Manual Library of Travel, Exploration, and Adventure: Central Asia, Travels in Cashmere, Little Tibet

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Disguised as a dervish and travelling with a party of Muslim pilgrims, he succeeded in crossing the dreaded Turkoman desert via the ancient bed of the Oxus, and visiting the cities of Khiva, Bokhara and Samarkand without detection. As well as describing these cities during their final years of independence all were annexed by Russia within ten years of his visit , Vambery gives considerable details of the social and political relations, character and customs of the region.

Finally, he provides a vivid narrative of caravan life, and of a remarkable journey in which he went in constant danger of exposure. This edition maintains all the material from the original edition, including the various tables and illustrations. Only the map has been reduced in scale.

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Help Centre. Track My Order. But I only glanced at a view that was comparatively tame, and turned to the prospect of the Panjal range, and the vast depths that were yet to be passed on this side of it. The peak of Tata Koti, reported by the natives to be composed of crystal, rose conspicuously among a line of others, rearing themselves with a grandeur of elevation that, to an eye unaccustomed to mountain scenery, would seem to defy all ascent.

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I halted to sketch the view, and then commenced the descent to Barumgulu, the'defile of rains,'-rejoicing in the sight of snow, which was now so near me, and invigorated by the mere reflection that I should cross the Panjal on the third day afterwards. A lofty forest of pines and deodars covered the whole face of the mountains in the foreground. The horse-chestnut tree was also very numerous, and the bark upon its long straight stem was split into flakes, and curled so as to bear a strong resemblance to that of the hickory in the American forests.

It is. Three of them were to be repaired for me, by order of the Rajah. The last was not ready when I arrived, and I sat quietly on the bank with my people, while the villagers of Barumgulu cut down trees of sufficient length for the purpose; and one of these, which was upraised and allowed to fall to the opposite bank, was made a bridge to one of the party, who crossed upon it and then adjusted a second tree, pushed across by means of the first.

Branches were then placed upon them, and made sufficiently secure even for the footing of a horse. It lies considerably beneath the limit of forest, but there are very few trees near it. The green slope on the side of which it is built, and the summit of which is seven or eight hundred feet above it, affords a pasturage for sheep and goats; but cultivation is almost entirely confined to turnips. It is customary, for those who can afford it, to sacrifice a sheep or goat before ascending to the Panjal summit, and the head is carried to the fakeer, who lives in a stone hut close to the tower, during the summer months.

I complied with the custom, at the request of the Mahometan part of my retinue; the priest said a prayer for a safe ascent on the morrow, and the goat was im. The path was in very good condition, and I was able to ride nearly the whole distance. An hour's travel from Poshiana brought me to the edge of the lowest snow, which was arched and hardened over a small stream of its own creation. The forest began to be much thinned, but vegetation was still profuse, and roses and many other wild flowers were in full bloom.

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The hill, near the summit, is bare of trees, but a fine turf is visible where the snow has melted. Another final ascent, and I suddenly found myself on the summit of the Pir Panjal. He thankfully accepted my offering of the sheep's head, and was still better pleased with a little money which I gave him. He was a good-humored looking person, short and shaven, with a chubby face, but little intellect in his countenance, and a twinkling expression of cunning in his eye. This is doubtless a fragment of the remembrance which they have of the fabulous history of Prometheus, which, according to the fictions of the poets, belonged to the Caucasus.

Whatever may be indicated by the play of the lightning, and the presence of the vultures,-' On Imaiis bred, Whose snowy ridge the roving Tartar bounds, Dislodging from a region scarce of prey, To gorge the flesh of lambs or yearling kids, On hills where flocks are fed, flies towards the springs Of Ganges or Hydaspes, Indian streams'the little fakeer, whom I saw on the Panjal, was certainly not a person who looked as if he could act the part of Prometheus. The different ranges which I had crossed on the way, and even the points where I had crossed them, were visible in the distance.

I looked down on the roofs of Poshiana, where I had slept, and could. Indistinctness pervaded every part of the gray-colored expanse of the plains, and I vainly tried, with my telescope, to detect the minarets of imperial Lahore, which may be perceived with the naked eye in very clear weather, though about miles distant.

The summit of the Panjal Pass is about feet above the limit of forest; my thermometer gave me about 12, feet; so that I am justified in laying down its height at II,8oo feet, or thereabouts. Birches and firs seemed to contend for the highest place; the birch has the best of it generally.

Above this, the only plant that I remember in the shape of a tree is the dwarf juniper, and this is to be seen at different altitudes, up to I2, feet, on the mountains around Cashmere and in Tibet. The descent from the Panjal towards the Vale of Cashmere, which is very gentle, commences immediately, and the snow-capped mountain tops are divided by an inclined and verdant plain, on which bloomed numerous varieties ot flowers. Amongst them I joyfully noticed many that were common in England; and as I trod the green carpet beneath me, I found myself refreshed by inhaling the cool breeze richly burdened with all the perfume of an English clover-field.

The valley of the stream suddenly sinks below the level of the path, and I looked down upon a beautiful meadow, from which the precipitous slopes of the Panjal suddenly rose with all their majesty, and clothed with a firforest to the very bed of the stream that rushed along their bases. Finally, after crossing the stream by a wooden bridge, I found myself at the small village of Huripore, where the steepness ot the descent ceases. The next morning, after proceeding for two or three miles through the woods, the plains of Cashmere came full in sight.

The lofty mountains on the other side of the valley, distant from thirty to thirty-five miles, were shrouded in clouds, and a part only of the snowy ridge, with a few isolated peaks, were to be seen here and there at intervals.

