Himalayan Journals or Notes of A Naturalist Index      Next Chapter XIII


Chapter XII

Yalloong valley — Fiud Kanglanamo pass closed — Change route for the southward — Picrorhiza — View of Kubra — Rhododendron Falconeri — Yalloong river — Junction of gneiss and clay-slate — Cross Yalloong range — View — Descent — Yew — Vegetation — Misty weather — Tongdam village — Khabang — Tropical vegetation — Sidingbah Mountain — View of Kinchinjunga — Yangyading village — Slopes of hills, and courses of rivers — Khabili valley — Ghorkha Havildar’s bad conduct — Ascend Singalelah — Plague of ticks — Short commons — Cross Islumbo pass — Boundary of Sikkim — Kulhait valley — Lingeham — Reception by Kajee — Hear of Dr. Campbell’s going to meet Rajah — Views in valley — Leave for Teesta river — Tipsy Kajee — Hospitality — Murwa beer — Temples — Acorus Calamus — Long Mendong — Burning of dead — Superstitions — Cross Great Rungeet — Boulders, origin of — Purchase of a dog — Marshes — Lamas — Dismiss Ghorkhas — Bhoteea house — Murwa beer.


On arriving at the bottom we found a party who were travelling with sheep laden with salt; they told us that the Yalloong village, which lay up the valley on the route to the Kanglanamo pass (leading over the south shoulder of Kubra into Sikkim) was deserted, the inhabitants having retired after the October fall of snow to Yankutang, two marches down; also that the Kanglanamo pass was impracticable, being always blocked up by the October fall. I was, therefore, reluctantly obliged to abandon the plan of pursuing that route to Sikkim, and to go south, following the west flank of Singalelah to the first of the many passes over it which I might find open.

These people were very civil, and gave me a handful of the root of one of the many bitter herbs called in Bengal


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“Teeta,” and used as a febrifuge: the present was that of Picrorhiza, a plant allied to Speedwell, which grows at from 12,000 to 15,000 feet elevation, and is a powerful bitter, called “Hoonling” by the Tibetans. They had with them above 100 sheep, of a tall, long-legged, Roman-nosed breed. Each carried upwards of forty pounds of salt, done up in two leather bags, slung on either side, and secured by a band going over the chest, and another round the loins, so that they cannot slip off, when going up or down hill. These sheep are very tame, patient creatures, travelling twelve miles a day with great ease, and being indifferent to rocky or steep ground.

Looking east I had a splendid view of the broad snowy mass of Kubra, blocking up, as it were, the head of the valley with a white screen. Descending to about 10,000 feet, the Abies Brunoniana appeared, with fine trees of Rhododendron Falconeri forty feet high, and with leaves nineteen inches long! while the upper part of the valley was full of Abies Webbiana.

At the elevation of 9000 feet, we crossed to the east bank, and passed the junction of the gneiss and mica slate: the latter crossed the river, striking north-west, and the stream cut a dark chasm-like channel through it, foaming and dashing the spray over the splintered ridges, and the broad water-worn hog-backed masses that projected from its bed. Immense veins of granite permeated the rocks, which were crumpled in the strangest manner: isolated angular blocks of schist had been taken up by the granite in a fluid state, and remained imbedded in it.

The road made great ascents to avoid landslips, and to surmount the enormous piles of débris which encumber this valley more than any other. We encamped at 10,050 feet, on a little flat 1000 feet above the bed of the


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river, and on its east flank. A Hydrangea was the common small wood, but Abies Webbiana formed the forest, with great Rhododendrons. The weather was foggy, whence I judged that we were in the sea of mist I saw beneath me from the passes; the temperature, considering the elevation, was mild, 37° and 38°, which was partly due to the evolution of heat that accompanies the condensation of these vapours, the atmosphere being loaded with moisture. The thermometer fell to 28° during the night, and in the morning the ground was thickly covered with hoar-frost.

