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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Evidently made when the lava was soft


It

was most curious to find these enormous layers of black slate here, for they were quite different in character from the whole country around. About two miles further off, north-east, we had, for instance, a range of mountains of quite a different type, not at all broken up nor with sharp cutting edges, but quite nicely rounded off. Between this range and the high peculiar mountain which I have just described--in the flat stretch--were to be seen some curious hillocks, apparently formed by water.

N.N.E. was the way towards Birjand, first across a long flat plain bounded before us by low greyish hills, beyond which a high mountain-range--the Leker Kuh--towered sublime. Two mountain masses of fair height stood in front of this range, one N.N.E. on the left of the track, the other N.N.W., with a white sediment of salt at its base; while beyond could be distinguished a long flat-topped mountain with a peculiar white horizontal band half way up it, like a huge chalk mark, all along its entire length of several miles. This mountain appeared to be some thirty miles off. The mountain mass to the N.W. showed no picturesque characteristics, but a more broken-up mountain, somewhat similar to the one to our N.E., stood between my camp and the range beyond.

As I have already stated, we had come along a dry river bed, and from my high point of vantage I could see its entire course to the north-west. It ran in a tortuous manner

until it absolutely lost itself in the flat desert. The long snake-like hill-range separating the parallel valleys from south-east to north-west appeared to owe its formation to the action of water, the surface pebbles, even at the summit of it, being well rounded and worn quite smooth, many with grooves in them.

Near my camp I came across some very curious imprints in the hard rock, like lava. There were some rocks hollowed out, in a fantastic way, as if the hollows had been formed by some softer matter having been enclosed in the rock and having gradually disappeared, and also a perfect cast of a large tibia bone. On other rocks were footprints of large animals, evidently made when the lava was soft.

On returning to camp I found a general row going on between Sadek and the camel men--my own and those of the other caravan who had asked permission to travel with me. There was no water at this camp, and only salt water could be procured in small quantities some distance away. The intense heat had played havoc with some of my fresh provisions, and we unfortunately had an accident to the load of eggs which were all destroyed. A great many of the chickens, too, had gone bad, and we were running rather short of fresh food. The caravan men said that it was impossible to go on, because, this being such a dry year, even the few brackish wells across the desert would be dry, and they refused to come on.

The greater part of the evening was spent in arguing--everybody except myself shouting himself hoarse. At midnight, the usual hour of our departure, the camel men refused to pack the loads and continue across the desert. At 1 a.m. they were preparing to leave me to return to Kerman. At 1.30, my patience being on the verge of being exhausted, they most of them received a good pounding with the butt of my rifle. At 1.45, they having come back to their senses, I duly entertained each of them to a cup of tea, brewed with what salt water we had got, on a fire of camel dung, and at 2 a.m. we proceeded on our course as quietly as possible as if nothing had happened.


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