A FRONTIER TOUR
LIEUT-COLONEL J. R. C. GANNON
(Being Extracts from a Diary written during a journey made with H. E. Lord Rawlinson, C.-in-G. in India, through Dir, Chitral, and the Gilgit Agency, in 1923)
THE SIXTH of August was our last day in Chitral. It was pretty hot and the mosquitoes and a long cipher kept me busy. During the day I went to Bowers’ house and saw his trophies. He has some splendid heads, his best markhor, 53 inches, being the second best shot in Chitral; ibex and leopard good; he had shot two snow-leopard during the year. Later we watched polo and a nice incident occurred when a player broke his stick. His varlet dashed into the middle of the game on foot with a new stick, only to K�t taken at right angles by another player coming full split the other way. The varlet went for six, and pony and player went head over heels. None of the three seemed to mind, nor did the game stop.
Tuesday, 1th August. Koghozi. I was very sick last night; must have been poisoned. Rose this morning pale and putrid, but cured, to resume the march at 6 a.m. We say good-bye to Stewart who has done us well and we are sorry to lose him. As we go down the road, guns go off all over the place and I’m damned thankful when we get away from it. After a mile we cross over a Chitrali bridge to the left bank, and after a mile or two turn right-handed up the Mastuj river where it runs into the Chitral river. This soon becomes like one of Gustav Dora’s pictures of Dante’s Inferno, a roaring rushing torrent below and huge precipitous cliffs of rock reaching up and up on both sides. The rock is evidently hard, for the width of roadway varies between two and three feet only, and in some places has only been cut out high enough for a horse’s head to pass under. Part of it we walk in consequence and I am not pleased. Luckily a short march of 15 miles, and we are in by 9-30 to a nice rest-house with a lovely group of chinar trees outside, under which I put a bed, hire a small boy to keep the flies away, and fall into a disgruntled sleep till half-past one.
Wednesday, 8th August. Reshun. Feeling stronger and even cough at a lightly-boiled egg at five o’clock before starting. I ride my second string, a stuffy little Badakhshani stallion about tuppence high and known as the ‘ Guinea Pig ‘. He tripples along rather comfortably, for which I bless him-he has evidently done this sort of thing all his life. But why, when the road is a yard wide and there is a clear drop of 150 to 200 feet into a very boisterous river, must he always walk along the extreme outside edge, so that my outside leg hangs in space with the aforementioned river bubbling below it ? I watch him at one place, and for five yards or so he even has a small portion of shoe over the edge.
Same magnificent hills but very barren and rocky ; we are rather shut in by them, but we pass through the most delightful villages, along lanes with stone walls about five feet high, the tops covered with wild dog-rose, blackberry and other creepers ; little fields under cultivation with barley, rice, beans, etc.; houses rather hidden by chinar and walnut trees. All very fresh and green. Fig-trees, vines, apple-trees, all over the place, and we are always met with smiles and salutations and kindly offerings of apples, grapes, little figs and apricots.
We pass the big village of Barennis at about the 14th mile and halt for a cigarette. We have been steadily on the rise and it is much cooler. It is more open here and ahead it narrows again, but round that bend lies Reshun, where in ’95, before Kelly’s force came along from Gilgit, Edwardes and one other British officer started out for Chitral. They were attacked immediately and forced to turn back. After a three days’ siege, the Chitralis pretended to make friends� got the two officers down to a polo match, then suddenly knocked them down behind the wall and went for the men. Those who were not killed outright got their throats cut. It was a Sikh regiment. The two officers, after a bad time, eventually rejoined the British at Drosh.
We reach Reshun and find another nice rest-house with a group of chinars over a stream running down into the river. A steady breeze is blowing and all is well. We breakfast, and Bowers, who accompanies us, tells us how in one place up in the hills there is a narrow ridge where the markhor can only pass one at a time, past a lonely bush, and how the local inhabitants tie a man to the bush, then drive the markhor along the ridge. As the animals pass, the wag in the bush kicks them over the precipice! I retaliate by telling them how I have slightly strained the collar-bone I broke last Christmas, while being ill the other evening. Both stories true 1 but it’s enough for the Chief, who goes off sketching.