December 7.—We ascended the Yalloong ridge to a saddle 11,000 feet elevation, whence the road dips south to the gloomy gorges of the eastern feeders of the Tambur. Here we bade adieu to the grand alpine scenery, and for several days our course lay in Nepal in a southerly direction, parallel to Singalelah, and crossing every spur and river sent off by that mighty range. The latter flow towards the Tambur, and their beds, for forty or fifty miles are elevated about 3000 or 4000 feet. Few of the spurs are ascended above 5000 feet, but all of them rise to 12,000 or 14,000 feet to the westward, where they join the Singalelah range.

I clambered to the top of a lofty hummock, through a dense thicket of interwoven Rhododendron bushes, the clayey soil under which was slippery from the quantity of dead leaves. I had hoped for a view of the top of Kinchinjunga, which bore north-east, but it was enveloped in clouds, as were all the snows in that direction; to the north-west, however, I obtained bearings of the principal peaks, etc., of the Yangma and Kambachen valleys. To the south and south-east, lofty, rugged and pine-clad mountains rose in confused masses, and white sheets of


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mist came driving up, clinging to the mountain-tops, and shrouding the landscape with extreme rapidity. The remarkable mountain of Sidingbah bore south-south-east, raising its rounded head above the clouds. I could, however, procure no other good bearing.

The descent from the Yalloong ridge to the Khabili feeders of the Tambur was very steep, and in some places almost precipitous, first through dense woods of silver fir, with Rhod. Falconeri and Hodgsoni, then through Abies Brunoniana, with yew (now covered with red berries) to the region of Magnolias and Rhod. arboreum and barbatum. One bush of the former was in flower, making a gorgeous show. Here also appeared the great oak with lamellated acorns, which I had not seen in the drier valleys to the westward; with many other Dorjiling trees and shrubs. A heavy mist clung to the rank luxuriant foliage, tantalizing from its obscuring all the view. Mica schist replaced the gneiss, and a thick slippery stratum of clay rendered it very difficult to keep one’s footing. After so many days of bright sunshine and dry weather, I found this quiet, damp, foggy atmosphere to have a most depressing effect: there was little to interest in the meteorology, the atmospheric fluctuations being far too small; geographical discovery was at an end, and we groped our way along devious paths in wooded valleys, or ascended spurs and ridges, always clouded before noon, and clothed with heavy forest.

At 6000 feet we emerged from the mist, and found ourselves clambering down a deep gully, hemmed in by frightful rocky steeps, which exposed a fine and tolerably continuous section of schistose rocks, striking north-west, and dipping north-east, at a very high angle.

At the bottom three furious torrents met: we descended


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the course of one of them, over slanting precipices, or trees lashed to the rocks, and after a most winding course our path conducted us to the village of Tarbu, high above a feeder of the Khabili river, which flows west, joining the Tambur three days’ march lower down. Having no food, we had made a very long and difficult march to this place, but finding none here, proceeded on to Tonghem village on the Khabili, descending through thickets of Rhod. arboreum to the elevation of 5,560.

This village, or spur, called “Tonghem” by the Limboos, and “Yankutang” by the Bhoteeas, is the winter resort of the inhabitants of the upper Yalloong valley: they received us very kindly, sold us two fowls, and rice enough to last for one or two days, which was all they could spare, and gave me a good deal of information. I found that the Kanglanamo pass had been disused since the Nepal war, that it was very lofty, and always closed in October.

The night was fine, clear, and warm, but the radiation so powerful that the grass was coated with ice the following morning, though the thermometer did not fall below 33°. The next day the sun rose with great power, and the vegetation reeked and steamed with the heat. Crossing the river, we first made a considerable descent, and then ascended a ridge to 5,750 feet, through a thick jungle of Camellia, Eurya, and small oak: from the top I obtained bearings of Yalloong and Choonjerma pass, and had also glimpses of the Kinchin range through a tantalizing jungle; after which a very winding and fatiguing up-and-down march southwards brought us to the village of Khabang, in the magnificent valley of the Tawa, about 800 feet above the river, and 5,500 feet above the sea.

