Himalayan Journals or Notes of A Naturalist Index      Next Chapter XXII


Chapter XXI

Top of Kongra Lama — Tibet frontier — Elevation — View — Vegetation — Descent to Tungu — Tungu-choo — Ponies — Kinchinjhow and Changokhang mountains — Palung plains — Tibetans — Dogs — Dingcbam province of Tibet — Inhabitants — Dresses — Women’s ornaments — Blackening faces — Coral — Tents — Elevation of Palung — Lama — Shawl-wool goats — Shearing — Siberian plants — Height of glaciers, and perpetual snow — Geology — Plants, and wild animals — Marmots — Insects — Birds — Choongtam Lama — Religious exercises — Tibetan hospitality — Delphinium — Perpetual snow — Temperature at Tungu — Return to Tallum Samdong — To Lamteng — Houses — Fall of Barometer — Cicadas — Lime deposit — Landslips — Arrival at Choongtam — Cobra — Rageu — Heat of Climate — Velocity and volume of rivers measured — Leave for Lachoong valley — Keadom — General features of valley — Lachoong village — Tunkra mountain — Moraines — Cultivation — Lachoong Phipun — Lama ceremonies beside a sick-bed.


We reached the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet early in the afternoon; it is drawn along Kongra Lama, which is a low flat spur running east from Kinchinjhow towards Chomiomo, at a point where these mountains are a few miles apart, thus crossing the Lachen river:* it is marked by cairns of stone, some rudely fashioned into chaits, covered with votive rags on wands of bamboo. I made the altitude by barometer 15,745 feet above the sea, and by boiling water, 15,694 feet, the water boiling at 184·1°; the temperature of the air between 2.40 and 4 p.m. varied from 41·3° to 42·5°, the dew-point 39·8°; that of the

* The upper valley of the Lachen in Tibet, which I ascended in the following October, is very open, flat, barren, and stony; it is bounded on the north by rounded spurs from Chomiomo, which are continued east to Donkia, forming a watershed to the Lachen on the south, and to the Arun on the north.


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Lachen was 47°, which was remarkably high. We were bitterly cold; as the previous rain had wetted us through, and a keen wind was blowing up the valley. The continued mist and fog intercepted all view, except of the flanks of the great mountains on either hand, of the rugged snowy ones to the south, and of those bounding the Lachen to the north. The latter were unsnowed, and appeared lower than Kongra Lama, the ground apparently sloping away in that direction; but when I ascended them, three months afterwards, I found they were 3000 feet higher! a proof how utterly fallacious are estimates of height, when formed by the eye alone. My informants called them Peuka-t’hlo; “peu” signifies north in Tibetan, and “t’hlo” a hill in Lepcha.

Isolated patches of vegetation appeared on the top of the pass, where I gathered forty kinds of plants, most of them being of a tufted habit characteristic of an extreme climate; some (as species of Caryophylleæ) forming hemi-spherical balls on the naked soil; others* growing in matted tufts level with the ground. The greater portion had no woolly covering; nor did I find any of the cottony species of Saussurea, which are so common on the wetter mountains to the southward. Some most delicate-flowered plants even defy the biting winds of these exposed regions; such are a prickly Meconopsis with slender flower-stalks and four large blue poppy-like petals, a Cyananthus with a membranous bell-shaped corolla, and a fritillary. Other curious plants were a little yellow saxifrage with long runners (very like the arctic S. flagellaris, of Spitzbergen

* The other plants found on the pass were; of smooth hairless ones, Ranunculus, Fumitory, several species of Stellaria, Arenaria, Cruciferæ, Parnassia, Morina, saxifrages, Sedum, primrose, Herminium, Polygonum, Campanula, Umbelliferæ, grasses and Carices: of woolly or hairy once, Anemone, Artemisia, Myosotis, Draba, Potentilla, and several Compositæ, etc.


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and Melville Island), and the strong-scented spikenard (Nardostachys).

The rocks were chiefly of reddish quartz, and so was the base of Chomiomo. Kinchinjhow on the contrary was of gneiss, with granite veins: the strike of both was north-west, and the dip north-east 20° to 30°.

We made a fire at the top with sheep’s droppings, of which the Phipun had brought up a bagfull, and with it a pair of goat-skin bellows, which worked by a slit that was opened by the hand in the act of raising; when inflated, the hole was closed, and the skin pressed down, thus forcing the air through the bamboo nozzle: this is the common form of bellows throughout Tibet and the Himalaya.

After two hours I was very stiff and cold, and suffering from headache and giddiness, owing to the elevation; and having walked about thirteen miles botanizing, I was glad to ride down. We reached the Phipun’s tents about 6 p.m., and had more tea before proceeding to Tungu. The night was fortunately fine and calm, with a few stars and a bright young moon, which, with the glare from the snows, lighted up the valley, and revealed magnificent glimpses of the majestic mountains. As the moon sank, and we descended the narrowing valley, darkness came on, and with a boy to lead my sure-footed pony, I was at liberty uninterruptedly to reflect on the events of a day, on which I had attained the object of so many years’ ambition. Now that all obstacles were surmounted, and I was returning laden with materials for extending the knowledge of a science which had formed the pursuit of my life, will it be wondered at that I felt proud, not less for my own sake, than for that of the many friends, both in India and at home, who were interested in my success?

