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Hidden treasures, part 2: He who watcheth

Posted Friday, 31st July 2015

As I mentioned last week, the story of the Lorrain’s “holiday trip of 4000 miles” is too good not to be shared.  It is very much fixed at a certain point in time but is so well written that it gives a different, perhaps more complete, perspective than we would perhaps find in a history book.  Enjoy escaping the modern world for a few minutes.

Over to Mrs. Lorrain for our second installment…

“… to Sairang.  It is a fairly easy march of 12½ miles, down-hill nearly all the way, & the road is shaded for the most part by feathery bamboos, bananas, & other tropical trees.  Were it not for this kind protection the road would be well nigh impassable during the greater part of the day, for the sun shines full on the mountain side & where the forest has been cleared the concentrated heat is almost unendurable, especially is this so as we get lower down, where the breeze is intercepted by the surrounding hills.  Down, down, down we go, at a brisk walk, every now and then stopping to take a draught of water from the pretty cascades which cross our path or to enjoy the cool of some secluded spot shut in, by the overhanging foliage & the rugged hill side, from the rays of the sun.

Suddenly there is a noise away up on the mountain, we stand still & look upwards, the sound grows louder & louder & presently a large boulder comes thundering down, gives one mighty bound on to the path we have just traversed& then never staying in its mad career, leaps into the valley below, crashing through the jungle, & overthrowing every obstacle until at last the sound dies away in a faint murmur & we surmise that it has found a resting place at last in the bed of a mountain stream.  How true it is that He who watcheth over us, slumbers not nor sleeps & no thing however trivial, happens by chance.  Surely it was naught but the good hand of our Jehovah God which prevented that rock from becoming detached from its place two minutes earlier and crushing us to atoms.  May we not, at this the outset of our journey, take this as an earnest of Divine protection from the many dangers known & unknown which will threaten us during all our wanderings & as a pledge that we shall return to our mountain home in peace & safety?   The latter part of the walk there is not much talking done, the heat is too great & we are already beginning to feel tired & faint, we have within an hour or two, come from the temperate climate of the hill tops to the more than tropical heat of a mountain-locked valley more than 3000 feet lower.  Presently Sairang burst upon our view at a sharp turn of the road, & very soon we are walking across the desolate bazaar where several Bengalis drive a good trade among the Lushais in cloth, salt and copper cooking pots.  Then we reach a bamboo shanty which serves as post & telegraph office. & there we find both the Baboos suffering from fever & looking altogether miserable.  It is a curious thing that an office like Sairang, where there is not above a weeks honest work to be got through during the whole twelve months of the year, should be provided with both a telegraph operator & a postmaster.  Both these are Bengalis. And the telegraph operator especially not being over-troubled with a conscience, thinks nothing of shutting up office & taking a days fishing occasionally & leaving what few telegrams there may be to look after themselves.  A little distance from the post-office is the stockade where the sepoys in charge of this unhealthy outpost drag out a miserable existence, looking forward no doubt to the time when they shall be able to take their turn in the fort at Aijal.  We now pass along a narrow winding path & very soon come upon the Rest House or “Dâk Bungalow” which is a very pretty little house built of timber, reeds & mud.  It is raised some 10 ft above the ground on stout timber supports & the verandah is reached by two flights of wooden steps.  The river is close by & we soon hurry off to make arrangements for the morrow’s boats; which over, we are glad to fling ourselves down in the only chairs which the bungalow can boast of, draw out to the verandah an old housemade table, & enjoy the luxury of a cup of tea & a good rest.   Rest did I say? Why I was forgetting that we are in Sairang, there is no such thing as “rest” there during the rains, with its myriad of mosquitos and sand-flies.  But the rains have only just begun, and by walking up & down, trying to read, & a good deal of slapping & scratching & rubbing of our persons we are able to pass the time fairly well, till the boy brings dinner.  This meal over we again try to read by lamplight, but finally have to give it up & to seek the shelter of our mosquito nets where kindly sleep soon puts an end to our troubles.

The morning of May 6th dawns clear & bright, and we are up betimes to enjoy the cool breeze which is making itself felt.  We have the pleasure of looking forward to spending the best part of the day in this delightful spot, as we are to wait for the arrival of W.K- the engineer at Aijal who is to be our travelling companion as far as the Khassia Hills.  He would have down with us yesterday had he been able to obtain enough coolies to carry his luggage.  The day is spent in getting the boat ready & putting our luggage on board.  By & by K’s things begin to arrive & by the time these are stowed away K. himself puts in an appearance & after taking a short rest we all three embark & about 5 o/c we are quietly drifting down with the current, not caring how far we get before dark so long as we do not have to spend the night in Sairang.  While we are gliding along so quickly let us have a look at our tiny fleet.  There are three boats; one occupied by our friend K – & his dog, another serving as a temporary house for Fred & myself, and a third doing duty for a cook house, wherein are seated our boy Khuma enjoying the novelty of rapid motion for the first time in his life perhaps, K’s cook who is preparing the evening meal over a fire in an old kerosene oil tin and K’s table servant, a portly Mussulman with gigantic turban & flowing white robes.   Just as the sun sets we come to the head of the famous “ long rapid”, and fearing to risk shooting it in the gloom which has already succeeded to daylight, we tie up for the night, pull out a little camp table which we have brought with us & set it upon the shore & then having lighted a couple of candles we sit round on our wicker chairs & eat the dinner which our boys have prepared, the while dodging the crowds of curious insects which attracted by the light have come to keep us company.  As soon as possible we are glad to remove our seats to a distance from the light & to converse on various subjects, until at last we say good night & make for our respective boats.  Crawling under the bamboo mat roof which puts one much in mind of a dog kennel, we spread our blankets, put up our mosquito nets & tucking them in safely all round to prevent the intrusion of unwelcome visitors, we commit ourselves to the care of our Father and lie down to sleep…”

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