I halted here for a day, to refresh the people, and if possible to obtain some food. I hoped, too, to find a pass


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into Sikkim, east over Singalelah, but was disappointed: if there had ever been one, it had been closed since the Nepal war; and there was none, for several marches further south, which would conduct us to the Iwa branch of the Khabili.

Khabang is a village of Geroongs, or shepherds, who pasture their flocks on the hills and higher valleys during summer, and bring them down to this elevation in winter: the ground was consequently infested with a tick, equal in size to that so common in the bushes, and quite as troublesome, but of a different species.

The temperature rose to 72°, and the black-bulb thermometer to 140°. Magnolias and various almost tropical trees were common, and the herbaceous vegetation was that of low elevations. Large sugar-cane (Saccharum), palm (Wallichia), and wild plantains grew near the river, and Rhod. arboreum was very common on dry slopes of mica-slate rocks, with the gorgeous and sweet-scented Luculia gratissima.

Up the valley of the Tawa the view was very grand of a magnificent rocky mountain called Sidingbah, bearing south-east by south, on a spur of the Singalelah range that runs westerly, and forms the south flank of the Tawa, and the north of the Khabili valleys. This mountain is fully 12,000 feet high, crested with rock and ragged black forest, which, on the north flank, extends to its base: to the eastward, the bare ridges of Singalelah were patched with snow, below which they too were clothed with black pines.

From the opposite side of the Tawa to Khabang (alt. 6,020 feet), I was, during our march southwards, most fortunate in obtaining a splendid view of Kinchinjunga (bearing north-east by north), with its associates, rising over the dark mass of Singalelah, its flanks showing like tier above tier of green glaciers: its distance was fully


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twenty-five miles, and as only about 7000 feet or 8000 feet from its summit were visible, and Kubra was foreshortened against it, its appearance was not grand; added to which, its top was round and hummocky, not broken into peaks, as when seen from the south and east. Villages and cultivation became more frequent as we proceeded southward, and our daily marches were up ridges, and down into deep valleys, with feeders from the flanks of Sidingbah to the Tambur. We passed through the village of Tchonboong, and camped at Yangyading (4,100 feet), sighted Yamroop, a large village and military post to the west of our route, crossed the Pangwa river, and reached the valley of the Khabili. During this part of the journey, I did not once see the Tambur river, though I was day after day marching only seven to ten miles distant from it, so uneven is the country. The mountains around Taptiatok, Mywa Guola, and Chingtam, were pointed out to me, but they presented no recognizable feature.

I often looked for some slope, or strike of the slopes of the spurs, in any one valley, or that should prevail through several, but could seldom trace any, except on one or two occasions, at low elevations. Looking here across the valleys, there was a tendency in the gentle slopes of the spurs to have plane faces dipping north-east, and to be bounded by a line of cliffs striking north-west, and facing the south-east. In such arrangements, the upheaved cliffs may be supposed to represent parallel lines of faults, dislocation, or rupture, but I could never trace any secondary valleys at right angles to these. There is no such uniformity of strike as to give to the rivers a zig-zag course of any regularity, or one having any apparent dependence on a prevailing arrangement of the rocks; for, though the strike of the chlorite and clay-slate at elevations below 6000 feet


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along its course, is certainly north-west, with a dip to north-east, the flexures of the river, as projected on the map, deviate very widely from these directions.

The valley of the Khabili is very grand, broad, open, and intersected by many streams and cultivated spurs: the road from Yamroop to Sikkim, once well frequented, runs up its north flank, and though it was long closed we determined to follow and clear it.

On the 11th of December we camped near the village of Sablakoo (4,680 feet), and procured five days’ food, to last us as far as the first Sikkim village. Thence we proceeded eastward up the valley, but descending to the Iwa, an affluent of the Khabili, through a tropical vegetation of Pinus longifolia, Phyllanthus Emblica, dwarf date-palm, etc.

