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3. Up The River
The first day we had an easy time, following up the great flats by the river side, which
had already been twice burned, so that there was no dense undergrowth to check us,
though the ground was often rough, and we had to go a good deal upon the riverbed.
Towards nightfall we had made a matter of some five-and-twenty miles, and camped at
the point where the river entered upon the gorge.
The weather was delightfully warm, considering that the valley in which we were
encamped must have been at least two thousand feet above the level of the sea. The river-
bed was here about a mile and a half broad and entirely covered with shingle over which
the river ran in many winding channels, looking, when seen from above, like a tangled
skein of ribbon, and glistening in the sun. We knew that it was liable to very sudden and
heavy freshets; but even had we not known it, we could have seen it by the snags of trees,
which must have been carried long distances, and by the mass of vegetable and mineral
debris which was banked against their lower side, showing that at times the whole river-
bed must be covered with a roaring torrent many feet in depth and of ungovernable fury.
At present the river was low, there being but five or six streams, too deep and rapid for
even a strong man to ford on foot, but to be crossed safely on horseback. On either side of
it there were still a few acres of flat, which grew wider and wider down the river, till they
became the large plains on which we looked from my master's hut. Behind us rose the
lowest spurs of the second range, leading abruptly to the range itself; and at a distance of
half a mile began the gorge, where the river narrowed and became boisterous and terrible.
The beauty of the scene cannot be conveyed in language. The one side of the valley was
blue with evening shadow, through which loomed forest and precipice, hillside and
mountain top; and the other was still brilliant with the sunset gold. The wide and wasteful
river with its ceaseless rushing--the beautiful water-birds too, which abounded upon the
islets and were so tame that we could come close up to them--the ineffable purity of the
air--the solemn peacefulness of the untrodden region--could there be a more delightful
and exhilarating combination?
We set about making our camp, close to some large bush which came down from the
mountains on to the flat, and tethered out our horses upon ground as free as we could find
it from anything round which they might wind the rope and get themselves tied up. We
dared not let them run loose, lest they might stray down the river home again. We then
gathered wood and lit the fire. We filled a tin pannikin with water and set it against the
hot ashes to boil. When the water boiled we threw in two or three large pinches of tea and
let them brew.
We had caught half a dozen young ducks in the course of the day--an easy matter, for the
old birds made such a fuss in attempting to decoy us away from them--pretending to be
badly hurt as they say the plover does--that we could always find them by going about in
the opposite direction to the old bird till we heard the young ones crying: then we ran
them down, for they could not fly though they were nearly full grown. Chowbok plucked