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A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

Which finally brought us to Kitardaji

"The sanguine sunrise, with his meteor eyes,"

flamed over the eastern ridges, and in a flood of glory the soft shadows and pallid lights of the dawn became merged in the brilliance of a Kashmir autumn day.

Our march yesterday from Rainawari to Kitardaji was charming. I had no idea that this Machipura country, which is not much visited by summer sojourners in Kashmir, was so fine. The district lies along the lower shoulders and foothills of the Kaj-nag, and, while lacking the savage grandeur of the Lidar or Upper Sind, yet possesses the charm of infinite variety and, in this early autumn, a climate in which it is a pure joy to live. On leaving Rainawari we followed up a river valley for some distance, and then wound through richly cultivated hollows and past well-wooded hills, where the dark silver firs and the deodars were lit up by splashes of scarlet and orange, and the deciduous sumach and thorn-bushes hung out their autumn flags. Walnuts--the trees in many places turning yellow--were being gathered into heaps, and the apple trees, reddening in the autumn glow, hung heavy with abundant fruit.

Turning into a narrow gorge, where the trees overhung the path and shaded the wanderer with many an interlaced bough; where ferns grew in great green clumps, and the friendly magpies chattered in the luminous shade, I hurried on, having stayed behind the others to sketch. Up and up,

till only pines waved over me, and the track, leading along the edge of a deep khud, opened out at last upon a plateau, hot and sunlit; here an entrancing panorama of Nanga Parbat and the whole range of mountains round Haramok caused me to stop "at gaze" until a mundane desire for breakfast sent me scurrying down the dusty and slippery descent to Larch, where I found, as I had hoped, the rest of the party assembled expectant around the tiffin basket, while the necromancer, Sabz Ali, had just succeeded in producing the most delightful stew, omelette, and coffee from the usual native toy kitchen, made, apparently, in a few minutes with a couple of stones and a dab of mud!

It has been an unfailing marvel to us how, in storm or calm, rain or fine, the native cook seems always able to produce a hot meal with such apparently inadequate materials as he has at his command. Give him a fire in the open, screened by stones and a mud wall, a _batterie de cuisine_ limited to one or two war-worn "degchies," and let him have a village fowl and half-a-dozen tiny eggs, and he will in due time serve up, with modest pride, a most excellent repast.

The remaining half of our twelve-mile march lay along a continually rising track, which finally brought us to Kitardaji, a cosy pine-built hut, perched upon a hill clothed with deodars, at the foot of which ran the inevitable stream.

This, alas! is our last Kashmir camping-ground, and it is one of the most charming of all.

At 8.15 this morning we bade farewell to Kitardaji. We had got up before dawn to see the sunrise, but afterwards took things leisurely, as the march is short to Baramula, and our boats were to be in waiting there, and we had made all arrangements for a landau and ekkas to be in readiness to take us down to Rawal Pindi, while the Colonel returned up the Jhelum for more shooting before rejoining his wife at Bandipur.

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