The official diary of the Gould mission to Lhasa sent by the British government. Read more about the mission diary.
We had quite an interesting march, starting with the passage of the Tsangpo in flood by means of yak skin boats or coracles and ending with a mile of track flooded to a depth of about 2 feet by the river.
Our riding ponies and some of the baggage were ferried across the river, and then marched to Chusul, while the bulk of the baggage went the whole way by river in the coracles.
Each coracle is about 8 feet long and two are lashed together to form a ferry raft. The ponies, 2, 3, or 4 at a time are pulled into the river with great excitement and splashing on the upstream side of a raft which then pushes off. The ponies swim along side the raft with their heads held up out of the water by their head ropes. The rafts land about half a mile downstream. They are then rowed over again and carried each on one man's back upstream as far as required. They are very buoyant, but very light and are made of 6 yakskins stretched on a frame work of poles. Several ponies broke loose and swam by themselves. Three broke back across the river and 'Swam back to the near shore; unfortunately one of these exhausted by its efforts died, presumably of heart failure. It was evidently best to tow only two Ponies at a time, when more than this was attempted trouble usually ensued.
On the far bank we, were entertained by the local headmen to "chang" and Tibetan tea in gaily ornamented tents while the ponies were resaddled. Presents of a whole sheep, the body skinned but with head un skinned and looking still almost alive, eggs and very small peaches were received, we then rode some 15 miles down the Tsangpo valley, extremely fertile well irrigated and with villages surrounded by a variety of trees in addition to the usual willow and poplar.
We saw some enormous old walnut and peach and apricot trees. The crops are numerous, potatoes, beans buckwheat, as well as the common barley. The river at the ferry was perhaps 200 yards broad, but widened out a few miles below to a turgid flood a mile and more wide. The flat valley floor itself is 3 to 5 miles wide, then rising steeply to the mountains which bound it on the north and south. The near hills on the north are quite 6,000 feet above the river and on the south 4,000 or 5,000 feet.
About half way on our march we passed the beautiful Gompa of Chukoryantse where a rugged spar runs right down to the water. The Gompa is tucked into a recess in the hills with a beautiful small park-like enclosure of trees between it and the river. There were 2 or 3 fascinating oriental archways in the shape of a "Chorten" to ride through.
Some 3 miles above Chusul lies Chaksam where the winter ferry works when the river is low. There is also at Chaksam Gompa a very ancient iron chain suspension bridge which now only connects the Gompa to an island half way across the flooded river. Even in the low water season this bridge now no longer connects to dry land. Conditions of the river must have changed since the days of the old Abbot who built it or perhaps there was a causeway, now, (like so many things in this land) fallen into decay.
We were met halfway on our journey by the acting Jongpen of Chushul and again received sheep and eggs at Chushul from him and from the headmen.
Neame had a. minimum thermometer stolen from outside his tent this morning at dawn. This is the second time, as the same thing happened at Pharijong, when his own thermometer went. This time it was a Government Survey one. By dint of sending for our guide Tendong, Jongpen of Gyantse, and the village headmen, and making many threats, the thermometer war, recovered. Knick-knacks like this, whose utility must be nil, seem to have a great attraction for the Tibetan villager or transport driver.
The last mile of our journey was slow owing to the flooded track. At each flooded portion we were met by local coolies two of whom seized each pony by the bridle and firmly led it along the proper path, to save it stepping over the edge into the swirling river.
Author: Philip Neame [see handwritten annotations in Diary by Hugh Richardson in MS. Or. Richardson 2, Bodleian Libary, Department of Oriental Collections, University of Oxford]
Page Reference: Pt III p.5