish their underwear, take strange and unforeseen patterns at the hands of the skilled workmen. It is surprising what an effect can be obtained by tying up the neck and sleeves of a garment, inserting a few smooth pebbles from the brook, and then banging the moist bundle on the bank!
The arrangement of clothing for the voyage is rather complicated, as it will probably be necessary to wear warm things while crossing Europe, and possibly even until Egypt is reached. Then an assortment of summer flannels, sufficient to last as far as India, must be available. We were unable to get any washing done from the date we left London, on the 22nd of February, until we reached Rawal Pindi, on the 21st March. Capacious canvas kit-bags are excellent things for cramming with grist for the dobie’s mill.
In arranging for luggage, it should be borne in mind that large trunks and dress boxes are inadmissible. From Pindi to Srinagar everything must be transported by wheeled conveyance, and, in Kashmir itself, all luggage must be selected with a view to its adaptability to the backs of coolies or ponies. In Srinagar one can buy native trunks–or yakdans–which are cheap, strong, and portable; and the covered creels or “kiltas” serve admirably for the stowage of kitchen utensils, food, and oddments.
The following list may prove useful to any one who has not already been “east of Suez,” and who may therefore not be too proud to profit by another’s experience:–
1. “Compactum” camp-bed with case, and fitted with sockets to take mosquito netting.
2. Campaigning bedding-bag in Willesden canvas, with bedding complete.
3. Waterproof sheet.
4. Indiarubber bath.
If shooting in the higher mountains is anticipated, a Wolseley sleeping-bag should be taken.
5. Small stable-lantern.
6. Rug or plaid–light and warm.
7. Half-a-dozen towels.
8. Deck chair (with name painted on it).
We had also a couple of Roorkhee chairs, and found them most useful.
9. A couple of compressed cane cabin trunks.
9_a_. The “Ranelagh Pack” is a most useful form of “luggage.”
10. Camp kit-bag.
11. Soiled-linen bag, with square mouth, large size. This is an excellent “general service” bag, and invaluable for holding boots, &c.
12. Large “brief-bag,” most useful for stowing guide-books, flasks, binoculars, biscuits, and such like, that one wants when travelling, and never knows where to put. Our “yellow bag” carried even tea things, and was greatly beloved. Like the leather bottel in its later stage, “it served to put hinges and odd things in”!
13. Luncheon basket, fitted according to the number of the party.
The above articles can all be bought at the Army and Navy Stores.
14. A light canvas box, fitted as a dressing-case.
Ours were made, according to our own wishes and possessions, by Williams, of 41 Bond Street. The innumerable glass bottles, so highly prized by the makers of dressing-cases, should be strictly limited in number. They are exceedingly heavy, and, as the dressing-case should be carried by its owner, the less it weighs the more he (or she) will esteem it.
15. A set of aluminium cooking-utensils is much to be recommended. They can easily be sold on leaving Kashmir for, at least, their cost price.
16. Pocket flask. This may be of aluminium also, although personally I dislike a metal flask.
17. Umbrella–strong, but cheap, as it is sure to be lost or stolen. There are few things your native loves more than a nice umbrella, unless it be
18. A knife fitted with corkscrew and screwdriver; therefore take two, and try to keep one carefully locked up.
19. Pair of good field-glasses.
I took a stalking telescope, but it was useless to my shikari, who always borrowed my wife’s binoculars until she lost them–or he stole them!
20. Hats. It is obviously a matter of taste what hats a man should take. The glossy silk may repose with the frock-coat till its owner returns to find it hopelessly out of date, its brim being a thought too curly, or its top impossibly wide; but the “bowler” or Homburg hat will serve his turn according to his fancy, until, at Aden, he invests in a hideous, but shady “topee,” for one-third of the price he would pay in London; and this will be his only wear, before sunset, until he again reaches a temperate climate. Ladies, who are rightly more particular as to the appearance of even so unlovely a thing as a sola topee, would do well, perhaps, to buy theirs before starting. Really becoming pith helmets seem very scarce in the East!
After sunset, or under awnings, any sort of cap may be worn.
21. Shirts and collars are obviously matters of taste. A good supply of white shirts and collars must be taken to cope with the destruction and loss which may be expected at the hands of the dobie. Flannel shirts can be made easily enough from English models in Srinagar.
22. Under-garments should be of Indian gauze for hot weather, with a supply of thicker articles for camping in the hills.
Cholera belts should on no account be omitted.
23. Socks, according to taste–very few knickerbocker stockings need be taken, as putties are cheap and usual in Srinagar.
24. Ties–the white ones of the cheap sort that can be thrown away after use, with a light heart. Handkerchiefs, and a few pairs of white gloves.
25. Sleeping-suits, both thick for camp work and light for hot weather, should be taken.
26. Dress suit and dinner-jacket.
27. Knickerbocker or knee-breeches, which can be copied in Kashmir by the native tailor.
Riding-breeches are not in the least necessary unless the traveller contemplates any special riding expedition. Ordinary shooting continuations do quite well for all the mounted work the tourist is likely to do. A pair of stohwasser gaiters may be taken, but even they are not necessary, neither is a saddle.
A lady, however, should take out a short riding-skirt, or habit, and a side-saddle.
28. A tweed suit of medium warmth for travelling, and a couple of flannel suits, will bring the wearer to Srinagar, where he can increase his stock at a ridiculously low price–about 22 rupees or L1, 9s. 4d. per suit.
29. Boots. Here, again, the wayfarer is at full liberty to please himself. A pair of strong shooting-boots, with plenty of spare laces and, say, a hundred aluminium nails, is a _sine qua non_. A pair of rubbers, or what are known as “gouties” in Swiss winter circles, are not to be despised. Otherwise, boots, shoes, slippers, and pumps, according to taste.
30. A large “regulation” waterproof, a rain-coat or Burberry, and a warm greatcoat will all be required.
It is hard to give definite advice to a lady as to the details of her outfit. Let her conform in a general way to the instructions given above, always remembering that both Srinagar and Gulmarg are gay and festive places, where she will dine and dance, and have ample opportunity for displaying a well-chosen wardrobe.
Let her also take heed that she leaves the family diamonds at home. The gentle Kashmiri is an inveterate and skilful thief, and the less jewellery she can make up her mind to “do with,” the more at ease will her mind be. But if she must needs copy the lady of whom we read, that
“Rich and rare were the gems she wore,”
then why not line the jewel-case–or rather the secret bag, which she will sew into some mysterious garment–with the diamonds of Gophir and the pearls of Rome?
If the intending visitor to Kashmir be a sportsman who has already had experience in big-game shooting, he will not need any advice from me (which, indeed, he would utterly disdain) as to the lethal weapons which should form his battery; but if the wayfarer be a humble performer who has never slain anything more formidable than a wary old stag, or more nerve-shattering than a meteoric cock pheasant rising clamorously from behind a turnip, he may not be too proud to learn that he will find an ordinary “fowling piece” the most useful weapon which he can take with him. If his gun is not choked, he should be provided with a dozen or more ball cartridge for bear.
If the pursuit of markhor and ibex is contemplated, a small-bore rifle will be required, but a heavy express is wanted to stop a bear. I had a “Mannlicher” and an ordinary shot-gun, with a few ball cartridges for the latter.
Duty has to be paid on taking firearms into India, and this may be refunded on leaving the country. This is not always done, however, as I found to my cost, my application for a refund being refused on the quibble that my guns were taken back to England by a friend, although I was able to prove their identity.
It is not necessary to take a large number of rifle cartridges out, as it is exceedingly unlikely that the tyro will be able to shoot all the beasts allowed him by his game licence. Smooth-bore cartridges of fair quality can be bought in Srinagar, and I certainly do not consider it worth the trouble and expense to convey them out from England.
To the amateur artist I would say: Be well supplied with brushes and paper–the latter sealed in tin for passage through the Red Sea and India. Colours, and indeed all materials can he got from Treacher & Co., Bombay, and also from the branch of the Army and Navy Stores there.
Paper is, however, difficult to get in good condition, being frequently spoilt by mildew.
It is almost impossible to get anything satisfactory in the way of painting materials in Kashmir itself; therefore I say: Be well supplied before leaving home.
Finally, a small stock of medicines should certainly be taken, not omitting a copious supply of quinine (best in powder form for this purpose), and also of strong peppermint or something of the sort, to give to the native servants and others who are always falling sick of a fever or complaining of an internal pain, which is generally quite cured by a dose of peppermint.
Neither Jane nor I love guide-books; we found however, in Kashmir, the little book written by Dr. Neve an invaluable companion; while Murray’s _Guide to India_ afforded much useful information when wandering in that country.
The best book on Kashmir that I know is Sir Walter Lawrence’s _Valley of Kashmir_.
Any one going out as we did, absolutely ignorant of the language, should certainly take an elementary phrase-book or something of the sort to study on the voyage. We forgot to do this, and had infinite trouble afterwards in getting what we wanted, and lost much time in acquiring the rudimentary knowledge of Hindustani which enabled us to worry along with our native servants, &c. No mere “globe-trotter” need attempt to learn any Kashmiri, as Hindustani is “understanded of the people” as a rule, and the tradesmen in Srinagar know quite as much English as is good for them.
 See Appendix 1.
 _The Tourist’s Guide to Kashmir, Ladakh, Skardo, &c._, edited by Arthur Neve, F.R.G.S.
THE VOYAGE OUT
It seems extraordinary to me that every day throughout the winter, crowds of people should throng the railway stations whence they can hurry south in search of warmth and sunshine, and yet London remains apparently as full as ever! We plunged into a seething mass of outward-bound humanity at Victoria Station on the 22nd of February, and, having wrestled our way into the Continental express, were whirled across the sad and sodden country to Dover amidst hundreds of our shivering fellow-countrymen.