Gneiss was here the prevailing rock, uniformly dipping north-east 20°, and striking north-west. The same rock no doubt forms the mass Sidingbah, which reared its head 8000 feet above the Iwa river, by whose bed we camped at 3,780 feet. Sand-flies abounded, and were most troublesome: troops of large monkeys were skipping about, and the whole scene was thoroughly tropical; still, the thermometer fell to 38° in the night, with heavy dew.

Though we passed numerous villages, I found unusual difficulty in getting provision, and received none of the presents so uniformly brought by the villagers to a stranger. I was not long in discovering, to my great mortification, that these were appropriated by the Ghorkha Havildar, who seemed to have profited by our many days of short allowance, and diverted the current of hospitality from me to himself. His coolies I saw groaning under heavy burdens, when those of my people were light; and the truth only came out when he had the impudence to attempt to impose a part of his coolies’ loads on mine, to enable the former to


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carry more food, whilst he was pretending that he used every exertion to procure me a scanty supply of rice with my limited stock of money. I had treated this man and his soldiers with the utmost kindness, even nursing them and clothing them from my own stock of flannels, when sick and shivering amongst the snows. Though a high caste Hindoo, and one who assumed Brahmin rank, he had, I found, no objection to eat forbidden things in secret; and now that we were travelling amongst Hindoos, his caste obtained him everything, while money alone availed me. I took him roundly to task for his treachery, which caused him secretly to throw away a leg of mutton he had concealed; I also threatened to expose the humbug of his pretension to caste, but it was then too late to procure more food. Having hitherto much liked this man, and fully trusted him, I was greatly pained by his conduct.

We proceeded east for three days, up the valley, through gloomy forests of tropical trees below 5000 feet; and ascended to oaks and magnolias at 6000 feet. The path was soon obstructed, and we had to tear and cut our way, from 6000 to 10,000 feet, which took two days’ very hard work. Ticks swarmed in the small bamboo jungle, and my body was covered with these loathsome insects, which got into my bed and hair, and even attached themselves to my eyelids during the night, when the constant annoyance and irritation completely banished sleep. In the daytime they penetrated my trousers, piercing to my body in many places, so that I repeatedly took off as many as twelve at one time. It is indeed marvellous how so large an insect can painlessly insert a stout barbed proboscis, which requires great force to extract it, and causes severe smarting in the operation. What the ticks feed upon in these humid forests is a perfect mystery to me, for from


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6000 to 9000 feet they literally swarmed, where there was neither path nor animal life. They were, however, more tolerable than a commoner species of parasite, which I found it impossible to escape from, all classes of mountaineers being infested with it.

On the 14th, after an arduous ascent through the pathless jungle, we camped at 9,300 feet on a narrow spur, in a dense forest, amongst immense loose blocks of gneiss. The weather was foggy and rainy, and the wind cold. I ate the last supply of animal food, a miserable starved pullet, with rice and Chili vinegar; my tea, sugar, and all other superfluities having been long before exhausted.

On the following morning, we crossed the Islumbo pass over Singalelah into Sikkim, the elevation being 11,000 feet. Above our camp the trees were few and stunted, and we quickly emerged from the forest on a rocky and grassy ridge, covered with withered Saxifrages, Umbelliferæ, Parnassia, Hypericum, etc. There were no pines on either side of the pass; a very remarkable peculiarity of the damp mountains of Sikkim, which I have elsewhere had occasion to notice: we had left Pinus longifolia (a far from common tree in these valleys) at 3000 feet in the Tawa three days before, and ascended to 11,000 feet without passing a coniferous tree of any kind, except a few yews, at 9000 feet, covered with red berries.

The top of the pass was broad, grassy, and bushy with dwarf Bamboo, Rose, and Berberry, in great abundance, covered with mosses and lichens: it had been raining hard all the morning, and the vegetation was coated with ice: a dense fog obscured everything, and a violent south-east wind blew over the pass in our teeth. I collected some very curious and beautiful mosses, putting these frozen treasures into my box, in the form of


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exquisitely beautiful glass ornaments, or mosses frosted with silver.

