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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Are seized with panic and collapse


Just

before reaching Bandan--also called Darban by some natives (2,870 ft.)--we noticed on the precipitous slopes of the mountain to the south-west several buildings in ruins, said to be ancient tombs. They were domed. At the foot of the mountain were the remains of a village.

Bandan consisted of a quadrangular walled village with five high towers and two more partly collapsed. The lower part of the village wall--a regular fortress--was of stone and mud, the upper portion of sun-dried mud bricks. It appeared to have been built at different epochs, the south-west half especially seeming more modern than the north-east portion. Holes about three feet above the ground in the wall served the purpose of windows to the houses adjoining the wall inside the castle, and a stone of suitable size shoved into the aperture was the shutter.

The village wall had two entrances on the south-east side, where outside the wall could be seen fifteen small domed ovens, of the usual Persian type, for baking bread, the paste of which is plastered on the inside of the dome when sufficiently heated.

The highest tower was on the south-west side, and all of these structures had a foundation of stone, but the remainder was of mud.

We saw here a string of picturesque women. They were carrying loads of wood and heavy bags of wheat on their heads. On perceiving me unexpectedly

they tried to run away, and did so, but not before I had got the good snapshot of them here reproduced. It can be seen by this photograph what long steps these women took, and how those that carried heavier loads swung their arms about to diminish the effort and balance themselves. They walked with a good deal of spring in their knees.

These women had much stronger features than the Persian generally have, and resembled--in fact, were practically--Afghan women. One or two only had the Hindoo type, with large, soft, drooping eyes, large hook noses, and over-developed lips, with small receding chins. The younger ones were strikingly handsome.

On our last march we had come from north to south, but now, after a short halt, we went on towards the south-east on what we thought would be our last two marches before reaching Sher-i-Nasrya, the capital city of Sistan, only some sixty miles off. Soon after leaving Bandan we found ourselves in an open plain with gradually vanishing mountains to the south-west. To the north-east the wall-like barrier, about one mile from Bandan, suddenly ceased in a gentle slope. East and E.S.E., now that the plain became of immense breadth, one could see two isolated low hill ranges, barring which, in the arc of a circle between north-east and south, we had nothing before us except a flat, dreary stretch of sand and stones meeting the sky on the horizon line.

On getting nearer the Hamun-i-Halmund (swamp), formed by the Halmund river and others losing themselves into the sand and flooding part of that region, the whole country was covered with high reeds and small water channels, which constantly made us deviate from our course. In the middle of the night we got so mixed up that we were unable to go on. It is most dangerous to make camels get into water channels, especially if muddy, without being certain of their depth. The brutes, if sinking, are seized with panic and collapse, or, in trying to get out quickly, often slip sideways and get split in two, which necessitates their being killed.


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