We arrived at Tungu at 9 p.m., my pony not having


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stumbled once, though the path was rugged, and crossed by many rapid streams. The Soubah’s little shaggy steed had carried his portly frame (fully fifteen stone weight) the whole way out and back, and when he dismounted, it shook itself, snorted, and seemed quite ready for supper.

On the following morning I was occupied in noting and arranging my collections, which consisted of upwards of 200 plants; all gathered above 14,000 feet elevation.* Letters arrived from Dorjiling with unusual speed, having been only seventeen days on the road: they were full of valuable suggestions and encouragement from my friends Hodgson, Campbell, and Tchebu Lama.

On the 26th of July the Phipun, who waited on me every morning with milk and butter, and whose civility and attentions were now unremitting, proposed that I should accompany him to an encampment of Tibetans, at the foot of Kinchinjhow. We mounted ponies, and ascended the Tunguchoo eastwards: it was a rapid river for the first thousand feet, flowing in a narrow gorge, between sloping, grassy, and rocky hills, on which large herds of yaks were feeding, tended by women and children, whose black tents were scattered about. The yak-calves left their mothers to run beside our ponies, which became unmanageable, being almost callous to the bit; and the whole party was sometimes careering over the slopes, chased by the grunting herds: in other places, the path was narrow and dangerous, when the sagacious animals proceeded with the utmost gravity and caution. Rounding one rocky spur, my pony stumbled, and pitched me forward: fortunately I lighted on the path.

* Amongst them the most numerous Natural orders and genera were, Cruciferæ 10; Compositæ 20; Ranunculaceæ 10; Alsineæ 9; Astragali 10; Potentillæ 8; grasses 12; Carices 15; Pedicularis 7; Boragineæ 7.


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The rocks were gneiss, with granite veins (strike north-east, dip south-east): they were covered with Ephedra,* an Onosma which yields a purple dye, Orchis, and species of Androsace; while the slopes were clothed with the spikenard and purple Pedicularis, and the moist grounds with yellow cowslip and long grass. A sudden bend in the valley opened a superb view to the north, of the full front of Kinchinjhow, extending for four or five miles east and west; its perpendicular sides studded with the immense icicles, which are said to have obtained for it the name of “jhow,”—the “bearded” Kinchin. Eastward a jagged spur stretches south, rising into another splendid mountain, called Chango-khang (the Eagle’s crag), from whose flanks descend great glaciers, the sources of the Tunguchoo.

We followed the course of an affluent, called the Chachoo, along whose bed ancient moraines rose in successive ridges: on these I found several other species of European genera.† Over one of these moraines, 500 feet high, the path ascends to the plains of Palung, an elevated grassy expanse, two miles long and four broad, extending southward from the base of Kinchinjhow. Its surface, though very level for so mountainous a country, is yet varied with open valleys and sloping hills, 500 to 700 feet high: it is bounded on the west by low rounded spurs from Kinchinjhow, that form the flank of the Lachen valley; while on the east it is separated from Chango-khang by the Chachoo, which cuts a deep east and west trench along the base of Kinchinjhow, and then turns south to the

* A curious genus of small shrubs allied to pines, that grows in the south of Europe. This species is the European E. vulgaris; it inhabits the driest parts of north-west India, and ascends to 17,000 feet in Tibet, but is not found in the moist intervening countries.
Delphinium, Hypecoum, Sagina, Gymnandra, Artemisia, Caltha, Dracocephalum, Leontopodium.


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Tunguchoo. The course of the Chachoo, where it turns south, is most curious: it meanders in sickle-shaped curves along the marshy bottom of an old lake-bed, with steep shelving sides, 500 to 600 feet deep, and covered with juniper bushes.* It is fed by the glaciers of Kinchinjhow, and some little lakes to the east.

The mean height of Palung plains is 16,000 feet: they are covered with transported blocks, and I have no doubt their surface has been much modified by glacial action. I was forcibly reminded of them by the slopes of the Wengern Alp, but those of Palung are far more level. Kinchinjhow rises before the spectator, just as the Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eigher Alps do from that magnificent point of view.

On ascending a low hill, we came in sight of the Tibet camp at the distance of a mile, when the great mastiffs that guarded it immediately bayed; and our ponies starting off at full gallop, we soon reached an enclosure of stone dykes, within which the black tents were pitched. The dogs were of immense size, and ragged, like the yaks, from their winter coat hanging to their flanks in great masses; each was chained near a large stone, on and off which he leapt as he gave tongue; they are very savage, but great cowards, and not remarkable for intelligence.

The people were natives of Gearee and Kambajong, in the adjacent province of Dingcham, which is the loftiest, coldest, most windy and arid in Eastern Tibet; and in which are the sources of all the streams that flow to Nepal; Sikkim, and Bhotan on the one side, and into the Yaru-tsampu on the other. These families repair yearly to Palung, with their flocks, herds, and tents, paying tribute to the Sikkim

* These, which grow on an eastern exposure, exist at a higher elevation than any other bushes I have met with.


