Page images

often put a quantity of flour into these boots, beside their legs, which I fancy is a practice peculiar to Spiti, but might be introduced elsewhere. The ornaments are very much the same as those of the Chinese Tartars, except that the women have sometimes nose-rings, which adds to their peculiar fascination. Not being affected by caste ideas, as even the Lamaists of Kunáwar are, the people of Spiti make no objection to a European eating with them or entering their houses, unless they happen to be rather ashamed of the interior; but the houses differ very little from those of Zanskar, one of which I shall describe in detail, having had to spend two days in it during a great snowstorm.

There is very little rainfall in Spiti ; from November to April all the streams are frozen up, and it is rather a mystery to me how the people obtain sufficient fuel to support life during that long severe period. In summer the fields are watered by artificial channels leading from the mountain torrents; and it has often a very lively effect when the waters are let loose around and over a number of fields. The chief crops are wheat, barley, and

peas, the latter affording a valuable addition to the traveller's food, but not so readily purchasable as the grain. One need not look for sugar, fruit, or any other of the luxuries of life, in this exceedingly sterile province. Yaks there are in abundance, along with zo-pos and the common Indian ox; and the ghúnt, or small ponies, are famous for their surefootedness, their sagacity, and their power of carrying their rider safely up and down the most terrible, dangerous, and fatiguing paths. Horse - racing, of a very irregular sort, is indulged in occasionally; and the blacksmiths

[ocr errors]

of Spiti are famous in High Asia for their manufacture of steel bits and stirrups. The great substitute for paper here, as in all these snow-lands, is the inner bark of the birch-tree, which is of a light yellow colour, and very soft, though of a close texture. It is very good for all wrapping purposes, and could be used for writing on if needed. The people are singularly exempt from disease, being, to all appearance, afflicted only by a few not bad cases of skin disease, which can easily be accounted for by their persistent avoidance of washing

Spiti is Búdhistic; and there are nearly 400 Lamas in the province, most of whom are bound to celibacy, and only about a dozen nuns,—though that must be quite enough, if it be true, as Captain Harcourt, lately the Assistant Commissioner for the three British provinces of Kúlú, Lahaul, and Spiti, alleges, that “there are at times scenes of gross debauchery in the monasteries—a state of things which can be believed when Lamas and nuns are living promiscuously together.”* As polyandry exists in the province, the surplus women have to remain in the houses of their parents or other relatives ; but there is no reason to consider the Spiti people as immoral, though they indulge in heavy drinking on special occasions; and, like most mountaineers, they are exceedingly enamoured of their own lofty country, treeless and sterile though it be, and are extremely unwilling to go down any of the passes which lead to more genial climes. The poverty of this province, however, has not saved it from more than one conquest. Nearly a thousand years ago, it was under the Lassa Government; and two centuries after, it fell under the dominion of Kublai Khan. In more recent times, it was sometimes subject to the Chinese Tartars and sometimes to the chiefs of Baltistan or of Ladák, according to which party happened to have the upper hand in the neighbourhood. It came into our possession about thirty years ago, through an arrangement with the Maharajah of Kashmír, into whose power it had fallen, and was conjoined with Kúlú under an assistant commissioner in 1849.

* The Himalayan districts of Kooloo, Lahoul, and Spiti. By Captain A. F. P. Harcourt, Assistant Commissioner, Punjab. London, 1871.






From Dankar, or rather from Kazeh or Kaja, a day's journey beyond, my course was a novel one, almost unknown to Himalayan tourists. When considering, at Simla, how I should best see the Himalaya and keep out of the reach of the Indian monsoon, I had the advantage of an old edition of Montgomerie's map, in which the mountains and rivers are laid in, but which is now out of print; and I saw from it that the lie of the Himalaya to the north-west presented a series of rivers and elevated valleys, in the very centre of the ranges, which might enable me to proceed to Kashmir by almost a new route, and one of great interest. I could get no information about this route, further than was conveyed by the admission of a Panjábi captain, who had been in the Himalaya, and who said on my consulting him on the subject—“Well, I should think it would be very possible.” It certainly proved to be so, seeing that I got over the ground, and I got some information regarding it from the Moravian missionaries.

What I had to do was to follow up the Lee or Spiti river almost to its source, then to cross the Kanzam Pass into the frightfully desolate Shigri valley, or valley of the Chandra river; to follow down that river to its junction with the Bhaga; to follow up the Bhaga for a few marches, and then to cross over the tremendous Shinkal Pass on to the Tsarap Lingti river, and the valleys through which streams flow into the upper Indus. It is the first portion of this journey that I have now to speak of; and to render it intelligible, it is only necessary for the reader to follow up the Spiti river as far as he can get, to cross the mountains at its source, and then to descend the Chandra river to its junction with the Bhaga.

At Kazeh, a day's journey from Dankar, I left the usual track, which goes over the Parang-la Pass to Changchemmo and Leh, and which involves a journey that is on many grounds objectionable. Here I had the choice of two routes, one on the left and one on the right bank of the Lee, but chose the latter; and as the former was within sight great part of the way, I had the opportunity of observing that it was considerably the worst of the two, though an inexperienced traveller might rashly conclude that nothing could be worse than the one I followed. To Kazeh we kept up the left bank of the Lee, which was no longer sunk in deep gorges, but had a broad open valley, and spreads itself here and there amid a waste of white stones. Here I crossed the river, at a point where the banks drew close together, and on what, by courtesy, might be called a wooden bridge. This sang-pa is very high and

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »