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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

We are now on a tributary of the Shah rud on the new road


From

Menzil we have left the Sefid River altogether, and we are now in a very mountainous region, with a singular low plateau in the centre of an extensive alluvial plain traversed by the road. We cross the Shah Rud, or River of the King, and at Paichinar, with its Russian post-house, we have already reached an altitude of 1,800 ft. From this spot the road proceeds through a narrow valley, through country rugged and much broken up, distinctly volcanic and quite picturesque. It is believed that coal is to be found here.

Perhaps one of the prettiest places we had yet come to was Mol-Ali, a lovely shady spot with veteran green trees all round. While the horses were being changed I was asked by the khafe-khana man to go and inspect a man who was ill. The poor fellow was wrapped up in many blankets and seemed to be suffering greatly. He had very high fever and his was a genuine case of smallpox. Next to him, quite unconcerned, were a number of Persian travellers, who had halted here for refreshments. They were squatting on their heels, knees wide apart, and arms balanced, resting above the elbow on their knees--the characteristic sitting posture of all Asiatics. Very comfortable it is, too, when you learn to balance yourself properly and it leaves the free use of one's arms. The _kalian_ was being passed round as usual, and each had a thimble-full of sugared tea.

I was much attracted by a large caravan of handsome mules,

the animals enjoying the refreshing shade of the trees. They had huge saddles ornamented with silver pommels and rings and covered over with carpets. Variegated cloth or carpet or red and green leather saddle-bags hung on either side of the animals behind the saddles. The bridle and bit were richly ornamented with shells and silver or iron knobs.

The few mud houses in the neighbourhood had flat roofs and were not sufficiently typical nor inviting enough for a closer internal inspection.

We are now on a tributary of the Shah-rud on the new road, instead of the old caravan track, which we have left since Paichinar.

The country becomes more interesting and wild as we go on. In the undoubtedly volcanic formation of the mountains one notices large patches of sulphurous earth on the mountain-side, with dark red and black baked soil above it. Over that, all along the range, curious column-like, fluted rocks. Lower down the soil is saturated with sulphurous matter which gives it a rich, dark blue tone with greenish tints in it and bright yellow patches. The earth all round is of a warm burnt sienna colour, intensified, when I saw it, by the reddish, soft rays of a dying sun. It has all the appearance of having been subjected to abnormal heat. The characteristic shape of the peaks of the range is conical, and a great many deep-cut channels and holes are noticeable in the rocky sides of these sugar-loaf mountains, as is frequently the case in mountains of volcanic formation.


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