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Lepcha girls and Tibetan women

Rajah for the privilege: they arrive in June and leave in September. Both men and women were indescribably filthy; as they never wash, their faces were perfectly black with smoke and exposure, and the women’s with a pigment of grease as a protection from the wind. The men were dressed as usual, in the blanket-cloak, with brass pipes, long knives, flint, steel, and amulets; the women wore similar, but shorter cloaks, with silver and copper girdles, trowsers, and flannel boots. Their head-dresses were very remarkable. A circular band of plaited yak’s hair was attached to the back hair, and encircled the head like a saint’s glory,* at some distance round it. A band crossed the forehead,

* I find in Ermann’s “Siberia” (i., p. 210), that the married women of Yekaterinberg wear a head-dress like an ancient glory covered with jewels, whilst the unmarried ones plait their tresses. The same distinguished traveller mentions having seen a lad of six years old suckled, amongst the Tungooze of East Siberia.


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from which coins, corals, and turquoises, hung down to the eyebrows, while lappets of these ornaments fell over the ears. Their own hair was plaited in two tails, brought over the shoulders, and fastened together in front; and a little yellow felt cap, traversely elongated, so as not to interfere with the shape of the glory, was perched on the head. Their countenances were pleasing, and their manners timid.

The children crawled half-naked about the tent, or burrowed like moles in an immense heap of goats’ and sheep-droppings, piled up for fuel, upon which the family lounged. An infant in arms was playing with a “coral,” ornamented much like ours, and was covered with jewels and coins. This custom of decorating children is very common amongst half-civilised people; and the coral is, perhaps, one of the last relics of a barbarous age that is retained amongst ourselves. One mother was nursing her baby, and churning at the same time, by rolling the goat-skin of yak-milk about on the ground. Extreme poverty induces the practice of nursing the children for years; and in one tent I saw a lad upwards of four years of age unconcernedly taking food from his aunt, and immediately afterwards chewing hard dry grains of maize.

The tents were pitched in holes about two feet and a half deep; and within them a wall of similar height was built all round: in the middle was a long clay arched fire-place, with holes above, over which the cauldrons were placed, the fire being underneath. Saddles, horse-cloths, and the usual accoutrements and implements of a nomad people, all of the rudest description, hung about: there was no bed or stool, but Chinese rugs for sleeping on. I boiled water on the fire-place; its temperature (184·5°) with that of the air (45·5°) gave an elevation of 15,867


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feet. Barometric observations, taken in October, at a point considerably lower down the stream, made the elevation 15,620 feet, or a few feet lower than Kongra Lama pass.

A Lama accompanied this colony of Tibetans, a festival in honour of Kinchinjhow being annually held at a large chait hard by, which is painted red, ornamented with banners, and surmounted by an enormous yak’s skull, that faces the mountain. The Lama invited me into his tent, where I found a wife and family. An extempore altar was at one end, covered with wafers and other pretty ornaments, made of butter, stamped or moulded with the fingers.* The tents being insupportably noisome, I preferred partaking of the buttered brick-tea in the open air; after which, I went to see the shawl-wool goats sheared in a pen close by. There are two varieties: one is a large animal, with great horns, called “Rappoo;”† the other smaller, and with slender horns, is called “Tsilloo.” The latter yields the finest wool, but they are mixed for ordinary purposes. I was assured that the sheep (of which large flocks were grazing near) afford the finest wool of any. The animals were caught by the tail, their legs tied, the long winter’s hair pulled out, and the remainder cut away with a broad flat knife, which was sharpened with a scythe-stone. The operation was clumsily performed, and the skin much cut.

Turnips are grown at Palung during the short stay of the people, and this is the most alpine cultivation in Sikkim: the seed is sown early in July, and the tubers are fit to be eaten in October, if the season is favourable.

* The extensive use of these ornaments throughout Tibet, on the occasion of religious festivals, is alluded to by MM. Huc and Gabet.
† This is the “Changra;” and the smaller the “Chyapu” of Mr. Hodgson’s catalogue. (See “British Museum Catalogue.”)


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They did not come to maturity this year, as I found on again visiting this spot in October; but their tops had afforded the poor Tibetans some good vegetables. The mean temperature of the three summer months at Palung is probably about 40°, an element of comparatively little importance in regulating the growth and ripening of vegetables at great elevations in Tibetan climates; where a warm exposure, the amount of sunshine, and of radiated heat, have a much greater influence.

During the winter, when these families repair to Kambajong, in Tibet, the flocks and herds are all stall-fed, with long grass, cut on the marshy banks of the Yaru. Snow is said to fall five feet deep at that place, chiefly after January; and it melts in April.

After tea, I ascended the hills overhanging the Lachen valley, which are very bare and stony; large flocks of sheep were feeding on them, chiefly upon small tufted sedges, allied to the English Carex pilularis, which here forms the greatest part of the pasture: the grass grows mixed with it in small tufts, and is the common Scotch mountain pasture-grass (Festuca ovina).