Thursday, 9th August. Sanoghar. Kit got in latish yesterday. One of my baggage mules, having overdone the edge business, was deposited down in the river quite suddenly, poor brute, breaking his back. My homely chilamchi, or English tin basin, seemed to have taken most of the shock, so I shan’t be able to wash any more. Sponge and tooth-brush stood the strain well. Chief and I watched a polo match for a little in the evening. An astounding ground: about 150 yards long and only 30 yards broad. The main and sunken road crosses it in one place and a stream in another. However, they played very vigorously, seven a side, and the chukker lasted an hour and five minutes, during which some coolies arrived along the road with kit, and an odd person did a sword-dance in the middle of the polo ground, the players not taking the slightest notice of either. The losers of the match were made to dance at the end. They shuffled round rather solemnly, so were funny.
Started at 5-30 this morning. Once out of the village the road runs through the usual rocky, barren hills, and we reach the gorge where Ross got into difficulties in ’95. He was trying to get to Chitral and had come through the narrow pass from the Sanoghar end. They let him get some way along and then rolled down stones and rocks from the heights, opening fire at the same time. He was forced to retire towards the entrance and took shelter in some caves right under the bank of the river. Some of the sangars he built on the way remain. He was killed under the precipitous entrance to the gorge. His subaltern, Jones, and 17 men, ten of whom were wounded, got away back to Mastuj, the headman of Buni assisting him on the way.
Once out of the gorge we come into a fine open valley, two or three miles across ; villages and cultivation all over the lower hills on the right bank with snow-capped hills behind them. Clouds screen our view of Tirich Mir. The river opens out into a wide expanse of water dotted about with islands; patches of tamarisk bush in bloom. It is a great spot for the returning duck in the spring. After cantering across some open country, we strike the left bank of the Mastuj river again, and the road runs up to a long strip of the worst and steepest shale khud we have seen. Bowers, who is behind, mumbles something I do not hear. He is an Irishman who talks very indistinctly in a very low voice and after five years in Chitral has, I think, got his languages a little mixed. It is sometimes difficult to tell whether he is talking Chitrali or English-they both seem strangely alike when coming from him and equally untranslatable. Apparently he was suggesting that we should dismount, but the Chief and I are into it before he can make any understandable noise, so they all follow on. The shale ridge lasts for about a mile and a half, the pathway at best feet wide, at worst one foot, winding in and out of the spurs and projections of the ridge on an average of five or six hundred feet above the river, the slope at an angle of a fire-escape. We plod firmly along, Bowers every now and then breaking the silence by announcing in his low soft voice, ” Here so and so fell down and was killed “, or, ” Here three mules fell down and were washed away by the river “. At a sharp bend he suddenly says, ” This will make a grand photograph “, slides in some mysterious way over his pony’s tail and turns round to take a photo. We all ride stallions and Glen is the first of the protesting cavalcade which has to stop and be photographed, while the unruly stallions squeal, bite each other from behind and make damn fools of themselves in general, on the narrowest part of the path. The Chief and I ride on hoping for the best and gradually get down to level again. We wonder how our baggage will fare. We reach Buni, 14 miles, and sit down in the shade to breakfast. We have been rising steadily and the first poplars are here; hawthorn and blackthorn; there are also button-holes of coreopsis and yellow daisies for us, and the head of the village comes forward with a letter from Gurdon dated ’95, thanking his father for helping Jones and his weary men and commending him and his progeny to the gentle notice of all Englishmen for ever and a day.
Another eleven miles to Sanoghar, mostly uphill. After a steep climb we reach a village called Miragram. To the right is an open gorge in the near hills, and through the gorge is a snow-covered mountain, Buni Zun, very close, with a sheer rock-face towards us. The villagers bring fruit and bundles of a leafless pink flower that they have picked for us of the mountain, growing by the snow. No one can tell us its name, but the villagers call it Kunar. Out comes the Chief’s haversack and he settles down to sketch, while most of us jog on to Sanoghar. A nice little rest-house at 7500 feet. It is really cool at last. A rippling grass lawn in front and the shade of walnut- trees. Mulberries are also dotted about on it. A chair under a tree, a drink, a pipe, and I settle down to deal with a post.
