a World was Exotic

July 28, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard

An Excerpt from

AMONG THE TIBETANS

A Legendary 19th Century Journey

by Isabella Bird

Isabella Bird and her Tibetan pony, Gyalo

Two men took my bridle, and two more proceeded to put their hands on my stirrups; but Gyalpo kicked them to the right and left amidst shrieks of laughter, after which, with frantic gesticulations and yells of ‘Kabardar!’ I was led through the river in triumph and hauled off my horse. The tribesmen were much excited. Some dashed about, performing feats of horsemanship; others brought apricots and dough-balls made with apricot oil, or rushed to the tents returning with rugs; some cleared the camping-ground of stones and reaised a stone platform, and a flock of goats, exquisitely white from teh daily swims across the river, were brought to be milked. Gradually and shrinkingly the women and children drew near; by Mr. ——‘s Bengali servant threatened them with a whip, when there was a general stampede, the women running like hares. I had trained my servants to treat the natives courteously, and addressed some rather strong language to the offender, and afterwards succeeded in enticing all the fugitives back by showing my sketches, which gave boundless pleasure and through led to very numerous requests for portraits! The gopa, though he had oblique Mongolian eyes, was a handsome young man, with a good nose and mouth. He was dressed like the others in a girdled chaga of coarse serge, but wore a red cap turned up over the ears with fine fur, a silvr inkhorn, and a Yarkand knife in a chased silver sheath in his girdle, and  canary-coloured leather shoes with turned-up points. The people prepared one of their own tents for me, and laying down a number of rugs of their own dyeing and weaving, assured me of an unbounded welcome as a friend of their ‘benefactor,’ Mr Redslob, and then proposed that I should visit their tenst accompanied by all the elders of the tribe.

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