On the top of these hills, which, for barrenness, reminded me of the descriptions given of the Siberian steppes, I found, at 17,000 feet elevation, several minute arctic plants, with Rhododendron nivale, the most alpine of woody plants. On their sterile slopes grew a curious plant allied to the Cherleria of the Scotch Alps, forming great hemispherical balls on the ground, eight to ten inches across, altogether resembling in habit the curious Balsambog (Bolax glebaria) of the Falkland Islands, which grows in very similar scenes.*

* Arenaria rupifraga, Fenzl. This plant is mentioned by Dr. Thomson (“Travels in Tibet,” p. 426) as common in Tibet, as far north as the Karakoram, at an elevation between 16,000 and 18,000 feet. In Sikkim it is found at the same level. Specimens of it are exhibited in the Kew Museum. As one instance illustrative of the chaotic state of Indian botany, I may here mention that this little plant, a denizen of such remote and inaccessible parts of the globe, and which has only been known to science a dozen years, bears the burthen of no less than six names in botanical works. This is the Bryomorpha rupifraga of Karelin and Kireloff (enumeration of Soongarian plants), who first described it from specimens gathered in 1841, on the Alatau mountains (east of Lake Aral). In Ledebour’s “Flora Rossica” (i. p. 780) it appears as Arenaria (sub-genus Dicranilla) rupifraga, Fenzl, MS. In Decaisne and Cambessede’s Plants of Jacquemont’s “Voyage aus Indes Orientales,” it is described as Flourensia cæspitosa, and in the plates of that work it appears as Periandra cæspitosa; and lastly, in Endlicher’s “Genera Plantarum,” Fenzl proposes the long new generic name of Thylacospermum for it. I have carefully compared the Himalayan and Alatau plants, and find no difference between them, except that the flower of the Himalayan one has 4 petals and sepals, 8 stamens, and 2 styles, and that of the Alatau 5 petals and sepals, 10 stamens, and 2-3 styles, characters which are very variable in allied plants. The flowers appear polygamous, as in the Scotch alpine Cherleria, which it much resembles in habit, and to which it is very nearly related in botanical characters.


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A few days afterwards, I again visited Palung, with the view of ascertaining the height of perpetual snow on the south face of Kinchinjhow; unfortunately, bad weather came on before I reached the Tibetans, from whom I obtained a guide in consequence. From this place a ride of about four miles brought me to the source of the Chachoo, in a deep ravine, containing the terminations of several short, abrupt glaciers,* and into which were precipitated avalanches of snow and ice. I found it impossible to distinguish the glacial ice from perpetual snow; the larger beds of snow where presenting a flat surface, being generally drifts collected in hollows, or accumulations that have fallen from above: when these accumulations rest on slopes they become converted into ice, and obeying the laws of fluidity, flow downwards as glaciers. I boiled water at the most advantageous position I could select, and obtained an elevation of 16,522 feet.† It was snowing heavily at this time, and we crouched under a gigantic

* De Saussure’s glaciers of the second order: see “Forbes’ Travels in the Alps,” p. 79.
† Temperature of boiling water, 183°, air 35°.


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boulder, benumbed with cold. I had fortunately brought a small phial of brandy, which, with hot water from the boiling-apparatus kettle, refreshed us wonderfully.

The spur that divides these plains from the Lachen river, rises close to Kinchinjhow, as a lofty cliff of quartzy gneiss, dipping north-east 30°: this I had noticed from the Kongra Lama side. On this side the dip was also to the northward, and the whole cliff was crossed by cleavage planes, dipping south, and apparently cutting those of the foliation at an angle of about 60°: it is the only decided instance of the kind I met with in Sikkim. I regretted not being able to examine it carefully, but I was prevented by the avalanches of stones and snow which were continually being detached from its surface.*

The plants found close to the snow were minute primroses, Parnassia, Draba, tufted wormwoods (Artemisia), saxifrages, gentian, small Compositæ, grasses, and sedges. Our ponies unconcernedly scraped away the snow with their hoofs, and nibbled the scanty herbage. When I mounted mine, he took the bit between his teeth, and

* I extremely regret not having been at this time acquainted with Mr. D. Sharpe’s able essays on the foliation, cleavage, etc., of slaty rocks, gneiss, etc., in the Geological Society’s Journal (ii. p. 74, and v. p. 111), and still more so with his subsequent papers in the Philosophical Transactions: as I cannot doubt that many of his observations, and in particular those which refer to the great arches in which the folia (commonly called strata) are disposed, would receive ample illustration from a study of the Himalaya. At vol. i. p. 309 I have distantly alluded to such an arrangement of the gneiss, etc., into arches, in Sikkim, to which my attention was naturally drawn by the writings of Professor Sedgwick (“Geolog. Soc. Trans.”) and Mr. Darwin (“Geological Observations in South America”) on these obscure subjects. I may add that wherever I met with the gneiss, mica, schists, and slates, in Sikkim, very near one another, I invariably found that their cleavage and foliation were conformable. This, for example, may be seen in the bed of the great Rungeet, below Dorjiling, where the slates overlie mica schists, and where the latter contain beds of conglomerate. In these volumes I have often used the more familiar term of stratification, for foliation. This arises from my own ideas of the subject not having been clear when the notes were taken.


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scampered back to Palung, over rocks and hills, through bogs and streams; and though the snow was so blinding that no object could be distinguished, he brought me to the tents with unerring instinct, as straight as an arrow.

