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We head back to the fork and take the left this time, 45 gigantic stone steps down to the river bank. Questions about Mowgli's den to the handful of people bathing there draw blanks.

They take left and then go 45 gigantic stone steps down onto the river.Or is it, the left path in itself is 45 gigantic stone steps down to the river bank.

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    We should note that the bolded phrase is somewhat non-standard - normally you'd say something like "... which has 45 gigantic stone steps" or "which comprises 45 gigantic stone steps". The author has probably chosen to use this phrasing for its more poetic style. (There is probably a name for this rhetorical device, although I don't know what it is off-hand.) – stangdon Jul 10 '16 at 15:02
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    It's not really non-standard, and it's actually fairly common in descriptions of man-made or natural impressiveness. Compare "The such-and-such building, 120 storeys of glass and steel". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 10 '16 at 16:06
  • books.google.com/… – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 10 '16 at 16:18
  • @TRomano - Maybe "non-standard" was a little strong, but obviously it's unusual enough to confuse learners. Just using a noun phrase like "45 gigantic stone steps" or "120 stories of glass and steel" is not the unusual part; the unusual part is that it's placed at the end of the sentence, rather than immediately after the noun that it modifies, like you did with your example sentence. – stangdon Jul 11 '16 at 14:10
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"The left" means "the left path"; "left" is a noun there; the phrase "45 gigantic stone steps down to the river bank" is a noun-phrase in apposition to the noun "left". So, your latter understanding is the correct one: "the left path in itself is 45 gigantic stone steps down..."

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