A few stones marked the boundary between Nepal and Sikkim, where I halted for half an hour, and hung up my instruments: the temperature was 32°.

We descended rapidly, proceeding eastward down the broad valley of the Kulhait river, an affluent of the Great Rungeet; and as it had begun to sleet and snow hard, we continued until we reached 6,400 feet before camping.

On the following day we proceeded down the valley, and reached habitations at 4000 feet: passing many villages and much cultivation, we crossed the river, and ascended by 7 p.m., to the village of Lingcham, just below the convent of Changachelling, very tired and hungry. Bad weather had set in, and it was pitch dark and raining hard when we arrived; but the Kajee, or head man, had sent out a party with torches to conduct us, and he gave us a most hospitable reception, honoured us with a salute of musketry, and brought abundance of milk, eggs, fowls, plantains, and Murwa beer. Plenty of news was awaiting me here, and a messenger with letters was three marches further north, at Yoksun, waiting my expected return over the Kanglanamo pass. Dr. Campbell, I was told, had left Dorjiling; and was en route to meet the Rajah at Bhomsong on the Teesta river, where no European had ever yet been; and as the Sikkim authorities had for sixteen years steadily rejected every overture for a friendly interview, and even refused to allow the agent of the Governor-General to enter their dominions, it was evident that grave doings were pending. I knew that Dr. Campbell had long used every exertion to bring the Sikkim Rajah to a friendly conference, without having to force his way into the country for the purpose, but in vain. It will hardly


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be believed that though this chief’s dominions were redeemed by us from the Nepalese and given back to him; though we had bound ourselves by a treaty to support him on his throne, and to defend him against the Nepalese on the west, the Bhutan people on the east, and the Tibetans on the north; and though the terms of the treaty stipulated for free intercourse, mutual protection, and friendship; the Sikkim authorities had hitherto been allowed to obstruct all intercourse, and in every way to treat the Governor-General’s agent and the East India Company with contempt. An affectation of timidity, mistrust, and ignorance was assumed for the purpose of deception, and as a cloak for every insult and resistance to the terms of our treaty, and it was quoted by the Government in answer to every remonstrance on the part of their resident agent at Dorjiling.

On the following morning the Kajee waited on me with a magnificent present of a calf, a kid, fowls, eggs, rice, oranges, plantains, egg-apples, Indian corn, yams, onions, tomatos, parsley, fennel, turmeric, rancid butter, milk, and, lastly, a coolie-load of fermenting millet-seeds, wherewith to make the favourite Murwa beer. In the evening two lads arrived from Dorjiling, who had been sent a week beforehand by my kind and thoughtful friend, Mr. Hodgson, with provisions and money.

The valley of the Kulhait is one o£ the finest in Sikkim, and it is accordingly the site of two of the oldest and richest conventual establishments. Its length is sixteen miles, from the Islumbo pass to the Great Rungeet, for ten of which it is inhabited, the villages being invariably on long meridional spurs that project north and south from either flank; they are about 2000 feet above the river, and from 4,500 to 5000 feet above the sea. Except where these


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spurs project, the flanks of the valley are very steep, the mountains rising to 7000 or 8000 feet.

Looking from any spur, up or down the valley, five or six others might be seen on each side of the river, at very nearly the same average level, all presenting great uniformity of contour, namely, a gentle slope towards the centre of the valley, and then an abrupt descent to the river. They were about a quarter of a mile broad at the widest, and often narrower, and a mile or so long; some parts of their surfaces and sides were quite flat, and occasionally occupied by marshes or ponds. Cultivation is almost confined to these spurs, and is carried on both on their summits and steep flanks; between every two is a very steep gulley and water-course. The timber has long since been either wholly or partially cleared from the tops, but, to a great extent, still clothes their flanks and the intervening gorges. I have been particular in describing these spurs, because it is impossible to survey them without ascribing their comparative uniformity of level to the action of water. Similar ones are characteristic features of the valleys of Sikkim between 2000 and 8000 feet, and are rendered conspicuous by being always sites for villages and cultivation: the soil is a vegetable mould, over a deep stratum of red clay.

