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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Projects west as far as the Kuh i Malek Siah Mountains


Sixteen miles from Nawar, however, some great sand dunes, like waves of a sea, extending from east to west, were again found, together with undulations of sand and gravel, and here tamarisks again became scarce. The track had been marked with cairns of stones at the sides. Where the wind had full sway, the long sand banks, parallel to one another and very regular in their formation, appeared exactly like the waves of a stormy ocean.

The track went towards the south-west, where one has to get round the point of Afghanistan, which, projects west as far as the Kuh-i-Malek-Siah (Mountains). We were steering into what appeared at first a double row of mountains in a mountain mass generally called the Malek-Siah. To the west, however, on getting nearer we could count as many as four different ranges and two more to the east of us. The last range, beyond all of the four western ones, had in its S.S.W. some very high peaks which I should roughly estimate at about eight to ten thousand feet above the plain. Due west there were also some high points rising approximately from six to seven thousand feet, and in front of these and nearest to the observer, a low hill range. A high even-topped range, like a whale's back, and not above 3,000 feet above the plain, had a conical hill on the highest part of its summit. The loftiest mountains were observed from south to south-west, and they, too, had a low hill barrier before them. Many of the peaks were very sharply pointed, and highest of all stood a strange looking three-humped mountain (280 deg. W.) with a deep cut on its westerly side, and a pointed peak standing by it.

The sand under foot had given place here to gravel and large pebbles, yellow, red, grey, white and green, all well rounded as if they had been rolled by water for many a mile. The underlying sand was cut into many channels by the action of water. We were some four miles off the mountainous mass. Tamarisk was scarce and undersized.

We were gradually rising on a slightly inclined plain, and on examining the ground one could not help thinking with what terrific force the torrents must come down--when they do come down--from the mountain sides which they drain before losing themselves in the sand. During abnormally rainy weather, no doubt, a good deal of this drainage forms an actual stream which goes to swell the river Shela. Its channel comes from Hormak and flows first in a north-easterly then in an almost due easterly direction.

We had intended stopping at Hormak, thirty-two miles from Girdi, our previous halting place, and we had been on the saddle from 9 in the morning till 8.30 p.m., when we came across a lot of Afghans with their camels, and they told us that we were on the wrong track for the post-house and well. It was very dark and we could not see where we were going, as the sand had covered up the track. We were among a lot of confused sand hills, and the high mountains stood directly in front like a formidable black barrier, their contour line just distinguishable against the sky.

The camel driver, who had made me discharge the postal _sawar_ guide, because he was certain he knew the road well himself, was now at a loss. The Afghans collected round us and yelled at the top of their voices that Hormak was to the west of us, and the camel man insisted that the post house must surely be on the high track, on which we certainly seemed to have got again.


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