GUNGOOTREE, THE SACRED SOURCE OF THE GANGES.
a change in the nature of vegetation marking the different heights, which is exceedingly interesting to the traveller.
The descent of this mountain to Nangâng was long and painful, and to Europeans a new route, the generality of travellers crossing the ridge from the Jumna to the Ganges either higher up or lower down; but the next day's march compensated for all the fatigue incurred in its approach. Descending to the Bini-ke-Garh, a torrent rushing down a high ridge to the northward, the glen which it watered proved of surpassing beauty; nothing could exceed the loveliness of the foliage which clothed this summer valley, or rather vista; for, opening on a view of the precipitous heights of the Unchi-ghâti, it contrasted its romantic attractions with the sublimer features of the mountains beyond. Reaching the junction of the Bini and the Bhagirathi, the holy name given to the sacred river, the travellers found the Ganges a noble stream, much wider and deeper than the Jumna at the same distance from its source, but not so tumultuous.
Descending to Nangâng by a different route to that mentioned in the foregoing notes, we also were compelled to encounter many difficulties; the prospects, however, repaid them. Equally grand, though different in character to those last described, at a very considerable depth below, we looked upon a cultivated scene, the hanging terraces, common to these hills, waving with grain, and watered by winding streams, and running along the bases of high woody ridges, sometimes shooting up into peaks, crowned with pine-trees. Beyond, again, were the eternal mountains, in all their varieties; snow resting on the crests of some, others majestically grouped with venerable timber, and others bleak, bare, and barren, rising in frowning majesty from the green and sunny slopes which smiled below. Between these different ranges, ran deep ravines, dark with impenetrable forests, rendered more savage by the awful music of the torrents roaring through their fastnesses, while presently their streams, issuing forth into open day, were seen winding round green spots bright with fruit-trees. Such, or nearly such, for every traveller sees them under a different medium, were the prospects which beguiled us as we slipped and slid down the steep side of the mountain pass. Nangâng formed our halting-place; several days' march still lay before us; and there were more mountains to climb, more forests to thread. We now observed a diversity in the timber, chesnuts of magnificent growth being the prevailing tree. Our sportsmen found plenty of game: the monal, the feathered wonder of the Himalaya, and other varieties of the pheasant-tribe, peopled these vast solitudes, and paid tribute to the guns of the invading strangers.
We met with some delightful halting-places on the line of march—grassy terraces carpeted with strawberry and wild flowers, where the cowslip, the primrose, and the buttercup brought the pranked-out fields of our native country strongly to the mind. Many of the travellers in the Himalaya are moved even to rapture at the sight of the first daisy which springs spontaneously on their path; as an exotic in some garden of the plains, it excites deep emotion, but growing wild, spangling the meadow-grass with its silvery stars, it becomes infinitely more interesting, and the home-sick pining exile will often gather its earliest-encountered blossom weeping.
Leaving this luxuriant vegetation, we arrived at a wild spot, the summit of a ridge of peaks covered with snow; and though the prospect was more circumscribed, and of greater sameness, we enjoyed it amazingly. We seemed to be hemmed in on all sides with thick-ribbed ice, transported to antarctic snows, imprisoned amid icebergs, vast, freezing, and impassable. Presently, however, we emerged, and, descending through the snow, reached the boundary line between the districts of the Jumna and the Ganges.