Truly we are beyond measure conservative in our railway discomforts. With a bitter easterly wind searching out the chinks of door and window, we sat shivering in our unwarmed compartment–unwarmed, I say, in spite of the clumsy tin of quickly-cooled hot water procured by favour–and a gratuity–from a porter!
The Channel showed even more disagreeable than usual. A grey, cold sky, with swift-flying clouds from the east hung over a grey, cold sea, the waves showing their wicked white teeth under the lash of the strong wind. The patient lightship off the pier was swinging drearily as we throbbed past into the gust-swept open and set our bows for the unseen coast of France.
The tumult of passengers was speedily reduced to a limp and inert swarm of cold, wet, and sea-sick humanity.
The cold and miserable weather clung to us long. In Paris it snowed heavily, and I was constrained to betake myself in a cab–“chauffe,” it is needless to remark–to seek out a kindly dentist, the bitter east wind having sought out and found a weak spot wherein to implant an abscess.
At Bale it was freezing, but clear and bright, and a good breakfast and a breath of clean, fresh air was truly enjoyable after the overheated sleeping-car in which we had come from Paris.
It may seem unreasonable to grumble at the overheating of the “Sleeper” after abusing the under-heating of our British railways. Surely, though, there is a golden mean? I wish neither to be frozen nor boiled, and there can be no doubt but that the heating of most Continental trains is excellent, the power of application being left to the traveller.
The journey by the St. Gotthard was delightful, the day brilliant, and the frost keen, while we watched the fleeting panorama of icebound peaks and snow-powdered pines from the cushions of our comfortable carriage.
The glory of winter left us as we left the Swiss mountains and dropped down into the fertile flats of Northern Italy, and at Milan all was raw chilliness and mud.
Nothing can well be more depressing than wet and cheerless weather in a land obviously intended for sunshine.
We slept at Milan, and the next day set forth in heavy rain towards Venice. The miserable ranks of distorted and pollarded trees stood sadly in pools of yellow-stained water, or stuck out of heaps of half-melted and uncleanly snow.
No colour; no life anywhere, excepting an occasional peasant plodding along a muddy road, sheltering himself under the characteristic flat and bony umbrella of the country.
At Peschiera we had promise of better things. The weather cleared somewhat, revealing ranges of white-clad hills around Garda…. But, alas! at Verona it rained as hard as ever, and we made our way from the railway station at Venice, cowering in the coffin-like cabin of a damp and extremely draughty gondola, while cold flurries of an Alpine-born wind swept across the Grand Canal.
Sunshine is absolutely necessary to bring out the real beauty of Italy. This is particularly the case in Venice, where light and life are required to dispel the feeling of sadness so sure to creep over one amid the signs of long-past grandeur and decaying magnificence.
On a grey and wintry day one is chiefly impressed by the dank chilliness of the palaces on the Grand Canal, whose feet lie lapped in slimy water; the lovely tracery of whose windows shows ragged and broken, whose stately guest-chambers are in the sordid occupation of the dealer in false antiques, and whose motto might be “Ichabod,” for their glory has departed.
It is five-and-twenty years since I was last in Venice, and I can truly say that it has not improved in that long time. The loss of the great Campanile of St. Mark is not compensated for by the gain of the penny steamer which frets and fusses its prosaic way along the Grand Canal, or blurts its noisome smoke in the very face of the Palace of the Doges.
Well! A steady downpour is dispiriting at any time, excepting when one is snugly at home with plenty to do, and it is particularly so to the unlucky traveller who has to live through half-a-dozen long hours intervening between arrival at and departure from Venice on a cold, dull, wintry afternoon.
The sombre gondola writhed its sinuous course and deposited us all forlorn in the near neighbourhood of the Piazza San Marco. Splashing our way across, and pushing through the crowd of greedy fat pigeons, we entered the world-famous church. I know my Ruskin, and I feel that I should be lost in wonder and admiration–I am not.
The gloom–rich golden gloom if you will–of the interior oppresses me; it is cavernous. A service is being held in one of the transepts, and the congregation seems noisier and less devout than I could have believed possible. My thoughts fly far to where, on its solitary hill, the noble pile of Chartres soars majestic, its heaven-piercing spires dominating the wide plain of La Beauce. In fancy I enter by the splendid north door and find myself in the pillared dimness softly lighted by the great window in the west. This seems to me to be the greatest achievement of the Christian architect, noble alike in conception and in execution.
There is no means of procuring a cold more certain than lingering too long in a cold and vault-like church or picture gallery, so we adjourned to the Palazzo Daniele, now a mere hotel, where we browsed on the literature–chiefly cosmopolitan newspapers–until it was time to start for Trieste.
The journey is not an attractive one, as we seemed to be perpetually worried by Custom-house authorities and inquisitive ticket-collectors! If possible, the wary traveller should so time his sojourn at Venice as to allow him to go to Trieste by steamer. The Hotel de la Ville at Trieste is not quite excellent, but ’twill serve, and we were remarkably glad to reach it, somewhere about midnight, having left Milan soon after seven in the morning!
Trieste itself is rather an engaging town; at least so it seemed to us when we awakened to a fresh, bright morning, a blue-and-white sky overhead, and a copious allowance of yellow mud under foot!
There were various final purchases to be made. Our deck chairs were with the heavy luggage, which the passenger by Austrian Lloyd only gets at Port Said, as it is sent from London by sea; so a deck chair had to be got, also a stock of light literature wherewith to beguile the long sea hours.
A visit to our ship–the _Marie Valerie_–showed her to be a comfortable-looking vessel of some 4500 tons. She was busily engaged in taking in a large cargo, principally for Japan, and she showed no signs of an early departure. Her nominal hour for starting was 4 P.M., but the captain told us that he should not sail until next morning. So we descended to examine our cabin, and found it to be large and airy, but totally deficient in the matter of drawers or lockers.
Well! we shall have to keep everything in cabin trunks, and “live in our boxes” for the next three weeks.
There was cabin accommodation for twenty passengers, but at dinner we mustered but nine. This is, of course, the season when all right-minded folks are coming home from India, and we never expected to find a crowd; still, nine individuals scattered abroad over the wide decks make but a poor show.
The first meal on board a big steamer is always interesting. Every one is quietly “taking stock” of his, or her, neighbours, and forming estimates of their social value, which are generally entirely upset by after experience.
Of our fellow-passengers there were only five whose presence affected us in any way. A young Austrian, Herr Otto Frantz, with his wife, going out as first secretary of legation to Tokio; Major Twining, R.E., and his wife; and Miss Lungley, a cosmopolitan lady, who makes Kashmir her headquarters and Rome her _annexe_.
We became acquainted with each other sooner than might have been expected, by reason of an exploit of the stewardess–a gibbering idiot. The night was cold, so several of the ladies, following an evil custom, sent forth from their cabins those vile inventions called hot bottles. Only two came back…, and then the fun began. The stewardess, who speaks no known tongue, played “hunt the slipper” for the missing bottles through all the cabins, whence she was shot out by the enraged inhabitants until she was reduced to absolute imbecility, and the harassed stewards to gesticular despair.
The missing articles were, I believe, finally discovered and routed out of an unoccupied bed, where they had been laid and forgotten by the addle-pated lady, and peace reigned.
We sailed from Trieste early on the morning of the 28th of February, and steamed leisurely on our way. The Austrian Lloyd’s “unaccelerated” steamers are not too active in their movements, being wont to travel at purely “economical speed,” and so we were given an excellent view of some of the Ionian Islands, steaming through the Ithaca channel, with the snow-tipped peak of Cephalonia close on our starboard hand.
Then, leaving the far white hills of the Albanian coast to fade into the blue mists, we sped
“Over the sea past Crete,”
until the tall lighthouse of Port Said rose on the horizon, followed by the spars of much shipping, and the roofs of the houses dotted apparently over the waters of the Mediterranean. At length the low mudbanks which represent the two continents of Africa and Asia spread their dull monotony on either hand, and the good ship sat quietly down for a happy day’s coaling.
Port Said has grown out of all knowledge since I first made its acquaintance in 1877. It was then a cluster of evil-looking shanties, the abode of the scum of the Levant, who waxed fat by the profits of the gambling hells and the sale of pornographic photographs. It has now donned the outwardly respectable look of middle age; it has laid itself out in streets; the gambling dens have disappeared, and the robbers have betaken themselves to the sale of the worst class of Japanese and Indian “curios,” ostrich feathers from East Africa, and tobacco in all its forms.
Port Said has undoubtedly improved, but still it is not a nice place, and we were unfeignedly glad to repair on board the _Marie Valerie_ as soon as we noted the cessation of the black coaly cloud, through the murkiness of which a chattering stream of gnome-like figures passed their burthens of “Cardiff” into the bowels of the ship.
Port Said was cold, and Suez was cold, and we started down the Red Sea followed by a strong north wind, which kept us clad in greatcoats for a day or two, and, as we got down into wider waters, obliged us to keep our ports closed.
An object-lesson on the subject of closed ports was given in our cabin, where the fair chatelaine was reclining in her berth reading, fanned by the genial air which floated in at the open port,–a truculent Red Sea billow, meeting a slight roll of the ship, entered the cabin in an unbroken fall on the lady’s head. A damp tigress flew out through the door, wildly demanding the steward, a set of dry bedding, and the instant execution of the captain, the officer of the watch, and the man at the wheel!
How dull we should be without these little incidents!
A hoopoe took deck, or rather rigging, passage for a while, and evoked the greatest interest. Stalking glasses and binoculars were levelled at the unconcerned fowl, who sat by the “cathead” with perfect composure, and preened himself after his long flight.