I am far from supposing that any geologically recent action of the sea has levelled these spurs; but as the great chain of the Himalaya has risen from the ocean, and as every part of it has been subjected to sea-action, it is quite conceivable that intervals of rest during the periods of elevation or submergence would effect their levelling. In a mountain mass so tumbled as is that of Sikkim, any level surface, or approach to it, demands study; and when, as in the Kulhait valley, we find several similar spurs with comparatively flat tops, to occupy about the same level, it


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is necessary to look for some levelling cause. The action of denudation is still progressing with astonishing rapidity, under an annual fall of from 100 to 150 inches of rain; but its tendency is to obliterate all such phenomena, and to give sharp, rugged outlines to these spurs, in spite of the conservative effects of vegetation.

The weather at Lingcham was gloomy, cold, and damp, with much rain and fog, and the mean temperature (45·25°) was cold for the elevation (4,860 feet): 52·5° was the highest temperature observed, and 39° the lowest.

A letter from Dr. Campbell reached me three days after my arrival, begging me to cross the country to the Teesta river, and meet him at Bhomsong, on its west bank, where he was awaiting my arrival. I therefore left on the 20th of December, accompanied by my friend the Kajee, who was going to pay his respects to the Rajah. He was constantly followed by a lad, carrying a bamboo of Murwa beer slung round his neck, with which he kept himself always groggy. His dress was thoroughly Lepcha, and highly picturesque, consisting of a very broad-brimmed round-crowned bamboo-platted hat, scarlet jacket, and blue-striped cloth shirt, bare feet, long knife, bow and quiver, rings and earrings, and a long pigtail. He spoke no Hindoostanee, but was very communicative through my interpreters.

Leaving the Lingcham spur, we passed steep cliffs of mica and schist, covered with brushwood and long grass, about 1000 feet above which the Changachelling convent is perched. Crossing a torrent, we came to the next village, on the spur of Kurziuk, where I was met by a deputation of women, sent by the Lamas of Changachelling, bearing enormous loads of oranges, rice, milk, butter, ghee, and the everflowing Murwa beer.


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The villagers had erected a shady bower for me to rest under, of leaves and branches, and had fitted up a little bamboo stage, on which to squat cross-legged as they do, or to hang my legs from, if I preferred: after conducting me to this, the parties advanced and piled their cumbrous presents on the ground, bowed, and retired; they were succeeded by the beer-carrier, who plunged a clean drinking-tube to the bottom of the steaming bamboo jug (described at p. 175), and held it to my mouth, then placing it by my side, he bowed and withdrew. Nothing can be more fascinating than the simple manners of these kind people, who really love hospitality for its own sake, and make the stranger feel himself welcome. Just now too, the Durbar had ordered every attention to be paid me; and I hardly passed a village however small, without receiving a present, or a cottage, where beer was not offered. This I found a most grateful beverage; and of the occasional rests under leafy screens during a hot day’s march, and sips at the bamboo jug, I shall ever retain a grateful remembrance. Happily the liquor is very weak, and except by swilling, as my friend the Kajee did, it would be impossible to get fuddled by it.

At Kurziuk I was met by a most respectable Lepcha, who, as a sort of compliment, sent his son to escort us to the next village and spur of Pemiongchi, to reach which we crossed another gorge, of which the situation and features were quite similar to those of Kurziuk and Lingcham.

The Pemiongchi and Changachelling convents and temples stand a few miles apart, on the ridge forming the north flank of the Kulhait valley; and as they will be described hereafter, I now only allude to the village, which is fully 1000 feet below the convent, and large and populous.

At Pemiongchi a superior Lama met me with another


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overwhelming present: he was a most jolly fat monk, shaven and girdled, and dressed in a scarlet gown: my Lepchas kotowed to him, and he blessed them by the laying on of hands.

