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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Who was not accustomed to ride camels


The river-bed on which we travelled was of soft sand--very troublesome--and minute gravel strewn here and there with large boulders fallen from the cliffs at the sides. Cairns had been erected in various prominent points by caravan men, to show future travellers the way to Naiband for Birjiand and Meshed.

Following this in an easterly direction we came to a large basin, and then further on to another. We continued in zig-zag for a short distance, when we arrived at a place where the river-bed makes an elbow, turning to the north. At this spot a caravanserai was in course of construction, built at the expense of some charitable person. There was only one well of brackish water, and very little of that, too. The workmen would not let us partake of it. Everything, of course, had to be brought, as nothing could be obtained there, and the few workmen complained bitterly of the hardships they had to endure in going on with their work. They feared they would soon run short even of water. They were all fever-stricken, and two quite in a pitiable condition. They had little food left; most of their animals had died, and they were unable to leave. Chel-Payeh was the name of this well (altitude 4,420 feet).

We were thirty-two miles from our last camp, and reached here at 8 a.m. On taking the loads down we had a great disappointment. Sadek, who was not accustomed to ride camels, was suffering considerably, and in order to make himself comfortable he had contrived a clever device to avoid coming in immediate contact with the wooden frame of his saddle. He had fastened the two largest skins we had with our supply of good water on the top of his saddle, and having covered them over with blankets and carpets, on them, he sat and slept through the whole night. Alas! the weight of his body burst both skins during the night and squeezed all the water out!

So here we were, with only two small skins of fresh water left, which would have to last the whole party several days. But we were to have a further misfortune on the following march.

The heat was intense--146 deg. in the sun--not an inch of shade in the middle of the day, and the river-bed being cut into the plain, and therefore lower than the surface of the remainder of the desert, the lack of a current of air made this spot quite suffocating; so much so that both camels and men were getting quite overcome by the heat, and we had to start off early in the afternoon at 4 o'clock.

CHAPTER VII

Fortress-like cliffs--A long troublesome march--Sixteen hours on the saddle--All our fresh-water supply gone!--Fever--Electricity of the desert--Troublesome camel men--A small oasis--An ancient battered tower--A giant--Naiband mountain and village--Rock habitations--A landmark in the desert.

Fortress-like, vertical rocky cliffs rose to our left and enormous boulders tumbled down to our right. Our direction was due north. On our right, as we were again entering the flat desert, a quadrangular fort of natural formation stood on the mountain-side.


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