on Terrain and Vegetation

Notes on the Kasia Hills and People by Lieut. Henry Yule, Bengal Engineers , Published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1844. Vol. XIV, Part – II – July to December 1844 , Nos. 151 to 156. New Series . Printed at Calcutta, Bishop’s College Press 1844.

But to return to the tour of the valley of Mausmai. Quitting the river we commence ascending, by a steep and rugged path, one of the narrow spurs that descend from the foot of the precipice, which girds the valley, at a point where it is much diminished in elevation. Soon leaving behind the region of the pine-apples and betel-nuts, two hours hard climbing brings us to the foot of the cliff, here broken in four steps of twenty or thirty feet each in height, which we ascend by as many bamboo ladders. These are somewhat rickety and at times exhibit a woful hiatus among the rungs. From the summit of the ladders a half hour brings us to the tableland within two miles of Cherra Poonjee. This tableland, covered by naked undulating hills, and at intervals of a few miles interrupted by deep sudden vallies is the general characteristic of the country as far north as the Barapani, a distance of fifty miles. Beyond this region towards Assam sinks into a tract of low hills covered with dense jungle, abounding in elephants and malaria. On the east the Jaintia country presents great tracts of pasturage, dotted with clumps of fir, and in parts a park-like forest scenery of stately oaks and firs form a noble foreground to the distant view of the snowy mountains seen rising behind the black Bootan hills, far beyond the valley of Assam. To the westward of Cherra the Kasia country may be considered to extend between forty and fifty miles, being separated, according to common report, from the Garrows by a dense and unpeopled jungle.

A traveler from the south first meets the fir tree in the ravines of Boga pani, eighteen miles north of Cherra, but they’re weak and stunted. The greater part of the country north of this sprinkled with firs in natural clumps, and sometimes (in the vicinity of iron works) in artificial plantations. In the descent to the Bara Pani the tree attains its utmost height, but in the woodlands of Jaintia, it is found in greatest girth and beauty; not as a tall mast, but gnarled as a oak, and spreading like a cedar, as we have seen some of the Patriarchs of the Highland forests. On the route from Cherra to Assam the oak is poor and scrubby, scarcely recognizable save by its fruit; but to the eastward, though a near inspection shews a difference in the leaf, it has in character, colour and outline, perfectly the aspect of the English oak.

In the deep vallies of the south the vegetation is most abundant and various. Among the most conspicuous species are, the great India rubber tree scattered here and there in the stony bottoms; the rattan winding from trunk to trunk and shooting his pointed head above all his neighbours; higher up the stately sago palm with its branching arms; and in some shady damp nook, shut out from the sun and wind, the tree fern with its graceful coronet. Of bamboos there are whole forests, and a difficult matter it is to force a path through their thick basketwork. Of this most useful plant the Kasias discriminate seven species by name. The cowslip, polyanthus, honeysuckle and ivy, with many other plants near akin to familiar friends, abound in different parts of the higher hills, and the common English rag-weed (or ben-weed of Scotland,) not the least fertile in home associations, is plentiful at Cherra.