Friday, 10th August. Mastuj. Spent quiet afternoon at Sanoghar and did some work. Post hasn’t missed a day yet. Had a topping sleep and am quite fit again. Up at 4-30 and of as soon as it is light. As it is only a short way to Mastuj, we are going on to Charpari, another 7 miles, to ease the long march to Miiagram. The toad starts off up the left bank winding round a bad rock cliff, then descends sharply to the river-a really nasty bit with sharp zig-zag turns. I am on ” Ginger “, a biggish C. B. pony. He is so long and angular that I have to put him into reverse at some corners to get round. Thank goodness after a bit the Chief dismounts and we walk down. Ginger not a good goat. At the bottom we cross the river over a suspension-bridge. Very narrow gorge and a fine mass of water tearing down. Road on far side bad with continual steep climbs up and down spurs. We are soon in sight of Mastuj, a green spot with a large mud fort on the far bank, but we have to struggle on up and down some nasty places for two miles before we get down to another and rather wobbly suspension-bridge, which we cross and turn back to Mastuj. Distance about four miles as the crow flies, but we must have done ten-the longest way of going from one place to another I’ve ever done. Before the English came, it took two days to get from Mastuj to Sanoghar.
On the way, when we stop to walk down a steep bit, the ponies afford light relief. One man lets his stallion go, in order to rush forward to hold the Chief’s horse. The loose one promptly makes a most sudden and unplatonic attack on Hissam-ud-din’s pony when he is half dismounted. Over goes Hissam-ud-din and sits heavily on a sharp stone. Two or three other men let go their horses to assail the combatants, further squeals, snorts and kicks ensue, all within a few yards of a drop of three or four hundred feet into the river. Peace us last restored.
In a garden below the fort we breakfast in the shade. Glen and Bowers go on to erect a camp at Charpari. I send of some telegrams from this, the northernmost telegraph office in India. To the south the Laspor river goes through the hills to Sor Laspor and the Shandur. Our valley runs of north-eastwards up the Yarkhun river. Below the fort is a fine jheel, which is full of snipe in the winter. A terrific shale hill on the right, and up the valley a snow-covered range blocks the way. Somewhere on this range, round a bend right-handed, we have to clamber up to the Thui or Mashobar pass.
Charpari. An easy ride along the valley, past some ripping little hamlets. Apples and apricots everywhere, but we are too high for grapes. No bungalow, but camped in a heavenly apricot and walnut orchard under a hill. A small village and good crops. Quail were calling as we came in, and Hissam-ud-din and I propose to tickle them up after tea. Chief is going up a hill to have a look round with a telescope.
Saturday, 11th August. Miragram. The quail shoot not a great success, for there were very few quail. Having pranced through crops for over an hour and collected three quail, we turned to the hill behind the camp and got on to a small covey of chikor and after much labour and climbing we slaughtered two brace. It was a nasty hill and very steep, so we got good exercise.
After dinner when the Chief had gone, I asked Bowers if I had not better give a general tip to square up any damage done, and to pay for the apricots eaten by our entourage. However, this was not advised as the headman would be hurt. But it was suggested that a drink would do him no harm, so he was sent for.
An old boy with a beard and a wizened face, in a dark choga turned up. He is seventy years old and most cheery. A Mulais, one of those odd Muhammadan tribes up here who are directly under the Agha Khan and still steadfastly pay him tithe. They look on him as little removed from God and will make deep and reverent obeisance to his picture. There are many Mulais between here and Hunza ; in fact, some of the Agha Khan’s income comes from these parts, as he has little land in India.
Bowers mixes the old boy a drink before his arrival. It is a tumbler consisting of two-thirds port and one-third whisky. The Mulais sits down and drinks it like a labourer puts down a pint of ale on a thirsty day. He only licks his lips and professes complete satisfaction. He and I then indulge in polite conversation through the medium of Bowers and Nasrullah Khan. He is in great form and laughs delightedly. I give him a bottle of port and his joy knows no bounds. At this moment a storm, which has been hanging round all the evening, bursts quite suddenly. Out go our never-blow-out candle-lamps and we all bolt for our tents, leaving the Mulais alone in his glory. I don’t know how he passed the night, but at 6 a.m. this morning he was neither on the table nor under it.