The striking of “four bells” just under his beak unnerved him somewhat, and he departed in a great fuss and pother.
Our roomy decks afford many quiet corners in which to read or doze, and now that the weather is rapidly warming up we spend many hours in these peaceful pastimes, varied by an occasional constitutional–none of your fisherman’s walks, “three steps and overboard”–but a good, clear tramp, unimpeded by the innumerable deck-chairs, protruding feet, and ubiquitous children which cover all free space on board a P. & O.
Then comes dinner, followed by a rubber of bridge, and so to bed.
On Saturday the 11th we passed the group of islands commonly known as the Twelve Apostles.
First, a tiny rock, rising lonely from the blue–brilliantly blue–waves; then a yellow crag of sandstone, looking like a haystack; and then a whole group of wild and fantastic islands, evidently of volcanic origin, and varying in rough peaks and abrupt cliffs of the strangest colours–brick-red, purple-black, grey, and yellow–utterly bare and desolate:
“Nor tree, nor shrub, nor plant, nor flower, Nor aught of vegetative power,
The weary eye may ken,”
save only the white lighthouse, which, perched on its arid hill, serves to emphasise the desolation of earth and sky.
The Red Sea is remarkably well supplied with lighthouses; and, considering the narrowness of the channel in parts, the strong and variable currents, and the innumerable islands and shoals, the supply does no more than equal the demand.
I cannot imagine a more grievous death in life than the existence of a lighthouse-keeper in the Red Sea!
_Sunday, 12th_.–We passed through the Gate of Tears this morning–the dismal, flat, and unprofitable island of Perim being scanned by me from the bathroom port, while exchanging an atmosphere of sticky salt air for an unrefreshing dip in sticky salt water.
The hoopoe is again with us; in fact I do not think he really left the ship, but simply sought a secluded perch, secure from prying observation. He reappeared upon the port stay, and proceeded to preen himself and observe the ship’s course. He is evidently bound for Aden, casting glances of quiet unconcern on Perim and the coast of Araby the blest.
Towards sunset we passed the fantastic peaks of little Aden, and, drawing up to Steamer Point, cast anchor under the “Barren Rocks of Aden.”
_Monday, 13th_.–We had a shocking time last night. All ports closed for coaling left us gasping, whilst a fiendish din arose from the bowels of the ship, whence cargo was being extracted. The stifling air, reeking with damp, developed in the early morning a steady rain, which dripped mournfully on the grimy decks. Rain in Aden! We are told on the best authority that this is most unusual.
Aden, to the passing stranger, shows few attractions. We went on shore when the rain showed signs of ceasing, and after buying a few odds and ends, such as a pith hat and some cigarettes, we betook ourselves to the principal hotel, where an excessively bad breakfast was served to us, after which we were not sorry to shake the mud of Aden off our feet, so we chartered a shore boat amid a fearful clamour for extra pay and backshish, and set forth to rejoin our ship, now swept and garnished, and showing little trace of the coal she had swallowed.
_Monday, 20th_.–We reached Karachi yesterday morning after a quiet, calm, and utterly uneventful passage across the Indian Ocean.
It was never hot–merely calm, grey, and even showery, our only excitements being an occasional school of porpoises or the sight of a passing tramp steamer.
Some time before leaving England I had written to my old friend General Woon, commanding the troops at Abbotabad, asking him to provide me with a servant capable of dry-nursing a pair of Babes in the Wood throughout their sojourn in a strange land. The General promised to supply us with such an one, who, he said, would rob us to a certain extent himself, but would take good care that nobody else did so!
Immediately, then, upon our arrival in Karachi roads, a dark and swarthy person, with a black beard and gleaming white teeth, appeared on board, and reported himself as Sabz Ali, our servant and our master!
His knowledge of English “as she is spoke” was scanty and of strange quality, but his masterful methods of dealing with the boatmen and Custom-house subordinates inspired us with awe and a blind confidence that he could–and would–pull us through.
There was no difficulty at the Custom-house until it transpired that I wanted to take three firearms into the country. This appeared to be a most unusual and reprehensible desire, and my statement that one weapon was a rifle which I was taking charge of for a friend did not improve the situation. It being Sunday, the principal authorities were sunning themselves in their back parlours, and the thing in charge (called a Baboo, I understand) became exceedingly fussy, and desired that the guns should be unpacked and exhibited lest they should be of service pattern. This was simple, as far as my battery was concerned, and I promptly laid bare the beauties of my Mannlicher and ancient 12-bore; but, alas! Mrs. Smithson’s rifle was soldered like a sardine into a strong tin case, and no cold-chisel or screwdriver was forthcoming.
Messengers were sent forth to seek the needful instruments, while I proceeded to cut another Gordian knot…. An acquaintance of mine, hearing that I was coming to India, suggested that I should take charge of a parcel for a friend of hers, who wanted to send it to her fiance in Bombay. As all the heavy baggage was sent from London to join us at Port Said, I had not seen the “parcel,” and, finding no case or box addressed to any one but myself, I had to select one that seemed most likely to be right, and forward that.
At last the needful appliances were got and the rifle unpacked; but, although it proved to be (as I had said) a large-bore Express, the Baboo refused, like a very Pharaoh, to let it go, and I, after a two-hour vexatious delay, paid the duty on my own guns, and, leaving a note for the chief Customs official, explaining the case and begging him to send the rifle on forthwith, packed myself–hot, hungry, and angry–into a “gharri,” and set forth to the Devon Place Hotel, whither the rest of the party had preceded me.
I have gone into this little episode somewhat at length in order to impress upon the voyager to India the necessity for limiting the number of firearms or getting a friend to father the extra ones through the Customs–a perfectly simple matter had one foreseen the difficulty. Also the danger of taking parcels for friends–of which more anon!
The Devon Place Hotel may be the best in Karachi, but it is pretty bad…. I am told that all Indian hotels are bad–still, the breakfast was a considerable improvement on the _Marie Valerie_, and we sallied forth as giants refreshed to have a look at Karachi and do a little shopping. It being Sunday, the banks were closed, but a kindly shopman cashed me a cheque for twenty pounds in the most confiding manner, and enabled us to get the few odds and ends we wanted before going up country–among them a couple of “resais” or quilted cotton wraps and a sola topee for Jane.
Karachi did not strike us as being a particularly interesting town, but that may be to a great extent because we did not see the best part of it. On landing at Kiamari we had only driven along a hot and glaring mole, bordered by swamps and slimy-looking flats for some two miles. Then, on reaching the city proper, a dusty road, bordered by somewhat suburban-looking houses, brought us to the Devon Place Hotel, near the Frere station. After breakfast we merely drove into the bazaars to shop before betaking ourselves to the station, in good time for the 6.30 train.
Passengers–at least first-class passengers–were not numerous, and Major Twining and I had no difficulty in securing two compartments–one for our wives and one for ourselves.
An Indian first-class carriage is roomy, but bare, being arranged with a view to heat rather than cold Two long seats run “fore and aft” on either side, and upon them your servant makes your bed at night. Two upper berths can be let down in case of a crowd. At the end of each compartment is a small toilet-room.
It was unexpectedly chilly at night, and Twining and I were glad to roll ourselves up in as many rugs and “resais” as we could persuade the ladies to leave to us.
 A big deal case which we unpacked at Srinagar proved to contain a “life-sized” work-table. The package holding our camp beds and bedding, having a humbler aspect, had been sent to Bombay and cost as a world of worry and expense to recover!
KARACHI TO ABBOTABAD
This morning we awoke to find ourselves rattling and shaking our way through the Sind Desert–an interminable waste of sand, barren and thirsty-looking, covered with a patchy scrub of yellowish and grey-purple bushes.
I can well imagine how hatefully hot it can be here, but to-day it has been merely pleasantly warm.
Jane and I were deeply interested in the novel scenes we passed through, which, while new and strange to us, were yet made familiar by what we had read and heard. The quiet-eyed cattle, with their queer humps, were just what we expected to see in the dusty landscape. The chattering crowds in the wayside stations, their bright-coloured garments flaunting in the white sunlight–the fruit-sellers, the water-carriers, were all as though they had stepped out of the pages of _Kim_–that most excellent of Indian stories.
And so all day we rattled and shook through the Sind Desert in the hot sunlight till the dust lay thick upon us, and our eyes grew tired of watching the flying landscape.
In the afternoon we reached Samasata junction, where the Twinings parted company with us, being bound for Faridkot.
Sorry were we to lose such charming companions, especially as now indeed we become as Babes in the Wood, knowing nothing of the land, its customs, or its language!
Henceforward, Sabz Ali shall be our sheet-anchor, and I think he will not fail us. His English is truly remarkable, so much so that I regret to say I have more than once supposed him to be talking Hindustani when he was discoursing in my own mother-tongue. But he certainly is extraordinarily sharp in taking up what I and the “Mem-sahib” say.
He presented to me to-day a remarkable letter, of which the following is an exact copy. I presume it is a sort of statement as to his general duties:–
“_To the_ MAGER SAHIB.
“Sir,–I beg to say that General ‘Oon Sahib send me to you. He order me that the arrangement of Mager Sahib do.
“To give pice to porter kuli this is my work. This is usefull to you.
“You give him many pice.
“Your work is order and to do it my work. You give me Rupee at once. Then I will write it on my book, from which you will see it is right or wrong. Now I am going to Cashmir with you and Cashmiree are thief.
“If you will give me one man other it will usefull to you. I ask one cloth. All Sahib give cloth to Servant on going to Cashmir.
“If will give cloth then all men say that this Sahib is good. I am fear from General ‘Oon Sahib. It is order to give cloth.