Pemiongchi Goompa and chaits

There is a marsh on this spur, full of the common English Acorus Calamus, or sweet-flag, whose roots being very aromatic, are used in griping disorders of men and cattle. Hence we descended suddenly to the Great Rungeet, which we reached at its junction with the Kulhait: the path was very steep and slippery, owing to micaceous rocks, and led along the side of an enormous Mendong,* which ran

* This remarkable structure, called the Kaysing Mendong, is 200 yards long, 10 feet high, and 6 or 8 feet broad: it is built of flat, slaty stones, and both faces are covered with inscribed slates, of which there are upwards of 700, and the inscriptions, chiefly “Om Mani,” etc., are in both the Uchen and Lencha Ranja characters of Tibet. A tall stone, nine feet high, covered also with inscriptions, terminates it at the lower end.


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down the hill for several hundred yards, and had a large chait at each end, with several smaller ones at intervals. Throughout its length were innumerable inscriptions of “Om Mani Padmi om,” with well carved figures of Boodh in his many incarnations, besides Lamas, etc. At the lower end was a great flat area, on which are burnt the bodies of Sikkim people of consequence: the poorer people are buried, the richer burned, and their ashes scattered or interred, but not in graves proper, of which there are none. Nor are there any signs of Lepcha interment throughout Sikkim; though chaits are erected to the memory of the departed, they have no necessary connection with the remains, and generally none at all. Corpses in Sikkim are never cut to pieces and thrown into lakes, or exposed on hills for the kites and crows to devour, as is the case in Tibet.

We passed some curious masses of crumpled chlorite slate, presenting deep canals or furrows, along which a demon once drained all the water from the Pemiongchi spur, to the great annoyance of the villagers: the Lamas, however, on choosing this as a site for their temples, easily confounded the machinations of the evil spirit, who, in the eyes of the simple Lepchas, was answerable for all the mischief.

I crossed the Great Rungeet at 1840 feet above the sea, where its bed was twenty yards in width; a rude bridge, composed of two culms of bamboo and a handrail, conducted me to the other side, where we camped (on the east bank) in a thick tropical jungle. In the evening


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I walked down the banks of the river, which flowed in a deep gorge, cumbered with enormous boulders of granite, clay-slate, and mica-slate; the rocks in situ were all of the latter description, highly inclined, and much dislocated. Some of the boulders were fully ten feet in diameter, permeated and altered very much by granite veins which had evidently been injected when molten, and had taken up angular masses of the chlorite which remained, as it were, suspended in the veins.

It is not so easy to account for the present position of these blocks of granite, a rock not common at elevations below 10,000 feet. They have been transported from a considerable distance in the interior of the lofty valley to the north, and have descended not less than 8000 feet, and travelled fully fifteen miles in a straight line, or perhaps forty along the river bed. It may be supposed that moraines have transported them to 8000 feet (the lowest limit of apparent moraines), and the power of river water carried them further; if so, the rivers must have been of much greater volume formerly than they are now.

Our camp was on a gravel flat, like those of the Nepal valleys, about sixty feet above the river; its temperature was 52°, which felt cool when bathing.

From the river we proceeded west, following a steep and clayey ascent up the end of a very long spur, from the lofty mountain range called Mungbreu, dividing the Great Rungeet from the Teesta. We ascended by a narrow path, accomplishing 2,500 feet in an hour and a quarter, walking slowly but steadily, without resting; this I always found a heavy pull in a hot climate.