Left at 5-30 and on up the left bank of the Mastuj, now called the Yarkhun river. The so-called road is now out of the hands of the Military Works, but the Mehtar has been having a go at it. After a sharp climb above the river and down again, we have a delightful ride along the river bank to Brep. It is a glorious morning, not a cloud in the sky. Malo Zom raises its snowy head behind us. Grass everywhere and cultivation in patches. I see a few hollyhocks growing by one hut and we pass a pool fed by a hill spring, as clear as crystal, with small snow-trout darting about in it. The same barren, rocky hills each side of the river which now runs less boisterously and would take a boat in safety. At Brep in an hour and a half-only nine miles. Breakfast of hot sausages and buttered eggs in the shade of some trees. There is an amazing shale slope across the river, which photograph.
On in half an hour. We now have to climb quite two thousand feet up the rocky hills. The road is a great credit to the Mehtar’s engineers, who are probably only local lads, and turns and twists with repeated zig-zags. We go up and up on a well-made path about four feet wide. Occasionally the slope is 45 degrees and even less, and the stout little ponies are soon puffing and blowing, and have to be rested frequently. At last the top. It is a fine sight looking down. Now we have the fun of repeating the same process down to the riverbank, and most of it has to be done on foot. I am some way behind the Chief, but catch him up at a long bend by shinning down the khud. The Guinea Pig follows protesting, but without a mistake. Now along the river bed again at a canter. The tamarisk bushes are wonderful, all in bloom. Curiously enough there seem to be two kinds of flower on one bush, one a light pink and the other a straw- berry-red in colour ; the latter predominates. We canter out of the river bed into Miragram.
The usual pleasant smiling welcome and presents of fruit. A camp is already standing, sent on by the Mehtar, in a grassy sloping orchard, with the river running by below. At 8300 feet it is delightfully cool, though the sun is still hot. Settle down to an apple, some apricots and the English mail which came in last night.
Sunday, 12th August. Shah Janali, 12,700 feet. There are three Shah Janalis in this district, and the name indicates “King of Polo-grounds “. Some wag must have named this place, where the stones have been scraped oft a flattish bit of ground on the edgeof a dry, stony nullah for our camp, and the next flattest spot is a huge glacier crawling past on the other side of the nullah. There is one tiny hut against the bank of the nullah : all else is mountains and snow.
At lunch at Miragram yesterday we noticed a large bird’s-nest in the tree under which we were sitting. It had been turned into a big hotel by sparrows who had built quarters all round it and inside it. Just after lunch Hissam-ud-din said, ” Look ! there is a snake in the nest”. The spadgers were giving tongue most vociferously and under the nest were showing about six inches of snake, his head evidently in the nest. The baggage had not arrived and we had no guns, but Bowers produced a ‘450 Colt and took a shot. It was about 24 feet away and he grazed the snake with the very first shot. The snake wriggled and squirmed, but always showed some part. Bowers went on shooting, once breaking his tail. After about eight shots the dirty marauder’s tail hung lower and lower, till he came down ” wump ” on the ground, and lay there squirming his life out. An amazing bit of shooting. He had one hit on the head, a lucky one, a graze high up and another lower down. His back was broken with a clean hit a foot from the end of his tail and again three inches from the tail. With the first shot the spadgers hopped it, including one brave little fellow who had been violently pecking at the snake’s tail, but half an hour afterwards they were all back bucking over the day’s adventure, nineteen to the dozen. Suppose no one will believe this in spite of four witnesses.
In the evening Glen, Bowers and self went down to the river to a local bridge. It consisted of three thin ropes of stick and twig to walk on ; supposed to be tied together but were not. Two ropes as hand-rails, being joined to the walking-ropes by. strips of twig twisted round and not even tied. I essay the bridge, which sinks down to within a foot of the torrent. It is not difficult, yet if one looks down long enough into the water, one imagines that the bridge has a terrific swing on. Glen and Bowers both have a go. The bridge broke last year, drowning an old man and a girl who were crossing.
Off at 5-30 this morning. We get our feet wet at the start when riding through a hill stream. It is running pretty fast and it is all the ponies can do to get over. On up the left bank, an easy track along the river edge. Most of the nearer hill-tops under snow and between them we get glimpses of snow-clad peaks. At Warsam, 9 miles, we breakfast in an orchard. The apricots and crops are still green here. Opposite Warsam the Yarkhun river bends of left- handed upstream through a magnificent rocky gorge. This is the great defensive Darband of the Chitrali against the bogy Bolo, Afghan or Badakhshani. Indeed, with a little preparation by a Sapper and Miner Company, stone-shoots, fougasses and other tricks, a few determined soldiers with a gun or two could hold up an army. There are the usual stories of terrific battles in the past, of countless bones of men in the river bed ; of the great fight in the very dim past when the Chitralis killed 50,000 of the invading hordes within sight of where we stand. Cut off three of the noughts and one probably gets the real total of killed and wounded in this particular engagement.