“I can do all work of cook and bearer. I wish that you will happy on me, also your lady, and say to General ‘Oon Sahib that this man is good and honest man.
“I have servant to many Sahib.
“I have more certificate.
“You are rich man and king. I am poor man. I will take two annas allowance per day in Cashmir, you will do who you wish.
“I wish that you and lady will happy on me. This is begging you will.–I remain, Sir, your most obedient Servant,
“SABAZ ALI, _Bearer_.”
_Wednesday, March_ 22.–We slept again in the train on Monday night, and arrived in Lahore about 6 o’clock yesterday morning.
We had been advised to tub and dress in the waiting-rooms at the station, as we had a break of some six hours before going on to Pindi; but, upon investigation, Jane found her waiting-room already fully occupied by an uninviting company of Chi-chis (Eurasians), and several men–their husbands and brothers presumably–were sleeping the sleep of the just in mine, so we left all our luggage stacked on the platform under the eye of Sabz Ali, and hurried off to Nedou’s Hotel. Ye gods! What a cold drive it was, and how bitterly we regretted that we had not brought our wraps from their bundle.
I was fearfully afraid that Jane would get a chill–an evil always to be specially guarded against in a tropical climate, but a very hot tub and a good breakfast averted all calamity, and we set forth in a funny little trap to inspect Lahore.
This is the first large and thoroughly Indian city that we have seen–Karachi being merely a thriving modern seaport and garrison town–and we set to work to see what we could in the limited time at our disposal. We whisked along a road–bumpy withal in parts, and somewhat dusty, but broad. On either hand rose substantial stone mansions, half hidden by trees and flowering shrubs. Many of these fine-looking buildings were shops. I was impressed by their importance, for they were quite what would be described by an auctioneer or agent as “most desirable family mansions, approached by a carriage drive … standing within their own beautifully wooded and secluded grounds in an excellent residential neighbourhood,” &c. &c.
Anon we whirled round a corner, and plunged into the seething life of the native city. The road was crammed with an apparently impenetrable crowd of men and beasts, the latter–water-buffaloes, humpy cattle, and donkeys–strolling about and getting in everybody’s way with perfect nonchalance, while men in strange raiment of gaudy hue pursued their lawful occupations with much clamour. The variety of smells–all bad–was quite remarkable.
We could only go at a walk, as the streets were very narrow and the inhabitants thereof–particularly the cows–seemed very deaf and difficult to arouse to a sense of the need for making room, though our good driver yelled himself hoarse and employed language which I feel sure was highly flavoured. Our progress was a succession of marvellous escapes for human toes and bovine shoulders, but our “helmsman steered us through,” and we emerged from the kaleidoscopic labyrinth into the open space before the Fort of Lahore, whose pinkish brick walls and ponderous bastions rose above us.
The last thing I would desire would be to usurp in any way the functions of grave Mr. Murray or well-informed Herr Baedeker, but there are certain points to which I will draw attention, and which it seems to me very necessary to keep in mind.
To the ordinary traveller in the Punjab and Northern India no buildings are more attractive, no ruins more interesting, than those of the Mogul dynasty, and the rule of the Mogul princes marks the high-water limit of Indian magnificence. It was but for a short time, too, that the highest level of grandeur was maintained.
For generations the Moguls had poured in intermittent hordes into Northern India, but it was only in 1556 that Akbar, by defeating the Pathans at Panipat, laid India at his feet. Following up his success he overthrew the Rajputs, and extended his dominion from Afghanistan to Benares. Having conquered the country as a great warrior, he proceeded to rule it as a noble statesman, being “one of the few sovereigns entitled to the appellation both of Great and Good, and the only one of Mohammedan race whose mind appears to have arisen so far above all the illiberal prejudices of that fanatical religion in which he was educated, as to be capable of forming a plan worthy of a monarch who loved his people and was solicitous to render them happy.” This “plan” was to study the religion, laws, and institutions of his Hindu subjects in order that he might govern as far as possible in conformity with Hindu usage. The Emperor Akbar was the first of the Mogul monarchs who was a great architect. The city of Fattepur Sikri being raised by him as a stately dwelling-place until want of water and the unhealthiness of the locality caused him to move into Agra, leaving the whole city of Fattepur Sikri to the owls and jackals, and later to the admiration of the Sahib logue.
A palace in Lahore, the fort at Allahabad, and much lovely work in the city of Agra testify to the creative genius of that contemporary of our own Good Queen Bess, the first “Great” Mogul. Jehangir, his son and successor, has left few buildings of note, but his grandson, Shah Jehan, was undoubtedly the most splendid builder of the Mogul Mohammedan period. To him Delhi owes its stately palace and vast mosque–the Jama Masjid–and Agra would be famous for its wonderful palace of dark red stone and fretted marble, even without that masterpiece of Mohammedan inspiration, the world-famed Taj Mahal. The brief period of supreme magnificence came to an end with the last of the “Great” Moguls–Aurungzeb, died in 1707–having only blazed in fullest glory for some century and a half, but leaving behind it some of the noblest works of man.
It seemed somehow very curious, as we drove up through the stately entrance of the Hathi Paon, or Elephant Gate of the fort, to be saluted with a “present arms” by British Tommies clad in unobtrusive khaki, and to reflect that we are the inheritors of the fallen grandeur of the Mogul Emperors; that we in our turn, on many a hard-fought field, asserted our power to conquer; and that since then we have (I trust) so far followed the sound principles of Akbar as to keep by justice and wise rule the broad lands with their teeming millions in a state of peace and security unknown before in India.
Opposite the entrance rise the walls of the Palace of Akbar, curiously decorated with brilliant blue mosaics of animals and arabesques.
We visited the armoury–a remarkably fine collection of weapons–not the least interesting being those taken from the Sikhs and French in the earlier part of the last century. Opposite the armoury, and across a small beautifully-paved court, were the private apartments of Shah Jehan. They reminded me very much of the Alhambra, only, instead of the honeycomb vaulted ceilings, and arches decorated in stucco by the Moors, the Eastern architect inlaid his ceilings with an extraordinary incrustation of glass, usually silvered on the back, but also frequently coloured, and giving a strange effect of mother-o’-pearl inlay, bordering on tawdriness when examined in detail.
It is possible that this coloured glass actually had its intended effect of inlaid jewels, and that the gem-encrusted walls, so enthusiastically described by Tavernier and others, as almost matching the peacock throne itself, may have been but imitation.
Many of the pilasters were, however, very beautiful–of white marble inlaid with flower patterns of coloured stones–while the arched window openings were filled in with creamy tracery of fair white marble.
Leaving the fort after an all too short visit, we crossed to the great mosque built by Aurungzeb. Ascending–from a garden bright with flowers and blossoming trees–a flight of broad steps, we found ourselves at the end of a rectangular enclosure, at each corner of which stood a red column not altogether unlike a factory chimney. In the centre was a circular basin, very wide, and full of clear water, while in front, three white marble domes rose like great pearls gleaming against the cloudless blue. The mosque itself is built of red–dark red–sandstone, decorated with floral designs in white marble.
We climbed one of the minarets, and had a view of the city at our feet, and the green and fertile plains stretching dim into the shimmering haze beyond the Ravee River.
Then back to the hotel through the teeming alleys and down to the station–the road, that we had found so bitterly cold in the early morning, now a blaze of sunlight, where the dust stirred up by the shuffling feet of the wayfarers quivered in the heat, and the shadows of men and beasts lay short and black beneath them.
We were not sorry to seek coolness in the bare railway carriage, and let the fresh wind fan us as we sat by the open window and watched the flat, monotonous landscape sliding past.
The journey from Lahore to Rawal Pindi is not a very long one–only about 170 miles, or less than the distance from London to York; but an Indian train being more leisurely in its movement than the Great Northern Express, gave us ample time to contemplate the frequent little villages–all very much alike–all provided with a noisy population, among which dogs and children were extremely prevalent; the level plains, broken here and there by clumps of unfamiliar trees, and inhabited by scattered herds of water buffaloes, cattle, and under-sized sheep, all busily engaged in picking up a precarious livelihood, chiefly roast straw, as far as one could see!
We had grown so accustomed to the monotony of the plains, that when we suddenly became aware of a faint blue line of mountains paling to snow, where they melted into the sky, the Himalayas came upon us almost with a shock of surprise.
As we drew nearer, the rampart of mountains that guards India on the north, took form and substance, until at Jhelum we fairly left the plain and began to ascend the lower foothills.
Between Jhelum and Rawal Pindi the line runs through a country that can best be described by that much abused word “weird.” Originally a succession of clayey plateaux, the erosion of water has worn and honeycombed a tortuous maze of abrupt clefts and ravines, leaving in many cases mere shafts and pinnacles, whose fantastic tops stand level with the surrounding country. The sun set while we were still winding through a labyrinth of peaks and pits, and the effect of the contrasting red gold lights and purple shadows in this strange confused landscape was a thing to be remembered.
We rolled and bumped into Pindi at 8 P.M., having travelled nearly 1000 miles during our two days and nights in the train.
Our friends the Smithsons were on the platform waiting to receive us and welcome us as strangers and pilgrims in an unknown land. They have only remained here to meet us, and they proceed to Kashmir to-morrow, sleeping in a carriage in the quiet backwater of a siding, to save themselves the worry of a desperately early start to-morrow morning.
The direct route into Kashmir by Murree is impassable, the snow being still deep owing to a very late spring following a severe winter. This will oblige us to go round by Abbotabad, so I wired to my friend General Woon to warn him that we propose to invade his peaceful home.