Wild animals are few in kind and rare in individuals, at Tungu and elsewhere on this frontier; though there is no lack of cover and herbage. This must be owing to the moist cold atmosphere; and it reminds me that a similar want of animal life is characteristic of those climates at the level of the sea, which I have adduced as bearing a great analogy to the Himalaya, in lacking certain natural orders of plants. Thus, New Zealand and Fuegia possess, the former no land animal but a rat, and the latter very few indeed, and none of any size. Such is also the case in Scotland and Norway. Again, on the damp west coast of Tasmania, quadrupeds are rare; whilst the dry eastern half of the island once swarmed with opossums and kangaroos. A few miles north of Tungu, the sterile and more lofty provinces of Tibet abound in wild horses, antelopes, hares, foxes, marmots, and numerous other quadrupeds; although their altitude, climate, and scanty vegetation are apparently even more unsuited to support such numbers of animals of so large a size than the karroos of South Africa, and the steppes of Siberia and Arctic America, which similarly abound in animal life. The laws which govern the distribution of large quadrupeds seem to be intimately connected with those of climate; and we should have regard to these considerations in our geological speculations, and not draw hasty conclusions from the absence of the remains of large herbivora in formations disclosing a redundant vegetation.

Besides the wild sheep found on these mountains, a species


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of marmot* (“Kardiepieu” of the Tibetans) sometimes migrates in swarms (like the Lapland “Lemming”) from Tibet as far as Tungu. There are few birds but red-legged crows and common ravens. Most of the insects belonged to arctic types, and they were numerous in individuals.†

Tibet marmot

The Choongtam Lama was at a small temple near Tungu during the whole of my stay, but he would not come to visit me, pretending to be absorbed in his devotions. Passing one day by the temple, I found him catechising two young aspirants for holy orders. He is one of the Dukpa sect, wore his mitre, and was seated cross-legged on the grass with his scriptures on his knees: he put questions to the boys, when he who answered best took the other some yards

* The Lagopus Tibetanus of Hodgson. I procured one that displayed an extraordinary tenacity of life: part of the skull was shot away, and the brain protruded; still it showed the utmost terror at my dog.
† As Meloe, and some flower-feeding lamellicorns. Of butterflies I saw blues (Polyommatus), marbled whites, Pontia, Colias and Argynnis. A small Curculio was frequent, and I found Scolopendra, ants and earthworms, on sunny exposures as high as 15,500 feet.


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off, put him down on his hands and knees, threw a cloth over his back, and mounted; then kicking, spurring, and cuffing his steed, he was galloped back to the Lama and kicked off; when the catechising recommenced.

I spent a week at Tungu most pleasantly, ascending the neighbouring mountains, and mixing with the people, whom I found uniformly kind, frank, and extremely hospitable; sending their children after me to invite me to stop at their tents, smoke, and drink tea; often refusing any remuneration, and giving my attendants curds and yak-flesh. If on foot, I was entreated to take a pony; and when tired I never scrupled to catch one, twist a yak-hair rope over its jaw as a bridle, and throwing a goat-hair cloth upon its back (if no saddle were at hand), ride away whither I would. Next morning a boy would be sent for the steed, perhaps bringing an invitation to come and take it again. So I became fond of brick-tea boiled with butter, salt, and soda, and expert in the Tartar saddle; riding about perched on the shoulders of a rough pony, with my feet nearly on a level with my pockets, and my knees almost meeting in front.

On the 28th of July much snow fell on the hills around, as low as 14,000 feet, and half an inch of rain at Tungu;* the former soon melted, and I made an excursion to Chomiomo on the following day, hoping to reach the lower line of perpetual snow. Ascending the valley of the Chomiochoo, I struck north up a steep slope, that ended in a spur of vast tabular masses of quartz and felspar, piled like slabs in a stone quarry, dipping south-west 5° to 10°, and striking north-west. These resulted from the decomposition of gneiss, from which the layers of mica bad been washed away, when the rain and frost splitting up the fragments,

* An inch and a half fell at Dorjiling during the same period.


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the dislocation is continued to a great depth into the substance of the rock.

Large silky cushions of a forget-me-not grew amongst the rocks, spangled with beautiful blue flowers, and looking like turquoises set in silver: the Delphininin glaciale* was also abundant, exhaling a rank smell of musk. It indicates a very great elevation in Sikkim, and on my ascent far above it, therefore, I was not surprised to find water boil at 182·6° (air 43°), which gives an altitude of 16,754 feet.

A dense fog, with sleet, shut out all view; and I did not know in what direction to proceed higher, beyond the top of the sharp, stony ridge I had attained. Here there was no perpetual snow, which is to be accounted for by the nature of the surface facilitating its removal, the edges of the rocks which project through the snow, becoming heated, and draining off the water as it melts.

During my stay at Tungu, from the 23rd to the 30th of July, no day passed without much deposition of moisture, but generally in so light a form that throughout the whole time but one inch was registered in the rain-gauge; during the same time four inches and a half of rain fell at Dorjiling, and three inches and a half at Calcutta. The mean temperature was 50° (max. 65°, min. 40·7°); extremes, 65/38°. The mean range (23·3°) was thus much greater than at Dorjiling, where it was only 8·9°. A thermometer, sunk three feet, varied only a few tenths from 57·6°. By twenty-five comparative observations with Calcutta, 1° Fahr. is the equivalent of every 362 feet of ascent; and twenty comparative observations with Dorjiling give 1° for every 340 feet. The barometer rose and fell at the same hours as at lower

* This new species has been described for the “Flora Indica” of Dr. Thomson and myself: it is a remarkable plant, very closely resembling, and as it were representing, the D. Brunonianum of the western Himalaya. The latter plant smells powerfully of musk, but not so disagreeably as this does.


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elevations; the tide amounting to 0·060 inch, between 9.50 a.m. and 4 p.m.