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This mosque is of the same pattern as that which I afterwards found to be common throughout the valley. It partakes of the aspect and architecture of the pagodas of China, but the slope of the roof is straight instead of being concave. Its basement, ten to twenty yards square, is of stone or wood, raised a few feet from the ground, and supporting eight or ten pillars deeply grooved, with bases and capitals formed of.

The interior is also square, and is generally a beautiful specimen of wood-work.

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The windows and doors are Saracenic, with rich lattice-worked panels instead of glass. Its dwellings, now chiefly in ruins, are but the remains of what once were houses, of two or three c: four stories in Leight, with gable ends and sloping roofs of wood. Large sheets of birch-bark, which is nearly impervious to moisture, are laid over the rafters, and upon them is spread a layer of earth, which is often planted with flowers.

The walls are of brick, burnt or sun-dried, and secured in a frame of wood, as a prevention against the effects of earthquakes.

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The windows are rectangular, numerous, and disposed in rows, as in Europe. Exquisitely finished trellis-work, displaying a great variety of Moorish patterns, usurps the place of a window-frame; the thin paper of the country is pasted over it and does duty for glass, so that warmth is thus obtained at the expense of light.

Some of the rooms have fire-places, but the smoke is always allowed to escape through a hole in the wall above them. The houses are usually separate, with small gardens between them. There are also orchards of standard fruit-trees, and mulberries, apples, pears, peaches, apricots and roses, are to be had in abundance, in their proper season. I thence enjoyed a first and excellent view of the valley, which was hardly broken throughout its whole length of ninety miles, and entirely surrounded by snowy mountains. Far to the left, over the extreme north-western end of the valley, rose the snow-peaks of Durawur; the two or three small hills, breaking the level surface of the valley, were distinguished with difficulty; and the whole of the intervening slopes of the Pir Panjal, from the snow downward into the valley, are covered with a magnificent forest of pines, thirty miles in length and from three to seven miles in width.

The valley,,of Cashmere is generally a verdant plain, ninety nfi-es in length aud twenty-five miles in its greatest width, at the southern end, between the cataract of Arabul and the ruius of the great temple of Martund; surrounded on every side by snowy mountains, into which there are numerous inlets, forming glens on a level with the plain, but each with a lofty pass at its upper extremity.

There are many elevated points of view from which this extraordinary hollow gave me, at first sight, an idea of its having been originally formed by the falling in of an exhausted volcanic region. It has not, however,. The trees, it is true, in many instances, may differ from those of Europe; but with the exception of occasional beautiful masses of deodars, the aspect of the forest, at a little distance, is wholly European.

Looking from the hill of Shupeyon, innumerable villages were scattered over the plains in every direction, distinguishable in the extreme distance by the trees that surrounded them: all was soft and verdant, even up to the snow on the mountain-top; and I gazed in surprise, excited by the vast extent and admirably defined limits of the valley, and the almost perfect proportions of height to distance, by which its scenery appeared to be universally characterized.

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VIGNE is a confused and somewhat perplexing narrator. The thread of his journey is constantly lost amid a multitude of small geographical details, and interwoven with the accounts of other journeys, made in other seasons, in the same region. We shall, therefore, endeavor to select those passages which possess the most interest and value, concerning the Vale of Cashmere, and resume the direct narrative when we find the traveller compelled, by the nature of his subject, to confine himself to it. In passing onward through the valley, Mr.

Vigne encountered scenes of ruin and desolation, in striking contrast with its natural beauty and fertility. Earthquake, cholera, famine, and the invasions of Runjeet Sing had terribly devastated the once thickly peopled country. Many of the houses were tenantless and deserted; the fruit was dropping unheeded from the trees; the orchards were overgrown with a profusion of wild hemp and wild indigo; but the graveyards were still covered with. Enough remained, however, to show how neat and comfortable the villages had once been. There was always a clear, rapid brook at hand, with green turf on its banks, shaded by fine walnut-trees, and the bryn, resembling the English elm.

Around the base of the gigantic chunar-trees, there was always a raised bench of wood or stone, for the village gossips, a few of whom still lingered in their half-deserted homes,-some sleeping, and others praying, or smoking. The city of Shahbad, the largest place in the southern part of the valley, was a ruin, and there was scarcely anything to be seen of the ancient palace of the Moguls.

Its environs were overgrown with nettles and wild hemp. The orchards ot Shahbad, however, still produced the best apples, and the wheat grown there is considered the finest in Cashmere. The people, also, are very fond of bread made of buckwheat flour. A few miles from the city is the celebrated fountain of Vernag, a favorite place of the Mogul Emperors. Vigne, "is now a ruin with scarcely any of the beauties of a ruin, and the country is overgrown with weeds and jungle.

But neither time nor tyranny can make any change in the magnificent spring of Vernag. Its waters are received into a basin partly made by the Emperor Jehangir: the circumference is about The water is beautifully clear, 25 feet deep, and swarming with Himalaya trout.

Its date is found in the sentence,Palace of the Fountain of Vernag. Over the entrance is written:'This fountain has come from the springs of Paradise! Vigne, apropos of a description of some of the other mountain passes.

This is the great fall which usually closes the passes for the winter. It frequently happens that a casual fall takes place a month or three weeks earlier: this remains on the ground for three or four days, and then disappears before the sun.

I am now speaking of the snow upon the plains of Cashmere. It occasionally falls on the mountains as early as September, and the cold blasts which it produces do great injury to the later rice-crops.