_Sunday, March 26._–We stayed a couple of days at Pindi, in order to make arrangements for transporting ourselves and our luggage into Kashmir. The journey can be made _via_ Murree in about a couple of days by mail tonga, but it is a joyless and horribly wearing mode of travel. The tonga, a two-wheeled cart covered by an arched canvas hood and drawn by two half-broken horses, holds a couple of passengers comfortably, who sit behind and stare at the flying white ribbon of road for long, long hours, while the driver urges his wild career. The horses are changed every ten miles or so, and horrible and blood-curdling tales are extant of the villainy and wrong-headedness of some of these tonga ponies, how they jib for sheer pleasure, and leap over the low parapet that guards them from the precipice merely to vex the helpless traveller. When we suggested that to sit facing the past might be conducive to a sort of sea-sickness and certainly to headache, and that a total absence of view was to be deprecated, it was impressed upon us that if the horses darted over the “khud,” we could slip out suddenly and easily, leaving the driver and the ponies to be dashed to pieces by themselves! This appeared sound, but, upon inquiry I could not hear that any accident had ever happened to any traveller going into Kashmir by tonga.
Besides the tonga, there are other modes of going into Kashmir. For instance, the sluggish bullock-cart–safe, deliberate, and affording ample leisure for admiring the scenery; the light native cart, or ekka, consisting of a somewhat small body screened by a wide white hood, and capable of holding far more luggage than would at first sight seem possible, and drawn by a scraggy-looking but much enduring little horse tied up by a wild and complicated system of harness (chiefly consisting of bits of old rope) between a pair of odd V-shaped shafts.
Finally, there is the landau–a civilised and luxurious method of conveyance which greatly appealed to us. We decided upon chartering a landau for ourselves and servant, and two ekkas to carry the heavy baggage.
Mr. de Mars, the landlord of the hotel, was most obliging in helping us to arrange for our journey, promising to provide us with carriage and ekkas for a sum which did not seem to me to be at all exorbitant.
I soon found, however, that the worthy Sabz Ali did not at all approve of the arrangement. It was extremely hard to find out by means of his scant English what he proposed to do; but I decided that here was an excellent opportunity of finding out what he was good for, so we determined to give him his head, and let him make his own arrangements.
A smile broke over his swarthy face for a moment, and he disappeared, coming back shortly afterwards just as the already ordered ekkas made their appearance.
These he promptly dismissed–much to the vexation of Mr. de Mars; but I explained to him that I intended to see if my man was really to be depended upon as an organiser, and that I should allow him to work upon his own lines.
We had arranged to sleep in a carriage drawn into a siding at the station, to avoid a very early start next morning. So after dinner we strolled down towards our bedroom to find our henchman on the platform, full of zeal and energy. I found out (with difficulty) that he proposed to go on to Hassan Abdal with the luggage that night by goods train; that we should find him there next morning, and that all would be right. So he departed, and we rolled ourselves up in our “resais,” and wondered how it would all turn out.
On Friday morning we rattled out of Rawal Pindi about seven, and slowly wound through a rather stony and uninteresting country, until we arrived at the end of our railway journey about ten o’clock, and scrambled out at the little roadside station.
Our excellent factotum, Sabz Ali, awaited us with a capacious landau, and informed us that the heavy baggage had gone on in the ekkas. So we set forth at once on our 42-mile drive to Abbotabad without “reposing for a time in the rich valley of Hussun Abdaul, which had always been a favourite resting-place of the Emperors in their annual migrations to Cashmere” (_Lalla Rookh_).
The landau, though roomy and comfortable, was, like Una’s lion, a “most unhasty beast,” and we rolled quite slowly and deliberately over a distinctly uninteresting plain for about twenty miles, until we came to Haripur, a pretty village enclosed in a perfect mass of fruit trees in full bloom.
Here we changed horses, and lunched at the dak bungalow–a first and favourable experience of that useful institution. The dak bungalow generally consists of a simple wooden building containing a dining-room and several bedrooms opening on to a verandah, which usually runs round three sides of the house. The furniture is strong and simple, consisting of tables, bedsteads, and some long chairs. A khansamah or cook provides food and liquor at a fixed and reasonable rate.
Travellers are only permitted to remain for twenty-four hours if the rooms are wanted, each person paying one rupee (1s. 4d.) for a night, or half that amount for a mere day halt.
The khansamah would appear to be the only functionary in residence until the hour of departure draws near, when a whole party of underlings–chowkidars, bheesties, and sweepers–appear from nowhere in particular; and the lordly traveller, having presented them with about twopence apiece, rolls off along the dusty white road, leaving the khansamah and his myrmidons salaaming on the verandah.
We made the mistake of over-tipping at first in India, not realising that a couple of annas out here go as far as a shilling at home; but it is a mistake which should be rectified as soon as possible, for you get no credit for lavishness, but are merely regarded as a first-class idiot. No sane man would ever expend two annas where one would do!
On leaving Haripur the road began to ascend a little, and at the village of Sultanpur we entered a valley, through which a shrunken stream ran, and which we crossed more than once.
Then a long ascent of about eleven miles brought us near our destination.
It had been threatening rain all the afternoon, and now the weather made its threat good, and the rain fell in earnest. It grew dark, too; and, finally, not having had any reply to my telegram to General Woon, we did not know whether we were expected or not.
Sabz Ali, however, had no doubts on the matter. We were approaching his own particular country, and whether “Gen’l ‘Oon Sahib” was there to entertain us or not, _he_ was; and so it was “alright.”
Our poor horses were done to a turn, a heavy landau with five people in it, as well as a fair amount of luggage, being no trifle to drag up so long and steep a hill. So we had to walk up the last rise to the General’s house in the dark and rain, mildly cheered, however, by finding the two ekkas just arrived with the baggage.
A most hearty greeting from my old friend and his charming wife awaited us, and after a hasty toilet and an excellent dinner we felt at peace with all the world.
Both yesterday (Saturday) and to-day it has been cold and disagreeable. The past winter, I am told, has been a very severe one, and the melancholy brown skeletons of all the eucalyptus trees in the place show the dismal results of the frost.
This forenoon the day darkened, and a very severe thunderstorm broke. So dark was it at lunch that candles had to be lighted in haste, and even now (4 P.M.) I can barely see to write.
_Thursday, March_ 30.–Monday was showery, and Tuesday decidedly wet; but, in spite of the hospitable blandishments of our kind hosts, we were most anxious to get on, as, having arranged with the Smithsons to go into the Astor district to shoot, it was most important to reach Srinagar before the first of April–the day upon which the shooting passes were to be issued to sportsmen in rotation of application. Knowing that only ten passes were to be given for Astor, and that several men were ahead of me, I felt that we were running it somewhat fine to leave only three days for the journey.
General Woon, who knew Kashmir well, did his very best to dissuade us from attempting the passes into Astor, reading to us gloomy extracts from his journal, and pointing out that it was no fit country for a lady in early spring.
He did much to shake our enthusiasm, but still I felt we must do our best to “keep tryst” with the Smithsons. So, on Tuesday, we sent on the heavy luggage in two ekkas which Sabz Ali had procured, the two others being only hired from Hassan Abdal to Abbotabad.
Sabz Ali had pointed out that, although he himself was a wonderful man, and could do almost, if not quite, everything, a second servant would be greatly to our (and his) advantage. So, acting on my permission, he engaged one Ayata–a gentle person of a sheep-like disposition, who did everything he was told, and nothing that he was told not to, during our sojourn in Kashmir.
 Robertson’s _India_, Appendix.
ABBOTABAD TO SRINAGAR
Dismal tidings came in of floods and storms on the Hassan Abdal road. The river had swollen, and both men and beasts had been swept away while trying to cross. Undeterred, however, by such news, even when backed by warnings and persuasions from our friends, we set forth in the rain yesterday morning. The prospect was not cheerful–a grey veil of cloud lay over all the surrounding hills, here and there deepening into dark and angry thunder-clouds. The road was desperately heavy, but the General had most kindly sent on a pair of mules ahead, and, with another pair in the shafts, our own nags took a holiday as far as Manserah.
The weather grew worse. It rained very heavily and thundered with great vigour, and as we straggled up the deeply-muddied slope to the dak bungalow at Manserah we felt somewhat low; but we did not in the least realise what was before us!
Our road had lain through fairly level plains, with low cuttings here and there, where the saturated soil was already beginning to give way and fall upon the road in untidy heaps; but this did not foreshadow what might occur later.
At Manserah we met Hill and Hunt, two young gunners, _en route_ for Astor. They left in a tonga soon after we arrived, and we did not expect to see their speedier outfit again.
Being pressed for time, we only had a cup of cocoa, and then hastened on our dismal career.
The road grew steeper, winding over some low hills, but we could not see very much, as the whirling cloud masses blotted out all the view. By-and-by it bent towards a pine-clad hill, and began to ascend steeply. By this time we were very wet, as we had to walk up the hills to ease the horses. The scene was extraordinary, as the great thunder-clouds boiled up and over us–tawny yellow, and even orange in the lights, and dull and solid lead colour in the depths. The distance was invisible, but gleams now and again revealed, through the drifts of rain, wide stretches of cultivated land lying below us, and a ragged forest of pines piercing the mist above.
Dripping, we walked by our wet horses up to the top of the pass, hoping for a swift and easy descent on the farther side to Ghari Habibullah, where we intended to sleep, as we had given up all idea of being able to get on to Domel.
Presently the horses were pulled up sharply as a ton or two of rock and earth came crashing upon the road in front of us.
More fallen masses encumbering the way farther on made us feel rather anxious, until, on rounding a corner, we found the whole road barred by a huge mass of rock and soil.