I left Tungu on the 30th of July, and spent that night at Tallum; where a large party of men had just arrived, with loads of madder, rice, canes, bamboos, planks, etc., to be conveyed to Tibet on yaks and ponies.* On the following day I descended to Lamteng, gathering a profusion of fine plants by the way.

The flat on which I had encamped at this place in May and June, being now a marsh, I took up my abode for two days in one of the houses, and paid the usual penalty of communication with these filthy people; for which my only effectual remedy was boiling all my garments and bedding. Yet the house was high, airy, and light; the walls composed of bamboo, lath, and plaster.

Tropical Cicadas ascend to the pine-woods above Lamteng in this month, and chirp shrilly in the heat of the day; and glow-worms fly about at night. The common Bengal and Java toad, Bufo scabra, abounded in the marshes, a remarkable instance of wide geographical distribution, for a Batrachian which is common at the level of the sea under the tropics.

On the 3rd of August I descended to Choongtam, which I reached on the 5th. The lakes on the Chateng flat (alt. 8,750 feet) were very full, and contained many English water-plants;† the temperature of the water was 92° near

* About 300 loads of timber, each of six planks, are said to be taken across the Kongra Lama pass annually; and about 250 of rice, besides canes, madder, bamboos, cottons, cloths, and Symplocos leaves for dyeing. This is, no doubt, a considerably exaggerated statement, and may refer to both the Kongra Lama and Donkia passes.
Sparganium ramosum, Eleocharis palustris, Scirpus triqueter, and Callitriche verna? Some very tropical genera ascend thus high; as Paspalum amongst grasses, and Scleria, a kind of sedge.


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the edges, where a water-insect (Notonecta) was swimming about.

Below this I passed an extensive stalactitic deposit of lime, and a second occurred lower down, on the opposite side of the valley. The apparently total absence of limestone rocks in any part of Sikkim (for which I made careful search), renders these deposits, which are far from unfrequent, very curious. Can the limestone, which appears in Tibet, underlie the gneiss of Sikkim? We cannot venture to assume that these lime-charged streams, which in Sikkim burst from the steep flanks of narrow mountain spurs, at elevations between 1000 and 7000 feet, have any very remote or deep origin. If the limestone be not below the gneiss, it must either occur intercalated with it, or be the remains of a formation now all but denuded in Sikkim.

Terrific landslips had taken place along the valley, carrying down acres of rock, soil, and pine-forests, into the stream. I saw one from Kampo Samdong, on the opposite flank of the valley, which swept over 100 yards in breadth of forest. I looked in vain for any signs of scratching or scoring, at all comparable to that produced by glacial action. The bridge at the Tuktoong, mentioned at p. 31, being carried away, we had to ascend for 1000 feet (to a place where the river could be crossed) by a very precipitous path, and descend on the opposite side. In many places we had great difficulty in proceeding, the track being obliterated by the rains, torrents, and landslips. Along the flats, now covered with a dense rank vegetation, we waded ankle, and often knee, deep in mud, swarming with leeches; and instead of descending into the valley of the now too swollen Lachen, we made long detours, rounding spurs by canes and bamboos suspended from trees.


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At Choongtam the rice-fields were flooded: and the whole flat was a marsh, covered with tropical grasses and weeds, and alive with insects, while the shrill cries of cicadas, frogs and birds, filled the air. Sand-flies, mosquitos, cockroaches, and enormous cockchafers,* Mantis, great locusts, grasshoppers, flying-bugs, crickets, ants, spiders, caterpillars, and leeches, were but a few of the pests that swarmed in my tent and made free with my bed. Great lazy butterflies floated through the air; Thecla and Hesperides skipped about, and the great Nymphalidæ darted around like swallows. The venomous black cobra was common, and we left the path with great caution, as it is a lazy reptile, and lies basking in the sun; many beautiful and harmless green snakes, four feet long, glided amongst the bushes. My dogs caught a “Rageu,”† a very remarkable animal, half goat and half deer; the flesh was good and tender, dark-coloured, and lean.

I remained here till the 15th of August,‡ arranging my

* Eucerris Griffithii, a magnificent species. Three very splendid insects of the outer ranges of Sikkim never occurred in the interior: these are a gigantic Curculio (Calandra) a wood-borer; a species of Goliath-beetle, Cheirotonus Macleaii, and a smaller species of the same rare family, Trigonophorus nepalensis; of these the former is very scarce, the latter extremely abundant, flying about at evenings; both are flower-feeders, eating honey and pollen. In the summer of 1848, the months at Dorjiling were well marked by the swarms of peculiar insects that appeared in inconceivable numbers; thus, April was marked by a great black Passalus, a beetle one-and-a-half inch long, that flies in the face and entangles itself in the hair; May, by stag-beetles and longicorns; June, by Coccinella (lady-birds), white moths, and flying-bugs; July, by a Dryptis? a long-necked carabideous insect; August, by myriads of earwigs, cockroaches, Goliath-beetles, and cicadas; September, by spiders.
† “Ragoah,” according to Hodgson: but it is not the Procapra picticaudata of Tibet.
‡ Though 5° further north, and 5,268 feet above the level of Calcutta, the mean temperature at Choongtam this month was only 12·5° cooler than at Calcutta; forty observations giving 1° Fahr. as equal to 690 feet of elevation; whereas in May the mean of twenty-seven observations gave 1° Fahr. as equal to 260 feet, the mean difference of temperature being then 25°. The mean maximum of the day was 80°, and was attained at 11 a.m., after which clouds formed, and the thermometer fell to 66° at sunset, and 56° at night. In my blanket tent the heat rose to upwards of 100° in calm weather. The afternoons were generally squally and rainy.


