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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The Hamun Halmund is inundated


one of the most interesting natural sights on the journey to the Beluchistan frontier was the great salt river--the Shela--which we struck on that march, six miles from Nawar. It was by far the largest river I had seen in Persia, its channel being some 100 yards wide in places. It came from the mountains to the south-west, where thick salt deposits are said to exist, and at the point where we crossed it its course was tortuous and the river made a sharp detour to the south-east. All along the watercourse extensive sediments of salt lined the edge of the water, and higher up, near the mountains, the water is said to be actually bridged over by salt deposits several inches thick.

Most interesting incrustations of salt were visible under the water, especially at the side of the stream, where, with the reverberation of the sun's rays, most beautiful effects of colour were obtained in the salt crystals. The following were the colours as they appeared from the edges of the stream downwards:--light brown, light green, emerald green, dark green, yellow, warm yellow, deep yellow, then the deep green of the limpid water.

The river banks on which we travelled were about 60 feet high above the actual stream, and owing to a huge diagonal crack across our track we had to deviate nearly half a mile in order to find a way where my camels could get across. The Shela proceeds along a tortuous channel in a south-easterly direction,

enters Afghan territory, and loses itself, as we shall see, in the south-west Afghan desert.

It is said that when, which is now but rarely, the Hamun-Halmund is inundated, the overflow of water from the lake so formed finds its way by a natural channel into the Shela, which it swells, and the joint waters flow as far as and fill the Shela Hamun or Zirreh in Afghanistan, which is at a lower level than the Hamun-Halmund. When I saw the lake in Afghanistan, however, it was absolutely dry.

The Shela river had very large pools of deep water almost all along that part of it which is in Sistan territory, but there was hardly any water flowing at all, so that nowadays in dry weather it loses itself in the sand long before reaching the depression in Afghan territory, where, by the great salt deposits, it is evident that a lake may have formerly existed, but not now.

After leaving the Shela we were travelling again on the sandy _lut_, and not a blade of vegetation of any kind could be seen. We came to two tracks, one going south-west, the other due south. We followed the latter. As we got some miles further south a region of tamarisks began, and they got bigger and bigger as we went along. Where some shelter existed from the north winds, the shrubs had developed into quite big trees, some measuring as much as 20 feet in height. For a desert, this seemed to us quite a forest. Near the well of salt water, half way (12 miles) between the two postal stations, the tamarisks were quite thick.

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