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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Bumping terribly on the uneven road


Every

now and then the sleepy voice of a caravan man calls out "Salameleko" to my coachman, and "Salameleko" is duly answered back; otherwise we rattle along at the speed of about four miles an hour, bumping terribly on the uneven road, and the diligence creaking in a most perplexing manner.

At Hasanabad, the second stage, I was more fortunate and got four good horses in exchange for the tired ones. One of them was very fresh and positively refused to go with the others. The driver, who was brutal, used his stock-whip very freely, with the result that the horse smashed part of the harness and bolted. The other three, of course, did the same, and the coachman was not able to hold them. We travelled some few hundred yards off the road at a considerable speed and with terrible bumping, the shaky, patched-up carriage gradually beginning to crumble to pieces. The boards of the front part fell apart, owing to the violent oscillations of the roof, and the roof itself showed evident signs of an approaching collapse. We were going down a steep incline, and I cannot say that I felt particularly happy until the horses were got under control again. I feared that all my photographic plates and cameras might get damaged if the diligence turned over.

While the men mended the harness I had a look at the scenery. The formation of the country was curious. There were what at first appeared to be hundreds of small mounds like ant-hills--round

topped and greyish, or in patches of light brown, with yellow sand deposits exposed to the air on the surface. On getting nearer they appeared to be long flat-topped ridges evidently formed by water-borne matter--probably at the epoch when this was the sea or lake bottom.

"_Khup es!_" (It is all right!) said the coachman, inviting me to mount again--and in a sudden outburst of exuberant affection he embraced the naughty horse and kissed him fondly on the nose. The animal reciprocated the coachman's compliment by promptly kicking the front splashboard of the carriage to smithereens.

We crossed a bridge. To the east the water-level mark, made when this valley was under water, is plainly visible on the strata of gravel with reddish mud above, of which the hills are formed.

Then, rising gradually, the diligence goes over a low pass and along a flat plateau separating the first basin we have left behind from a second, more extensive, of similar formation. The hills in this second basin appear lower. To the S.S.E. is a horseshoe-shaped sand dune, much higher than anything we had so far encountered, and beyond it a range of mountains. Salt can be seen mixed with the pale-brownish mud of the soil.

Then we drive across a third basin, large and flat, with the scattered hills getting lower and seemingly worn by the action of weather. They are not so corrugated by water-formed channels as the previous ones we had passed. Twenty feet or so below the summit of the hills a white sediment of salt showed itself plainly.


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