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Lachen valley collections previous to starting for the Lachoong, whence I hoped to reach Tibet again by a different route, crossing the Donkia pass, and thence exploring the sources of the Teesta at the Cholamoo lakes.

Whilst here I ascertained the velocity of the currents of the Lachen and Lachoong rivers. Both were torrents, than which none could be more rapid, short of becoming cataracts: the rains were at their height, and the melting of the snows at its maximum. I first measured several hundred yards along the banks of each river above the bridges, repeating this several times, as the rocks and jungle rendered it very difficult to do it accurately: then, sitting on the bridge, I timed floating masses of different materials and sizes that were thrown in at the upper point. I was surprised to find the velocity of the Lachen only nine miles per hour, for its waters seemed to shoot past with the speed of an arrow, but the floats showed the whole stream to be so troubled with local eddies and backwaters, that it took from forty-three to forty-eight seconds for each float to pass over 200 yards, as it was perpetually submerged by under-currents. The breadth of the river averaged sixty-eight feet, and the discharge was 4,420 cubic feet of water per second. The temperature was 57°.

At the Lachoong bridge the jungle was still denser, and the banks quite inaccessible in many places. The mean velocity was eight miles an hour, the breadth ninety-five feet, the depth about the same as that of the Lachen, giving a discharge of 5,700 cubic feet of water per


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second;* its temperature was also 57°. These streams retain an extraordinary velocity, for many miles upwards; the Lachen to its junction with the Zemu at 9000 feet, and the Zemu itself as far up as the Thlonok, at 10,000 feet, and the Lachoong to the village of that name, at 8000 feet: their united streams appear equally rapid till they become the Teesta at Singtam.†

On the 15th of August, having received supplies from Dorjiling, I started up the north bank of the Lachoong, following the Singtam Soubah, who accompanied me officially, and with a very bad grace; poor fellow, he expected me to have returned with him to Singtam, and thence gone back to Dorjiling, and many a sore struggle we had on this point. At Choongtam he had been laid up with ulcerated legs from the bites of leeches and sand-flies, which required my treatment. The path was narrow, and ran through a jungle of mixed tropical and temperate plants,‡ many of which are not found at this elevation on the damp outer ranges of Dorjiling. We crossed to the south bank by a fine cane-bridge forty yards long, the river being twenty-eight across and here I have to record the loss of my dog Kinchin; the companion of all my late journeyings, and to whom I had become really attached. He had a bad habit, of which I

* Hence it appears that the Lachoong, being so much the more copious stream, should in one sense be regarded as the continuation of the Teesta, rather than the Lachen, which, however, has by far the most distant source. Their united streams discharge upwards of 10,000 cubic feet of water per second in the height of the rains! which is, however, a mere fraction of the discharge of the Teesta when that river leaves the Himalaya. The Ganges at Hurdwar discharges 8000 feet per second during the dry season.
† The slope of the bed of the Lachen from below the confluence of the Zemu to the village of Singtam is 174 feet per mile, or 1 foot in 30; that of the Lachoong from the village of that name to Singtam is considerably less.
‡ As Paris, Dipsacus, Circæa, Thalictrum, Saxifraga ciliaris, Spiranthes, Malva, Hypoxis, Anthericum, Passiflora, Drosera, Didymocarpus, poplar, Calamagrostis, and Eupatorium.


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had vainly tried to cure him, of running for a few yards on the round bamboos by which the cane-bridges are crossed, and on which it was impossible for a dog to retain his footing: in this situation he used to get thoroughly frightened, and lie down on the bamboos with his legs hanging over the water, and having no hold whatever. I had several times rescued him from this perilous position, which was always rendered more imminent from the shaking of the bridge as I approached him. On the present occasion, I stopped at the foot of some rocks below the bridge, botanizing, and Kinchin having scrambled up the rocks, ran on to the bridge. I could not see him, and was not thinking about him, when suddenly his shrill, short barks of terror rang above the roaring torrent. I hastened to the bridge, but before I could get to it, he had lost his footing, and had disappeared. Holding on by the cane, I strained my eyes till the bridge seemed to be swimming up the valley, and the swift waters to be standing still, but to no purpose; he had been carried under at once, and swept away miles below. For many days I missed him by my side on the mountain, and by my feet in camp. He had become a very handsome dog, with glossy black hair, pendent triangular ears, short muzzle, high forehead, jet-black eyes, straight limbs, arched neck, and a most glorious tail curling over his back.*

A very bad road led to the village of Keadom, situated on a flat terrace several hundred feet above the river, and 6,609 feet above the sea, where I spent the night. Here are cultivated plantains and maize, although the elevation

* The woodcut at vol. i. p. 203, gives the character of the Tibet mastiff, to which breed his father belonged; but it is not a portrait of himself, having been sketched from a dog of the pure breed, in the Zoological Society’s Gardens, by C. Jenyns, Esq.


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is equal to parts of Dorjiling, where these plants do not ripen.