At about 4000 feet above the sea, the spur became more open and flat, like those of the Kulhait valley, with alternate slopes and comparative flats: from this elevation the


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view north, south, and west, was very fine; below us flowed the river, and a few miles up it was the conical wooded hill of Tassiding, rising abruptly from a fork of the deep river gorge, crowned with its curious temples and mendongs, and bristling with chaits: on it is the oldest monastery in Sikkim, occupying a singularly picturesque and prominent position. North of this spur, and similar to it, lay that of Raklang, with the temple and monastery of the same name, at about this elevation. In front, looking west, across the Great Rungeet, were the monasteries of Changachelling and Pemiongchi, perched aloft; and south of these were the flat-topped spurs of the Kulhait valley, with their villages, and the great mendong which I had passed on the previous day, running like a white line down the spur. To the north, beyond Tassiding, were two other monasteries, Doobdee and Sunnook, both apparently placed on the lower wooded flanks of Kinchinjunga; whilst close by was Dholing, the seventh religious establishment now in sight.

We halted at a good wooden house to refresh ourselves with Murwa beer, where I saw a woman with cancer in the face, an uncommon complaint in this country. I here bought a little black puppy, to be my future companion in Sikkim: he was of a breed between the famous Tibet mastiff and the common Sikkim hunting-dog, which is a variety of the sorry race called Pariah in the plains. Being only a few weeks old, he looked a mere bundle of black fur; and I carried him off, for he could not walk.

We camped at the village of Lingdam (alt. 5,550 feet), occupying a flat, and surrounded by extensive pools of water (for this country) containing Acorus, Potamogeton, and duckweed. Such ponds I have often met with on these terraces, and they are very remarkable, not being dammed in by any conspicuous barrier, but simply occupying


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depressions in the surface, from which, as I have repeatedly observed, the land dips rapidly to the valleys below.

This being the high-road from Tumloong or Sikkim Durbar (the capital, and Rajah’s residence) to the numerous monasteries which I had seen, we passed many Lamas and monks on their way home from Tumloong, where they had gone to be present at the marriage of the Tupgain Lama, the eldest son of the Rajah. A dispensation having previously been procured from Lhassa, this marriage had been effected by the Lamas, in order to counteract the efforts of the Dewan, who sought to exercise an undue influence over the Rajah and his family. The Tupgain Lama having only spiritual authority, and being bound to celibacy, the temporal authority devolved on the second son, who was heir apparent of Sikkim; he, however, having died, an illegitimate son of the Rajah was favoured by the Dewan as heir apparent. The bride was brought from Tibet, and the marriage party were feasted for eighteen days at the Rajah’s expense. All the Lamas whom I met were clad in red robes, with girdles, and were shaven, with bare feet and heads, or mitred; they wore rosaries of onyx, turquoise, quartz, lapis lazuli, coral, glass, amber, or wood, especially yellow berberry and sandal-wood: some had staves, and one a trident like an eel-fork, on a long staff, an emblem of the Hindoo Trinity, called Trisool Mahadeo, which represents Brahma, Siva, and Vishnu, in Hindoo; and Boodh, Dhurma, and Sunga, in Boodhist theology. All were on foot, indeed ponies are seldom used in this country; the Lamas, however, walked with becoming gravity and indifference to all around them.

The Kajee waited upon me in the evening; full of importance, having just received a letter from his Rajah, which he wished to communicate to me in private; so I accompanied him to a house close by, where he was a guest, when the


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secret came out, that his highness was dreadfully alarmed at my coming with the two Ghorka Sepoys, whom I accordingly dismissed.

The house was of the usual Bhoteea form, of wood, well built on posts, one-storied, containing a single apartment hung round with bows, quivers, shields, baskets of rice, and cornucopias of Indian corn, the handsomest and most generous looking of all the Cerealia. The whole party were deep in a carouse on Murwa beer, and I saw the operation of making it. The millet-seed is moistened, and ferments for two days: sufficient for a day’s allowance is then put into a vessel of wicker-work, lined with India-rubber to make it water-tight; and boiling water is poured on it with a ladle of gourd, from a huge iron cauldron that stands all day over the fire. The fluid, when quite fresh, tastes like negus of Cape sherry, rather sour. At this season the whole population are swilling, whether at home or travelling, and heaps of the red-brown husks are seen by the side of all the paths.

Sikkim Lamas with praying cylinder and dorje; the lateral figures are monks or gylongs

Next Chapter XIII