It was blowing hard, the stormy wind striking chill and bleak through the bending pines; it was raining in torrents; it was 5 P.M., and we were still some six miles from the haven where we would be; so, after a short and utterly ineffectual attempt to get the carriage past the obstacle, Jane and I set off to walk down the hill and seek help.
It was exciting, as we had to dodge the rock-falls and run past the shaky-looking places! At a turn of the road we came upon the gunners’ tonga, embedded in a mud-slide. The occupants had had an escape from total wreck, as one of the ponies had swerved over the khud, but the other saved the situation by lying down in the mud! Hunt had gone off into the landscape to try for a village and help, while Hill remained to wrestle with the tonga, which, however, remained obstinately immovable. We could do nothing to mend matters, so we fled on, meeting Hunt, with a few natives and a shovel, on his way back to the scene of action.
After an hour and a half of very anxious work, we emerged at dusk from the wood, hoping our troubles were over. We could dimly see, and hear, through the mist a stream below us; but, alas! no bridge was visible. I commandeered a man from the first hut we came to, and tried by signs to make him understand that he was to carry the lady across the river; but, luckily, just as we reached the bank of what was a very nasty-looking stream in full spate, the liberated tonga overtook us, and Jane was bundled into it, while we three men waded. The stream was strong and up to our knees, and level with the tonga floor, and the horses getting frightened began to jib. Hill seized one by the head, and Jane was safely drawn to shore and sent on her way under guidance of the driver, while we tramped on in the dark until a second torrent barred our way. Here, in the gloom, we made out the tonga empty, and stuck fast against the far bank. It was all right though, for Jane had crawled out at the front and wandered on in search of the dak bungalow, leaving the driver squatting helplessly beside the water.
It was so dark that she missed the bungalow, which stands a little above the road, and struggled on till she came to a small cluster of native huts. One of the inhabitants, on being boldly accosted, was good enough to point out the way, and so the re-united party–tired, wet, and with no prospect of dry clothing–took possession of the cheerless-looking dak bungalow. Things now began to improve. To our joy we found our ekkas with their contents drawn up in the yard. And while a fire was being encouraged into a blaze, and the lean fowl was being captured and slain on the back premises, we obtained dry garments–of sorts–from the baggage.
Madame’s dinner costume consisted of a blue flannel garment–nocturnal by design–delicately covered by a quilted dressing-gown, and the rest of us were _en suite_, a great lack of detail as to collars and foot-wear being apparent! Nevertheless, the fire blazed royally, and we ate up all the old hen and called for more, and prepared to make a night of it until, about ten o’clock, our bearer Sabz Ali appeared, with a train of coolies carrying our bedding and the other contents of the derelict carriage.
This morning the two young gunners departed on foot, leaving their tonga, as the road to Domel is reported to be quite impassable. They intend to walk by a short cut over the hills, and get on as best they may, the race for Astor being a keen one.
We decided to remain here, the weather being still gloomy and unsettled, and the road being impossible for a lady.
At noon the landau was brought in, minus a step and very dirty, but otherwise “unwounded from the dreadful close.”
Ghari Habibullah is not at all a cheerful spot, as it appears, the centre of a grey haze, with dense mist low down on the surrounding mountains. Sabz Ali, too, complains of fever, which is not surprising after the wetting and exposure of yesterday; and when a native gets “fever” he curls up and is fit for nothing, and won’t try.
The dak bungalow stands on a little plateau overlooking the road and a swift river, whose tawny waves were loaded with mud washed from the hills by recent storms. On a slope opposite, the queer, flat-roofed native village perched, and above it swirled a misty pall which hid all but the bases of the hills. To this village we strolled, but it was not interesting; the inhabitants did not seem wildly friendly, and the mud and dirt and dogs were discouraging. So we roamed along the Domel road till we came to a high cliff of conglomerate, which had recently been shedding boulders over the track to an alarming extent; so, deciding that it would be merely silly to risk getting our heads cracked, we turned back, and, re-crossing the river, clambered up a steep path above the right bank. Here we soon found great rents and rifts where falling rocks had come bounding down the steeps from above, so once more we turned tail, and, giving up the idea of any more country walks in that region, betook ourselves to the gloomy and chilly bungalow. The only really delightful things we saw during our doleful excursion were a lovely clump of big, rose-coloured primula, drooping from the clefts of a steep rock, and a pair of large and handsome kingfishers, pursuing their graceful avocations by a roadside pool–their white breasts, ruddy flanks, and gleaming blue backs giving a welcome note of colour to the sedate and misty grey of the landscape.
_Tuesday, April_ 4.–Thirty-six hours of Ghari Habibullah give ample time for the loneliest recluse to pant for the bustle of a livelier world. We were so bored on Thursday that we determined to push on, _coute que coute_, on Friday morning, although a note sent back by one of the gunners from Domel, by a coolie, informed us that the road about a mile short of that place was completely blocked by a fallen mass of some hundreds of tons.
Our henchman having somewhat recovered of his fever, thanks to a generous exhibition of quinine, we gave the order to pack and start, hoping to achieve the twelve miles which separated us from Domel, even though the last bit had to be done on foot. About two miles from Ghari Habibullah we came to the Kashmir custom-house, presided over by a polite gentleman, whose brilliant purple beard was a joy to look upon.
Most of the elderly natives dye their beards with, I think, henna, producing a fine orange effect, but purple…!
_Bottom_. What beard were I best to play it in?
_Quince_. Why, what you will.
_Bottom_. I will discharge it in either your straw-coloured beard, your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or your French-crown-colour beard, your perfect yellow
_Midsummer Night’s Dream_,
Act I. Sc. 2.
“What _coloured beard_ comes next by the window?”
“A black man’s, I think.”
“I think a _red_: for that is most in fashion.”
Truly, until I beheld that tax-gatherer of the Orient, I had no idea that the “purple-in-grain” beard existed outside a poet’s fancy!
The road took us along the left bank of the river, whose soil-stained waters churned their way through a wild and rocky gorge. On our left the mountain rose bare and steep, fringed with a few straggling bushes, and here and there a clinging patch of rose-coloured primula. Part of the conglomerate cliff had come down and obliterated the road, but a party of coolies was busily at work, and, after about an hour’s delay, we triumphantly bumped our way past.
The road now led steadily upward, leaving an ever-increasing slope (or khud) between it and the river, until it attained a height of over a thousand feet, when, turning to the left, it swung over the watershed, and began to descend into the valley of the Kishenganga. Through the haze we could make out Domel, our goal, lying far below, and then the old Sikh fort of Musafferabad.
The road was so encumbered with rock-falls that we walked the greater part of it, until we came to the new bridge over the Kishenganga, whose dark red waters rush into the Jhelum about a mile below.
Here was Musafferabad, the whole place a confused jumble of wheeled traffic caught up by the big landslip in front. Passing, amid the chatter and clamour of men and beasts, through the medley of bullock-carts and ekkas that crowded every available space, we hauled the carriage through the bed of a watercourse whose bridge was broken. Up over the prostrate trunk of a fallen tree we regained the road, to find ourselves in front of the big landslip of which we had been warned. It consisted of some thousands of tons of dark red mud and loose boulders, and it blocked the road for fully a couple of hundred yards.
A large and energetic swarm of coolies was busily engaged in “tidying up.” This was apparently to be achieved by means of shovels, each little shovel worked by two men–one to shovel, and the other to assist in raising it when full by means of a little rope round the head. This labour had to be lubricated by much conversation.
It seemed upon the whole unlikely that a path could be made for a considerable time, so we lunched peacefully in the carriage, a pair of extremely friendly crows assisting at the feast, and then, leaving our landau to follow as best it might, we walked into Domel, crossing the Jhelum by a fine bridge.
The dak bungalow, prettily placed in a clump of trees, seemed the abode of luxury to us after the discomfort of Ghari Habibullah, and we fondly hoped that, being now upon the main road which runs from Rawal Pindi to Srinagar, our troubles were over.
Saturday was the 1st of April, the day upon which I should have applied for my pass for Astor. Wiring to Srinagar to explain that I was in Kashmir territory (which I subsequently found was enough to entitle me to a pass), and also to Smithson to say that we were making the best of our way to join him, we “took the road” after breakfast.
The carriage and the two ekkas had come in early, having been unloaded and then carried bodily over the “slide.”
A broad and smooth road, whose gentle gradient of ascent was merely sufficient to keep us level with the river bank, opened up an alluring prospect of ease and comfort. We lay back on our comfortable cushions and watched the clouds as they swept over the mountains, hiding all but occasional glimpses of snow-streaked slopes and steep and barren ridges.
The valley of the Jhelum between Domel and Ghari is not beautiful–merely wide and desolate, with steep hills rising from the river, their lower slopes sparsely clad with leafless scrub, their shoulders merging into the dull mist which hangs around their invisible summits.
Alas! it soon became apparent that our troubles were not over. The cliffs above us became steeper, and the familiar boulder reappeared upon the road. Small landslips gave us a good deal of trouble, although we had no serious difficulty before reaching Ghari. Here we were told that a complete “solution of continuity” in the road at Mile 46 would prevent our reaching Chakhoti, so we reluctantly decided to remain where we were for the night. Although a cold and dull spring afternoon is not exciting at Ghari, where distractions are decidedly scanty, we found interest in the discovery of the Smithsons’ heavy luggage, which had been sent on from Rawal Pindi ages ago. Here it lay in the peaceful backwater of a native caravansary, piled high on a bullock-cart, whose placid team lay near pensively chewing the “cud of sweet and bitter fancy,” and apparently quite innocent of any intention of moving for a week or two!