Our road turns right-handed up a stream and we rise steadily towards the apparent dead-end of everything, rows of snow-clad massive peaks. Among the lower, though very sharp needle-summits, is the Thui pass. As we go on there is a change in the trees. Apricot, willow walnut give way to silver birch and juniper. Some of the lower slopes are covered with coarse grass, with masses of pink and yellow flowers. A kind of dog-rose is in bloom everywhere. We come in sight of glaciers descending to the nullah and presently ride over a portion of one, though it is scarcely recognizable as such, as it is covered with stones and mud. The ponies go slowly and are given frequent halts to puff and blow, for we are now at 12,000 feet. We reach camp in a nullah which is about half a mile wide. It is worth having come so far alone to see this for all round rise hills and mountains of black rock and white rock with a few green slopes dotted about. They rise in every shape and formation, the heights and crevices filled with snow, and glaciers coming right down. Not a cloud in the sky and the sun is hot. Ahead is a huge black rock formation with a perpendicular cliff round which, high up, is a snow-field and the peaks between which we must find our way to the pass.
We look round, inspect the yaks and have a trial spin. Weird- looking creatures, apparently quite unambitious and without much sence of humour. A rope through the nose is all there is to guide them. They are feeling the heat, poor dears ! The Chief settles down to sketch them.
Monday, 13th August. Shah Janali. A day’s rest and very welcome to all, including the transport ponies and mules, who, free from care, wander about precipitous grass slopes, eating and fighting to their heart’s content. Yesterday evening Glen, Bowers and self thought we would walk across the glacier to see if there was a way up the hills on the far side. It looked about five hundred yards across and proved to be a mile and a half over the worst going imaginable. The glacier here is covered with the debris brought down off the mountains by avalanches and storms, and is a mass of rocks, boulders and stones. Every now and then a crevasse yawning down to an icy stream at the bottom shows the solid ice and snow. It is all in an amazing formation of hills, hillocks, hollows and little valleys. It is stiff work crossing it. Little avalanches of stones go on all the time and we have to choose our line carefully. The big rocks are the safest and the goat-like Bowers leaps over them like a damn markhor. On the far side, off the glacier, grass and lovely flowers. A veritable rock-garden and a rock wall almost perpendicular, running upwards for 4000 feet. We decide to return and get back just as the sun goes down and it is getting cold. The moment the sun has gone it gets pretty bleak, so into a bath and to dinner in fur jackets and Gilgit boots.
This morning breakfast at eight. Oh! Blessed repose. But it ain’t much good, for I have acquired bad habits and am awake with the dawn. Rise lazily and go for a stroll well wrapped up. After breakfast we go up the valley riding to see the big glaciers. Rough going for three miles and we are well opposite two glaciers ; one comes down from some snowy peaks about 22,000 feet high, and is about a mile across at the base, and solid ice up to the snow-fields. The other is smaller but is a perfect gem, cleaner and whiter than the big one. The Chief settles down to sketch and the rest of us clamber along to the smaller glacier, getting at last right up to it on the snow immediately below. It is an awe-inspiring sight, the last eight hundred feet of it a perpendicular drop of frozen snow and ice twisted into a weird shape. We have to go warily as if we get on to snow over a crevasse we may go to glory rather suddenly. The crevasses themselves are amazingly beautiful, and with the sun shining into them, the ice sides turn a wonderful pale blue. We go back beside a roaring torrent of snow water, which ends over a waterfall down into a deep black hole under the glacier over which we ride ” through caverns measureless to man “. Back to lunch about two and then a spot of work.
To-morrow we cross the Thui pass where we say farewell to this hospitable land of Chitral, and climb down the far side in the Gilgit Agency. No one can tell us who was the last white man to cross the Thui; it doesn’t seem to have been done for very many years. It is certainly an unfrequented and pretty unknown spot. These colossal heights which close around, some of them over 20,000 feet, are unnamed and unmarked upon the maps.