The river above Keadom is again crossed, by a plank bridge, at a place where the contracted streams flow between banks forty feet high, composed of obscurely stratified gravel, sand, and water-worn boulders. Above this the path ascends lofty flat-topped spurs, which overhang the river, and command some of the most beautiful scenery in Sikkim. The south-east slopes are clothed with Abies Brunoniana at 8000 feet elevation, and cleft by a deep ravine, from which projects what appears to be an old moraine, fully 1,500 or perhaps 2000 feet high. Extensive landslips on its steep flank expose (through the telescope) a mass of gravel and angular blocks, while streams cut deep channels in it.

This valley is far more open and grassy than that of the Lachen, and the vegetation also differs much.* In the afternoon we reached Lachoong, which is by far the most picturesque village in the temperate region of Sikkim. Grassy flats of different levels, sprinkled with brushwood and scattered clumps of pine and maple, occupy the valley; whose west flanks rise in steep, rocky, and scantily wooded grassy slopes. About five miles to the north the valley forks; two conspicuous domes of snow rising from the intermediate mountains. The eastern valley leads to lofty snowed regions, and is said to be impracticable; the Lachoong flows down the western, which appeared rugged, and covered with pine woods. On the east, Tunkra mountain† rises in a

* Umbelliferæ and Compositæ abound, and were then flowering; and an orchis (Satyrium Nepalense), scented like our English Gymnadenia, covered the ground in some places, with tall green Habenariæ and a yellow Spathoglottis, a genus with pseudo-bulbs. Of shrubs, Xanthoxylon, Rhus, Prinsepia, Cotoneaster, Pyrus, poplar and oak, formed thickets along the path; while there were as many as eight and nine kinds of balsams, some eight feet high.
† This mountain is seen from Dorjiling; its elevation is about 18,700 feet.


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superb unbroken sweep of dark pine-wood and cliffs, surmounted by black rocks and white fingering peaks of snow. South of this, the valley of the Tunkrachoo opens, backed by sharp snowed pinnacles, which form the continuation of the Chola range; over which a pass leads to the Phari district of Tibet, which intervenes between Sikkim and Bhotan. Southwards the view is bounded by snowy mountains, and the valley seems blocked up by the remarkable moraine-like spur which I passed above Keadom.

Lachoong valley and village, looking south

Stupendous moraines rise 1,500 feet above the Lachoong in several concentric series, curving downwards and outwards, so as to form a bell-shaped mouth to the valley of the Tunkrachoo. Those on the upper flank are much the


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largest; and the loftiest of them terminates in a conical hill crowned with Boodhist flags, and its steep sides cut into horizontal roads or terraces, one of which is so broad and flat as to suggest the idea of its having been cleared by art.

Lofty ancient moraines in the Lachoong valley, looking south-east

On the south side of the Tunkrachoo river the moraines are also more or less terraced, as is the, floor of the Lachoong valley, and its east slopes, 1000 feet up.*

* I have since been greatly struck with the similarity between the features of this valley, and those of Chamouni (though the latter is on a smaller scale) above the Lavanchi moraine. The spectator standing in the expanded part below the village of Argentiere, and looking upwards, sees the valley closed above by the ancient moraine of the Argentiere glacier, and below by that of Lavanchi; and an all sides the slopes are cut into terraces, strewed with boulders. I found traces of stratified pebbles and sand on the north flank of the Lavanchi moraine however, which I failed to discover in those of Lachoong. The average slope of these pine-clad Sikkim valleys much approximates to that of Chamouni, and never approaches the precipitous character of the Bernese Alps’ valleys, Kandersteg, Lauterbrunnen, and Grindelwald.


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The river is fourteen yards broad, and neither deep nor rapid: the village is on the east bank, and is large for Sikkim; it contains fully 100 good wooden houses, raised on posts, and clustered together without order. It was muddy and intolerably filthy, and intersected by some small streams, whose beds formed the roads, and, at the same time, the common sewers of the natives. There is some wretched cultivation in fields,* of wheat, barley, peas, radishes, and turnips. Rice was once cultivated at this elevation (8000 feet), but the crop was uncertain; some very tropical grasses grow wild here, as Eragrostis and Panicum. In gardens the hollyhock is seen: it is said to be introduced through Tibet from China; also Pinus excelsa from Bhotan, peaches, walnuts, and weeping willows. A tall poplar was pointed out to me as a great wonder; it had two species of Pyrus growing on its boughs, evidently from seed; one was a mountain ash, the other like Pyrus Aria.

Soon after camping, the Lachoong Phipun, a very tall, intelligent, and agreeable looking man, waited on me with the usual presents, and a request that I would visit his sick father. His house was lofty and airy: in the inner room the sick man was stretched on a board, covered with a blanket, and dying of pressure on the brain; he was surrounded by a deputation of Lamas from Teshoo Loombo, sent for in this emergency. The principal one was a fat fellow, who sat cross-legged before a block-printed Tibetan

* Full of such English weeds as shepherd’s purse, nettles, Solanum nigrum, and dock; besides many Himalayan ones, as balsams, thistles, a beautiful geranium, mallow, Haloragis and Cucurbitaceous plants.


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book, plates of raw meat, rice, and other offerings, and the bells, dorje, etc. of his profession. Others sat around, reading or chanting services, and filling the room with incense. At one end of the apartment was a good library in a beautifully carved book-case.

Head and feet of Tibet marmot

Next Chapter XXII