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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Several caravans passed through going north


In

the morning we passed a small village right up on the mountain side, one mile and a half to the west of our course. We then entered a dry river-bed between high sand hills, and having marched nineteen hours continuously camels and men were rather in need of a rest.

At one p.m. on December 1st we pitched our camp in the middle of the river-bed--80 feet broad here--the only place where we could get a draught of air,--but the heat was suffocating, the thermometer registering 112 deg.--the altitude being 5,010 feet.

As we expected to find water of some kind we had omitted to fill up the skins and load the camels unnecessarily, but, unluckily, there was no water anywhere at hand. Abbas Ali was sent to the village we had passed--now some four miles back--to get some, but being too tired to carry the heavy skin down to us again he entrusted it to a boy, giving him full directions where our camp was. The boy did not find where we were, and in the meantime Sadek and I had our throats parched with thirst. Abbas Ali returned at seven o'clock and had to be despatched back to the village in search of the lost boy and the water skin. It was ten o'clock when he returned, and after twenty-eight hours of dryness we had our first drink of water. It was brackish but it tasted delicious.

We were compelled to remain here for the night. Several caravans passed through going north, and also a lot

of suspicious people, whose manner was so peculiar that we were compelled to sit up the greater part of the night and keep watch on my property. Some of the caravan men who had gone through had warned us that we had encamped in a regular nest of robbers, and that three men had been robbed and murdered at this spot only a few days before.

The high sand hills afford excellent hiding places for these gentry. It appears that the men on horseback whom we had seen at Sahlabad, and who had bolted on coming suddenly upon us, were the high chief of the robber band and some of his confederates,--very likely on their way to Birjand to dispose of booty. Being so near the Afghan border these fellows enjoy practical safety by merely going from one country into the other to suit their plans and to evade search parties occasionally sent out for their capture.

We had come forty miles from Sahlabad, and Abbas Ali brought us the news from the village that we should find no water on our course for fifteen miles more and no habitations for forty-eight more miles. Unluckily, we had hardly enough provisions to last one day, and we perceived a fair prospect before us of having to go one day without food, when Abbas Ali was despatched for a third time for another eight miles' walk to the village and back to see what he could get in the way of edibles.

He returned, riding a cow, in company with another man, and a third fellow on a mule carrying a fat sheep. The latter was there and then purchased and killed, and we had a copious breakfast before starting along the winding dry bed of the river at 11.30 a.m. on December 2nd.

Before us to the south by south-west (190 deg. b.m.) was a lofty flat-topped mountain which appeared about fifteen miles off, and directly in front of our course was also another and more extensive long, flat-topped mountain stretching from north-east to south-west, three miles off, with precipitous sides towards the north-west and north. The sides were padded with sand accumulations which reached almost to the summit of the lower portions of the mountain barrier. To the south-west, approximately twenty miles off, stood a high range.


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