Tuesday, 14th August. Ramach. Oppressingly hot at Shah Janali last evening and could only get sleep with one blanket on. At four o’clock it began to rain, the steady pattering on the tent being occasionally broken by a rumble and a roar as rocks and stones rolled down some steep mountain side. When we started at 8 a.m. it was raining steadily with all the peaks in cloud. We go well encased in mackintoshes, along the glacier and moraine, past the two glaciers we saw yesterday, till we reach the foot of a snow-field. Here we mount yaks and struggle slowly up the steep slope. We leave the snow-field for another glacier, covered with enormous boulders and rocks, then round a cliff right-handed, and the pass comes in sight up a steady, steep slope, half snow and half shale. A rough path has been cut in the shale, zig-zagging up and up, and the yaks crawl slowly but very safely along it, with halts every now and then to puff and blow. At the top is a large gathering of the men of Gilgit, chiefly from Yasin, headed by Colonel Lorimer, the Political Agent of Gilgit. There is a good fire and hot tea. The rain has stopped and the clouds have lifted, but the peaks are crowned with mist. We can, however, see down both sides of the pass. Just below the pass on the Gilgit side is a small pool of water in the snow, bright blue in colour, but one can account for it. We bid farewell to the Mehtar’s three sons and to Bowers, and start down through the snow. For the first two miles we descend over snow and shale, but it is easier than on the Chitral side. To the left the high peaks are further off and the country more open. To the right massive rocky mountains rise sheer from the glacier at the bottom. There are magnificent snow-fields and glaciers feeding this main one, which is mostly covered with debris from the hills and rocks from the size of omnibuses to pebbles, hurled down at some time or other by avalanches. We go down the valley, sometimes on moraine, sometimes on glacier, and occasionally on snow at the sides. We pass a waterfall on the left, which crashes down a chasm under the glacier.
Presently the Chief stops to sketch, and I ride on to camp with Lorimer. We come at last to the end of the glacier, where it feeds a rushing torrent of snow water so fast that boulders are carried along the bottom with a noise like gunfire in the distance. At two o’clock we reach camp, at a delightful grassy spot with silver birch and other trees around us. It has taken us six hours to do about eleven miles and we have done well. Hissam-ud-din and I have both sat down suddenly going over the ice, but no damage done. The Chief has some ibex on the further side of the impassable river on the top of an enormous unclimbable mountain of rock and watches them through a telescope. They are small and unshootable-no sour grapes.He gets in about five o’clock to tea, and the baggage, carried on the backs of the coolies arrives an hour later, many of them breaking into a trot for the last hundred yards to show that they are not tired. Tents are soon up and we settle down.
Wednesday, 15th August. Harf. Rain came down again in the evening. Glen and I shared one tent to save trouble and pushed the spare tents on to Harf. At Yasin there is a bungalow. Off comfortably after breakfast at 7-30, leaving Hissam-nd-din to wrestle with the new transport. Cloudy and cool but no rain. Good path for a few miles through a forest of silver birch, juniper, and a sort of stunted poplar; then along down the bare and rocky left bank of the Thui river. We have left the snow now. At about seven miles we cross the river by a Gilgit bridge and then go down the right bank into a heavily cultivated valley. Wheat, beans, lucerne, etc., with poppies and the blue wild chickory flower growing in the corn. A local headman in a blue choga makes his bow, and shortly afterwards we reach a walled-in apricot orchard where our camp is. Height here about 9500 feet. Still cloudy and cold enough for a thick suit. An easy march.
Thursday, 16th August. Yasin. Glorious clear sky when we started this morning at 7-30 along the right bank down the Thui. Several miles more good cultivation, then some narrow gorges with the inevitable narrow track cut in the hillside. Later down to the river-level where it opened out into a huge stony bed about three miles across, with the river split up into innumerable rivulets all over it. A dromedary squats in the foreground ; it has brought two nice old gentlemen from over the way with a dish of ripe apricots which are gratefully accepted.
Chief pushes on at a great pace. The river bed closes in again and rich fields with the elegant poplars and apricot trees take the place of stones. Ahead is a stony ridge. More apricots from hospitable Yasinites. We canter up the rise and there is a long gentle slope down, of waste stony ground, and at the bottom, under a hill lies a large green oasis, Yasin.
