OVER THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 497. A great mountain wall. — India has the greatest mountain wall in the world. Let us take a journey over it. From the city of Benares on the Ganges, we ride northward in a train all day across the thickly peopled plain. We enter the jungle-clad hills and come to the end of the railroad. All the next day we ride up the mountain road in carriages drawn by horses. The air gets cooler. The trees in the forest are not like those on the foothills. We see oaks, such as grow in the United States.
At last we see a house with a chimney out of which smoke is coming. We are in the hills to which the Englishmen who live in the lowland cities go in the summer time to get away from the stifling heat. It is so cool here that people need fires, even in summer. Near the Englishmen's settle ment, we cross the crest of a ridge as high as the top of Mount Washington. From it we can see, far away to the northward, mountain after mountain, up, up, up—up to the snow, and still up. These are the Himalayas, the highest mountains in the world, so high that no man has ever been able to climb anywhere near their tops. We see near us people on the grassy hills with herds of sheep', cattle, and goats. These hill people are of lighter color than those we left behind in the plain; and they are larger, too, for they are milk drinkers, and milk is the best food to make children grow.
It takes us a week, riding on mule back, to reach the pass that takes us through the Himalayas and out of India into Tibet. In this pass, we are higher up than the top of any mountain in the United States. Yet it is the lowest place in this range for hundreds of miles. Streams roar past us as they rush down from the glaciers and snow fields far above.
In the pass we see the bones of dead mules, and some bundles of goods lying beside them. A caravan was overtaken here by a snowstorm two winters ago. The pack animals died in the snow, and the men were glad to get away with their lives. The packs, done up in rawhide, still wait for their owners. It is the cus
tom of the country never to disturb a pack by the way side, for sometime the owner may re turn for it.
498. The Roof of the World.—We toil on through the pass and out upon a level plain, the high plateau of Tibet. This plain, called the Roof of the World, lies north of the Himalaya Mountains. These shut off the winds so that there is little rain north of them. The air is cold and raw. We have to bundle up in extra clothes and wear mittens. There are no trees; we see small flocks of sheep, but their herders (Tibetans) are yellow like the Chinese, not dark like the people of India. As we travel along on our mules, we do not see a village for days. Once in a while we see a few shepherds, with their tents pitched on the high plain. We wonder how they can live in such cold, for even in summer the wind bites our faces.
In ten days, traveling twenty miles a day on mule back, we come to the city of Lassa, the capital of Tibet. Here lives the Grand Lama, or the high priest of Buddha. He is the head of the Buddhist religion, the religion of many of the people in China. The big buildings we see are monasteries where religious men of the Buddhist religion spend their lives saying prayers.
The farmers near Lassa have no horses or cattle, but use yaks, animals much like oxen. Yaks have hair a foot long under their bodies. This is very handy when they have to lie down in the cold snow, which covers the ground for months in the winter.
499. The source of many rivers. Twenty days to the eastward from Lassa is the western bound ary of China. A part of the way we are still on this high, cold plain. Only a few people live there and they have to work hard to get very little. We climb' down, far down, to a river in a deep valley. We cross it and then climb a mountain again. Once more down we go, and cross another river; and so on, up and down, day after day. If often takes us all day to climb one of these mountains.