Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/108

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Having recovered from the fatigues and bruises attendant on our journey to the source of the Jumna, to the great dismay of a portion of our followers, we determined to proceed to Gungootree, whence the sacred Ganges takes its rise. The nearest route from Kursalee to Gungootree may be traversed in four days, but the natives always endeavour to dissuade travellers from taking it at any season of the year, recommending in preference a lower, more circuitous, and therefore longer way. The more direct road leads over a great arm of the Bundurpooch mountain, which separates the valleys, or rather channels, through which the sacred rivers hurry from their icy birth-place. The greater part of this tract is desert, and uninhabited, conducting the wayfarer through regions of rock and snow, destitute of the dwellings of man, or of supplies for his use; there is danger also that fuel may be wanting for that necessary solace to the weary, a blazing fire, while the necessity of dispensing with every thing like superfluous baggage must oblige the party to rest at night in caves and clefts of the rock.

Amid the most formidable evils reported of this route is the bis-ka-kowa, or poisonous wind, said to blow over the highest ridge, and to exhale from noxious plants on the borders—a very natural supposition among a race of people ignorant, of the effects produced on the atmosphere at so great an elevation. Yielding to the universal clamour, we consented to take the longer and safer path; but some friends, who were obliged to forego the journey to Gungootree, crossed into the valley of the Ganges by a very difficult and romantic route. After parting company at Banass, they descended to the banks of the Bhim, a roaring torrent, rushing beneath precipices upwards of two thousand perpendicular feet from the river; the eagles, wheeling through the sky from their eyries near the summit, appearing not larger than crows. The ascent then led over a mountain covered with cedars, a noble forest, not uncheerful, though marked with sombre grandeur.

The next day's march conducted the party along the banks of a torrent which poured down the face of a mountain from a bed of snow near its summit. The day was cold, the ground hard with frost, but the air bracing, and the scenery wild and magnificent. A long and toilsome ascent over Unchi-ghati followed: scrambling up the bed of a stream over rough stones, rendered slippery from being cased in ice, they reached the limit of the cedar-forest, and subsequently came to birch and small rhododendron. The scene then assumed a very wintry aspect, and soon every thing like foliage was left behind; attaining the crest of the pass, which was covered with snow, and at an elevation of some hundred feet above the limit of the forest, on looking back on Bundurpooch, Duti Manji, and Bachuncha peak and ridge, few scenes of more sublime grandeur could be found throughout the whole of these stupendous regions. The prospect of range after range to the south and east was very extensive; an ocean of ridges in one wide amphitheatre, closed in by the line of the snowy mountains resting their fantastic peaks against the dark blue sky. Below, the course of the Bhagirati could be traced, which, after issuing from its gigantic bed of snow, rejoicing in its escape from the wintry mountains and their rugged and awful approaches, flows in tranquil beauty through a peaceful valley. In descending the south-east side of the pass, the birch which had clothed the previous path gave place to pines and evergreen oaks, which grew in great abundance in advance of the cedar; the rhododendron, which near the crest was merely a creeper, became a tree,