The good men of Yasin give us a great welcome. The pipes wail, guns are shot into the air, and an energetic gentleman in a leander- coloured silk choga raises a positive yell of greeting at the last moment with the aid of a long whippy stick. There is a bungalow, outside which all is prepared for ” shooting the popinjay “. Several of them are successful at the game and then we retire into a pleasant coolness of the well-appointed little bungalow, for we are down again to 7000 feet and the sun is hot. Only twelve miles from Harf and good going. A mail and some telegrams come in, we settle down peacefully, and Lorimer goes on to Gilgit.
Friday, 17th August. Gupis. In the evening at Yasin we rode down to the polo-ground, about a mile and a half off, and watched a game. Eight one side and seven the other. The players hit the ball extraordinarily well, considering the size and state of the ground and the number of people on it. Afterwards some dancing, the sword dance being better than anything we have seen.
On getting back to the bungalow I got the Governor of Yasin to show me Hayward’s stone. It was about five hundred yards from the bungalow. There was a small wall round it, built, I believe, by Sir Armine Dew when Political Agent, Gilgit. On the rock is carved C.W.H./69 . The 69 was very faint. He was in the geographical survey and had been a good deal in these parts, for there is a house at Chitral still called after his name. However he came up here and the old Governor tells me that at Yasin his troubles began, for the Mehtar rode down to meet him and dismounted, while Hayward forgot to do so, a terrible faux pas in these parts. While at Yasin he carved his initials as described and then went on towards the Darkot pass, north of Thui. Doubt exists as to who ordered his death, Kashmir or Yasin. Out in the Darkot pass they did him to death. They sat all round his tent at night till he could keep awake no longer ; then at dawn they rushed him and took him. He asked to be allowed to see the sun rise from the top of the Darkot. This was allowed. Then he came down again and was murdered.
Some ascribe the murder to plunder. It is also said that if he had stayed up the Darkot ten minutes longer they would have let him off, thinking him a holy man. Possibly the insult referred to had something to do with it. Newbolt has written a poem about this incident.
Off at 7 a.m. this morning getting a good view of the Darkot pass forty miles away, up the Yasin valley. The Thui river, which wo had come down, flows into the Yasin a mile or two above this place, at Mir Ali. The Nasbar also runs into the Yasin here, coming from the pass of that name. A good road and the Chief makes a good pace. We do the first twelve miles in an hour and a half, having crossed the river by a good suspension-bridge below Yasin.
Usual high rocky hills, but there is a grand swamp under a bluff where there must be many duck in the winter. Pour miles out of Gupis we are met by the local king of Gupis, his son and some of his henchmen. Raja Murad Khan is a benevolent-looking old gentleman. The fort lies on the right bank and below it we cross a good suspension- bridge and get a welcome from a pipe band and the firing of rifles. Leaving the fort on our right we pass down a lovely avenue of poplars to a small rest-house.
Saturday, 18th August. Gakuch. At Gupis yesterday evening the Chief had a look at two platoons of the Third Kashmir Regiment on parade outside the fort. Mostly Gurkhas and well turned out. Afterwards examined the fort rebuilt by Tim Shea when up here between ’12 and ’16. A well-built and well-arranged affair to hold 200 men, but would take more. At present there are about a hundred.
The Posts and Telegraphs surpassed themselves for we got our last post via Chakdara and Chitral at Yasin, and our first one via Kashmir and Gilgit at Gupis. Telegrams arrive any moment of the day.
Up at 4-30 and off an hour later as we have 24 miles to go. Raja Murad Khan accompanies us a little of the way. A nice old man, very interested to hear of Tim Shea, to whom he is devoted. Just above Gupis the Shugar river, coming in from Shandur way, joins the Yasin and they together become the Gilgit river. We ride down the right bank for seventeen miles, enclosed by rocky hills, and there is nothing of much interest save the river itself which is pretty full and a fine sight at some of the rapids. The sun rises right in our faces. At the 15th mile we have breakfast on a grassy bank under some pomegranate trees beside the river. For the last few miles the river runs into a broad valley. Into the left bank flows the Ishkuman river, and far up its valley we see some snow-covered heights which are the haunt of ibex. We canter along the Gilgit valley beside the river edge to a small bungalow well shaded by big walnut-trees. The village of Gakuch is on the plateau above, and local hosts bring us fruit and a nice fish caught this morning. They say it is a snow- trout, which it isn’t. Must have a go at the fish this evening. They say here that Manners Smith was the last white man to cross the Thui pass, as long ago as the early ‘nineties, but that he lost a man who slipped and fell into one of the snow-water rapids and was carried under a high glacier immediately. They say that his body came out in the stream in three or fouT months.