We extracted the charioteers from a neighbouring hut, and gave them to understand, by means of Sabz Ali, that hanging was the least annoyance they would suffer if they didn’t get under way “ek dam” at once. They promptly promised that their oxen–like Pegasus–should fly on the wings of the wind, and, having seen us safely round a corner, departed peacefully to eat another lotus.
The luggage arrived in Srinagar towards the end of the month.
Sunday morning saw us again battling with a perfect coruscation of landslips; so “jumpy” was it in many places that we sat with the carriage doors ajar, in hopes that a timely dart out might enable us to evade a falling rock. At Mile 46 we were held up for an hour until a ramp was made over a bad slide, and the carriage and ekkas were unloaded and got across. The landau looked for all the world like a great dead beetle surrounded by ants, as, man-handled by a swarm of coolies, it was hauled, step by step, over the improvised track. A landau is not at all a suitable or convenient carriage for this sort of work, and had we guessed what was before us we should most certainly have employed the handier tonga.
The road to-day, cut as it was out of the steep flank of the mountain, was magnificent, but, in its present condition, nerve-shattering. Fallen boulders and innumerable mud-slides constantly forced us to get out and walk, while the sturdy little horses tugged the carriage through places where the near wheels were frequently within a few inches of the broken edge of the road, while far below Jhelum roared hungrily as he foamed by the foot of a sheer precipice.
Reaching Chakhoti about four o’clock, we decided to remain there for the night, as it was growing late and the weather looked gloomy and threatening. Although we had only achieved a short stage of twenty-one miles, there was no suitable place for a night’s halt until Uri, distant some thirteen miles and all uphill.
About half a mile above Chakhoti there is a rope bridge over the Jhelum, and after tea we set forth to inspect it.
The river is here about 150 yards wide and extremely swift, and I confess the means of crossing it, although practised with perfect confidence by the natives, did not appeal to me.
From two great uprights, formed from solid tree-trunks, three strong ropes were stretched–the upper two parallel, and the third, about four feet lower, was equidistant from each.
These three ropes were kept in their relative positions by wooden stretchers–something like great merrythoughts, lashed at intervals of a few yards–
“And up and down the people go,”
stepping delicately upon the lower rope, and holding on to the upper ones with their hands. The uncomfortable part seemed to the unpractised European to be where the graceful sweep of the long ropes brought the traveller to within a painfully close distance of the hurrying, hungry water, before he began to slither circumspectly up the farther slope!
We stood for some little time watching the natives going to and fro, passing one another with perfect ease by means of a dexterous squirm, and carrying loads on their backs, or live fowls under their arms, with the utmost unconcern.
We left Chakhoti early this morning–Tuesday–with the intention of getting right through to Baramula. The road was of course extremely bad, and the long ascent to Uri very hard upon our willing little nags. Of course they have had a remarkably easy time of it lately, as we have been limited to very short stages, and they are in excellent hard condition, so that we felt it no great hardship to ask them to do forty-two miles: albeit to drag a heavy landau containing five people and a good deal of luggage for that distance, with a rise of over 2000 feet, is a heavy demand upon a single pair of horses!
The scenery was very fine as we toiled up the gorge, in which Uri stands on a plateau over the river and guards the pass into Kashmir valley.
The ruins of an ancient fort rose on the near edge of the little plain. The Jhelum tore through a rocky gorge far below, and a dark semi-circle of mountains stood steeply up, their cloud-hidden summits giving fleeting glimpses of snow and precipice and pine-clad corries as the sun now and again shot through the clinging vapours.
The dak bungalow of Uri, white and clean, was most attractive, and I should imagine the place to be charming in summer, but as yet the short crisp turf is still brown from recent snow, and although hot in the sun, which now began to shine steadily, it was extremely cold in the shade, while lunch (or should I say “tiffin”?) was being got ready. I strolled over to the post-office to find–as usual–another urgent wire from Smithson several days old, beseeching me to secure my pass for Astor at once. Directly after lunch we set forward, and as the road on leaving Uri takes a long bend of some miles to the right to a point where the Haji Pir River is crossed, and then sweeps back along its right hank to a spot almost opposite the dak bungalow, we thought that a short cut down to the water, which from our height seemed quite insignificant, and thence up to the road on the other side, would be a desirable stroll. As we walked down the steep path into the nullah a brace of red-legged partridges (chikor) rose in a great fuss, and sailed gaily across the river, whose roaring gained ominously in volume as we drew near. It soon became plain to us that everything is on a very big scale in this country, and that the clearness of the atmosphere helps to delude the unwary stranger. The little stream that seemed to require but an occasional stepping-stone to enable us to pass over dry-shod, proved in the first place to be much farther off than we had supposed, and when, after a hot scramble, we found ourselves on the bank, the stepping-stones were no more, but only here and there we saw the shoulders of huge rocks which doggedly threw aside the flying foam of a fair-sized river. It was obviously impossible to cross except by deep wading, but, being unwilling to own defeat, I yelled to a brown native on the far bank, and made signs that he should come and do beast of burthen. He, however, stolidly shook his head, pointed to the water, and then to his chest, and finally we sadly and wrathfully toiled back to the road we had so lightly left, and expended all our energies on attracting the notice of the carriage, which, having crossed the bridge, was crawling along the opposite face of the nullah, and when, after a hot three miles, we once more embedded ourselves amongst the cushions with a sigh of relief, we swore off short cuts for the future.
We had been warned at Uri that there was a “bad place” at Mile 73, and sure enough, on rounding a bend, we came upon the familiar mass of semi-liquid red earth and a pile of boulders heaped across the road, the khud side of which had entirely given way. The usual crowd of coolies was busily engaged in trying to clear the obstruction by means of toothpicks and teaspoons.
We quitted the carriage with a celerity engendered of much practice, and, having crossed the obstacle on foot, sat down to await the coming of our conveyance.
It seemed perfectly marvellous that the heavy vehicle could be safely got over a jagged avalanche of earth and rock piled some eight or ten feet above the roadway, and having an almost sheer drop to the river entirely unguarded for some hundred yards, where the retaining parapet and even some of the road itself had gone.
Amid much apparent confusion and tremendous chattering, a sort of rough ramp was engineered up the slip, and presently the horseless landau appeared borne in triumph by a mob of coolies superintended by our priceless Sabz Ali.
For a minute we held our breath as one of the near wheels lipped the edge of the chasm, but the thing was judged to an inch, and in due time the sturdy chestnuts, the two ekkas, and all the luggage were assembled on the right side of what proved to be the last of the really bad slips.
The road engineer, who arrived in great state on a motor cycle while we were executing the portage, told us that there were no more difficulties, but an officer who was going out, and whose tonga was checked also at the big slip, informed us that about a mile farther were two great boulders on the road, lying so that although a short vehicle such as a tonga or motor cycle could wriggle round, yet a long four-wheeled landau could not possibly execute the serpentine curve required.
We therefore requisitioned a few coolies with crowbars, and set forward to attack the boulders. Sure enough there were two beauties, placed so that we could not possibly get by, until a large slice was chipped from the inner side of each.
This done, our most excellent and skilful driver piloted his ponies through the narrow strait, and we felt that, at last, our troubles were over, and that we could breathe freely and admire at leisure the snowy peaks of the Kaj-nag beyond the Jhelum, and the rough wooded heights that frowned upon our right.
I confess the relief was great, as we had endured six days of incessant strain on our nerves, never knowing when a turn of the road might bring us to an impassable break, or when the conglomerate cliffs beetling above might shed a boulder or two upon us!
Passing the somewhat uninviting little village of Rampur, we crossed a torrent pouring out of a dark pine-clad gorge, and halted for tea by the curious ruined temple of Bhanyar. The building consists of a rectangular wall, cloistered on two sides of the interior and surrounding a small temple approached by a dilapidated flight of stone steps. I regret to be obliged to own that I know but a mere smattering of architecture. I do not feel competent therefore to discuss this, the first Kashmiri temple I have seen, upon its architectural merits. I only know that it struck me as being extremely small, and principally interesting from its magnificent background of shaggy forest and snow-capped mountain.
Tea on a short smooth sward, starred with yellow colchicum, while the carriage, travel-stained and with one step lacking, stood on the road hard by, and the horses nibbled invigorating lumps of “gram” and molasses. Then the etna was returned to the “allo bagh” (yellow bag) and the tea things to the tiffin basket, and away we went along the now smooth and level road with only fifteen easy miles between us and Baramula.
The vegetation had gradually grown much richer. The sparse and storm-buffeted pines and the rough scrub merged into a tangled mass of undergrowth and forest, where silver firs and deodars rose conspicuous. The little streams that rushed down the hillsides were fringed with maidenhair fern, lighted up here and there with a bunch of pink primula or a tiny cluster of dog violets.
Jhelum had ceased from roaring, pursuing his placid path unwitting of the rush and fury that would befall him lower down, and by-and-by we emerged from the dark and forest-covered gorge into a wide basin where the river, now smooth and oily, reflected tall poplars and the red shoots of young dogwood.
Through a village, round a sweep to the left, over a tract said to be much frequented by serpents, and then in the deepening and chilly dusk we made out Baramula, lying engirdled by a belt of poplars about a mile away.
Glad were we, and probably gladder still our weary horses, to draw up before the uninviting-looking dak bungalow, knowing that only thirty-five miles of level and open road lay now between us and Srinagar.
The dak bungalow of Baramula is, upon the whole, the worst we have yet sampled. No fire seemed able to impart any cheerfulness to the gloomy den we were shown into, and the dinner finally produced by the khansamah-kitmaghar-chowkidar (for a single tawny-bearded ruffian represented all these functionaries when the morning tip fell due) was not of an exhilarating nature. Strolling out to have a look at the town of Baramula, I shivered to see a heap of snow piled up against the wall. It snowed here, heavily, three days ago, I am told.
