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A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

About half way between Baramula and Srinagar


We

left Baramula in high spirits to accomplish the five-and-thirty miles which still stretched between us and Srinagar. The scenery was quite different from anything we had yet known, for now we were in the broad flat valley of Kashmir, which stretches for some eighty miles from beyond Islamabad, on the N.E., to Baramula, planted at the neck where the Jhelum River, after spreading itself abroad through the fertile plain, concentrates to pour its many waters through the mountain barrier until it joins the Indus far away in Sind.

A broad and level road stretched straight and white between a double row of stark poplars, reminding one of the poplar-guarded ways of Picardy; also (as in France) not only were the miles marked, but also the thirty-two subdivisions thereof. On the right hand the ground sloped slowly up in a succession of wooded heights, the foothills of the Pir Panjal, whose snow-crowned peaks enclose the Kashmir valley on the south. Opposite, through a maze of leafless trees, one caught occasional gleams of water where the winding reaches of the river flowed gently from the turquoise haze where lay the Wular Lake, and beyond--clear and pale in the clear, crisp air--shone a glorious range of snow mountains, stretching away past where we knew Srinagar must lie, to be lost in the distant haze where sky and mountain merged in the north-east.

By the roadside we passed many small lakes, or "jheels," full of

duck, but as there was never any cover by the sides I could not see how the duck were to be approached.

We lunched at the fascinating little bungalow at Patan (pronounced "Puttun"), about half-way between Baramula and Srinagar. The Rest House stands back from an apparently extremely populous and thriving village, the inhabitants whereof were all engaged in conversation of a highly animated kind! In the compound stood a fine group of chenar trees (_Platanus orientalis_) whose noble trunks and graceful branches showed in striking contrast to the slender stems of the poplars. The guide-book informed us that an ancient temple lay in ruins near by, but we trusted to a later visit and determined to push on. By-and-by a fort-crowned hill rose above the tree-tops. This we took to be Hari Parbat, the ancient citadel of Srinagar, and presently, through the poplars and the willows queer wooden huts or chalets began to appear, and the increasing number of men and beasts upon the road showed the proximity of the city.

Ekkas, white-hooded, with jingling bells hung round the scraggy necks of their lean ponies; brown men clad in sort of night-shirts composed of mud-coloured rags; brown dogs, humpy cattle, and children innumerable, swarmed upon the causeway in ever-increasing density until we drew up at the custom-house, and the usual jabber took place among Sabz Ali, the driver, and the officials.

All appeared satisfactory, however, and we were presented with bits of brown paper scrawled over with hieroglyphics which we took to be passes, and drove on, leaving the native town apparently on our left and making a detour through level fields and between rows of poplars, until we swung round and crossed the river by a fine bridge. Here we first got some idea of the city of Srinagar, which lay spread around us, bisected by the broad, but apparently far from sluggish river, which seems here to be about the width of the Thames at Westminster at high water.


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