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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Where the gorge narrowed again between the mountains


The moon rose shortly after we had gone over the pass, as we were wending our way from one narrow gorge into another, between high rocks and cliffs and mountains of most fantastic forms. We passed the little village of Huruh, and at dawn the picturesqueness of the scenery increased tenfold when the cold bluish tints of the moon gradually vanished in the landscape, and first the mountains became capped and then lighted all over with warm, brilliant, reddish tints, their edge appearing sharply cut against the clear, glowing, golden sky behind them.

We were now proceeding along a dry, wide river bed, which had on one side a tiny stream, a few inches broad, of crystal-like water dripping along. Evident signs could be noticed that during the torrential storms of the rainy season this bed must occasionally carry large volumes of water. A foot track can be perceived on either side some twelve feet above the bed, which is followed by caravans when the river is in flood.

We now entered a volcanic region with high perpendicular rocks to our right, that seemed as if they had undergone the action of long periods of fire or excessive heat; then we emerged into a large basin in which the vegetation struck one as being quite luxuriant by contrast with the barren country we had come through. There were a few old and healthy trees on the edge of the thread of water, and high tamarisks in profusion. On our left, where the gorge narrowed again between the mountains, was a large flow of solid green lava. In this basin was a quaint little hamlet--Sar-es-iap (No. 2)--actually boasting of a flour-mill, and curious rock dwellings which the natives inhabit.

We continued, and entered a broader valley, also of volcanic formation, with reddish sediments burying a sub-formation of yellowish brown rock which appeared in the section of the mountains some 300 feet above the plain. To the W.N.W. stood a lofty variegated mountain, the higher part of which was of dark brown in a horizontal stratum, while the lower was a slanting layer of deep red.

In the valley there was some cultivation of wheat, and I noticed some plum, apple, fig and pomegranate trees. One particularly ancient tree of enormous proportions stood near the village, and under its refreshing shade I spent the day. The village itself--a quaint castle-like structure with ruined tower--was curiously built in the interior. On the first storey of the large tower were to be found several humble huts, and other similar ones stood behind to the north. These huts were domed and so low as hardly to allow a person to stand erect inside. Some had an opening in the dome, most had only a single aperture, the door. The majority of the inhabitants seemed quite derelict and lived in the most abject poverty.

A few yards north-east of the castle were some rock habitations. There were three large chambers dug in the rock side by side, two of one single room and one of two rooms _en suite_. The largest room measured twenty feet by twelve, and was some six feet high. In the interior were receptacles apparently for storing grain. The doorway was quite low, and the heat inside suffocating. Curiously enough, one or two of these chambers were not quite straight, but formed an elbow into the mountain side.


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