We have not been, so far, altogether lucky in the weather. Bitter cold in Europe, cold at Port Said and Suez, chilly in the Red Sea, and wet at Aden! Distinctly chilly in India, excepting during the day; we seem to have hit off the most backward spring known here for many years. The Murree route, which was closed to us by snow, should have been clear a month earlier, and spring here seems not yet to have begun.
_April_ 5.–We crept shivering to our beds last night, to be awakened at 6 A.M. by an earthquake!
I had just realised what the untoward commotion meant when I heard Jane from under her “resai” ask, “What _is_ the matter–is it an earthquake?” Almost before I could reply, she was up and away, in a fearful hurry and very little else, towards the open country.
I followed, but finding hoar-frost on the ground and a nipping eagerness in the air, I went back for a “resai.” The feeling was that of going into one’s cabin in a breeze of wind, and the door was flapping about. Seizing the wrap in some haste, as I was afraid of the door jamming, I rejoined Jane in the open, to watch the poplars swaying like drunken men and the solid earth bulging unpleasantly. The shock lasted for three minutes, and when it seemed quite over we retired to our beds to try to get warm again.
The morning at breakfast-time was perfectly beautiful. Baramula lay serenely mirrored in the silver waters of the Jhelum, its picturesque brown wooden houses clustering on both banks, and joining hands by means of a long brown wooden bridge. No signs of any unusual disturbance could be seen among the chattering crews of the snaky little boats and deep-laden “doungas” that lined the banks or furrowed the waters of the shining river.
We left Baramula in high spirits to accomplish the five-and-thirty miles which still stretched between us and Srinagar. The scenery was quite different from anything we had yet known, for now we were in the broad flat valley of Kashmir, which stretches for some eighty miles from beyond Islamabad, on the N.E., to Baramula, planted at the neck where the Jhelum River, after spreading itself abroad through the fertile plain, concentrates to pour its many waters through the mountain barrier until it joins the Indus far away in Sind.
A broad and level road stretched straight and white between a double row of stark poplars, reminding one of the poplar-guarded ways of Picardy; also (as in France) not only were the miles marked, but also the thirty-two subdivisions thereof. On the right hand the ground sloped slowly up in a succession of wooded heights, the foothills of the Pir Panjal, whose snow-crowned peaks enclose the Kashmir valley on the south. Opposite, through a maze of leafless trees, one caught occasional gleams of water where the winding reaches of the river flowed gently from the turquoise haze where lay the Wular Lake, and beyond–clear and pale in the clear, crisp air–shone a glorious range of snow mountains, stretching away past where we knew Srinagar must lie, to be lost in the distant haze where sky and mountain merged in the north-east.
By the roadside we passed many small lakes, or “jheels,” full of duck, but as there was never any cover by the sides I could not see how the duck were to be approached.
We lunched at the fascinating little bungalow at Patan (pronounced “Puttun”), about half-way between Baramula and Srinagar. The Rest House stands back from an apparently extremely populous and thriving village, the inhabitants whereof were all engaged in conversation of a highly animated kind! In the compound stood a fine group of chenar trees (_Platanus orientalis_) whose noble trunks and graceful branches showed in striking contrast to the slender stems of the poplars. The guide-book informed us that an ancient temple lay in ruins near by, but we trusted to a later visit and determined to push on. By-and-by a fort-crowned hill rose above the tree-tops. This we took to be Hari Parbat, the ancient citadel of Srinagar, and presently, through the poplars and the willows queer wooden huts or chalets began to appear, and the increasing number of men and beasts upon the road showed the proximity of the city.
Ekkas, white-hooded, with jingling bells hung round the scraggy necks of their lean ponies; brown men clad in sort of night-shirts composed of mud-coloured rags; brown dogs, humpy cattle, and children innumerable, swarmed upon the causeway in ever-increasing density until we drew up at the custom-house, and the usual jabber took place among Sabz Ali, the driver, and the officials.
All appeared satisfactory, however, and we were presented with bits of brown paper scrawled over with hieroglyphics which we took to be passes, and drove on, leaving the native town apparently on our left and making a detour through level fields and between rows of poplars, until we swung round and crossed the river by a fine bridge. Here we first got some idea of the city of Srinagar, which lay spread around us, bisected by the broad, but apparently far from sluggish river, which seems here to be about the width of the Thames at Westminster at high water.
Tier upon tier, the rickety wooden houses crowded either bank, the prevailing brown being oddly lighted up by the roofs, which were frequently covered with deep green turf. Here and there the steep and peculiar dome of a Hindu temple flashed like polished silver in the keen sunlight, while around and beyond all rose the ring of the everlasting hills, their peaks clear, yet soft, against a background of cloudless blue.
Close below us stood a remarkably picturesque pile of buildings, of a mixed style of architecture, yet harmonising well enough as a whole with its surroundings. Over it flew a great “banner with a strange device,” and we assumed (and rightly) that we looked upon the palace of His Highness Sir Pratab Singh, Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir.
Crossing the river, we dived into a bit of the native town, and were much struck by the want of colour as compared with an Indian street. Everything seemed steeped in the same neutral brown–houses, boats, people, and dogs! Emerging from the native street, with its open shop-fronts and teeming life, we drove for some little way along a straight level road, flanked, as usual, on either side by poplars of great size which ran through a brown, flat field, showing traces of recent snow, and finally finished our two-hundred-mile drive in front of the one and only hotel in all Kashmir.
Our two little chestnuts, which had brought us right through from Chakhoti to Srinagar–a distance of about seventy-eight miles–in two days, were as lively and fit as possible, and playfully nibbled at each other’s noses as they were walked off to their well-earned rest.
The ekka horses, too, had brought our heavy luggage all the way from Abbotabad over a shocking road in the most admirable manner, and we had every reason to congratulate ourselves on having entrusted the arrangement of the whole business–the “bandobast” in native parlance–to our henchman Sabz Ali, who had thus proved himself an energetic and trustworthy organiser, and saving financier to the extent of some twenty rupees.
I may emphasise here the importance of keeping one’s heavy baggage in sight, herding on the ekkas in front, if possible, and keeping a wary eye and a firm hand on the drivers at all halts. The Smithsons, who had sent on their gear from Rawal Pindi some days before we got there, did not receive it in Srinagar until the 22nd of April. It took about five weeks to do the journey, and the rifle which I was obliged to leave in Karachi on the 19th of March finally turned up in Srinagar, after an infuriating and vain expenditure of telegrams, on the 1st of May!
Of course, part of the delay was due, and all was attributed, to the unusually bad state of the roads. The heavy storms and floods which, by wrecking the road, had delayed us so much, naturally checked the heavy transport still more; and severe congestion of bullock-carts resulted at all the halting-places along the route. Still, the main cause of delay lies in the fact that the monopoly of transport has been granted by the Maharajah to one Danjibhoy, who charges what he pleases, and takes such time over his arrangements as suits his Oriental mind.
The motto over the Transport Office door might well be “_Ohne Hast–mit Rast_!”
The other (much-cherished) monopoly in this favoured land is that enjoyed by Mr. Nedou, the owner of THE HOTEL in Kashmir.
We were advised when at Lahore to approach Mr. Nedou (who winters in his branch there) with many salaams and much “kow-towing,” in order to make a certainty of being received into his select circle in Kashmir. The great man was quite kind, and promised that he would do his best for us; and he was as good as his word, as we were immediately welcomed and permitted to add two to the four persons already inhabiting the hostelry. I confess that, even after a dak bungalow of the most inferior quality–such as that at Ghari Habibullah or Baramula–Mr. Nedou’s hotel fails to impress one with an undue sense of luxury. In fact, it presented an even desolate and forlorn appearance with its gloomy and chilly passages and cheerless bed-vaults.
 _N. Smyrnensis_ (?).
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SRINAGAR
We learnt that the earthquake of this morning was far more than the ordinary affair that we had taken it to be. The hotel showed signs of a struggle for existence. Large cracks in the plaster, spanned by strips of paper gummed across to show if they widened, and little heaps of crumbled mortar on the floors, betrayed that the grip of mother earth had been no feeble one.
Telegrams from Lahore inquired if the rumour was true that Srinagar had been much damaged, and reported an awful destruction and loss of life at Dharmsala. I think if we had fully known what an earthquake really meant, we should not have so calmly gone back to bed again!
The advent of Mrs. Smithson upon the scene relieved a certain anxiety which we had felt as to immediate plans. The idea of rushing into Astor had been given up, we found–not so much on account of our tardy arrival, permits being still obtainable, but on account of the impossibility–at any rate for ladies–of forcing the high passes which the late season has kept safely sealed.
Walter, having pawed the ground in feverish impatience for some days, had gone off into a region said to be full of bara singh; so we decided to possess our souls in patience for a little time, and remain quietly in Srinagar. Accordingly, instead of unpacking our “detonating musquetoons,” we exhumed our evening clothes, and began life in Srinagar with a cheerful dinner at the Residency.
_Friday, April 7th_.–We are evidently somewhat premature here as far as climate goes. The weather since our arrival has become cold and grey, and we have seemed on the verge of another snowfall. However, the clerk of the weather has refrained from such an insult, contenting himself with sending a breeze down upon us fresh from the “Roof of the World,” and laden with the chilly moisture of the snows. We have consumed great quantities of wood, vainly endeavouring to warm up the den which Mr. Nedou has let to us as a sitting-room. Fires are not the fashion in the public rooms–probably because the only “public” besides ourselves consist of one or two enterprising sportsmen, who doubtless are acclimatising themselves to camp life amid the snows, and have implored the proprietor to save his fuel and keep the outer doors open.