Sunday, 19th August. Gulapur. Hissam-ud-din and I tried the river for fish. There was a beautiful bit of water, but nothing doing. It was as thick as pea-soup. But it was a gorgeous evening and I enjoyed it.
OS at 5-30 this morning. Into a fine rock gorge at once, with the biggest suspension-bridge we have seen yet. We remained on the right bank, road good. Had breakfast two miles beyond Singal and were in by ten o’clock-23 miles. Not much view as we were enclosed by hills all the way. Gulapur thickly treed and cultivated. Met by Raja Anwar Khan and a ” furious joy “. Anwar Khan a great polo player in these parts.
Monday, 20th August. Gilgit. A hot afternoon at Gulapur. Files the very devil. Towards evening took a chair and sat under a tree two to read Adventures in the Near East by the Chief’s brother an extraordinary good book. A curious evening: dead still, Looking up the river a heat haze made even the near mountains look all one grey colour, as if cut out of cardboard. Below, the river winding down like a silver streak. Not a leaf stirring, and from somewhere in the valley the local muezzin calling to prayer. After dinner we see the new moon-new to us, but already five days old, for we have not seen her earlier dainty appearances owing to the gigantic hills.
In early to Gilgit. Breakfasted after climbing slowly over a hill that was evidently a big thing in landslides, the local story being that underneath it lies a village that once gave a passing holy man, a Pir, wine to drink, and would not give him water. Therefore on leaving, he hiccoughed horrible curses on the village, and down came the landslide and wiped out the bibulous community. A 21-mile march, very enclosed and stuffy. Shortly after leaving Gulapur we pass into Kashmir territory and are met by a voluble tahsildar dressed in Knglish clothes. A few miles before Gilgit the hills open out and form between them a goodly valley. We cross a mountain river from a nullah on the right: absolutely clear water. Below Gilgit a band begins playing and under an arch of welcome the Chief is met by Colonel Lorimer, by the Wazir-i-Wazarat, who is Kashmir’s representative, other notabilities, Major Erskine who is military adviser to Kashmir troops, and Captain Edwardes, the Commandant of the Gilgit Scouts. After introductions on up the hill to Colonel Lorimer’s house, a guard of honour, then the blissful coolness of a roul house.
We are now on well-trodden ground and perhaps my Journal may end here. To me, and I am sure to the others of the party, the energetic days that followed were of scarcely less interest than those I have already described. From Gilgit we went to Hunza and on to Nagar, through the difficult country which saw that brilliant little campaign of ’91, past the most superb views of Rakaposhi, or Dumani as this wonderful peak is known locally. Everywhere we were received most hospitably by the delightful inhabitants of these once warlike and predatory states. We saw that wonderful view of Rakaposhi from the Mir’s castle at Baltit, crossed the rope-bridge between Hunza and Nagar and played polo, ” shot the popinjay ” and tent-pegged among those fine sportsmen of Nagar. We were back at Gilgit by the 27th of August, after which we broke up into two parties, the Chief with Glen going up the Naltar nullah, while Hissam-ud-din and I were given the Jotial nullah. I like to think that cloudy and often thoroughly wet weather prevented us from doing much more than merely going through the motions of shooting ibex and markhor, for all of us returned empty-handed, but we had a grand time. At Gilgit we encountered the traditional hospitality of that outpost. No traveller has ever been known to pass it by without recording it.
On the 2nd September we left Gilgit and travelling by Astor and the Kamri pass reached Tragbal, overlooking the Vale of Kashmir on the 8th. From here we passed on immediately to Bandapur. It was getting dark when we reached the boats that were moored by the river bank ready to take us in to Srinagar. Here we completed our riding and walking tour of 756 miles in 32 travelling days. Perhaps this record may close with one last extract from my diary:
“Awakened at 4 a.m. by horrible noises of shouts and groans. They had started paddling us over the Wular lake, and each humble Kashmir mariner was, according to his wont, encouraging his neighbour with loud shouts to row harder, so that he might row less hard himself. The noise was nicely regular and I dozed again.
And so to Srinagar.